Split Personality

I’m a project management consultant.  Does that make me more a project manager than a consultant, or more a consultant than a project manager?  Or, am I equally both?  Aargh, I’m so confused!  One day I’m like “Let’s get to the bottom of this problem and get it solved!” and the next day it’s “How do you think things are going, what has been or could be better?”  My personality is split!  Help me work this out – I need someone to listen while I rant about which one I am or need to be and why.

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Attitude Flip

The more I think about the idea of finding what can go right, the more I think it’s a basic attitude shift that we need to apply to everything we do in project management.  Whether it’s managing risks, managing scope, or solving problems, the tools and techniques we use can be flipped a bit in our minds to also find ways to maximize what can go right.

Project managers love solving problems.  It may be that we become project managers for this very reason.  We LOVE solving problems.  We look for problems to solve everywhere.  Work, home, and Angry Birds.  We like projects because most projects are about solving problems.  We ask “What problem are we trying to solve?” when we need to focus our team on the objectives of a project.  But, do we let our bias for solving problems cloud our ability to use our problem solving talents to find what can go right on our projects? Continue reading


It’s been a cloudy rainy week here in the great Pacific Northwest.  I need some sunshine!  It lifts our mood and makes the flowers bloom.  Your projects need sunshine, too.

Your project is most likely part of something greater, part of an organization, a contributor to its business objectives.  Do you understand that connection and how you are dependent on it?  I think that every project’s success depends on the support it gets from its owning organization.  Part of finding what can go right on a project is to describe the ideal amount of support that you need.  Support from the organization, like sunshine on flowers, grows successful projects.  The better you understand the support needed, the more likely you are to deliver a successful project. 

One way to think about factors supporting project success is to consider adding a new plant to your garden.  Sometimes I’ll see a great new plant and think how good it would look here and there around our big yard.  My wife says to buy at least three and spread them around to see where they will do best.  She’s right.  While we can control to some extent the water, soil, and nutrients the plant gets; we can’t control the sunshine.  The sunshine ultimately forms the plant’s microclimate.  Too much or too little sunshine and you get an unhealthy plant.  The problem with projects is that you can’t buy three and spread them around.  When we plant a project, we have to get it the support it needs.   Continue reading

The Missing Question

How often do you ask this question: “What can go right on my project?”  My experience is that most people ask other questions in dutifully performing good project management:

  • What are we trying to accomplish to help our organization?
  • What work do we have to do?
  • How much can we spend?
  • When does it have to be completed?
  • How do we acquire what we need to do the work?
  • How will we manage our team?
  • Who needs to know what we are doing?
  • How do we make sure we conform to specifications?


  • What can go wrong and how do we mitigate these risks?

If you are an experienced project manager, you will note that these questions reflect the Project Management Institute’s 9 project management knowledge areas from the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).  The PMBOK, which I became intimately familiar with when I prepared for my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, is a great framework to understand the practices, tools, and techniques that support a well run project.  Not paying attention to the 9 questions will undermine your chances of success.  But, project managers can apply all the tools and techniques and still fail.  In my 30+ years as a project manager and project management consultant, I’ve tried to see what makes a project manager successful.  If I had to narrow it down to one thing, I think it’s the ability to see what can go right with a project.  And, it’s knowing which of the things that can go right must go right for you to be successful.

If you are still reading and think I might be on to something, let me tell you a story that illustrates what I mean. Continue reading