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Finishing Well – There’s More To It Than You Might Think

Posted on January 4th, 2016 by in Chemical R&D


As we’ve been approaching the end of the year, my mind has shifted from a focus on “keeping things moving” to “getting things done”. The end of the year is a natural breakpoint and a time which often coincides with our milestones or delivery dates.

So I’ve been thinking about what it means to finish well. Not just on time and in budget (although that is always great), but actually finishing something really well. Completing tasks or projects well is about much more than just hitting the deadline.

Here are five steps I use and consider to be essential actions when coming to the end of a piece of work. Going through these five in order will help you learn the lessons that need to be learnt and set you up for success on your next task.

1) Review
You’ve reached the end, but how did it go? What was good? What wasn’t? How did you perform? Why?

Spend some time, by yourself reflecting on what you’ve just finished. Notice what you learnt. Notice what you’d do differently next time.

2) Debrief
This step is very similar to the review, but it involves other people. After a solo review I like to debrief the project with colleagues, team members and other relevant stakeholders. The review you’ve already done will form the starting point for much of the conversation and the debrief will give a chance for everyone to talk about the project or task from their perspective. Sharing lessons learnt, what went well and what could be improved is nearly always a valuable process.

It can sometimes be surprising how much you didn’t know about what was going on. If this step is done right, everyone is able to give their opinions and learn from the conversation together. This certainly isn’t about pointing fingers or blaming people for problems, but instead highlighting mistakes and coming up with ways to improve. Done right, this is a very useful and constructive process.

3) Celebrate
This is often overlooked, but is so powerful. Celebrating successes, no matter how big or small, is a great way of keeping motivation and focus high. Instead of moving from task to task and project to project, taking a brief pause when you reach the end of something can do wonders for your energy.

Even at the end of an absolutely horrific project, if everything has gone wrong, you can still celebrate that you made it through.

I like to scale my celebration to be proportional with the size of the project I’ve completed. So after finishing off a day of testing I might celebrate with a cup of coffee, while after finishing a 3 year product development program my celebrations might get a little more serious…

4) Big Picture
Even if you know exactly what your next task or project will be, the time just after you’ve finished something is the ideal time to come up for air. Take a look around. Notice the big picture. What are you working towards? Are you still moving in the right direction?

Check that your next task is still the best thing for you to be doing. Or, if you don’t know what’s coming next, spend some time to choose the thing that will move you towards your end goal.

5) Refocus
Eventually the time comes when you need to get down to business again. Once you’ve been through the four steps above, you should be ready to get back into the zone on your next task.

It’s important to go through the other steps first (although there’s often a temptation to skip them). They’ll prepare you and get your mind ready for the next big thing you’re working on.

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