“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.
Last 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
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:
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.
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:
- Shuts down rather than turns on.
- Closes off rather than opens up.
- Rejects rather than explores.
- Pulls back rather than reaches out.
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:
Thanks for reading.
The tragedy in Connecticut makes it difficult to write about finding what can go right on our projects. It directs our attention to what can go wrong. Horribly wrong. It hurts to think about it. I’m writing today with all those affected in my thoughts.
Sandy Hook makes us think about our own families and our hopes for them. We hope that they will be wildly successful even if they face uncertainties and risks. We hope the same for our own endeavors and projects. How should we address those risks that are exceedingly rare and horrible? How much should we address opportunities that could have outcomes more perfect than we should hope for? Do we spend enough time on the ends of the bell curve?
I started writing this post right after Super Storm Sandy. I remember a pervasive sound bite that went something like:
I never thought it could be this bad. Continue reading
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.
“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.
“With great power comes great responsibility” (Spiderman’s Uncle Ben). Great power and responsibility means taking risks. Turning risks into success requires awareness, acceptance, and management.
What inspired this great wisdom, you ask? My new scooter and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
My little 50cc Kymco scooter was the source of my first scooter inspired post, “50cc’s of Patience,” last June. With my 50cc scooter, I was less concerned about risk and more aware of the gap between capacity and expectations. My Kymco served me well, but a year of experience left me wanting and ready for a ride with more potential and staying power. So my fun and economical two stroke chainsaw on wheels found a new happy home and I traded up to a 2010 Honda SH150i.
The Honda is 150cc’s of awesome power and efficiency (really!). The new Honda scooter is faster and cleaner. It’s fuel injected and has a catalytic converter. It gets the same great 90 MPG as the Kymco and is dramatically cleaner per the EPA. It cruises lazily at 40mph with speed to spare and easily totes my 150 pounds plus office backpack up the steepest of hills without strain. It’s more steady and secure in the swirly winds of a busy arterial. I love it.
But, just as I got over confident with the Kymco’s ability to max out at 40mph and suffered some engine push back, I could risk getting over confident with the easy speed and handling of the Honda. I was warned of this when I first started riding. Hearing about my scooter, friends’ responses were so consistent I thought I’d become Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” asking for a BB gun (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”) I’d hear “Motorcycles are dangerous.” “People don’t see you.” “I used to do that but I don’t anymore. It’s not safe.” Clearly, my new power and responsibility required heightened risk management. Fortunately, my motorcycle safety class covered the topic of risk with surprising sophistication. 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.