Big projects can yield great things but managing them through to fruition is a complicated process, as evidenced by the sheer number of projects that fail to meet cost, quality or deadline goals. Recent research by Linda Houser-Marko and Kennon Sheldon perhaps provides the answer. Clearly any project will consist of various sub-tasks, and they suggest that at various stages of the project it pays to focus on these sub-tasks, whilst at other times it is better to focus on the end goal.
Maintaining focus whilst performing each sub-task
The research indicated that whilst people were performing each task, they perform best when they keep the overall goal in mind. Self-control is increased by global processing, abstract thinking and high-level categorisation. Taking the first step on the long road to your goal may require a greater focus on the destination.
Evaluating difficult tasks
By contrast if you or your team are evaluating a sub task that is particularly difficult it is much better to focus on that particular task. At the start of your journey, when evaluating progress, it’s often better to focus on the individual steps. Comparing recent failure with the ultimate goal destroys motivation – instead narrow focus to succeeding on the individual task.
With the end in sight
Once tasks are easier or the end is in sight, a goal focus is once again the psychological approach to choose. It increases positive emotion, decreases negative emotion and increases perceived performance.