Moving from Planning to Doing on Your Project

I’m almost three weeks into a new job.  This job requires me to build stronger relationships between a complex business environment and its IT providers.  No one has had this same job for this business before, so I’m figuring out how to do it.  Among many startup considerations, it requires me to consider how much to read vs. how much to act.  I’m looking back to old advice and advisors for wisdom.

waiting for the right timeEarly in my career I was lucky enough to participate in a 12 week leadership and management training in the US Air Force called Squadron Officers School.  About a thousand junior officers (I was one in 1977)  gathered at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama for intensive physical, military, and management training.  Among many memories and takeaways I retained was a small foldout card with a few management models we had learned about.  One was the read/act model.  It illustrated the need to build strengths to both read and act; and to judge and balance the need for reading and action in any new situation.  I did a little Google research on Read/Act and found only one website.  It gives me the impression that the concept was developed at SOS.  Here’s the link. This site is more involved than the core concept I remember.  What I remember is that many officers err toward action with bad results, so we needed to build our read skills.  If we tend to be readers (like me), then we need to work on balancing reading with acting.  It’s situational and intuitive.  I’m in a new situation. Continue reading

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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Repost let go of baggage

This reminds us to focus more on the outcomes we want and our strengths than on our problems and barriers.

Leadership Freak

Toddlers

Toddlers who stumble and fall aren’t broken; they need practice. Fixing is a backward-facing activity that centers on mistakes and weaknesses. Move forward; don’t fix.

Leaders grow leaders. Developing isn’t fixing. Growth suggests they aren’t there, yet. Can you live with people who haven’t arrived? Can you accept people who aren’t as skilled as you? Damn, they’re frustrating. (Sarcasm intended)

Start fresh; don’t fix.

Development questions:

  1. How would you handle this relationship if this was its beginning point?
  2. How can you address this situation as if you just stepped in?
  3. If this moment was the beginning point, what would you do?
  4. Is it possible to move forward without bringing up the past?
  5. What’s the next step regardless of the past?

Imagine you were hired today. What would you do?

Baggage:

Baggage from the past distracts, drains, and invites defensiveness. Leave baggage at the station if:

  • It’s been acknowledged.
  • There’s forward…

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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.

Leadership Freak

Fog

Fog rolled in last week in Central Pennsylvania. Warm temperatures collided with cold snow and gray mist blanked our valley. Everything slows in fog. Everything’s more dangerous.

Complexity creates fog; simplicity clears it.

Simplicity produces clarity; clarity enables confidence.

Confidence fuels progress.

Causes of complexity:

  1. Fuzzy purpose. Life is more complex and confusing for those without purpose. Clear purpose informs and emboldens decisions.
  2. Options. Eliminate options to shed light on future paths. Options paralyze. Say, “No,” to a few options and find, “Yes.”
  3. Imagined obstacles. I’ve watched fog roll in while those doing nothing explain why it can’t be done. When exploring options begin explaining why they work. Say, “Yes and…,” instead of, “That won’t work.” Will every option work? Of course not. Explore it before you kill it.

Creating simplicity:

  1. Courageously admit you don’t know. Pretending you know is the worst fog of all. Cowards pretend they know. Courageous leaders say…

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Redefining Yourself

“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.

cultivating-a-relationship-with-yourselfLast 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

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:

liga contra el cancerbeachwalkers young

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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.

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.