If you are doing a good job as a project manager, you are accepting responsibility for failure, taking constructive criticism to heart to lead to meaningful change, and celebrating your projects’ successes as a function of your team’s individual contributions. Humility in general, I believe is an important trait for a successful project manager. For every story of a selfless leader, there are ten of the arrogant, self-centered PM who is quick to blame and even quicker to take credit.
In this post, however, I want to take a moment to encourage all PM’s to look inward once again and this time with a more congratulatory approach. In our incessant efforts to improve, exceed expectations and succeed we can get a little light on our own perspectives related to achievement. This isn’t to say that we should rest on our laurels or become complacent in any respect. In fact for many, that desire or competitive spirit or simply passion is what must be stoked to reach our potential. However like refreshing a resume after a major project closeout or prior to an interview, it is just as important personally to take stock in our achievements as it is to applaud and praise our team members.
So take a break today, if even for a moment and reflect this week on your journey. All of the obstacles, milestones and successes you have experienced over the past weeks, months and years. Are you giving yourself enough credit? At least personally? Life will not be getting any easier, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s just as important is that you take a step back once in a while and recognize that even though the treadmill keeps spinning faster and faster, that you are now sprinting and many of your colleagues are still thinking about breaking into a jog.
WORK HARD AND KEEP IT UP!
Many of you started as interns or have worked your way up through the ranks to where you are professionally today. Still more of you have moved companies for a promotion, changed careers significantly or climbed the ladder with leaps and bounds. Good for you. Today I wanted to offer an opportunity to take a step back a little and spend some time in those long forgotten roles or positions never experienced.
As with many great suggestions within the PMBOK or other pieces of advice out there for the project manager, time often can be the great eroder of these opportunities. There is just never enough time to put the top priorities on hold for those which might add value but are truly unnecessary. For many of us who maybe didn’t climb every rank with our organization one by one, taking a step back is a tall order logistically. However, for every ounce of benefit per minute such an experience may offer you, I propose that it is actually undervalued by half without taking into account the value gained from those you hope to lead.
Having an opportunity, or rather making an opportunity to experience a day (or preferably more) in the life of one of your team members is worth every minute! You will learn more about how what the project constraints mean to these folks and how changes ripple through their purview. You will a more robust understanding of what it takes to reach these milestones which you arrogantly impose on your staff. Most importantly, if you truly embrace this opportunity, you will gain respect from your team members.
Not because you are trying to better yourself or because they feel like you have improved your understanding of what goes into making a better product, but selfishly (as we all are) they will feel like you now have a firsthand appreciation for how hard their days are. Ideally, you will gain a tremendous amount of understanding (and empathy) and your team will gain respect for you due to:
- Your willingness to TAKE the TIME
- Their perceived vindication
Just by taking the time, you show these team members that you feel what they do is important and hopefully, they feel like that your experience has proven to you that what they do is truly difficult and their resistance to change is justified.
As I continue to blog about innovation and the creative ways to inspire your team to create more value (including time) I wanted to take a moment to consider where this point of diminishing returns is. Many of you may have examined graphs detailing the detriment of overtime on individual productivity both over short and long term timelines. This is some pretty well documented science, so as the innovative project managers that you are, you search for project solutions and finished products with that in mind. In the same fashion that you seek to complete the core function of a project within a fixed budget by cutting non-essential scope, you begin to expedite your projects by cutting deliverable milestones and interim checkpoints in search of that accelerated delivery to the finish line.
Like a Republican removing regulation to stimulate the economy, project managers should not bypass any internal milestones lightly. It is highly likely that many of these deliverables were born out of failure and have created a process which is not arbitrary nor capricious but rather fundamental and essential. While I will always continue to push that envelope with many of you, often I have found that even upon careful analysis of such internal milestones within a process, their importance to the finished product is not readily evident. Many have indirect relationships to subsequent milestones which can cause incomplete or inaccurate deliverables at a later stage.
My first piece of advice on this is to simply follow the existing process as closely as possible as frequently as possible. Pressures to deviate from the existing process in the interest of schedule should flatly be resisted in the interest of quality!
A more realistic solution may be to consult a targeted expert on the given internal milestone before you circumvent it. Others more specialized or experienced than you may be able to warn you of the unforeseen consequences of skipping a step. That may lead to a hybrid version of the milestone which will trigger the downstream items needed while taking less precious time.
This is truly the quality innovation we are all looking for. This is the Quadruple Bottom Line. Don’t cut corners. Figure out a BETTER WAY TO DO IT.