How to Finish Strong on Your Projects

Best Practice | By Kenneth Darter | Read time minutes

Silhouette of a winning runner on a grunge background

It is one thing to finish a project but quite another to finish strong. Simply finishing a project may mean that your exhausted body is dragged past the finish line by your dedicated team members. Or it might mean that you just sat down and quit working, letting the project work go on around you without your full involvement.

As a project manager, though, you should always strive to finish strong, to get your second wind and make it past the finish line with your head held high.

With these four activities and strategies to employ during the project, you'll finish every project strong.

1. Train for It

Every athlete trains in order to compete. Project managers should do the same. Training for a project manager might include staying current on best practices and ensuring the processes guiding the project are up to date and efficient. The project team should also spend some time preparing for the project and understanding the roles each individual will play in the team.

Taking the time at the beginning of the project to do this training is vital. With it, the project manager and the team can stay in the game for the long haul. Have a long project? Refresh this training periodically to maximise the team's ability to finish strong.

2. Plan Ahead

During the planning phase of the project, the project manager should be looking to what it will take to finish the project. While the emphasis at the beginning will be on the initial steps, the project manager must also analyse the end game.

Of course, there will need to be changes made during the project as requirements are detailed and resources change. But the initial project schedule should show what the end of the project will look like.

Having the goal in mind will help everyone stay on target through the end of the project - and help the team finish strong.

3. Look Behind

Runners are not supposed to look behind them. They need to focus on running the race and looking towards the finish line. But it can be helpful for a project manager or a project team to look backwards even during a project.

A healthy look at the project will inform and revise the plans for the future. Looking for lessons learned can help the project manager begin to formulate what the team should be doing differently during the rest of the project.

Using the data from the schedule to examine planned versus actual dates will assist the project manager in revising the schedule for the rest of the project. It will also allow the team to better meet planned dates.

Taken all together - yep, you guessed it - will help the backward-looking project manager finish strong.

4. Stay in the Moment

In order to finish strong, the project manager should be able to stay in the moment. This means focusing on what's going on right now in the project

While planning ahead and looking behind can help the project team with a formula for success, the project requires the most extreme focus on completing the tasks that are due right now.

If the project manager spends too much time planning or too much time analysing what has already happened, then it will be very difficult to simply accomplish the steps right now. Finding the right way creates a complicated balancing act - but one a successful project manager must maintain to not just finish, but finish strong.

What about you, our readers? What steps do you take throughout the project to help ensure you finish strong?

Recommended read: Project Management: A Marathon Not a Sprint, by Duncan Haughey.


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