Know your audience

How many times have you been told that? How many times have you really known your audience—especially for that first meeting; especially if you are taking over a project mid-term, or worse, a failing project?

The key is to really know what your presentation needs to convey. What you need to share and the information you need to gather, and then being adaptable. You as the project manager must be agile and able to quickly read personalities, watch for hidden agendas, and read between the lines.

You also need to be a good speaker. Nothing turns people’s ears off faster than a string of um’s, you knows, so….and any other number of filler words/sounds. Or someone like that monotone professor, we’ve almost all had one, that can put even the most caffeinated person to sleep no matter the content.

If you have this issue, get thee to Toastmasters post haste—it is the best investment you will ever make.

Communication is key, first impressions count, so do everything you can to make it your best.

Disaster Preparedness

Part of risk mitigation should include disaster preparedness and or recovery discussions. Does your company have a plan/plans? Is your team local or virtual? Do you know all the contingencies?

For example, teams in California, Alaska and Hawaii (the 3 most seismically active states) have a different set of disaster needs/plans that those who live in hurricane or typhoon locals.  How about those in tornado country, wild fires prone areas, tsunami areas, or airport take-off or landing approaches (the most likely areas for plane crashes)? Do you have team members in South America or Africa that have war or guerilla insurgency activities about them?

When disasters strike; not everyone stays calm, even if they have well rehearsed disaster plans. Employees, beyond the immediate issues of their own health and those closest to them at the time of an occurrence, soon shift focus to their families. Do you have remote team members who will need assistance…do you know? It is worth discussing with you team. There may be hidden risks you are unaware of. If you can help them, you reduce your/company risk, while being a pretty decent human being. Business is (or at least should be in my opinion) all about people, and our relationships with them.

And then there is the disaster recovery.  Are you sure everything is being backed up? Can you retrieve it? Can other team members retrieve it? What happens if …. You need to ask the questions and rate the risk accordingly.

Project Risk

You know–Murphy’s Law and the chance of certain occurrences’ adversely affecting the project [phrase memorized by numerous PM training certification classes]. Everyone identifies these in the planning of their project, right? Well, they should.

However, all too often some never revisit their risks and end up with horribly derailed projects. Risks are not look once, log and move on things. They live and change with your project and need to be re-evaluated to ensure that the contingency plans that were made are still relevant and provide the necessary contingency.

One of the most critical times is during change activities. In the blur of the hurry to integrate the change, don’t forget to re-access the risk and the contingency plan(s).




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


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.

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?