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The 4 biggest reasons you don’t finish projects and how to avoid them

The 4 biggest reasons you don’t finish projects and how to avoid them

When most consultants start their businesses they are scared. Scared that they won’t be able to pay the bills. Scared that when that happens they’ll end up closing their business and heading back to employment with their tail between their legs. This fear brings a bunch of pain in two ways.

First they say yes to terrible clients that treat them poorly. These clients keep asking for more value without wanting to pay more for the value. They treat you as little better than an employee they don’t have to pay benefits to.

The second painful part is that because of all these bad clients with continually changing requests you have a hard time finishing projects. Things continually get backed up and you end up working late into the evening seven days a week. These late nights lead to poor decisions which decrease your ability to finish projects even more.

To help you combat that let’s look at the 4 biggest reasons that projects fail to get completed. With just a bit of planning you can stop them all from happening.

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1. You didn’t scope the project properly

The biggest error most consultants make is they assume they already know what the project is about. They have a single 30 minute call with the prospect and then they send over an estimate based off a few hand written notes. They get the deposit and then get working only to discover there are about 56 extra things and they are all required and as the client talks you realize how they could have assumed they were required.

Unfortunately now you’re backed into a corner and need to complete the project, hopefully.

Solution: Before you can do any project you need to write up a detailed project plan. No the RFP the client sent you doesn’t count nor does the project plane they supplied. Use these documents as a base for your project plan.

Sometimes these sessions to write up a proper project plan are referred to as scoping sessions and what they come down to is going through all the items the prospect has asked for and writing out the deliverables but more importantly the outcomes for each item.

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I say more importantly the outcomes because the outcome is what’s really valuable to the client. They’re hiring you to increase sales, or decrease costs, not to just deliver a feature. At least that’s what they hire good consultants for.

2. You are working with the wrong client

All consultants have had clients that were simply needy. They want a call every day and have 22 new requests which of course should just be included in the original project and where are the 26 things they asked for yesterday? It’s no fun and it sucks the life right out of you, but it’s entirely your fault.

Solution: The solution to this is to establish a solid client vetting process. To do that you need to do a few things.

First, define your ideal client. One of the best resources for this is Micheal Port’s book Book Yourself Solid. If you have a bunch of bad clients now then it’s time to say goodbye to them.

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Second, setup a repeatable system to weed out the clients you don’t want. I use the same set of 9 questions in my initial email to prospects and don’t move forward with the sales process unless I like the answers they provide.

Third, you need to get them on the phone preferably with video to talk about the project. Nothing will give you a better read on the prospect than seeing their mannerisms and if you can’t meet them in person, video is the next best. At the very least you need to hear their voice so pick up that phone and have a call.

3. You just forgot about it

Ever get that email on Monday from a client that’s paid you money wondering where the project is at? You feel terrible because you simply forgot about the project and haven’t been working on it very much.

Solution: The problem here is that you’ve relied on your memory instead of having a reliable project management system to use to manage your projects.

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The simple fact is that if you don’t write it down, it won’t happen. Choose a project management system. It doesn’t matter much what you choose just get a system and use it for all projects.

4. You’re too busy

We love to say yes as consultants. We want to help people and it feels awesome to have people want to work with us. We’re also brought up to be people pleasers, so it’s hard to say NO to prospects.

Sometimes even with a good client vetting process you’re still going to have more good qualified leads than you should be handling. The problem is you keep saying yes and then projects take a bit longer (because they always do) and then you’re running to many projects at once.

Solution: The only solution to this is to say NO more, even if the lead is a qualified lead. One way of saying NO more without actually saying no is to raise your rates. Some of the leads that you previously got will now think that you’re too expensive and just won’t come to work with you anymore.

Another way is to add criteria for your ideal clients. Instead of just working with fitness coaches, only work with Crossfit coaches. That will eliminate some of the leads you would have taken before.

No one wants to leave a swath of ruined projects in their wake. With just a bit of planning and a few processes in place to vet clients and manage projects you can help ensure that you don’t fail to finish projects.

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4 Ways to Become a People Connector How Focussing On Project Failure Can Lead To Success 3 Ways To Cut Your Daily Work Interruptions 3 Reasons you need to prioritize sleep if you want to be successful 5 Reasons Saying Yes is Hurting Your Business

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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Encourage Your Employees

When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

Offer Rewards

Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

Give Autonomy

Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

A To Do Scheduling System

Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

“The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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Ask If They like What They’re Doing

If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

More Resources About Team Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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