Productive Project Assessment

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.

Amby measures

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What If You Couldn’t Fail?

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:drivingdream

“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.

http://www.king5.com/news/local/Glacier-Peak-students-driven-to-make-classmates-dream-come-true-184355201.html

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.

Seek Perfect Outcomes

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:

  1. Shuts down rather than turns on.
  2. Closes off rather than opens up.
  3. Rejects rather than explores.
  4. Pulls back rather than reaches out.1953_wide_tie

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:

http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/8-ways-to-choose-wide-over-narrow/#comment-56701

Thanks for reading.

Giving 51% on Your Project

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?

lady trampMaybe 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

Awareness

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.

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Five Tool Managers

In the world of leadership blogs encouraging managers to be leaders, I have a tiny niche where I encourage project managers to develop consulting skills.  This week, to balance my tendency to be a non-conformist with how most people look at things, I’ve been thinking I need to put all the leadership, management, and consulting skills into context with one another.  Maybe you will add my little niche idea to the more obvious links between project management and leadership if I can come up with a good sports analogy and a cool managerial model.  So, here’s the “Five Tool Player” model for successful management of projects and organizations.

A superior baseball player is often called a “Five Tool Player.”  This player excels at:

  • Hitting for average
  • Hitting for power
  • Running bases with speed
  • Throwing
  • Fielding

The epitome of five tool players is generally thought to be Willie Mays.  Mays is near the top of all these categories for all time.  Also, Willie Mays’ had an inspiring good natured approach to the game that drew respect and admiration.  Willie put it all together to make his team and his organization more successful.

How do we become the Willie Mays of project managers?  We should aspire to develop five skills as well.  Here’s a picture:

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