Project Team Principle #9: Practising awesomization

Teams that are open to being excellent will often surprise you with what they can achieve.  Allow teams to become too comfortable and they will starts an inward spiral to mediocrity, corner-cutting and, ultimately, failure.

Project Team Principle #9: Practising awesomization

Project Team Principle #9: Practising awesomization

When was the last time you had a thrill in a project?  When was the last time the hairs on the back of your neck stood up because you felt that what had produced was so cool and awesome that it was best in class?

So often, teams get bogged down in the difficulties that are thrown up as they make progress that they forget what they are capable of.  Sometimes the processes of project management lock in mediocrity and average performance.

“Awesomization” is of course the process of making something awesome. Teams need to open their eyes, or have their eyes opened, to the possibilities that are available to them during and after the project.

Attempt to be awesome

“BREAKING NEWS: You’re awesome and designed for success; live this day accordingly!” ― Steve Maraboli (life-changing speaker, bestselling author, and behavioral science academic)

I remember one such situation of prying people’s eyes open. On a large and important, but troubled and delayed project of mine, I was asked to look at what could be done to recover both forecast time and budget.  “Anything is on the table,” they said.  So we agreed on a team bonus based on 10% of the cost savings on the remaining project budget. The amount was significant given that we had several million remaining.  I was totally excited with this prospect, until the team turned me down, flat!

They felt that they could be distracted by this financial incentive because they wanted to do something “properly” and worried about people “cutting corners”. Plus, they felt that this would surely be a recipe for team problems.

I thought that I had done a great thing because I don’t ever recall this happening on any project.

But the reality was that the team wasn’t prepared to step up to be awesome.  They wanted to go along their normal ways.  They completely missed the significance of the sponsor’s desperation to get some movement or desired outcomes.

Thinking back, I realised that I didn’t set things up right and that I probably could have created a scenario where they would have said “yes”.  Even so, it was likely that this kind of incentive was not the right motivation for that team. And as a project manager, I should have spent some time to understand the personality of the members and the team.

But the real tragedy was that we all lost the opportunity to be awesome. Image this, instead of just getting caught up in arguments about the differences between a Rolls Royce solution and a “quick and dirty kludge”, we could have focused and energised around the situation to come up with different solutions that have the required quality but also saved time and money.

Opportunities and celebrating awesomeness

Every team should have the opportunity and allow themselves to exceed expectations. Sometimes it might be a radical and drastic shift.  Other times it might be a series of small celebrated occassions.

Teams often overlook celebrating achievements; however, what teams don’t realise is that celebrating achievements is a small part of the bigger body of getting the team to believe that they can do awesome things.

It doesn’t have to be big-ticket events because the effect fades quickly and gets forgotten; so, you need to find steady ways to get the team to be awesome, even in the most common projects. Hence as a project manager, you need to maintain and reinforce the culture and shared model of being awesome.

Team Charter Clause #9: I will practise awesomization

Get people to move from just a “turning the handle” attitude to full engagement requires small steps. And needs to happen before you can strive to do better than stated KPIs and continuously improve. And Clause #9 is that first step.

I join this team to produce the best possible outcome for our customer.

It is not my goal to do as little as possible, to just “get by”, or to do the minimum that is needed.  If I’ve done this role before, then I want to do it much better this time.

I understand that “just turning up” to do my own job in a project context is not being a team member. “Just turning up” behaviour rarely ever achieves anything great.

I am open to this project becoming the world’s best practise of this type of project.

 I want this project to become a case study for other teams in the future. 

I will support my teammates in being awesome at whatever it is that this might be. This could include: stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing some boundaries. If the customer wants this in 5 months, I will say, “Why can’t we do it in 3 months?” If the customer has a budget of 100k my question will be, “Why can’t we do it for 50k?” This “drive to be awesome” will be infused into every aspect of my project work.

Next Steps

What are your thoughts on the objective of this clause? Do you have any suggestions for modifications to the wording?

What do you think your team’s reaction would be to this Charter if you introduced it to your current project(s)?

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