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  • Writer's pictureBrian Davidson, PMP, CSM

Staying the Course: Ensuring a Strong Finish for Your Project Team

Completing a project effectively and efficiently requires dedication, enthusiasm, and persistence. Yet, it is an all-too-common phenomenon for project teams to lose momentum towards the end. The initial excitement and motivation that once propelled the team forward can dissipate, replaced by fatigue or a misplaced sense of complacency as the finish line seems within reach. It's at this crucial phase, however, where teams need to double down and re-energize their efforts to ensure that the project's end goal is achieved – and achieved well.


Why Teams Lose Momentum


Projects can be long, complex, and strenuous. As the end approaches, fatigue is a natural response. After all, the team has likely been working intensely for weeks or even months, continually generating ideas, making decisions, and overcoming obstacles. This can lead to a decrease in productivity, and the project's momentum slows down.


There's also the "90-90 rule" in project management that jokingly states: the first 90% of the project takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90%. This illustrates how the final stages often become a quagmire, fraught with unforeseen complexities and last-minute adjustments that can drain a team's energy and enthusiasm.


Additionally, teams may experience a false sense of security towards the end of a project. When the finish line is within sight, it can lead to a relaxation of focus. This can result in crucial details being overlooked and the quality of the final product being compromised.


The Importance of Finishing Strong


The final stage of a project is like the last lap in a race. It is where champions are made, and results are secured. It is during these final stages that quality assurance happens, where minor tweaks and adjustments are made to ensure that the project is up to standard.


Moreover, the last phase of a project often provides the most tangible value. It is here where all the work comes together and forms a coherent, functioning whole. The importance of finishing strong cannot be overstated, as this is what determines whether the project meets its objectives and delivers its promised benefits.


Strategies to Maintain Momentum and Ensure Quality


1. Recognize and Counteract Fatigue


Be aware of the signs of team fatigue. This could be a drop in productivity, increased mistakes, or a general lack of enthusiasm. Once identified, you can counteract this by implementing stress management strategies such as promoting work-life balance, ensuring a positive work environment, or incorporating regular breaks for rejuvenation.


2. Manage Scope Creep


Ensure that the project scope remains well-defined and that you are not trying to achieve more than what was initially agreed upon. "Scope creep" – a gradual, uncontrolled increase in project scope – is one of the main reasons why projects can drag on, causing fatigue and decreasing team morale.


3. Revisit and Reaffirm Goals


Regularly remind your team of what you're working towards and why it matters. This can help to maintain focus and motivation.


4. Break Down the Remaining Work


Breaking down the remaining tasks into manageable chunks can make the end seem less daunting and more achievable. Celebrate the completion of each subtask to maintain motivation and momentum.


5. Foster a Culture of Communication


Encourage open communication within the team. This will help to identify any issues early on, allowing for quick resolution and preventing further delays.


6. Maintain Quality Control


As the project nears completion, don't compromise on quality. Implementing thorough quality control procedures will ensure that any mistakes or sub-par work are identified and rectified before the project concludes.


7. Reinforce Team Motivation


Keep your team's spirits high by acknowledging their efforts and rewarding their hard work. This will boost their motivation and drive them to maintain their performance until the end of the project.


Conclusion


A well-finished project sets the stage for future success. It leaves a positive impression on stakeholders, boosts the team's confidence, and adds to the organization's portfolio of successful projects. It's important to note that the energy and effort needed to get the project over the finish line are crucial in ensuring the final product meets its objectives and delivers value.


It is, therefore, crucial for project teams to double down on their efforts during the final phase. By understanding the challenges that can lead to a loss of momentum and implementing strategies to counteract these, teams can stay focused and committed, ensuring that they don't just reach the end of their projects, but that they reach it in a way that ensures success, satisfaction, and high-quality results. Remember, it's not how you start, but how you finish that truly counts.

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