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Generating Momentum in a Project

~ By Kenneth Darter

Newton's cradle representing momentum

The hardest part of a project is often just getting started. Moving from a good idea to a project team on the ground working and executing a solid plan is tough. You must generate momentum. After all, an object at rest stays at rest, but an object in motion stays in motion.

Getting the motion started, then, is the project manager's first prerogative. All the competing priorities and ongoing work sometimes make that easier said than done. Next time you're struggling to get the ball rolling, try one of these ideas to help you build momentum and get your project off the ground.

Executive Buy-In

One of the first methods to generate momentum is to get executive buy-in for the project. This entails understanding the mission and the benefit of the project. A project without a solid benefit to the organisation won't go very far no matter who is excited about it.

Executives and decision-makers need to understand what they're dealing with and how it will improve the organisation before they can devote their time and resources to a project. Once you win over the executives, though, the rest of the organisation will follow. The executives and decision-makers of an organisation can make the project a priority for team members. They can also help engage stakeholders and partners for the project.

The Kick-off Meeting

If people in the organisation are not informed about the project, then they won't spend time on it. The kick-off meeting is a great tool to help spread the word about the project. It also sets the expectations of the people who will be working on the project.

The first step, though, is getting the right people in the room.

In the meeting, you can describe the project at a high level, ensuring everyone knows where they fit in the project team and what work will be requested of them. By providing plenty of information and showing how the project will benefit the organisation, the kick-off meeting is a great tool to start the project on the right foot.

Start Small

Another technique to generating momentum is to start with something small. After all, every journey is made up of individual steps. Those steps lead to yards and miles. Eventually, one stride at a time, you reach your destination.

Starting small on a project may mean breaking down the requirements. Building the entire system may seem intimidating, but you can break it down. Just focus on each small part before trying to put everything together. You can also break down the project into smaller phases or steps.

However you break it down, having realistic phases and timelines is crucial. With them, the team is set up for success – without them, for failure. Focusing the team's energy and time on each phase separately will help them gain a sense that the project is not impossible. They will soon see that, step by step, the project is possible. They'll see that they can execute the project successfully.

What about you? How do you get the ball rolling on those projects that seem impossible to get off the ground? Let me know in the comments!


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PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

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