Happy New Year! May the next year be filled with peace and joy! Starting a new year always comes with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we may feel like we are ready for a new start. On the other, we may have many unfinished activities haunting us. What can project management teach us about starting a new year?
The Agile Retrospective is an effort to reflect on the past in order to improve the future.
When I was a little girl, I would often spend hours on New Year’s Eve trying to fill in the blank pages in my diary – the one Dad had given me the year before. I’ve never been very good at journaling – even now. And yet, I do enjoy the process of reflection – and focusing on accomplishments, good times, and the future. There is much to be gained from times of reflection. One important goal of reflection is the need to make sure that we are spending time on what matters most.
Spending time periodically, but certainly at the end of the year to look at what you’ve accomplished has several benefits:
- The sense of accomplishment from getting things done gives most people some motivation to continue.
- You can design your job so that it is more fulfilling when you understand which accomplishments brought you the most joy.
- When you know what you have actually done, you can look at the 20% of the work that has generated the most results and focus more on that work.
Documentation, done well, can save time and provide clarity.
Busy business owners often skip the documentation piece, in favor of building more products or negotiating sales. Clearly, great documentation does take time, and provides little value without a strong product offering and sales. There has to be a balance. Try designating a window of time when you have lower energy for tasks such as documentation.
In a way, good documentation is like insurance. You don’t need it until you NEED it, and then, you NEED it. And yet, the process of creating documentation can bring a lot of clarity to confusing issues.
Risk management is a team effort.
Project teams spend time identifying, assessing, and managing risks. The start of a new year is a good time to take a fresh look at insurance coverage, household and office building maintenance, technology needs, financial management and all of the other things that go with being a business person and a household manager. Get your team involved on this.
A little tree maintenance may keep that sick oak tree from crashing through your office building. A routine hard drive checkup may help avoid the kiss of death crash, and resulting loss of data. (Are you regularly backing up your data?)
Frequently, I wonder if the process of setting goals for the upcoming year would be improved if we sought feedback from those around us who know us best. Some among us use a career coach to help provide balance. Others try to do it alone.
The process of personal goal setting is often set forth as a solitary effort, where people think through what they have accomplished, what they want to accomplish, what’s important and what is not. We are encouraged to divide our life into categories – work, community, family, financial, self, etc. And then, to decide on what the most important goal is for each category. While that may be good advice, there is value in asking a close colleague, spouse, child or friend for advice.
Project managers seek advice frequently. Yes, they do have to spend a fair amount of time on documentation, report generation, and analysis, but the great ones are actively talking to people on the team, management, and clients. They are keenly interested in understanding the perspectives of those around them.
Understand your ‘why?’
There are plenty of people recommending that we focus on the ‘why?’ That is not new advice. The hard part is actually doing it. I think the tendency is to think on a shallow level, or as the analogy goes, to take off the outer layer of the onion. When teams actually peel back the onion to the center, and get to the heart of the ‘why?’ the result is much more compelling.
Let’s take a simple example. Suppose you and your family decide to take a trip in the next year. And suppose you decide that everyone loves travel, beaches, and large mountainous lakes. Why are you doing the trip? I will concede that if you ask your older children why they want to go on a family vacation, they will look at you like you are crazy. DUH!!! Cause someone else is paying for a get away!
But stick with the question. Is it for family bonding time, personal relaxation time, high-adventure exploration, or sun worship? Dig down a little further. Is this trip really about developing an annual tradition, or is it an opportunity to try something new, that you will likely never do again? Is your goal to see as much as you can in the shortest time allowed, or to settle in to one particular space and get to know it well? Does part of your ‘why?’ have anything to do with health, costs, education, or self-improvement?
Once you start narrowing your focus, there are other considerations. Suppose you decide to go to an east coast beach. Will your entourage be happy in one space, sharing a kitchen? Or, are half of you slobs and the other half neat freaks? Are some in your group extreme introverts or extroverts? Revisit your ‘why?’ and try to dig deeper. The more clarity you have, the better the chances for a fabulous vacation.
The same is true on more complex business projects. Peel the onion and find out why you are really doing the project. Need help starting a new year or a new project? Give me a shout.