3(ish) Minute Moment: Project Fatigue and Rust Out | Propel Change
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3(ish) Minute Moment: Project Fatigue and Rust Out

3(ish) Minute Moment: Project Fatigue and Rust Out

Are you or your employees suffering from rust out?

Rust out is a little different from burnout, because it’s when you have lots of stamina, but you feel like you’re not meeting any of your goals.

In today’s video, I’m going to talk about project fatigue and rust out and offer some tips to refocus and reprioritize to overcome it.


Today we’re going to talk about project fatigue, and rust out. Rust out’s a little different than burn out, because it’s when you have a lot of stamina, but you feel like you’re not meeting any of your goals.

So I was having lunch one day with Elaine, and she’s a CEO of a growing company. And she told me she is so tired of projects, and everybody in her organization is tired of projects.

So I ask her a little bit more about it, and what I learned was they had 13-14 major initiatives going, and five more up to bat.

So no wonder they’re tired of projects.

So I ask Elaine some questions. I said, all right, first of all, do you have to do every one of these projects, Elaine? Are all these necessary? And she had to think about that a little bit.

So I backed off, I said, to meet the goals that your organization has in front of you. Ohhh, so it put a whole different light on the priority of the project.

The second question we talked about was timelines. You’ve got 13 major projects going, are the timelines really reasonable if you’ve got all these people working on those? And tell me a little bit more about your resources.

“Ah, well, we’ve got almost everybody in the organization working on two, three projects.”

So I’m sure her resources were totally drained. I’m sure that the people were about to rebel.

So I asked the last question. Is anybody’s work suffering?

Have you had to have any conversations, or have any of your leaders had to have conversations with people and say, “Hey look, you’ve gotta pop the pace a little bit.” And she admitted that they were.

Well no wonder their work was suffering, they’re all on a million projects.

So Elaine and I had a little bit of a game plan that we formulated to try and get rid of this, and make it more reasonable. Because her people, while they had a lot of energy, they were hitting their heads against a brick wall, and headed for rust out.

So Elaine and I went back to her office, and we completed a very quick refocus exercise.

The first thing we looked at is, what are the big goals that you have? What are the rocks that you’re trying to push forward? Because you’re in a big growth mode.

The second thing we looked at was every one of these projects, Elaine, what kind of impact does each one have on the goal? And we assigned it high, medium, or low impact.

Third, we decided from a resource perspective, how many resources did we really need on these projects? Because what happened was, as the projects moved forward, the resource number grew, and grew, and grew. To the point where they didn’t need all the resources on a project.

So two or three people could handle the majority of it. When we finished it out, we had brand new priorities. We knew what had to be done first, second, and third, and how many people had to be on each project.

I’m gonna tell you, the results when she announced that, she got her team together and announced that, and there was so much energy behind that, it was amazing.

Those projects got completed at break-neck speed. I went and talked to some of the employees, and where I was concerned about rust out with them, the rust out was gone. They were so excited that they were moving on, and they weren’t under 13 or 14 projects in order to feel like they could take a breath.

So you might want to ask yourself if you or your employees are going through project fatigue. Are you rusting out?

If you are, think about these things.

1. Do all the projects link directly to your key goals? And if they don’t, they probably don’t have priority.

2. Are all projects still needed? Sometimes what we find is that people will continue to do projects even though the whole purpose for them is gone, but we’re not done yet, so we’ll keep going.

3. We put a timeframe on this. Is that timeframe still reasonable for this project, or do we need to lengthen it or shorten it, or just move the project altogether?

4. Ask do I have the right resources on this project? Are there some resources that could take the bulk of it, and then reach out to others for subject matter expertise, for instance?

Re-prioritize, and re-focus. It’ll make the world of difference, and people will get rid of rust out.