Effective team work is widely regarded as one of the main drivers of any significant organizational progress. But building the right team of people is one thing, keeping them engaged is another. It's little wonder some of the best known companies invest heavily in improving and maintaining employee productivity.
Google is known for their fun and innovative office spaces; and today, more companies are allowing their staff to bring their pets to work. These novel ideas are centred around increasing productivity by creating an environment where employees are happy to work in.
The quest to improve productivity has been an interesting one, to say the least. Between 1924 and 1932, managers at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company, Illinois, found that by increasing lighting in the plant, their workers became more productive. Surprisingly, they also found that productivity improved even when they dimmed the lighting! It turns out that with each change, the workers suspected they were being observed, prompting them to work that much harder.
This interesting phenomenon has since been dubbed the "observer effect" or "Hawthorne effect". Researchers found that if people feel they are being monitored and measured, it provides extra motivation for them to do more.
The importance of staying motivated on personal or work projects cannot be emphasised enough. The longer you can stay inspired, the higher the probability of you completing the project. This may be relatively easy to do on an individual basis, but what happens when you have to keep an entire team motivated?
These days, keeping an eye on your team can be misconstrued as micro-managing, but fear not, there is a solution. To give you a bit of guidance with this, here are my top four tips on how to keep project teams motivated and keep projects going.
1) Break up big projects
Coming face to face with a large project can be daunting, even for an experienced team. Breaking up the project into the smaller, bite-sized tasks that need to be done will allow you to focus on completing it. Seeing the large project divided into smaller chunks will also allow you to set milestones that you can cross off as you complete them.
As your project reaches and passes these milestones, the feeling that its completion is coming closer will go a long way towards boosting team morale.
2) See the big picture
What's the end result of your project? What are the deliverables you are hoping to hand off? While crossing off those milestones can keep you motivated, it's just as important to keep the big picture in mind. By keeping your team's focus on the end goal, they'll stop seeing each task as an individual chore.
You can further motivate them by setting up a reward system to mark the completion of the project. For those year-long (or even longer) projects, a full-on event or day out can be a great way to mark its completion and congratulate the team for all the hours they put in.
3) Celebrate all the milestones
Sure, focusing on the big picture is great for motivation, but remember to celebrate all the small victories along the way as well. Acknowledging them will help remind you that you are making progress on the project. Remember the Hawthorne effect? Researchers found that the act of simply measuring is often more important than what you actually measure. Seeing some progress creates a positive feedback loop, and helps increase motivation.
4) Communicate frequently
Project managers that lead their teams to complete successful projects always stay on top of project communication. They take every opportunity to keep their team members in the loop, as much as possible. If team members feel left out, for any reason, they become disengaged, and motivation is reduced. By holding meetings on a regular basis, your team members will always feel like they are all on the same page.
Communication also fosters feelings of empowerment among team members. An informed team member is more likely to own tasks, make decisions and perform at their very best.
It takes a skilled project manager to get team members to consistently perform at the highest level and steer projects to completion. Sure, you'll hit bumps in the road, but using these approaches, you can help your team stay motivated and complete projects without losing momentum.
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