I was recently reflecting on the importance of leadership in a number of my projects.  Martha Reavley’s recent post on leadership, in which she built on Jack Welch’s thinking about the importance of over-delivery, resonated with my own thinking on this topic.  It also made me think of why some projects are more enjoyable than others.  Without exception, but to varying degrees, the projects with which I am involved are successful.  Milestones are met, deliverables shipped, and customers are happy.  In the majority of cases the projects are also enjoyable and fulfilling. But in some cases the projects are a burden.  That’s not to say I expect all projects to run flawlessly and for there to be no pain points, frustrations, or misgivings.  I’m thinking here of the select few for which the end cannot come soon enough.

So as I reflected on Martha Reavley’s post, and on my own experiences, it occurred to me that those few projects for which the frustration-to-joy ratio was exceedingly high the common element is that I could not over-deliver. More precisely, I felt that I was prevented from over-delivering.  There are many factors that can contribute to that feeling: technology issues, personality mismatches, and lack of time seem to be common ones.  My point here isn’t to belabour bad projects, but rather to suggest ways in which one can remove barriers to the ability to over-deliver.  I have three suggestions:

1. Understand that you’re probably not the only one on the project feeling frustrated

Sometimes it’s worth working through the issues.  Consider using a neutral third-party facilitator to help with this process.

2. Change up the game plan

My experience is that minor modifications to work plans or arrangements are incapable of effecting the needed changes to make the project into something wonderful.  Think outside the box, and propose something radical.

3. Know when to walk away from a project

This is easier said than done, but at some point you need to decide that the mental anguish isn’t worth the remuneration offered.

The goal in all of these approaches is to get back on the over-delivery track.  You might have your own way of doing that.  In the end, you have more to lose by not over-delivering than you do by tackling the problems head-on.

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