Is your project team stuck in the WHY loop?

Little pleases me more than a successful brainstorming session or meeting where problems were presented, and attacked from all angles. Without commitment to a single solution or approach, a team collectively asks themselves “why” or “how” until the solution, previously invisible, materializes in a brilliant culmination of creativity and critical thinking. Little frustrates me more than hitting that time / patience threshold without that epiphany; or worse yet, remaining stuck in the brainstorming mode, stuck in the WHY loop and missing the best solution you are going to find.

So much of project management involves reaching that delicate balance between deadline enforcement and true creative license. How long can we search for that miracle alternative that meets 5 out of our 5 constraints. The cold hard fact in project management is that there has to be boundaries. For my own sanity, we will call them interim boundaries; but we are in the business of getting things done, right?  I know, you won’t hear me say it often, but you do need to know when to say when; or, as may be the case, when NOT to ask WHY.

This is not as easy as setting the oven timer and so many project managers struggle to keep just the right amount of slack in the reins. Let your team run. Knock down all the walls and limits once in a while just to let them stretch their creative legs. But you must bring them back slowly while trying to keep that creative spirit in the room. The liberation of a brainstorming session can be intoxicating and the team member who has 10 times as many questions as answers can be as counterproductive as the team member who says no 10 times as often as they say yes. Often times they will appreciate being let run free for a time and will be more receptive to the constraints when you bring them back to reality. They work with constraints all day every day and need to come up for air once in a while.

But don’t lose your grasp on the end goals. You are the leader and you will need to learn when to sense the WHY loop engaging and when to pull back on those reins just a bit. Never stop pushing those boundaries and don’t you dare stifle your team; but when is it time NOT to ask WHY?

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3 responses to “Is your project team stuck in the WHY loop?

  1. Great post Adam! This really captures the art of being an effective leader.

  2. Speaking of scope, what would you title this post for the particular scenario your aiming at? It’s states WHO, when I needed WHAT.
    My best guess is brainstorming session or ??? meeting.

  3. Interesting question Dean. How about a “Solutions Only Meeting” where everyone gets to throw out ideas but we really don’t focus on the constraining details which often stifle the creativity. Might be fun to try once in awhile and shake things up.
    Thanks for your input!

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