“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
When Kennedy delivered this speech in 1961, while many listeners might have thought he was dreaming they were likely also inspired.
Most of us can summon the energy to work on short projects, but when faced with a long, challenging project where the end state or penultimate objective remains fuzzy, if there isn’t an obvious “What’s in it for me?” answer, it’s little surprise that enthusiasm can fade.
In most environments, this gets aggravated by the multitasking faced by project staff – while the large, long running project they are on might be of greater strategic value, their understanding of the expected benefits of shorter projects or even of day-to-day operational responsibilities means that they may choose to prioritize those tactical quick wins higher over persevering on completing their work on the larger project.
If the vision for a project’s outcome is not obvious, it is our responsibility as project managers to engage the sponsor and others to be able to define what the world will look like from the viewpoint of team members, their managers and key stakeholders once the project’s outcomes start to be realized. That envisioned end state needs to be depicted as personally as possible to the team, and depending on its duration, we should remember to reinforce the importance of the project at regular times over the lifetime of the project.
I’m guessing there’s a (very) small desire on the part of some project managers to live in the time of the Pharaohs when it was expected that Theory X measures would be used to sustain team member productivity! However, persuasion is always superior to use of formal authority, and you’ll find that 1% of inspiration will help to generate the 99% of perspiration required to complete your projects!