Who’s the Quarterback on Your Project?

“The Buck Stops Here” – plaque on President Harry Truman’s desk.

Watching the national championship college football game earlier this month (for my international readers, that’s American football, not soccer), I saw a great example of the need for clear roles and responsibilities among decision makers.

Football, perhaps more than any other, is a sport where complex relationships require clear roles and responsibilities.  11 offensive players line up against 11 defensive players.  On each play, several players may call out plays.  Key players have responsibilities to read what is going on and then shout instructions.  From a fan’s perspective, it seems to go pretty well and it’s fun to watch players adjust based on calls from the quarterback, the center, or the middle linebacker.  But, sometimes it doesn’t go well.

alabama QA fightAlabama was leading Notre Dame 42 to 14 near the end of the game. You’d think the Alabama players would be relaxed.  Alabama had the ball, lined up, and quarterback and the center started calling signals.  The quarterback was suddenly very annoyed.  He stood up and jumped around behind the line yelling instructions.  He was angry.  The players looked confused.  The result was a delay of game penalty. The center stood up, the quarterback screamed something in his face, and the center gave his quarterback a shove.  All this from a team with an insurmountable lead about to win the national championship.  The TV commentators, shaking off their surprise, explained that the coach and quarterback were both known for being intense perfectionists.  Clearly, it paid off in their performance.  Just as clearly, we can note that a team striving for high performance can suffer if the leaders get confused about their roles and responsibilities.

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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.

Defining Realistic Perfect Outcomes for Your Project

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:

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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.

Thinking the Unthinkable

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?

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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