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.
Dan Rockwell’s year end posts are getting me ready for the New Year. This 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.
Happy New Year everyone!
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:
“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.
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.
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
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:
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
Project managers sometimes have to turn nothing into something. Change everyone’s doubt into confidence. Solve an unsolvable problem. Pull a rabbit out of a hat. Turn lead into gold. Turn stones into soup. This sounds like magic to me. Appropriate for Halloween. Here’s a story with scary risks turned into a happy ending by project manager magic.
My wife and I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. We didn’t meet until college, but we had one unique experience in common. We learned about Halloween trick or treating in the 1950s in a town where trick or treat meant something different than anywhere else. In Des Moines, we learned that the risk of tricks could become an opportunity for creative and constructive fun.
As a project manager, I find the presidential debates disturbing. If I were going to hire one of the candidates to manage the challenging project of reforming any of the major issues we have to solve in the next four years, I couldn’t make the decision based on the debates. In fact, there isn’t much the candidates are saying or posting now that is useful for that decision.
We need to see which candidate will be best able to bring out and deliver creative solutions. Our issues have risks with probability too high and impacts too great. Our future leaders have to be able to deal with this. They have to see a path forward, be willing to compromise if necessary, and get things done. I want the presidential debates to show me who can be the best at collaborating to get things done, not who can be the biggest A&*H@!#.
Looking only at their past experience and track records, I think I could vote for either one.
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.
It’s the last day of Indian summer where I live. Rain today after 2+ months of no rain and beautiful weather. It’s a good day for new inspiration from Dan Rockwell at Leadership Freak.
“The Other Side of Risk” is a philosophy seeking to balance our project management focus on risk and process with finding what can go right. To do this, we look for strength, creativity, and inspiration in our organizations, teams, teammates, and ourselves. We find ways to overcome our problems through the strength, creativity, and inspiration we find. Dan’s post sums this up beautifully. Thanks, Dan. Enjoy.
How to Make a Difference that Matters. From “Leadership Freak”