If you conjure up the classic image of a train, it likely would look something like the one below: an engine, a few boxcars, and a caboose. For decades that would have been accurate, but the traditional caboose has gone the way of steam engines and the pony express. Today, modern trains zip by without the benefit of the watchdog end car, relying instead on technology to switch tracks, signal imbalance, and light the rear of the train.

The demise of the caboose serves as a metaphor for most projects: there is no definitive ending. No one is assigned to “bring up the markers” (as the red lights on the caboose were called) and verify that all have passed through safety. We speed through projects and only look forward, valuing the start of the next project more than truly finishing and reflecting on the details of the first one.

There are functions involved with driving the engine and others that require tending to the finish. Structure your next project like the iconic train and value both.

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