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:
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
“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.
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.
Last week the message was “lean into risk.” To get into a project we have to overcome fears – emotional risks. But, managing emotional risks can be risky.
Emotional risks are fears we feel like fear of failure, embarrassment, loss of status, or more tangible impacts that may not be quantifiable but are scary. As project managers, we know that part of our job is to make quantifiable business risks explicit and understand how they affect the work to be done on the project. I asserted that the emotional risks are also important as those fears affect our team and stakeholders behavior on the project. If we better understand them and can get them safely into the open, we can do things that mitigate the emotional risks and help people engage in the project.
I got a comment – I love comments – from Mike Murphy on Linked In. Thanks, Mike! Mike described his experience in organization cultures where leaders emotionally resisted managing business risks. Responsible project managers trying to identify and mitigate business risks can be greeted with rejection. Continue reading
Getting and giving feedback is an essential part of finding what can go right on a project. It requires openness, self-confidence, and humility. When giving feedback, it has to be about helping others, not about you. When receiving feedback, it is about you. You have to let it be about you. Accept it, understand it, and use it. It reveals how your project is going, how you are contributing, and what can go better.
But giving and getting feedback isn’t easy. Done poorly, it can make things worse. People have to be open to it before it’s given. You have to be open to it if it is going to make a difference to you.
I posted Dan Rockwell’s Leadership Freak blog post just before this one from me. Dan has a way of bringing out my ideas. He submits that achieving excellence in leadership depends on our ability to successfully give and receive feedback. He offers some good suggestions on how to trade feedback without having one party to it feel subservient to the other. It’s a good point. How do you set the right attitude when sitting down with a person or team to trade feedback? 35 years ago, in a big lecture hall at Maxwell AFB with about 800 other young Air Force officers at Squadron Officers School, I learned about Johari’s Window, and have used it to encourage feedback ever since.
Johari’s Window was created in 1955 by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham as part of an exercise that helps people in a group understand how they see themselves vs. how others see them. It looks like this:
Thanks to Don Clark at http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/index.html for this picture. Continue reading
Sometimes we need to express confidence in achieving a good outcome on our projects in the face of significant uncertainties. If we look only at the uncertainties, our confidence is deflated to the point of inaction. If we express confidence without acknowledging the uncertainties, we may be seen as not credible.
Our challenge as project managers on difficult projects is to be confident in the face of uncertainty in a credible way. We want others to believe in our confidence, and others want their concerns acknowledged and believed as well. Being believed is important to all of us. I got a lesson in that this weekend while watching the grandkids. Continue reading
We do projects to meet needs. In “Don’t Give Me What I Asked For, Give Me What I Need” (July 3, 2012) I described an example of how a client can ask for something specific, but not have a good understanding of how that will meet their underlying needs. I think that happens a lot:
- I need a break, let’s go on a trip (will that meet our need to relax?)
- This house is just too small, let’s buy a bigger one (will that make us more comfortable?)
- I can’t get the information I need to control costs, we need a new system (will the new system control costs?)
I’ve found that my clients are better off if they stay focused on the outcomes or benefits they want when they make an investment in a change. But, this is hard to do. We quickly jump from the need to the solution. The need and the solution can become disconnected. How can we keep them together? Is there a way to create a map between where we are now and realizing the benefits we need? There is. Continue reading