The Canadian Victoria Day holiday is the first long weekend of the spring and is usually celebrated with two activities: fireworks and planting annuals. The weather is warm enough that the seeds or young seedlings which are planted then should flourish by the summer.
But planting seeds in the ground is usually not enough. Over the winter, the soil has likely absorbed road-salt from snow removal, its nutrients may have been depleted by the previous season’s plants, and drainage might be an issue. To increase the likelihood of good blooms, one should first aerate and then work some sand, peat moss or the right fertilizer into the soil depending on its condition.
So what does this have to do with project management?
When we are first assigned to lead a project, we feel we must produce results quickly – your project might be facing a challenging deadline, we want to stay in the sponsor’s good books, or there may be significant pressure to control team costs.
Even if you are fortunate enough to work with a team which you have previously worked with, if you jump right into project planning activities, you will see results, but you are unlikely to get the best you could have hoped for.
Never skimp on the following.
Conducting a proper kickoff meeting. This ensures that all team members receive a consistent message about why the project is being launched, what real constraints exist and what success looks like.
Establishing rules of engagement. Regardless of the level of formal authority you hold over your team members, involving them in the development of team practices is critical to their truly owning their work efforts. Not only does this include what you expect of them, it should cover what they should expect from you.
Helping team members identify areas for development. Ideally, everyone assigned is a perfect fit for their role on the project. Realistically, there might be some gaps from a capability perspective. Once you have reviewed the scope of work you are expecting the team member to own on the project, take the time to find out what concerns them about the assignment and help them develop and implement the most efficient plan to bridge those gaps.
Team building. While it is not a “one and done” thing, team building early in the life of the project can help to build resiliency to enable team members to survive the storming phase of Tuckman’s ladder.
The Victoria Day long weekend provides limited time to get everything planted properly, so there is always a strong temptation to jump right into planting. With projects as it is with gardening, slow down to speed up later.