The Importance of Quick Wins


It’s important for a project to get off to a good start, especially when it can easily get bogged down on the first line item of a plan and languish. The following article discusses some ways you can ensure your project gets off to a good start and ultimately ends with a great finish.

A story.

The company had been thrashed in the space of ten years. Where previously it had employed hundreds of resources, after four layoffs and one bankruptcy it was now clinging to life with less than forty. Investors had had enough and ordered the sale of the company.

The new group of investors saw an opportunity and immediately started making adjustments. Some were large (like getting rid of even more people) and some were small (like providing free drinks in the cafeteria). Additionally, they adopted a philosophy of transparency that had not been seen heretofore. The old regime talked the talk of transparency and inclusiveness but it was just that…talk. The new owners walked the walk, and the difference was night and day.

One of the first things they did was to share the financials with the entire company as soon as the numbers were ready, which was in just under a month. The income statement was projected on the wall in the conference room, and showed that while the first half of the year had incurred a net loss, more profit was realized in the current month than in the previous six months.

This made the team feel great for two reasons. First, it was the first time anyone had ever shared the financials outside of a small group of elite executives. Second, the company was actually making money in the short term. The quick win was a harbinger of things to come!

What is a Quick Win and Why Is It Important to Your Project?

A quick win is known by many names: slam dunk, no brainer, low-hanging fruit, sure thing, and easy-peezy lemon squeezy, to name just a few. In other words, quick wins are those things that you go after that are almost guaranteed to succeed.

Mark E. van Buren and Todd Safferstone, writing in Harvard Business Review, discuss some potential drawbacks to the concept of quick wins for leaders coming on to teams. While important to secure confidence in leadership, sometimes quick wins come at the cost of the team.

When a quick win is about celebrating the team, rather than just an individual’s quest for change, they can be valuable.

Consider using quick wins on your project and your team for the following reasons:

  • Get Everyone Motivated – Seeing results almost immediately after an effort is expended is very motivating for a team. In the opening example, once everyone saw the numbers they walked away with fire in their belly and zip in their step to keep the trend going. They knew that the positive results were directly related to the activity they were engaged in, and it made them want to do more. They were now eager to implement greater cost-saving measures, and brainstorm more revenue-generating ideas, improved processes and other great ideas that would all contribute to the bottom line.
  • Fuel Momentum – Every project needs momentum to keep it moving forward, and there’s nothing that fuels it more than reaching a milestone, checking it off your list, and putting a particular phase of the project behind you. Quick wins propel everyone in a forward direction and provide stepping stones for further progress. Sometimes it’s hard to see the progress of a project while you are moving forward, but when you take a quick look in the rear-view mirror it becomes very apparent how far you’ve come and how fast.
  • Establish a Cadence for Your Project – The cadence of a project is the rhythm at which your project moves. Think of it as the pace someone walks with, such as slow, deliberate, lumbering steps or quick, short, and choppy steps. There’s nothing wrong with either pace, it’s just a matter of how long someone’s legs are and their disposition. Each of your projects has a unique disposition and personality as well (and some have legs). A short churn-n-burn project that needs to be wrapped up in a matter of weeks needs quick wins faster than a project that will continue for a couple of years.
  • Feel-Goodness – Last, but certainly not least, is that quick wins feel good to you and your team. There’s nothing like checking a deliverable off your list and then being able to report on it at the next project status update meeting. The positive energy created from accomplishment feeds into the energy you and your team need to move forward into the next phase of a project.

Quick wins create a motivated, forward-moving team that gives everyone associated with that project a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Set Yourself Up for Quick Win Success

Is it possible to guarantee a quick win? Yes, if you already have the win on the books and then advertise it later. Now, some people may object to such a tactic, but hear me out.

Think about the income statement example again, and the new management’s deliberate move to quickly get information out. They knew going in that they were going to have absolutely no problem achieving a new record. They had eliminated massive amounts of debt that had been drowning the company and were able to renegotiate unreasonably high contracts to something much more fiscally responsible. This win was already in the bag and now it was just a matter of letting everyone know the results.

Can this be applied to your projects? Absolutely. Just get a head start. You can be a little creative when it comes to applying resources, asking for people to work a little bit more here and there (perhaps in exchange for additional time off later) or prioritizing deliverables. The end result is that you’ll be able to ensure that quick wins are lined up and ensure they are impactful.

What type of impact will quick wins have? People on the team will begin talking to others about their recent success. It’s good (and unusual) to have this type of news spread and it will be a welcome change to the incessant flood of things that go wrong. Good news trickles into other areas in the organization, improving you and your team’s reputation. It’s also up to you to help spread the word of these quick wins.

Nature hates a vacuum, and most companies take the path of least resistance and fill an information vacuum with how poorly things are going or how broken things are. You now have the success stories you need to keep that type of information out of the conversation and change the topic to something positive.

Do yourself and your team a favor and identify and focus on those quick wins. You’ll set the pace for the rest of your project and allow everyone to have a feeling of accomplishment along the way! Don’t forget to check out Jennifer Bridges’ video on How to Reward Your Team.

ProjectManager allows you to see your resource, efficiency and completion percentages at a glance. This will help you identify those areas where a quick win is possible and put the plan in place to make it happen. Plus you can also use milestones as markers to set up team performance reviews and have successes to celebrate along the way.