Letting Go of Baggage to Find What Can Go Right on Your Project

Here’s a reblog of Dan Rockwell’s “Leadership Freak.”

“Creating Glorious Space for Reinvention”

baggage dan rockwell

Dan discusses “Leadership and the Art of Struggle” with its author, Stephen Snyder.  Stephen encourages us to create “glorious space” by letting go of baggage of past failures and successes.  On our projects, past failures may cause us to see only what can go wrong and limit our ability to find what can go right.  Opportunities may be missed.  The same may be true for past successes.  Building only on what worked before may also limit finding opportunities for what can go better this time. 

I think that using a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) approach to risk assessment may put us more in touch with the present and what is possible vs. focusing on the past and what worked or didn’t then.  It’s a good thing to think about. 

The photo is from Dan’s post.

Do You Want Your Project Manager To Be Like Bobby Knight?

I woke up to NPR this morning and listened to an interview with Bobby Knight, the famous college basketball coach.  The interview discussed his new book “The Power of Negative Thinking.”  To sum it up, Coach Knight said that if you want to win it’s more important to focus on what can go wrong and fix it than to let positive thinking pull you through.  Checking out the book preview on Amazon, I picked out this quote:

bobknight“As I looked ahead to every game and every season, my first thought was always: What vulnerabilities do we have and what can we do to minimize them, to get around them, to survive them – and give ourselves a better chance to win?  In effect, how do you eliminate the wasted energy and unnecessary mistakes to build a cohesive and successful team that can play within its strengths?”

Clearly, Bob Knight is a great risk manager.  What I like about his message is that we have to work hard to clearly identify and counteract the risks we face in order to succeed.  We can’t just hope for the best.  When we do risk management, we should really look for risks and take real actions to mitigate them.  We should take specific actions and track specific results to be sure that mitigations are working.  Knight is right about that.

But, I’m having a tough time with the “Power of Negative Thinking” thing. (I have to admit here that I’ve only read 20 pages or so that were available on Amazon’s preview). Maybe it’s how he went about being a great risk manager.  My impression is that Bob Knight was a pretty demanding and uncompromising manager.   In the book, Knight says he had a slogan posted in his locker room saying “This ain’t Burger King.  We’ll do it my way.”    Can we really be successful in endeavors outside of basketball by following the iron willed approach of a coach to win by relentlessly fixing mistakes?  I’m going to ponder this question a bit and see if I learn anything.

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Inattentional Blindness and Project Management

Projects are more successful when all the participants – project managers, builders, and clients – find ways to understand and learn from one another.  But, that’s not easy.  Why is that?  Don’t we want to understand and support one another?  We probably do. But, our different perspectives can get in the way.

Most people on a project are looking for different things when they look at the project.  The project manager is looking to define and manage objectives, scope, schedule, budget, and risks.  The other people on the project are looking at what they will be creating or what they will have when the project is completed.  They see what interests them.  And, they see what they are directed to look for.  Science backs up my assertion.

Listening to NPR earlier in the week, I heard a story about the invisible gorilla.  It wasn’t about the 900 pound gorilla that comes to most of our project meetings that we all see but don’t talk about.  (Or, maybe it was…).  It was about a gorilla in plain sight that we don’t see because we are looking for something else.

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Build a Cohesive Culture on Your Project – Day Camp Revisited

A few months ago I did a post on my experiences many years ago at a day camp in West Des Moines, Iowa; and how those experiences shaped my project management philosophy.  Lately, I’ve gotten a few notes and comments on that post from former day campers.  One (a vice president at a manufacturing company) gave me a call and we reminisced about the pea green pond (and its monster), snipe hunts, the big brown bus, Shady Creek and the woods, and swimming at Camp Dodge pool.  What struck me was that our great experiences were still a positive influence on our lives.  So, what can we learn from day camp that helps us on our projects?

shady creek 020913

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Moving from Planning to Doing on Your Project

I’m almost three weeks into a new job.  This job requires me to build stronger relationships between a complex business environment and its IT providers.  No one has had this same job for this business before, so I’m figuring out how to do it.  Among many startup considerations, it requires me to consider how much to read vs. how much to act.  I’m looking back to old advice and advisors for wisdom.

waiting for the right timeEarly in my career I was lucky enough to participate in a 12 week leadership and management training in the US Air Force called Squadron Officers School.  About a thousand junior officers (I was one in 1977)  gathered at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama for intensive physical, military, and management training.  Among many memories and takeaways I retained was a small foldout card with a few management models we had learned about.  One was the read/act model.  It illustrated the need to build strengths to both read and act; and to judge and balance the need for reading and action in any new situation.  I did a little Google research on Read/Act and found only one website.  It gives me the impression that the concept was developed at SOS.  Here’s the link. This site is more involved than the core concept I remember.  What I remember is that many officers err toward action with bad results, so we needed to build our read skills.  If we tend to be readers (like me), then we need to work on balancing reading with acting.  It’s situational and intuitive.  I’m in a new situation. Continue reading

Redefining Yourself

“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.

cultivating-a-relationship-with-yourselfLast 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

Defining Realistic Perfect Outcomes for Your Project

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:

liga contra el cancerbeachwalkers young

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