Celebrating success

Following on from my previous post ‘Celebrating failure’, I wanted to turn it on its head and discuss the equal importance of celebrating success. What’s worrying is that the concept of celebrating success can sometimes be deemed as a quick pat on the back before carrying on business as usual. It’s almost as if once a project is complete, you don’t need to talk about what went well, and not fully appreciate it by celebrating the success.

Now I don’t mean going down to the pub for a couple of celebratory pints (although it is a good idea), I mean using the success as an opportunity to audit what went well, how you worked, how others worked, and what can be done next time, much like you would with an not-so-successful project. Learning from the success is one thing; celebrating it takes it a step further.

So you’re about to have a meeting to discuss the recently-completed project and you need a good steer on how the group as a whole – and as individual people – will celebrate it. First of all, you will need to decide how the conversation will go, and there are a number of options you could choose.

For example, you could begin by each of you sharing the specific things or events that you felt went really well and why this was so. What were the contributing factors? Which elements were in place in a specific sequence or order that made sure the specific factor worked so well? Furthermore, how easy is it to replicate these elements and will they always produce the same results in other projects?

What went not-so-well?

Regardless at how well the project went, you should also each share the specific things or events that didn’t go so well. This kind of falls under the spectrum of celebrating failure, however you’re not viewing the ‘failure’ as a contributing factor to the project’s success (as if it did, it wouldn’t be a ‘failure’, more a fluke!) but instead of a near-miss. Like in health and safety, near-misses are things that didn’t go as planned and could potentially have disastrous effects but luckily didn’t. These should be noted and discussed with as much enthusiasm as the successes.

Not to dampen the celebration, but to acknowledge that there are always elements that need to be worked on, and although in this case it was a near-miss, you can discuss what can be done in the future so that it doesn’t happen again. And in addition to the success celebration, you should also discuss how it was only a near-miss and not a full blown ‘accident’.

Or you might want to take a brainstorming approach if the above is too structured and formal for the sort of environment you work in. Although most brainstorms happen before something takes off (I will write about conducting brainstorming sessions at a later date), using them in this way helps get people’s ideas out on paper and in front of everyone else on the team. As with all brainstorms, one idea from somebody feeds another idea, and another, and before you know it you have a whole range of reasons why things went so well and why some others didn’t.

Where to take the success

Once you have discussed the success of the project and any potential areas of improvement, you can take the findings back to your own professional development. After the initial buzz of success, be sure not to be complacent but instead keep the momentum by using as much of the celebration as you can.

Has this demonstrated you can take on bigger tasks? Could you now ask your manager for more responsibility? Were any of the areas of improvement an opportunity to undertake further learning or skill development? Has working with colleagues you haven’t worked before opened up a new area you would like to know more about in order to do your job better?

As with any development opportunities, you must also record this success for your own continuous professional development (CPD). Have you learnt new skills you can add to your repertoire? Have you developed any existing skills to a new level? Were any of the successes down to your specific involvement? Has leading the project resulted in developing your skills in project management, people management, and stakeholder management?

By answering these questions you get to carry the success forward into your own professional development and helps you take account of the methodology of a successful project. It may seem over the top to delve into such detail from the success, where a simple ‘well done’ would suffice before moving on to something else, and it might seem you’re milking it.

But by doing this you get to associate each success, and failure, as an opportunity to learn and develop, and as a fellow avid doer, this is something that helps us keep motivated knowing we’re on our way to where we need to be.



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