Finding Completion Points Within a Project

The feeling of being “done” is hard to beat

I recently started receiving the Denver Post on a daily basis. When I began the subscription, I was unsure if I would actually read it, given the availability of every news article I could ever want on the Internet. Surprisingly, I immediately found myself reading the entire newspaper nearly every day, and I continue to do so. The reason, I’ve discovered, is that I can finish the newspaper.

Similarly, another Vigeteer took a few days off to repair the fence in his yard. When he returned to work, he spoke to how great it felt to be able to actually finish something, to be able to say “I’m done.” The sense of completion was satisfying.

These seemingly unrelated experiences really got me thinking about the fact that the feeling of being done is something most people relish, and it’s something we rarely get to feel when working through web projects. Certainly web sites launch and that, often, is a major milestone worth celebrating; but, typically, the work is not done there. There’s always more to do with updates, bug fixes, and second, third, or fourth phases.

Feeling like you’ve completed something can be an important element to being satisfied at work. I doubt anyone wants to go day after day without feeling like progress has been made or that they’ve finished something. This is why, I think, as a Project Manager it’s important to try to provide that sense of completion often throughout a project. Here are some thoughts on how this can be done:

  • When working on a retainer or support project, which has no launch or end date, be sure to focus on features being worked on and celebrate the individual feature launches. Even if it’s a small item that took a day or two to complete, congratulate any team members who worked on it for finishing that feature.

  • Even if you are working on a project that has a launch date, if the project will take longer than a couple of months, identify specific goals and celebrate when they’ve been reached. Every few weeks, team members should feel like they’ve completed something. If too much time passes without anyone feeling things are getting done, motivation and interest can wane.

  • Whether working on an agile project or not, always conduct the iteration retrospectives. For all types of projects, retrospectives provide an opportunity to not only talk through what could go better as the project progresses, but also to reflect on what’s been completed to that point. Celebrate the progress and completed features.

  • Tell outside people about the things your project team has completed. Discuss the great work someone has done with their managers, or their peers, or the whole company if that’s an option. Here at Viget, we meet as a company once a week and project managers are all able to highlight what was completed on their projects in the past week. Seize those opportunities to be specific about what features can now be called "done."

These all may seem like common sense thoughts; but, they are still important to remember. Our job as Project Managers includes ensuring the team is as happy as possible, as well as helping the team feel that sense of completion along the way.

Also, don’t forget to take a moment to look at what you, as a Project Manager, have completed. In my career, I’ve spent a year on a project without feeling like we finished anything. It was a tough year, and I’ve used that as a learning experience to take time to reflect on what has been completed, even if the project, as a whole, will not be done for quite some time. Fixing a fence post on a weekend or reading the newspaper each day should not be the only time we feel like we’ve finished something.

How have you been able to surface the feeling of completion throughout your projects?

Becky manages digital projects from our Boulder, CO, office for clients such as Duke University, Volunteers of America, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Shure.

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