Sun Tzu wrote:
II. WAGING WAR
6. There is no instance of a country having benefited
from prolonged warfare.
Avoid becoming involved in open-ended projects. Always insist on clear conditions or goals that indicate the project is considered completed. Make sure that deadlines and milestones are realistic and attainable.
No one wants to be involved in a project that is languishing. When deadlines pass and milestones are never reached, those involved in the project become demoralized. This is similar to laying siege. In Sun Tzu’s words from this chapter:
2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory
is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and
their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town,
you will exhaust your strength.
So, too will your team lose their enthusiasm and have their creativity become dulled when a project turns in to a siege. One way to combat this is to break a larger project into a series of campaigns with clear objectives which advance the overall goal. Be sure to celebrate the small victories along the way to assure morale stays high.
If you find yourself pulled in to an endlessly mired project, there is only one thing to do. Retreat! There is no advantage to be gained by soldiering on if the end conditions are not clear. Retreat, re-group, re-evaluate and create a new plan which contains clear, achievable conditions for victory.