Plan for Success, then Plan for the Blues

Dwayne Phillips

Revision History
Revision 1.06 November 2000

We often experience depression after a success. IT managers can accept these post-success blues and deal with them, or we can ignore them and suffer the consequences. We need to plan for success and also plan for the blues that can follow.

Success is often followed by the blues. There is a period of celebration after a success, but this is often short and unfocused. We are left empty after a couple of hugs, hand shakes, and pats on the back.

The drive to success is exhausting. We work long and hard hours to achieve a success. The push for a goal excites us, and we work harder and better than we thought we could. This is draining physically, mentally, and emotionally. When drained like this, we are weak and susceptible to any number of bad things.

The combination of the blues and exhaustion can be debilitating to people and to an organization. The two lead to stupid and sometimes damaging reactions.

On a project many years ago I completed eight round the world trips in three years. I was exhausted. I received a few congratulations, but everyone in the office seemed preoccupied with their own jobs. I didn't receive the adulation that I deserved and I was hurt. The exhaustion and blues caused me to promise that I would never work with that bunch of ungrateful, self-centered, callous, no good etc. again. I am thankful that I didn't say that aloud. I was full of self-pity, but that was my experience and many others on the project went through the same.

As managers, we must accept this situation and plan for it. This planning is difficult, but we should do it for two reasons. First, it is the right thing to do; we should take steps to help our people. Second, it helps all of us. Many people quit and move elsewhere when they hit the blues. We cannot afford to lose good people.

The first step is to celebrate success. We must take the time away from our busy schedule (we do have more than one project going at a time) and do whatever is necessary to ensure that those who have succeeded know that everyone else recognizes their hard work and accomplishment.

The second step is to allow people to recuperate. Take care of the physical by allowing people time away from the office. Take care of the mental by giving people training in new skills. Note, sometimes people are so tired physically that the time to rest must occur before the celebration.

Finally, move forward. People have done well, been recognized, and now they deserve a new challenge. Too often, we skip the first two steps. Smart managers plan ahead for people to have a new project to work on as soon as they finish their current one. That is good business, but we need to allow a break for steps one and two.

As managers, we need to do this same for ourselves. We also can feel unappreciated and exhausted. Plan the three steps for yourself. Succeed and avoid the blues.

Dwayne Phillips works as a software and systems engineer for the US government. He has written "The Software Project Manager's Handbook, Principles that Work at Work", published by the IEEE Computer Society. He can be reached at