Managing Project Starship

Dr. Mae Jemison, Principal of the 100 Year Starship project (and former astronaut), was asked by New York Times columnist, Dennis Overbye, if she would go on a lifetime voyage to the stars.  She said “Yeah” adding that “It makes a difference who goes with you.”  To make the long voyage, she says that “We will bring our culture along with us.”

starshipThe 100 Year Starship project (www.100yss.org) was established recently by a group of stellar people to imagine and plan a real trip to the stars.  After all, imagining, planning, and completing our trip to the moon triggered research and implementation of television, the Internet, satellite communication, revolutionary medical procedures, and even cultural movements that have changed our lives.  Once started, the trip to the moon and back was completed in a matter of days.  The 100 Year Starship project is imagining a trip that will take a generation or more.  Reading about it, the thing that jumped out at me was not that the project has to find amazing technological breakthroughs; it’s that they have to figure out how people on such a trip can live and work together productively.  They have to think about (from www.100yss.org): Continue reading

The First Question to Ask on Your Project: “Can we do this?”

Dan’s post provides a guiding principle for finding what can go right on your project: you have to ask. Too often projects start off with the scope, schedule, and budget predefined. The charge is “We can do this!” Then we don’t or pretend we did. A project starting this way spends it’s time and energy protecting itself with risk mitigation, change orders, and blame shifting. Starting, as Dan suggests, with “Can we do this?” gets the team to explore the challenge, it’s strengths, and opportunities for needs to be met in a realistic way that improves the organization and its people. Thanks, Dan!

I enjoyed Dan’s post today. Also note the early comment regarding clarification vs. simplification. Both concepts apply. Finding what can go right involves being able to see and sort options; and be willing to explore them to find real opportunities. The better we understand our vision and purpose, the more good opportunities will pop up. Thanks, Dan.

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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Don’t Leave People Out of Your Project’s Scope

Dan Rockwell’s year end posts are getting me ready for the New Year.  canoeThis 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.

http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/beyond-typical-s-m-a-r-t-goals-in-2013/

Happy New Year everyone!

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.