Why Ending Strong Matters to Your Workforce as Much as Starting Strong

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Corporate culture can be obsessed with beginnings, but company recognition at the end of projects is a critical key to building employee confidence, trust and engagement. Words associated with beginnings are energizing. We look for new "trends." We "launch." We "kick off." In contrast, words associated with endings can be dull. We "execute," "terminate" or "kill" a project, or we just "implement" or "finish" it.

HR and business leaders may have dozens of corporate kickoffs, but never a celebration at the end of a project. Employees at an organization that never definitively finishes what it starts could begin to believe that their extra efforts don't matter.

Why Endings Matter

Organizations should regularly evaluate the ratio of corporate kickoffs to conclusions. Here's why:

  • Projects that never end can linger on people's mental "to do" list — When you bring projects to closure, you give people permission to clear it from their minds. This can create mental space for the next major effort.
  • Endings define success and shortcomings — Don't miss opportunities to celebrate people or offer constructive post-assessments.
  • Endings make the story — Your communications will almost always be more effective if you can present change as an unfolding story. If you don't have an ending, you don't have a story.

Sports events and elections have winners, but businesses can kick off a dozen campaigns and not report final results on any of them. These organizations can have problems keeping their employees excited and engaged.

3 Ways to Ensure Your Organization Knows How to End Well

Here's how to make sure your organization has clearly-defined endings that resonate and build momentum within your workplace.

1. Have Clear Success Metrics Before You Start

The World Series wouldn't be much of an event if nobody knew how to score. Good change leaders communicate clearly about how success will be measured so they can tell a good story about success, progress or the need to try again with increased resolve.

2. Budget Past the Kickoff

If you're leading an initiative with a budget, don't put it all into kickoff and launch. Set aside dollars and plan in advance for an ending celebration. This will help establish a cycle within the organization of "launch, sustain, celebrate" — which can be motivating because it feels (and looks like) winning and accomplishment.

3. Set Good Microgoals and Better Milestones

Many grand initiatives have failed by setting a goal that's too far into the future. Successful change leaders break big goals into smaller components: quarterly is good, six months is likely too long. Aim to provide constructive feedback at regular intervals. It can help evolve the story to avoid a sense of bureaucratic stagnation, allow time for course corrections and give the effort a solidity that makes it easy for skeptics to start buying in.

HR leaders and executives who plan for, and celebrate, endings with company recognition could reap benefits in surprising places — across productivity, engagement, retention and elsewhere.

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