by David Cotgreave

Projects that win are worth the wax: Make your IT project exciting

Dec 04, 2015
Project Management Tools

Tips for keeping your project management motivation high even when faced with mundane tasks.

Long lonely hours, hard work, endless challenges.

Sometimes IT project success means burning the candles at both ends but is your project worth the candle wax?

Dull projects are doomed! When your project excites you it stands a greater chance of success.

Think back to when you were a kid. You asked for a biscuit and your mum not only refused, but she moved the biscuit barrel to the top shelf out of your reach. Then she left the kitchen.

It was the work of an instant. You grabbed a chair from the kitchen table, positioned it beneath the shelf and although you had to stand on one tiptoe and stretch your arm further than you thought possible – you quickly had the barrel down. You’d popped the lid and you were tucking into a Jammy Dodger in a flash. The barrel was back on the shelf and the chair back under the table before your mother returned none the wiser.

Would you have taken the same risk and applied the same problem-solving skills, dexterity and speed had you been refused a sprout? Probably not.

Biscuits trump sprouts, exciting projects trump dull ones. In both cases, the end goals justify the effort you have to put in.

Admittedly, a large percentage of IT project success is science. Jim Rohn once said, “Success is neither magical or mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”

I love that quote. Basically, do the right things, in the right way, when the time is right and success is assured. As a great motivator, though, Jim Rohn would probably agree that the secret ingredient or X factor is motivation. Your passion and motivation is what gives your project a heartbeat and lifts it beyond that scientific equation.

You never lack motivation when you are excited and utterly convinced that your goal is worth any effort required by you.

There are many ways you can make your projects exciting. Here are just a few.

1. Be a hero

When projects go wrong what is more exciting than being the hero who swoops in and saves the day? Ironically, the best way to achieve this agility and freedom to react is to plan more and be prepared for any eventuality.

A stand-up comedian friend mentally rehearses how he will deal with hecklers or unexpected moments so when they happen he can give the impression of effortlessly “ad-libbing.” The same can be done by Project Managers, who having mentally rehearsed any problem, can give an air of utter control in a chaotic situation by seemingly plucking a solution from thin air.

2. Reward the milestones

Most IT projects, even the big strategic and most exciting ones, are the sum of a lot of very small and often very dull parts. It’s the day in day out stuff, the mundane tasks that come together to create the change that adds value to your organisation’s business strength. It’s often hard to get terribly excited about these small parts, but you should! One PM friend has a drawer full of chocolate biscuits, another has a bottle of Prosecco with a Post-It note stuck to it of tasks that must be completed before it’s popped. Use whatever floats your boat as a reward to get you excited about the little stuff.

3. Go beyond what you know

Comfort zones are cozy and safe but excitingly successful projects rarely emerge from them.  One of the greatest roadblocks PMs encounter on their journey is, “I’ve tried everything I can think of and nothing works.” It often means that your IT Project gets results that are not too dissimilar to previous projects. How uninspiring! But by seeking better training, better support and asking better questions you can elevate your potential beyond previous achievements. Network! Ask the kid who is happily eating his biscuit how he reached it. Supplementing your project management offer by buying in additional functionality “as a Service” can quickly fill any gaps you have right now and lift your project delivery potential higher.   

Have a clearly defined objective, a solid, workable plan, be prepared to pay the price until your IT project is a success and above all – get excited.

If your project is not worth the candle wax you may be doomed to fail even before you start.