“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream…” C.S. Lewis
A constant theme in my work life has been to redefine myself every 4 years or so. I’m not sure why it happens, but it’s always worked out well. Maybe it’s why I like project management and consulting. This work is about redefining things.
Last week I started a new job. I’m not an independent consultant anymore. Now, I’m an employee of the State of Washington. Again. I spent the first 20 years of my career in the public sector serving in the Air Force and working for Washington State. Those were good years, but I wanted to see more of the working world. I wanted to know if people in the private sector worked smarter, harder, or more productively. After 18 years being part of private companies and owning one, it’s apparent to me that people are the same everywhere. Everyone is willing to work hard for something and others that they believe in. Continue reading
I often say that imagining perfect outcomes is a useful step in defining project scope. I ran across two things this week that say this message is misguided. I still think I’m right. Let’s work through it.
If you haven’t seen a post from me on imagining perfect outcomes, here’s the idea. We often miss opportunities to achieve benefits on a project because we focus on controlling scope and risk. At the start of a project, I want to be sure we imagine perfect outcomes in terms of getting what we want; and getting it in a way that helps the organization and its people grow. These opportunities should be included in our scope. I think using the word “perfect” helps make this happen.
Here are the two things I ran across this week:
As my career evolves, I’ve moved from project manager roles to roles where I oversee and assess projects. I think doing this productively requires balancing cold objectivity with optimism and encouragement. It also has to balance an independent perspective with collaborative input. The challenge is ensuring that the assessment identifies strengths and problems, encourages improvement, and doesn’t weigh down the project while requiring accountability. After all, being assessed is a powerful thing.
Think about it. Few things cause as powerful an emotional response as being judged. The coach says “Nice play! Your footwork is really improving.” You feel great; motivated to get better. You think about the input and accept the positive encouragement. The coach says “No, you aren’t paying attention! You have to learn the play and be in the right place.” This brings out a more complex response. You may resist criticism. You may think about what you were doing right and are mad it wasn’t noticed. If you are singled out, you may be embarrassed. If the coach is fair and you respect him, you may more readily accept the comments. But they can still hurt.
Here’s a lighter hearted example to give you something to think about. Over the holidays we visited our grandkids. My five year old granddaughter, Amberly, loves games and role playing. We were playing catch with an indoor soft Frisbee. I was admiring how much her ability to catch and throw had improved in the last few months. Our game had changed in an interesting way, though. Where it used to be that any throw was a good one, now we tried to make straight catchable throws. I’d say “good throw” or “good catch, Amby.” She’d say “good throw” or “good catch, Grampy.” It got more interesting when Amby decided, out of the blue, to keep score.
Dan Rockwell’s year end posts are getting me ready for the New Year. This one reinforces the part of “the other side of risk” that encourages you to consider the project journey and how it will support the people who will make it. Setting objectives for how you will support your people and organization identifies often overlooked tasks that make the journey enriching; and that need to be part of your project’s scope.
Thanks to Dan for persevering with regular posts over the holidays while I take it easy.
Happy New Year everyone!
This post is a holiday gift to all of you who have read my blog during 2012, its first year. The blog has been a gift to me. I’ve been able to sort out what’s important, what works for me, what I want to do next, and share it with you. Some of you even find it helpful. That’s the best part. I will keep blogging. Please keep reading, commenting, and sharing this with others who could use it.
I saw this story on the news this week. A wonderful thing happened when a teacher asked his students:
“What would you do if you couldn’t fail?”
This struck home for me. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I ask you to explore perfect outcomes to your projects. Too often we are afraid to ask “What would the outcomes be if this project went perfectly?” We want to control scope and risk. But, limiting our options before we consider perfect outcomes limits our opportunities. Looking for perfect outcomes and opportunities is “the other side of risk.” Of course, we have to balance our dreams with our capabilities as we take each step forward. But, as this story points out, when we envision an opportunity and our dreams are clear, our capabilities can grow to meet them. Click the picture above for the newspaper story, and the link below for the video on King5 TV.
Please enjoy this story and have a wonderful holiday.
Thanks for reading and warm wishes.
The picture is by Jennifer Buchanan from the article in The Herald.
I encourage project managers to seek perfect outcomes before narrowing the scope of their project. This helps find what can go right on a project.
I love it when Dan Rockwell backs me up (even inadvertently). Check out today’s Leadership Freak post:
“8 Ways to Choose Wide Over Narrow”
He starts with:
4 perils of narrow:
- Shuts down rather than turns on.
- Closes off rather than opens up.
- Rejects rather than explores.
- Pulls back rather than reaches out.
I think this post reinforces my thoughts about finding what can go right by looking for opportunities for perfect outcomes and journeys. So, don’t be afraid to go wide. Enjoy. Thanks, Dan. Here’s the link to Dan’s post:
Thanks for reading.
The tragedy in Connecticut makes it difficult to write about finding what can go right on our projects. It directs our attention to what can go wrong. Horribly wrong. It hurts to think about it. I’m writing today with all those affected in my thoughts.
Sandy Hook makes us think about our own families and our hopes for them. We hope that they will be wildly successful even if they face uncertainties and risks. We hope the same for our own endeavors and projects. How should we address those risks that are exceedingly rare and horrible? How much should we address opportunities that could have outcomes more perfect than we should hope for? Do we spend enough time on the ends of the bell curve?
I started writing this post right after Super Storm Sandy. I remember a pervasive sound bite that went something like:
I never thought it could be this bad. Continue reading
In the last week I spoke with three new project managers. They were all in organizations that practiced limited or no project management. Each was frustrated with how hard it is to be a project manager where the boss just wants to get stuff done. The boss says “we don’t have time to do project management!” You’re thinking “we don’t have time not to…” What to do?
Maybe the answer is to meet halfway. Meeting halfway can be helpful in marriage and consulting, why not in our projects?
Did this happen to you on your wedding day? Older married male guests catch you alone, put their arm around your shoulder, and share a nugget of wisdom that will ensure wedded bliss. It happened to me. Not all were nuggets of gold, but one was. Continue reading