The Human Factor in Project Management…

The Human Factor Project Management…

Actually is a WONDERFUL class by Kevin Ciccotti, CPCC, ACC that I recently attended through the University of Nevada, Reno Extended Studies Program at their very nice Redfield Campus. I highly recommend this course for any project manager, no matter how seasoned you may be.

It has been a week now since I have finished the course and I am still finding value in my notes and the class materials as I review them. I have been doing project management for 20+ years, and have taken just about every personality, team building,  HR touchy feely class given for managers and non-managers. NONE have been as effective as this one.

You will have a much better approach for how to respond to people’s needs and still meet objectives, and truly understand that they are indeed not mutually exclusive. You will learn if you are truly fit to lead, and if not what you need to work on to get there and stay there.

You will not stay there without understanding what you really know about your emotions, where they come from and how to utilize them on a consistent basis. You will learn to recognize when you are being tempted to go for the short-term easily obtainable instead of the long-term sustainable, and change course effectively without sending your team into change panic.

It will make you a better project manger, and we all have room to imporve. To be the best we can be.

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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.

Project management—not just for work

Some people do not understand project management is not just an at-work activity. I use project management techniques for my quitting all the time. Why? Because quilting, from design to the actual quilting, takes time. Things have to be done in order; there is a budget, and usually a time constraint.  Sometimes there are material constraints and size constraints.

For those unfamiliar with quilting; the projects I am working on now are a class sampler, 3 challenge quilting projects, a birthday project for my granddaughter, and a new flannel quilt for my family.

The class sampler quilt has a time constraint, in that it has to be done before the class listing is published by the store I am teaching the class at publishes. Most people don’t sign up for classes if they can’t see what the finished result will be. It also has a budget constraint, the more it costs me to make the less income I have from teaching the class. It has a quality constraint, store owners and class takers look for quality. There are usually material constraints, store owners want their patterns and fabrics in the sampler…it is a symbiotic relationship. Challenge quilts, have time constraints, size constraints (normally), material constraints most of the time—they provide fabrics that you must use, quality constraints, rework, etc. You get the idea.

Then there is work (you know—that thing that pays the bills), family time, unexpected issues (risks) like bad weather that knocks out the power, illness, family drama, work drama. Oh, there is cooking and cleaning…but managed properly, it can all get done, on time, in budget, with good quality and within the proper constraints.

I begin making Christmas presents the 1st of June….

I blog about quilting at: Fiddlesticks and Humility

Risk-those pesky potential problems

As defined by PMBOK”…an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objective.”

As PM’s we manage risk by spending  time identifying, analyzing, planning response/mitigation plans, tracking,  controlling and communicating about project risks.  We even look at Secondary and Residual risks.

Post mortems or lesson learned activities after a project often lament risks that occur, the negative impacts they’ve had….but many seem to forget that  POSITIVE  risks need to be reviewed as well—and sometimes they need to be celebrated, not just treated as “expected” results because they were positive.

How do you recognize positive risks?

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

 

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.