Do you have “Grit”

As defined by Merriam-Webster one of the definitions of grit is: ” firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger “–you know–the tough stuff. The stuff that makes West Point cadets not quit. The stuff that keeps navy Seals from ringing the bell.

OK, I see the eyes rolling—what does this have to do with Project Management? Well…if you are going to be a Project Manager, you better have some good amount of grit in you. You have to have endurance for difficult, agonizing and at times, totally consuming effort.

The effort given is rewarded by movement towards mastery of the field. However, one does not become a master of Project Management overnight. Like athletes or great scholars; time in pursuit, recoveries from failures and like the little engine that could-keeping the “I can do it” mindset, are of great importance.

For someone else’s take on grit see this blog post by Bret L. Simmons: GRIT

 

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Life is but a game…

An Italian saying defines the end game in chess:”And once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.” While this adage is true in chess, it is not so true in life.

I am and have been an avid wargamer since high school. In the days when wargames were played on paper boards with cardboard counters. When Dungeons and Dragons first came out and it was sold in a zip-lock baggie – with no miniatures. You bought those later as money allowed, but you could play without them. I have helped design and playtest both non-computer and computer wargames. Even some games that I don’t consider “war” games.

So what does this have to do with project management? Gamesmanship is always important. And you don’t always win; even if you have a good plan, good resources and good execution. Recovery after defeat is important. Play testing your “wargame” (project plan) is important, but some people forget to game the losing branch…there is always a losing branch—and sometimes you are on it.

For those of you who have not read it, I would suggest reading Wargaming for Leaders by Mark Herman, Mark Frost, and Robert Kurz. I promise it is well worth the time.

Are you in the Zone?

Are you in the zone, groove or flow? You know that spot where things just snap into place, time becomes irrelevant, you become one with what you are doing? What….you think work can’t be like that? Then you are wrong.

If the goals are crystal clear, a bit of stretch from current abilities, that with focus provides satisfaction, then you can get there. Too much stretch or too little causes impedance and block the flow preventing the ability to get into the groove/zone. A slot car that comes out of its slot may continue down the track, but at a much slower rate and out of control. It also then may cause damage, and may impede other cars. Translating this to your project, they may cause derailment. For the business, this can obviously be a source of added cost.

Research like that of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi as provided in one of his books, Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play; worker satisfaction and organizational health are high when work is a no-flow zone.  Workplaces where there is no grove/flow have a high level of employee disengagement and dissatisfaction.

Your projects will be smoother if you get them in the grove.

Are you giving your team what they need to be in the zone?

Are you Remote Team/worker adaptable?

Are you comfortable with remote workers and teams? If not you had better get there quick, because if you aren’t you are already way behind the curve. Some managers are continuing to sit in the industrial paradigm. They are breeding quiet contempt, which will not stay quiet long.

Remote workers and Result Only Work Environments are gaining momentum, as they should be. There are no set schedules. People work when they want, how they want and from where they want. The only goal is to get the work done in the most productive manner. These types of team have shown time over time to produce better results faster. Johnny and Sue don’t care who’s in the office when. Remote meetings make meetings not have to be face to face; and for widely-like opposite sides of the world-impossible. For most people, M-F, 8-5 behind a desk is NOT the most productive environment.

It has also been shown in MANY studies that people who are working toward a goal they don’t believe in, with no control over the manner, are highly likely to become mediocre. This is a management = Epic Fail scenario; failure to lead by embracing a paradigm shift. Mediocrity is expensive. It quashed morale, creativity and trust. All major success needs for good projects and businesses.

Butts in seats, 9-5, M-F are not necessary for most jobs. In fact there are VERY few that require this. Get over it. Adapt. Or get left behind.

Paradigm paralysis

Many companies suffer from paradigm paralysis. This is because in part, that they lack true leaders with vision. Many of these “leaders” without vision are stuck in the industrial paradigm. They want to know how much time it takes to do something they don’t truly understand, and really don’t want to embrace; and demanding ROI be manufactured to validate the need and or worth of shifting.  This article Social Business Time further explains the pitfalls of not embracing the Social Business paradigm shift.

Many customers, suppliers, partners and customers have made the shift and are demanding that business shift with them.  Some businesses like Amazon listened and are being rewarded for it. Others sadly have not and are on the path of the dinosaur.

Restaurants, coffee houses, nail salons, even churches; need to have online presence. It needs to be inviting, current, SOCIAL. This is our new communication paradigm. It does not replace face to face, it fosters it. Tweet-ups aren’t dead.  Impromptu is made easy in this digital age.

And those businesses who are not investing in a presence are missing more than just defining their landscape; they are missing a chance to capitalize on positive customer experiences and mitigating customer complaints.  And customers do not always wait until they exit an establishment to tweet or yelp or send some other digital communication about what they’ve encountered. The one rule that hasn’t changed: Bad reviews travel more and faster than good.

3 Questions…

Have you asked each of your project team members these 3 questions?

  1. What is your understanding of the project objectives?
  2. What role do you play in delivering project results?
  3. Is there anything in your way of accomplishing the results and what can I do to help?

If not, why?

Even if you think there is no room for misinterpretation of your project plans, instructions, timelines, risk evaluation, etc; are you willing to bet your project on it? Or is it worth just a bit more time, not just at the beginning of the project, but regular intervals to ensure it?

Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised with everyone on the same page. Sometimes the opposite is true. But it is much easier to reset the bar before 100 hour is down the tube and re-work is needed. I prefer to spend the bit of extra time…and you?

I really detest RED status items in my project report outs, period.

The Law of Harvest

I believe in the Law of Harvest, as the Bible says to Reap what you Sow (Galatians 6:7-10) or as Stephen Covey expands it to “All lasting results are produced in sequence, governed by principles and grown from the inside out.” I would tell you which book, but my note card is so worn I can’t read it, and there are many flags in all his books, so it would take a long time to find. I am guessing either the 8th Habit or The Speed of Trust.

Those who know me well know I keep note cards with “stuff” on them. And that I keep blank ones in case I need more with “stuff” on them. I put quotes on my white board, on my cube walls, with magnetic poetry, a word doc I keep on my desk top. Why?

It’s not because I have a bad memory. It is a reminder not to forget the little basic stuff. When we get busy it is easy to do. One of them is titled: “Weasel Words.” We all tend to use them when we are not intentional with our thoughts and writings.  Again, the card (and it is not the first re-written one) is worn enough I am not sure where they came from. The words are:  rather, seemingly, somewhat, kind of, mostly, very, it would seem, in some respects, for the most part, for all intents and purposes, and pretty (as in pretty well). I try to read consciously to avoid these imprecise words and expressions. It takes practice and repetition. And then more practice.

When I hear an intelligent question asked by someone else, I write it down and add it to my toolbox. I continually try to learn new things, but also to reinforce the old. We learn new stuff, by being exposed to it. Sometimes by taking a class, sometimes by reading a book, and sometimes just by having conversations.

We reinforce the basics by using, practicing and teaching. When you give you get back. You reap what you’ve sown.  So give often, without condition and you will not be sorry, and your teams and projects and life, will run much smoother.

And speaking of basic stuff, I also have quite the collection of thank you and just because cards, and give them out regularly, with hand written thanks or appreciation, encouragement; whatever the reason. Everyone likes something handwritten and personal sometimes.

How do you approach a Jigsaw puzzle?

We have a family tradition of working on a very large jigsaw puzzle New Year’s Eve.  The more challenging and large the puzzle, the better.  Sometimes it gets finished that night, sometimes not.  We have done round, odd-shaped, all one color, 3D, mystery puzzles, border-less, all the pieces shaped the same, and even turned them upside down (yes just the plain back side up.) My mother started the upside down thing when I was 5 because I went though puzzles so fast. It generally takes longer the second time around.

So, we have different approached for different kinds of puzzles. Sometimes its frame first, sometimes we sort by color (does not work with all the same color pieces-like the Red Menace round puzzle).

Which got me to thinking—how do you approach your projects? Are you a linear thinker or a chaotic thinker; or maybe something else? How is your team? Are the tasks you have to complete algorithmic or heuristic? Do you know, do you know the difference? Does your team?

Do you know how to spot the differences before they cause problems? Do you have a tool box to help you use these differences for the best benefit with the least friction? Can you build bridges to get over the obstacles you can’t get around or power through? How about shovels for digging trenches under?

Like working a jigsaw puzzle, every project must be worked in a fitting manner. There is no one size fits all. There are guidelines and frameworks, but in the end; each project and project team is unique and needs to be treated thusly.

Paradigm rumble…

In Stephen R. Covey’s, The 8th Habit-From Effectiveness to Greatness, in chapter two is a grand pointer of one of the largest problems in many businesses today. The paradigm shift from Industrial Age to Information/Knowledge workers (both Peter Drucker and Alvin Toffler wrote well on this subject) is still rumbling under and through them. Paradigm shifts are hard for many people to accept, and harder even for institutions.

As Covey put it: “The problem is, managers today are still applying the Industrial Age control model to knowledge workers.  Because many in positions of authority do not see the true worth and potential of their people and do not possess a complete, accurate understanding or human nature, they manage people as they do things.”

So why can this be a problem for a project manager? Because if this occurring to any of the people on your project, the devaluation and demotivation that this causes can greatly impact a project.  You need to know what to look for and how to counter it.

Mission statements can help here, not one handed down; but one created by the participants. You may have to use or develop other tools to counter the effects of paradigm rumble.

If you haven’t already, or it’s been awhile, Covey, Drucker and Toffler are good reads…many time over.  My copies are well worn.

Herding Cats

I find project managers are somewhat like cat herders.  They are trying to convince people who have competing priorities, egos, abilities, work styles, etc.; to pull together and do something for organizational good.

So how does one herd cats? Catnip, cheese, mice, and whatever else works. Not all cats are attracted to or driven by catnip. So how does this apply to people and your project? All the people working on your project are different and need to be treated thusly. You can’t succeed (at least not easily) if you treat them all the same.

You as the project manager must be fluid and adaptable. You must have many tools in your bag, the most important being good people skills. Joe likes not to be talked to for the first hour of his day, not even a good morning, so scheduling a project meeting with him before them…well you will not get his best. You may even get his worst.

Jill and Jim want to hear you say good morning and listen to what is going in their life—make time at the beginning, put it in the agenda as to limit the time for this. The bottom line is your project rests on people, they are not machines. Treat them well and they will perform.

I found this article interesting:  Share ‘Project Manager Challenge: Influencing in Lieu of Oompa-Loompas’

What do you think? How do you describe project people management?