Having just reached the end of a lengthy project – nearly two years, or 625 days at the time on writing – it’s time for me to sit back, reflect, and consider all of the valuable lessons learned along the way. What exactly is it that has kept me motivated to work on one singe project for such a long time? Many of these lessons will be technical and fairly specific to the project domain itself, to be banked and rolled out again on similar, future pieces of work. But others are more generic and related to delivery methods and ways of working. And for this second area, achieving project tranquility, essentially comes down to four key ingredients – these comprise the Golden Project Quartet:
Subject matter and scope
Does the subject of the project interest you? Does it stimulate your thinking and align with your career aspirations? If you can answer yes to either or both of these questions, then you’re off to a good start. Only by undertaking something that we genuinely care about, or something that is going to develop us, can we truly enjoy a piece of work.
Ask anyone what they love about work and, in most cases, the first thing they mention is “the people.” We spend a massive proportion of our life at work and can be with our teammates far more than our loved ones, so liking your colleagues is fundamental to your enjoyment on a project. When working in successful project teams, you share experiences, combine skills, learn from one another, and get through tough times together. If you’re away from home, it can be great to have colleagues who enjoy socializing together away from the office, but equally don’t frown upon those who wish to do their own thing. Either way, if you’re not in a team that you enjoy working with, then you’re in for a rough ride.
The elephant in the room. We’ve all got mixed experiences here, ranging from fantastic clients who you keep in your network or even become friends with long after the project finishes, to those who don’t consider you as a valued partner and treat you in a manner that reflects this. How your clients value you has a huge bearing on a consultant’s perception of a project but can be one of the most difficult variables to control.
The final dimension of the golden quartet is the location of the project itself. Travel is always a personal consideration when working on a project, as some people really enjoy being away from home whereas for others it can be tricky due to their circumstances. This can be offset, however, by the actual location. It’s easy to fall into unhealthy habits when away from home, and it’s important to take time outside of the work environment, to have a mental break and recharge the batteries. If you find yourself in a town or city that provides plenty of options, restaurants or things to see and do, then this becomes far easier to manage and helps with any challenges you may have with being away from home.
My personal view is that if you can score highly against three of the four golden project quartet dimensions, then that is generally enough to enjoy your work. Sometimes, scoring highly on one dimension can mitigate a low score somewhere else. For example, if the project is super interesting and is really stretching your development, then you may well be able to live with the fact it’s in a location you don’t enjoy. However, if you manage to achieve all four, then you’ve truly hit the jackpot and you’ll bounce out of bed on a Monday morning on the way to the office.
Looking back on two years of work, I’ve been able to score highly against all four of these dimensions, and, on reflection, that is why I have stayed on the project so long. But having now done my lessons learned on my last piece of work, I will certainly be doing similar due diligence before starting my next.
Do you agree with the areas covered by the golden project quartet? What are the factors that are important to you when working on a project?