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Habits of Successful Projects

By Mitchell Hanberg on October 03, 2017

Over the course of a project, it is easy to become jaded and to lose track of why your team has certain processes. It’s important to stay vigilant to keep those processes from degrading, because you will have trouble finding the cause of a reduction in velocity or quality due to the misunderstanding of how the team is operating.

This post details some habits that I’ve noticed to be invaluable.

Trying something new

Pick something and execute.

This is especially important when you are giving a new project strategy a trial run, because if you don’t follow through then you have no idea if the strategy didn’t work. You can’t be iterative if you can’t learn from your mistakes and you can’t learn from your mistakes if you can’t identify them.

Have a meeting and make some documents that detail the new protocol, so everyone should know what is expected and be able to comply.

The little things do matter

Focusing on rules can seem pedantic but setting expectations will create a consistent, trustworthy environment that optimizes for visibility. If your team is following the project’s rules, you can be confident that you know the current state of the project. This passive communication can relieve a heavy mental load that comes with constantly wondering what progress the team is making.

If you find your team going through your project board during a stand-up/status meeting and teammates are saying, “Oh, I finished that a week ago” or “Oh, that’s blocked on thing,” you have a problem and need to address it.

Meetings

With the exception of a daily stand-up/status meeting, meetings should take the form of a group activity or should spin off activities. Things should either be getting done or be explicitly delegated to get done, the phrasing of the latter is important. This is not the same as saying, “We’ll worry about this later.”

Don’t go down rabbit holes, so be comfortable steering a discussion back on track if it has veered off topic. The meeting is not the time to engineer a solution to the problem at hand, but to decide on the direction and determine who is best equipped to tackle it.

Retrospectives

Retros are the time to decide which practices to toss, which to keep, and on which to double down. Care is needed to prevent these meetings from turning into an hour-long venting session that doesn’t offer any solutions.

During your sprint, write down topics that you’d like to discuss and put them in a centralized place so that others can see them. This gives your teammates time to ponder your topic, making their response more valuable than if you gave them 10 seconds to think it through.


We love designing, building and deploying, so it’s easy to get carried away and forgo process for the sake of getting things done. That’s okay, but if you and your team have an “official” protocol you should follow it or exchange it for something that better suits your project’s needs.