Project Gridlock

Project Gridlock

With the start of a new year there often comes a heightened focus on making tangible progress, especially on gridlocked projects and initiatives. As more attention is directed toward project owners, the added pressure can backfire and depress the effort expended.

Remember that many initiatives are the result of a strategic planning process. That process often ignores the core work (anything that delivers revenue or relates to customer interactions) that staffers must prioritize for the business to exist. Competing priorities can demotivate and frequent starts and stops can cause frustration. Add to that the fact that many leaders think that more is always better, and you have a recipe for burnout and inefficiency.

To reduce the chances that your projects will suffer from gridlock, try the following strategies:

Bring the project owners together to make sure that there is alignment on the path forward, specific milestones, and timing. Then consider these agreements in light of the fact that core deliverables also have to happen to make sure that your goals are achievable. Communication and coordinated effort are critical to effectiveness and efficiency.

Take a look across the organization to see what else is going on in order to eliminate redundancies, and/or share results. Make sure your management is looped in about potential overlap and its impact so they can referee if necessary.

Think about the project in terms of behaviors that will need to occur. If there are any that are in conflict, eliminate the competing ones. For instance, if a yearly performance goal is in direct conflict with what needs to be prioritized to achieve the project goal, the conflict needs to be addressed proactively. Otherwise your staffers are between a rock and a hard place, and are probably wondering if you’re even aware of the discrepancy. Plan frequent check-ins and encourage real-time feedback and open communication. Set the tone for true collaboration in order to uncover potential issues before they become big enough to derail your deliverables.

As a general rule, limit the additional projects that you commit to, to make sure that the workload integrates with existing core work. Ideally you’ll begin when you have capacity, although management may have a different idea of what “capacity” looks like. If you’re forced to move forward with a less-than-ideal scenario, it’s up to you to manage expectations without looking like you’re pushing back on the assignment.

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