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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Leaving Things Better Than We Found Them

“Try to leave this world a little better than you found it.”   Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts)

Boy Scouts was good for me.  While I didn’t earn many awards, the values taught stuck with me.  The value expressed by Baden-Powell’s quote is a good one for us as project managers.

When we manage a project, do we leave our organization and the people involved better than we found them?  Is this our responsibility as a project manager?  I think it is.  Preparing to talk about “The Other Side of Risk,” it struck me that this is part of what I’ve been trying to say.

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Consulting and Project Management

As a project manager you often have a lot in common with a consultant.  Understanding how consultants contribute to organizational change and use influence to lead teams is valuable to us as project managers.  I talked about this a while back in “Split Personality” because I often fill both roles on different projects at the same time.   Dan Rockwell’s “Leadership Freak” post today brings me back to the topic.

I think there are two primary reasons a project manager should also be a skilled consultant.  First, as a project often changes its organization, a skilled consultant will find ways to engage people and build on their strengths to help bring about the change.  Consulting skills help us see opportunities beyond the stated scope of the project, and balance the strong project management focus on the triple constraints and risk mitigation, in order to achieve project objectives.  In “Split Personality” I covered this aspect of the project manager consultant overlap and offered some consulting approaches that can help project managers achieve a balance.

The second reason a project manager should have an understanding of consulting skills is that both roles often lead from behind.  As a project manager, you may have limited influence over your organization; or even over your team.  Your success depends more on your ability to influence than on your positional authority.  No other role depends more on the need to influence than that of consultant.  As consultants, we want to bring about positive change, but by definition we have to do so without authority.  Consultants have to influence their teams and their organizations because they can’t control them.  So, project managers and consultants share leadership challenges and depend on their ability to influence.  What skills help us get better at influence? Continue reading

Situational Collaboration

Sometimes idealism runs rampant.  At least in my brain.  My last post wrapped up with the comment: “we project managers need first to be collaborators through and through.”  Just the phrasing makes me think that I was deeply engaged in idealistic self indulgence.  Not a bad thing.  But, all things need balance.

Dan Rockwell’s “Leadership Freak” comes through again with a relevant reinforcement; and this time a counterpoint to balance my rant.  Today’s Leadership Freak post “When Collaboration Doesn’t Work” does a wonderful job helping us deal with the situation where we want to collaborate but it isn’t working.  Collaboration, at least the ideal of collaboration, isn’t always the right answer to getting where we need to go.

Read Dan’s post and then think about what it’s saying about collaboration.  I think it’s saying that collaboration, like leadership, is situational.  There is always an opportunity for collaboration, it just presents itself in different ways and calls for different approaches and levels.  Sometimes we collaborate fully when the parties share values, bring diverse perspectives and expertise, and are seeking a strategy for a long term solution.  Sometimes we are at odds in many ways but still need to get something done.  Here we may collaborate minimally, or hold at bay those who would use feigned collaboration as a weapon against progress.

I really like Dan’s post as it give us insight into how to temper an idealistic view of collaboration with the realities of the situation.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk” 2012

My Project Management Philosophy

I find myself frequently trying to restate the philosophy of “The Other Side of Risk” in my posts.  As well as making this today’s post, I’ve placed this summary of my project management philosophy on its own page in the blog for ongoing reference.  I expect it to evolve over time as a snapshot of what I’m trying to say or reinforce in the blog posts.  Each post is about going deeper into or more clearly understanding this philosophy; and to see examples of it in real successful projects or everyday life.

We should do three things to find what can go right on a project:

1. Balance project management focus on scope, schedule, budget, and risk with equal focus on opportunities for organizational and personal growth. Include selected opportunities for growth in the project scope.

2. Imagine perfect outcomes to identify strengths and opportunities to grow and develop.  Consider the perfect outcomes in defining project scope so that the project contributes to where you really want to go.

3. Make the journey as important as the destination.  We should build people up as we go rather than exhausting them to achieve project scope within constraints.  Achieving the outcomes and growth expected from the investment always goes beyond the project. The journey should be one people want to continue.

Doing these things doesn’t undo the valuable project management processes we learn as we become project managers (see the Project Management Institute’s “Project Management Body of Knowledge”).  It complements them by ensuring that we find ways to engage and support the people who will be doing the work on our project and delivering on its promises in the long run.

I hope you will give this philosophy a try and let me know how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk” 2012

P.S.  As a bonus, read Dan Rockwell’s current post on “Two Ways to Overcome the Pipe Dream Problem.”  As always Dan provides inspiration and provokes deeper thought.  I found that this post reconnected me to and clarified my thinking about “The Other Side of Risk.”  I hope you will agree.