This post is a continuation of Keys to Project Success - Part 4
Hustle and Maintain Momentum
I came across the expression “hustle provides the cushion” many years ago, and it resonated incredibly with me. It is the antithesis of procrastination, and is I believe a key factor in successful projects.
While I don’t believe in starting a project under crazy working conditions such as long hours immediately upon commencement of the project, I do believe in making sure I stay ahead of schedule. Provided you built your schedule in a reasonable way, didn’t expect herculean outcomes from your team, and scheduled in some cushion to reasonably account for the unexpected (which will always occur), with a bit of hustle and a healthy sense of urgency, you should be able to keep the entire team nicely ahead of schedule.
One fundamental tactic in doing this is the daily stand-up meeting. It is a simple and effective way to foster a culture of ‘hustle’ and maintain momentum in an organised fashion, and is an incredibly effective way for the project manager to know day-by-day how their project is progressing. I have transitioned entire departments away from the infamous, time-wasting, and tedious ‘weekly project status meetings’ to using just daily stand-up meetings for project teams, with huge benefits!
The mechanism is simple. It takes a small amount of daily preparation on the part of the project manager so that she has a ready list of what was to have been completed by person accountable since the last stand-up meeting, and what should be completed before the next one. Then, at the same time every day, in a room where there will be no distractions, everyone gathers and stands in a circle. Standing is important, as it helps incredibly to keeps everyone alert, on-point, and succinct. I suggest as a guide the meeting should last no more than 15 minutes, and they are usually much shorter.
The project manager goes from person to person around the circle asking the following simple questions:
- What did you complete since yesterday?
- What will you complete by tomorrow?
- Are you having any challenges that are impeding your progress on anything?
- Are your time-tracking and estimates-to-complete up-to-date?
Questions 1 and 2 are important so that the project manager knows if what was supposed to have been done was done, and if there are likely any delays.
Question 3 is critical to make sure no one gets stuck. If the answer to question 3 is a ‘yes’, finding a solution does not happen in the stand-up meeting. The project manager asks for an explanation of the problem, and then asks who can help. Those team members figure out the solutions after the stand-up meeting, not in it. The project manager also makes note to follow up on the potential problem, as it’s a clue to a possible risk or issue that may need to be managed.
Question 4 is important (assuming you are using time tracking, which you should be, and having time and estimates-to-complete updated daily), so that the project manager has solid data to update the schedule and forecast new milestone dates.
And all questions with the participation of the entire team are critical for building peer-reinforced momentum – nobody wants to be the person who says, “oh… um… yeah… didn’t quite get that done,” with everyone else who did get their tasks done looking at the one who didn’t with eyebrows raised.
Daily stand-up meetings of 15 minutes maximum each will total a maximum of an hour and a quarter per week, which is comparable to weekly status meetings (and shorter than many I’ve attended), with the additional advantage of maintaining momentum, keeping the project manager up-to-date on the project daily, and allowing a problem to stall progress for no longer than a day. That’s pretty effective for keeping things moving!