24 January, 2023

Is Your Project Stuck in the Middle? | Video

It seems that people feel motivated near the start of a task, because they can easily see their own progress. And, as they near the end, the feeling that their close to finishing draws them on. But, in the middle, motivation sags. Is your project ‘stuck in the middle’?

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Mastering Motivation

The paper, Mastering Motivation, by Andrea Bonezzi, Miguel Brendl, and Matteo de Angelis at the Kellogg School of Management describes a graph of motivation against time with a characteristic ‘U’ shape.

Do Your Projects Get Stuck in the Middle?

Does this happen in Your Projects?

I suspect it does. When I read about their work, it rang true to me. It’s a familiar dynamic. So, how can we get past the sag in the middle?

Obviously, you need to motivate your team

One of my pet topics is the wide range of theories of motivation at work. If that’s something you want to learn a bit about, take a look at our feature article:

‘Everything You Need to Know about Project Team Motivation’

And, if you want the detail, our sister channel, Management Courses, has a whole free YouTube Course on Motivation.

But is there something clever you can do?

I think there is. We can make less middle in our projects.

Errm… Say again…

I’ve long been an advocate of more milestones rather than fewer. Milestones mark start points or finish points. More milestones mean more ends. And more ends mean less middle.

Another favorite approach is formal stage gates

These decision points break up your project lifecycle. We use them principally for governance purposes. I also wrote this article, if you want to know more:

‘Why the Stage Gate Process will Make You a Better Project Manager’

But crucial to this argument, stage gates mark the end of one stage of your project, and the start of the next. so, they reduce the amount of middle in your project.

‘What about Agile?’ I hear you say!

What indeed? I suspect Bonezzi and colleagues’ work is a general finding. If so, it accounts in part for the popularity and success of well-run Agile projects. Because they have many starts and finishes. The short sprints of Scrum are a perfect way to reduce the amount of middle.

Carefully curated video recommendations for you:

What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

Learn Still More

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If you want basic Management Courses – free training hosted on YouTube, with 2 new management lessons a week, check out our sister channel, Management Courses.

For more of our Project Management videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.

For more of our videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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