August 29, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Uncategorized
Stop and Smell the Successes
By Sarah Adams
I was recently asked to talk about project management and provide examples of:
- a successful project that I had led, and
- a project that did not go well and my lessons learned from the process and outcome.
I could easily think of a number of projects that didn’t go quite as planned and how I would do things differently for future projects. But, I found myself stumped as to what project I had led that was a “success.” Anything that goes well seems to be quickly swept into the past. A success is rarely reflected upon, as everyone quickly moves on to the next project or catches up on those that had been put on the back burner. With fewer resources in the nonprofit world, time is an extremely precious commodity. There is little time for patting ourselves on the back.
We spend much more time thinking about what went wrong, how things could have been better, and how processes could be improved for the future. And—don’t get me wrong—this is time very well spent. Nothing needs to be labeled as a “failure.” Time spent trying to assign blame or feeling bad about a project is not at all productive. It demotivates and disrupts the team, as well as slows an organization’s progress. Instead, when everything is seen as a learning opportunity, it builds an environment for growth and creativity. We can use lessons learned to make our programs and services stronger. We learn, we adjust, we adapt, we get better…we continue serving the community and do so with greater impact.
What we often miss is the chance to enjoy the good stuff and learn from our successes. We shy away from talking in too great of detail about what worked. I wonder if lack of time is the main factor or if it is compounded by a timidness to dwell on anything that might make us look like we are boasting or lack humility. Perhaps this goes against the notion of what a nonprofit worker is supposed to look like and is instinctively avoided. Perhaps there is a hesitancy to name projects as complete successes, if there was something—anything—that could be improved. There is always room for improvement, but if a project meets its goals, let’s call it a success. Taking the pat to the back is not a bad thing…as long as we don’t stop there.
We need to identify and analyze the path that led to success. We should be asking just as many questions about the successful projects as those that do not go as well. We can use the process to identify the strategies that work and consider where else they could be implemented. We can reflect on our strengths and grow stronger as an organization. The bold organizations that have been able to demonstrate the largest impact seem to be the ones that analyze both scenarios. They find what truly works, do more of it, and tell the world about their revelations and innovations. They know exactly why they are successful and claim that success.
It shouldn’t be hard to recall specific examples of successful projects. They should occupy just as much brain space as the lists of things to improve. So, take some time today to stop and reflect on your successes and think about how to apply their lessons to other ventures. Trust me, it feels good.
Sarah Adams is a nonprofit junkie. She works for one called Volunteer San Diego, an affiliate of the HandsOn Network. She volunteers for the San Diego County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. Through both, she interacts with hundreds of other nonprofits and it’s given her a lot of food for thought. You can read more from Sarah on her blog, the clipboard activist.
No comments yet.