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

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.

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?

Standard_deviation_diagram_svg

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

Giving 51% on Your Project

In the last week I spoke with three new project managers.  They were all in organizations that practiced limited or no project management.  Each was frustrated with how hard it is to be a project manager where the boss just wants to get stuff done.  The boss says “we don’t have time to do project management!”  You’re thinking “we don’t have time not to…”  What to do?

lady trampMaybe the answer is to meet halfway.  Meeting halfway can be helpful in marriage and consulting, why not in our projects?

Did this happen to you on your wedding day?  Older married male guests catch you alone, put their arm around your shoulder, and share a nugget of wisdom that will ensure wedded bliss.  It happened to me.  Not all were nuggets of gold, but one was.  Continue reading

Awareness

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.

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Situational Collaboration

Sometimes idealism runs rampant.  At least in my brain.  My last post wrapped up with the comment: “we project managers need first to be collaborators through and through.”  Just the phrasing makes me think that I was deeply engaged in idealistic self indulgence.  Not a bad thing.  But, all things need balance.

Dan Rockwell’s “Leadership Freak” comes through again with a relevant reinforcement; and this time a counterpoint to balance my rant.  Today’s Leadership Freak post “When Collaboration Doesn’t Work” does a wonderful job helping us deal with the situation where we want to collaborate but it isn’t working.  Collaboration, at least the ideal of collaboration, isn’t always the right answer to getting where we need to go.

Read Dan’s post and then think about what it’s saying about collaboration.  I think it’s saying that collaboration, like leadership, is situational.  There is always an opportunity for collaboration, it just presents itself in different ways and calls for different approaches and levels.  Sometimes we collaborate fully when the parties share values, bring diverse perspectives and expertise, and are seeking a strategy for a long term solution.  Sometimes we are at odds in many ways but still need to get something done.  Here we may collaborate minimally, or hold at bay those who would use feigned collaboration as a weapon against progress.

I really like Dan’s post as it give us insight into how to temper an idealistic view of collaboration with the realities of the situation.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk” 2012

Two Project Managers that Care

This week I’ve gotten inspiration from two project managers.  Both are long time associates.  One I’m working with now, and one is working on a project nearby.  Both are making big successes out of difficult projects by expertly applying project management tools and processes.   When I ask them about what’s making their projects successful, both go immediately to the processes and tools.  Clarifying scope, managing change, detailed and continuously evolving estimation, managing issues and risks, team building and role definition, and communicating relentlessly form the fabric of their project management uniforms.

I’m pondering whether “the other side of risk” is at work on their projects in some way.  I notice that the people on their teams and the supporting organizational units get on board and work collaboratively with their projects.  Is this because of a compelling project charter or a complete and logical work breakdown structure?  In part, yes.  But more questions get me to a deeper understanding of their success and closer to the other side of risk.

The other side of risk philosophy asserts that:

  • Application of tools is balanced with an understanding of and focus on the people involved and their individual and organizational aspirations.
  • The most insight on what can go right comes from visualizing perfect project outcomes in business results, organizational growth, and individual growth.
  • The journey taken by people on the project can contribute as much to positive project outcomes as the scope delivered.

I think that both of my friends apply these practices unconsciously or as a matter of personal values as a part of each tool or practice that they employ.  As I think about their answers, the common thread seems to be that they care.  They don’t apply project management as a detached overlay to the people and business undergoing the change.  They bring each practice to bear because they care about their teams and their mission and the people who are depending on them. 

Photo from John Flinchbaugh on Flicker

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