How do you celebrate birthdays? (celebrating team milestones)

OK- so I’ll admit that it’s my birthday. And acknowledging it made me think about milestones in general, and more specifically, for a project team. Birthdays are a great milestone that can—and should-be celebrated. Do you celebrate milestones for your team members? I wish I could say we do a great job; we at least get together once a month and have a cake for all the birthday folks. I already wrote about celebrating successes on your project, but I want to make sure we (as great managers of people) are celebrating our staff’s milestones too. The art of being a manager, no – being a great manager–is to balance and integrate work and life for yourself and your team. (Personal admission: I am probably the worst person to talk about balance!)

So a couple of thoughts here: what do you set as milestone celebrations and how do make sure that the “party actually happens?” There are many excellent books, posts and writings on how to celebrate success and milestones. I especially liked Paul McGuire’s post on “Stop and Celebrate Milestones.” His simple 5 step process for using milestones is easy to implement.

First, do you know what the milestones are for your project or team? Oh, I have talked about the need for a predictive project schedule which always has milestones in it, but I am talking more specifically about which ones you use as “celebration points” from both the schedule and people. How about some examples:

  • Birthday’s – everyone has one! Let’s celebrate the achievement and acknowledge their special day.
  • Length of time on the project or team – surely in the current business climate we should celebrate people who stay with our organization and continue to provide increased value.
  • Major project milestone – I really like doing this with the client or stakeholder. I know I always seem to fill my week with handling problems, so a short time-out to celebrate a success is always welcome.
  • Team member life event – people do have lives outside of work! Be aware of what is going on. An engagement, marriage, new baby, diploma or even new house are great opportunities for the team to celebrate and get to know each other better as individuals.
  • Company/Organization event – do you celebrate your organization’s birthday? I bet your HR folks would say it is a great way to have people realize the benefits of being a part of a going concern. Or how about celebrating promotions? I hope you don’t call someone in and say “Oh by the way, you are being promoted to Vice President” and then walk away. Most promotions come after demonstrated success and lots of hard work. This makes it a great milestone to celebrate, especially if you helped the individual in setting goals to achieve the position, or have mentored or coached them.

     

Second, when should you celebrate milestones and successes? As G. Legh’s wrote in Accidence of Armoury, “There is no time like the present.” Another way to think about this is celebrate often, and as close to the milestone as possible.

Third, how do you celebrate milestones and successes? The answer is simple – it depends. There have been some great posts and articles written on this subject, so I’ll refer you to some of the better ones:

Fourth, how do you ensure that the celebrations you hold will provide motivation and feedback? This is a little harder to do on a consistent basis. Just holding a party without any special meaning is fine for after work time – but if you are going to celebrate make it count. One way to ensure you are getting the most out of milestone celebrations is to first identify the right milestones! Both project and personal milestones come and go while we are too busy to identify and recognize them. If you are a project manager, you already know that planning is a key to accomplishing a goal. So involve your team in identifying Key Milestones that you all want to achieve and celebrate. I really like the quote from Zig Zigler, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time!” I don’t expect my team to make every goal we set, but when we do make them, they are certainly worth celebrating!!

Finally, be sure that the importance of the celebration and milestone are highlighted. Have you ever been told to come to an all hands meeting for a celebration and then were not sure what was being celebrated? Not the right way to do it! Make sure that the achievement is known and talk about the success.

I think it is time to go celebrate another year of sharing with you! Thank you for reading!

What do the Olympics have in common with a Project?

If you are like me (and millions of others) you have been watching the SOCHI Winter Olympics.  It is exhilarating to watch women and men, who have trained for years, put their skills to the test in order to win a medal.  It makes me think about our staff and how they work every day to improve their skills so that they can help us win new projects or successfully deliver a project on time or meet client requirements.
Do you think about your staff and how they compete to win in their jobs?  Ok.. so you’re saying, the Olympics and our projects aren’t the same thing  Bruce! Well hold on and let me show you some similarities and how we can take some lessons from the Olympians.  We find the following in both the Olympics and in projects:

  1. People have differing skills and specialties. Do you recognize your staff’s talents and give them tasks suited to their discipline and skills? Or do you think everyone can do each others job?  Take some time to evaluate each person and see where their strengths and weaknesses are.
  2. There are specialized tools and equipment.  Are you providing excellent tools for your project team? Project managers need schedule tools, risk tools, resource tools, and tools to help them manage and track projects.  Software staff need editors, debuggers, configuration tools and documentation tools.  Graphics artists need graphic tools, color tools, paint tools, and pressure sensitive tablets.  You  need to assess each specialized area and make sure you are providing the right tools for gold level performance.
  3. Coaches and trainers can help shape people into winning performers.   Do you provide opportunities for people to learn and grow? Have you hired a special coach when needed? Training can greatly improve even a great performer so are you using this as a way to improve staff skills?  You can always get them a tablet reader and some good eBooks!  Try some brown bag lunch training.  Be the Coach for your team – this means being a good leader!
  4. It takes Practice Practice Practice.  Are you letting your team try to improve by practicing?  If you have a proposal team – let them do some practice drafts and try to communicate better.  If you have a software team let them practice reviewing each other’s code.  If you have a scrum team let them practice estimating.  there is always something that can be practiced in down times of the week or month.
  5. There is the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Do you celebrate successes with your team? And do you pick them up when they fail or make mistake? There are always highs and lows – be there with your team.
  6. While there is only one gold medal, everyone tries to give their best performance. You will always have a team of performers at varying levels. And on any given day some people will excel and others will have an “off day.”  As long as your team members are giving their best, you can always reach for the Gold knowing you are doing the best your team is capable of.  And if you provide the other ingredients needed (Items 1-5)  you have a great chance of winning a medal and being on the platform!

Have you done the best you can to give your team a chance to win Gold?  You should try to develop Olympic management skills!

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