The Importance of Momentum

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Gaining and keeping momentum on a project is a critical component of it's success. In the same way that a car requires a lot of energy to initially get going, projects generally require an initial burst of energy. Once this is applied though, if you can maintain your momentum a much smaller amount of energy is required to keep moving at the speed to which you initially accelerated.

Likewise, once you've lost your momentum, it takes a pretty large amount of energy just to get things moving at the same pace again. It's not just inconvenient, starting and stopping on a project quite simply wastes a lot of energy. People need reminding as to what the priorities are. Team members become engaged on other initiatives. Vendors may think you're not serious about working with them. Employees question the importance of the project. The list goes on and on. In fact, I would argue that not starting a project is much better than starting a project that constantly loses it's momentum.

When I was in college I waited tables, and the worst shift was always Sunday evenings. Service was bad, mistakes would be made in the kitchen, the host or hostess would be MIA, etc. Why? Because Sunday night was by far the slowest time of the week; we would never get any momentum going for the evening. When a customer would come in we'd be annoyed that we couldn't keep joking around in the kitchen. We'd be eager to have our "shift beer" and no one was making much money that night anyway. In contrast, on a Saturday night when we were busy, things would be humming along smoothly.

It's the same situation with projects. No one wants to work on a something that seems like it's on life support. People like working on fun, active, fast-paced projects where tasks are regularly being completed. It turns out that these are also the easiest to manage because they have a ton of momentum - they only require a little bit of energy to keep things moving quickly. You may need to steer one way or the other and slow down or speed up in different situtions, but relative to starting from a near stand-still it's a negligible amount of energy.

Momentum is very real, and losing it on your projects can have far reaching ripple affects which are almost never good.