How often do you celebrate project success?
Do you notice, often, that what happens is that the project team move off the project, and often that is in a staggered way as they move back to BAU tasks or onto other projects and you are often the last one standing on the official ‘Project Team’, perhaps apart from some support staff?
Celebrating project completion, and specifically, successful completion when this happens isn’t easy.
Most companies do not celebrate ends. They think the completion of a project is a reward in itself. It isn’t. Achievements and outstanding effort deserve acknowledgement. Take a moment to reflect and feel proud of accomplishments. These moments are rare, and too often leaders fail to savor them but rather rush full-speed ahead into the next tunnel.
‘The Acceleration Trap’, Harvard Business Review, April 2010
Why only celebrate at the end of the project?
Perhaps too often the focus is on celebrating once the project is over. That can often be after several years of hard constant work. No one feels like celebrating when this is the case. They are all just glad that the project finished.
That’s why it is important for the whole moral of the team that you celebrate project success along the way.
Consider celebrating at these point along the project journey:
Yes, you are probably going to think I’m crazy in saying this. The project hasn’t even fully gotten into full-on delivery mode and I’m telling you to celebrate. Here’s why. If you gather the team together and do a formal meet and greet, so that everyone gets to know who’s on the ‘Team’ then there is an opportunity to have an afternoon tea, or pizza lunch to celebrate everyone being on board for the project.
What I’ve found in doing this is that right up front there is more team cohesion than when I haven’t done this. Why? Well simply because people realise they are part of a team this way. They see the others who will be working beside them. This helps then know who they can talk to about the project and any issues that arise, as they arise.
So consider a small, kickoff celebration
When key project deliverables are completed
Notice here I am not talking about formal milestones. Sure, they are good to celebrate too and sometimes it’s great celebrating when those key deliverables are completed. There might be several phases within the project. And within those phases are key deliverables.
Stop and celebrate the deliverables being finished. The teams will appreciate the break, even if it is only for an hour. What I noticed by having such celebrations is that the team appreciate being acknowledged for the hard work they have just completed. It gives them the recognition they deserve, and in that, I notice they are more willing to go back to work and achieve more.
Without the acknowledgement, teams become lethargic and complacent and will oftentimes slow down in delivery. What you want is for them to pick up the pace, if anything. Acknowledging them with celebrating success will surely do that.
When tight timeframes are met
This is similar to the point above. Often times we set tight timeframes and don’t recognise the hard work and dedication required to meet those timeframes. Celebrating when this is completed on time, is valuable. Again, the team feels recognized for the great work they have achieved.
Their moral and willingness to go the extra mile for the team will increase, especially if the Project Sponsor or Project Owner comes in and personally thanks them for their hard work.
I used to organize this to happen so that the team heard from the business just how important what they were doing was to them, the business. Often being siloed on a project team you lose sight of the reason you are delivering the project in the first place.
And do celebrate the successful completion of the project
Get as many of the team together for a big lunch. That way the key members of the Project Control Board (PCB) can attend, as well as the Project Sponsor to formally speak their appreciation for the project team.
If it is at all possible to get the remote team members to attend this via virtual means, then do so. It is important that they hear the spoken words of these key people first hand.
Your role as the Project Manager
As the Project Manager, I made it my role to ensure that celebrating project success was part of my project planning and monitoring. I would talk to my Sponsor and ask him to attend a team meeting for five minutes to thank the team for their efforts. Often I would brief him on team morale and ask for his support to boost that morale by explaining how important the project was to the business, for example.
So don’t think that it is only up to the Senior leaders to propose celebrations. Be strategic about how and when these celebrations are held. Consider how they will impact the team and request that a celebration be held, either as an acknowledgement of a job well done, or to spur the team on to succeed.
Either way the team benefits.