We’ve been visiting family in Iowa over Thanksgiving.  More eating going on than blogging.  But, inspiration is everywhere.

At Thanksgiving, we recognize what we are thankful for: family and friends, our way of life, things that make us safe or happy, and opportunities for abundance.  So, Thanksgiving could be an exercise in awareness.  By gathering together and recognizing what we have to be thankful for, we become more aware of what we have.  When we focus on this, it makes our lives better and more productive.

As project managers, we have the same need.  We have to be aware of our strengths, our assets, and our opportunities or we can’t make use of them.

I can think of times in my life and observations of others’ where we’ve focused on our problems and lost sight of our strengths.  It makes you unhappy and unproductive.  A good friend and coach described it as “getting into our crummy (we used another word) little box.”  In that box, you only see what is wrong and not what is right.  You focus on problems rather than the things for which you can be thankful.  The problems seem to be overwhelming because they are all you can see in the box.  Awareness is how you get out of the box.

We need to be aware of these things:

  • When we are in our crummy little box.  It’s time to accept we are there and that it is our choice whether to stay or climb out.
  • What put us in the box and what strengths, assets, and opportunities we have that are more important to us than what put us in the box.
  • What strengths, assets, and opportunities we would like spend time on developing rather than spending time in the box.

Finding what can go right on your project starts with awareness.  As a project manager, you need to be aware of:

  • Whether or not you are making progress against clear baselines for scope, schedule, and budget
  • Risks that are threats to making progress promised
  • Issues that need action and decisions
  • Strengths, assets, and opportunities on your team and in your organization that can support the project.

Doing project consulting and assessments, I find that awareness may be missing for a lot of reasons such as inexperience, denial and resistance (being in the box), over-confidence, and process.  It shows itself in:

  • Missing, incomplete, or inaccurate progress reports
  • Unproductive team and steering committee meetings
  • Unverifiable and unmeasured performance against baselines
  • Missing risk and issue tracking; or risk and issue tracking processes that lack substance and action
  • Resistance to feedback

You can’t get out of the crummy box of insufficient project performance until you are aware that you are in it.  How can we learn from Thanksgiving about how to address lack of awareness?   Here are some ideas:

  • Gather friends and family – we have to involve the team in project management to see all the work necessary and get feedback on how it’s going from many perspectives.
  • Work together to make the feast – our projects are more fun and productive when we appreciate the strengths, enjoy the diversity, communicate, track progress, and build teamwork among those gathered.
  • Express gratitude – we can praise both magnificent results and awareness of the effort and intention that went into those that aren’t.

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful that writing this blog is helping me become more aware of what I’ve learned and how I can put it together in new more helpful ways.  And, I’m thankful for the people who read it and give me feedback.  I hope this post helps you be more aware of the strengths, assets, and opportunities for which you can be thankful.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2012 Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk

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