Prepare for the Christmas Project Stall

Deadline

When a project stalls, it can be a testing time for all involved. Disruptions to projects can happen for a whole host of reasons and it’s up to a good project manager to deal with them and ensure they don’t cause massive delays. However, Christmas is a long holiday which has its problems, such as how do you get things going again in the New Year?

When planning a project, it’s important to ensure you do everything you can to ensure any public holidays are dealt with adequately. This can range from very easy to extremely difficult depending on the size and scope of your project.

For example, there are eleven federal holidays in the USA (a day off for government employees) but Columbia and India have 18 days. A few years ago this might not have been a problem, but as more companies outsource work abroad, it might now cause an issue.

But what causes the most disruption, particularly in western countries is Christmas. If you look at the calendar, you’ll see just three public holidays, but many staff will take a whole two weeks. In fact, some companies will shut down on Christmas Eve and not open until after New Year ’s Day. Hopefully, the project will have already taken this into account; however this time of year is different, and there’s another problem – motivating staff returning to work.

Christmas is a time of families, cheer and excess. Work is virtually forgotten about until January 2nd. When people get back to work, there will likely be a lull in proceedings as you’ll find many staff are just not motivated yet.

In the UK, there was a (now debunked) study by a travel company that tried to tell everyone that the third Monday of the month in January was the saddest of the year. Although the report was an apparent attempt by a travel company to boost sales to the sun, it did latch on to a very real feeling, during the winter months, people do feel down and many are unmotivated.

How to ensure projects still get done after the holidays

If you search for “how to motivate staff” on Google, you’ll find a whole bunch of solutions to this dilemma. Very often, however, they’ll be twee and gimmicky and not sit well with many staff who will see through them easily.

As with all projects though, planning is an essential ingredient.

The way to ensure a post-Christmas project goes to plan is to prepare for it pre-Christmas. Of course, this isn’t a cop-out by simply delaying everything, but it does mean being considerate.

For example, when planning a task that will take five days, is it considerate to expect it to be completed over the Christmas break? Yes, there are five days available, but will the team be at full strength during that time? Are all the dependencies going to be about to help?

Years ago I was just finishing up to start my holiday break when I noticed the project plan had just been updated by one of the managers. Knowing a deadline was slipping and wouldn’t be reached before Christmas, he moved it on. To the second of January.

Of course, people got notified of this on the way home, and they weren’t too pleased. The answer is simple, then. Before leaving for the holidays, don’t set any crazy deadlines that need to be met within hours of returning. Just because you’re the big boss, doesn’t mean you can rule with fear and expect things to get done.

Setting a deadline for the day people return, or even just after is asking for trouble and will be demotivating in itself.

Also consider that your staff are human, and some are likely to worry about such deadlines while they’re still at home. This in itself can cause concern and demotivate when returning to work. Simply plan properly, and your project can kick off the New Year with the optimism that things will get done.

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