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Finish What You Start

I think I speak for most or all of us when I say it’s more or less part of our human nature that we like to finish what we start.  Please tell me if you disagree. 

I get frustrated at home when I get called away from a task that I’m in the middle of or interrupted on a complicated project and then try to go back a week later and try to pick up where I left off. All of that forward momentum…all of the job well-done enthusiasm…all of that teaching my kids a step by step approach to completing that specific task is gone. And it’s very hard to resume with the same accuracy, efficiency and enthusiasm that was there previously. 

The same holds true – in my opinion – on the projects we are managing.  To start with a fresh new project with a new client and a formal kickoff that you prepare and plan for and then conduct is great.  To bring that long project to completion and rollout no matter how many ups and downs and bumps and issues there were is relieving, rewarding, priceless and very fulfilling all at the same time.  To have to hand off that project you’ve owned since its inception at any point short of completion sucks. It just plain sucks.

It’s not always going to work, but if you really want to finish the project you’ve started, and management is pushing you to jump to another new project, here are ‘x’ steps to take to try to hang on to the special project that you don’t want to let go of.

Formulate reasons why you need to stay on the current project.  Do you want to keep your project that you’ve successfully walked your team and project client halfway through?  Then fight for it.  You may not be successful, but you’ll be sincere and probably respected for it.  How do you fight for it?  Well, you’re likely being pulled for something that your senior leadership feels is either a better fit or that they need your experience or leadership to take on.  It may be a project for a very important new or past customer, and they want your expertise to lead it.  So you may not have a choice, but you can explain you appreciate the vote of confidence, and state that you’d really like to figure out a way – jointly with management – to keep your current project as well.

Justify keeping the project showing your ability to handle the workload.  Once you’ve expressed your desire to hang on to your current project, and if it appears you are going to be obligated to take on the newly assigned project, then you’re going to have to show how you can handle both projects.  That’s probably only going to fly if you are at a slower point on the project that you want to see through until the end.  If it’s going smoothly, then you may win your battle. But if your project that management wants offloaded to someone else is going strong and taking considerable PM time, then you’re not likely to get very far. That’s when you move on to the next argument.

Suggest other projects to offload.  If you can’t get management to leave you off the new project, and you can’t get them to agree to let you have both projects, then you must approach them with the concept of offloading another project to some other project manager, assuming you’re managing more than just one project currently.  This may sound logical, and it may even sound easy, but getting management to change their mind about strategic plans they’ve already formulated, thought through and were in the process of acting upon is difficult at best.  They can be as stubborn as you when they feel they’ve made wise plans and wise decisions.  You’ll need to do the dirty work.  You will need to be the one to select which project or projects could be offloaded – possibly even suggesting how to offload one or more projects to and why.  You’ll need to do the legwork on this because they already have and their mind is made up. 

Related Article: 5 Goals of a Project Manager

Next, sit down with management have a discussion, going through your justification of why it makes more sense to offload project ‘y’ than project ‘x’…the one you want to keep.  Look at dollars, the team, and mainly the customer.  If you can get any statements from clients supporting how much they want you to stay on the project or how satisfied they are with you and your team’s performance, that will only help you in your cause.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this, if you’re passionate about project management, owning your project and the high-level of customer service that goes along with it, then you probably want to see your projects through to the end.  Whether the project is going great and you want to bring it home or it’s going poorly and you don’t want to be that project manager who abandoned his customer and handed off a stinking mess of issues to another project manager to clean up, you want to keep it.  You have your reasons.  If so, then you’ll need to fight for it – not obnoxiously, but logically.  And you’ll need to state your case – you’ll need to reason with your senior management and convince them that your way is the best way.  Like the starting pitcher who doesn’t want to be removed from the game, you’ll have to convince that pitching coach that you shouldn’t have to turn the ball in just yet.

What about our readers?  Is it common for you to not be able to see your projects through to the end?  I think we see this more often when organizations are understocked with reliable, experienced project managers, and they often need to reach out to the most experienced to take on the new and more complex projects they start to acquire as they grow their business and PM practice.  What are your thoughts?  What are your own potential solutions or suggestions?


Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has been named the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, eBooks, white papers and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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