Making Projects Fun

Making Projects Fun
Making Projects Fun

I was once on a project with a hard-core, fire-breathing task master. He had a detailed project plan and reviewed everyone’s progress to their tasks daily.  This was highlighted to me once when a team member received a personal call one afternoon.  Her daycare provider was calling with a question about one of her children.

When the five-minute conversation was completed, the project manager turned to her and said, “Make sure that you make up that time you spent on the phone.”

This team member, along with those within earshot were pretty stunned at the project manager’s pettiness. But they shouldn’t have been surprised. Every day was focused on work and nothing but work.

The Madden approach

Joe Madden is the manager of the Chicago Cubs. He is notorious for his strange antics. When the team travels to another city, he often has the team dressing up in zany suits or feety pajamas. He has had mariachi bands come and play for Cinco de Mayo, zoo animals brought onto the field before a game, and many other playful activities and slogans.

With his young team and the high expectations they faced last year, Madden applied these tactics to help make it fun and keep the team loose.

Lighten up

We may not have the budget to bring in mariachi bands. And many corporate cultures frown on activities that are that far off the wall and distracting. But Madden sets a great example for the rest of us.

I’ve always believed in having fun in the workplace. Laughing and joking are great ways to loosen up an intense work environment and keep people loose. We can apply some of the same principles Madden does that are office appropriate.

Have a sense of humor

There’s nothing wrong with some good clean fun. Making a joke during a meeting or conversation helps to take the monotony away. One has to be careful not to overdo it. A little humor goes a long way. You also have to gauge the audience. If you make a joke and get no response, they may not be the right group to joke around with. There is also the chance that your joke just wasn’t funny.

Encourage a Friendly environment

The people you work with are humans. They have families and friends and often do fun things on their time off. When you see someone on Monday morning, ask them how their weekend was. “Did you do anything fun?” Some people may not want to talk about it. But most people like to talk about themselves and share what they did for fun.

Did someone mention that their child was sick yesterday? Ask how he’s doing today. Does someone you work with care for their sick mother? Ask occasionally how her mother is doing.

It is not enough to ask about family members. Take a genuine interest in the people you work with. When they mentioned their kids’ names, remember those names. If they have a passion or a hobby, show some interest. It will make your team members take more enjoyment in their jobs. And it will make them more likely to go the extra mile when that is needed.

Schedule extra-curricular activities

Many workers want to get away from the work place and the team on their down time. But getting together occasionally outside of the office can help the team to bond. Schedule a get-together after work every once in a while. This can be for a couple of cocktails or some special event like a play.

Not everyone is going to take advantage of it, but if you mix it up enough, you’ll hit most people’s interest at some point.

You can also plan activities over the lunch hour. Many teams schedule periodic lunch-and-learn sessions. One person from the group will share some special knowledge with a thirty minute presentation. The rest of the team can optionally attend while they bring their lunch. If you have a budget, you can have lunch brought in.

You can’t please everyone

You can try countless things to make the workplace fun. Most team members will appreciate your efforts and respond positively. There will always be the occasional person that doesn’t like to laugh or converse or share their weekend with people.

That is their choice. The best way to deal with people is to let them be. Trying to force them to be happy or drilling them on what they did last weekend is likely to make them grumpier. Try your best to include them, but don’t force it.

Conclusion

When all you focus on all day at work is work, it becomes mundane. Creating a lighter and fun environment in the office can increase the team’s happiness, their morale, and their productivity.

One has to keep in mind that not everyone has fun in the same way. It is important to vary things up enough and not to force anyone to do something that they don’t consider fun.

How do you make projects fun?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Ben Schonewille at FreeDigitalPhotos.net