Welcome to My Project Delight

welcome to MPDI became a project manager by accident. Quite an intro, i can hear you say. Bear with me. More than a decade ago,  the only opening at an organisation I wanted to work for was mysteriously called ‘project manager’. I applied, successfully passed the competition and they offered me the job. I hardly realised back then what the job is about and what to expect. I was all smiles on my first day at the new job. The organisation did its best, but it was also new and in the process of organising itself and the newly arrived team. I continued to put on a brave face. Very soon an avalanche of a multi million Euro projects portfolio, I was supposed to “manage”, challenged my smile with a smirk: “Let’s see your talents now”. Needless to say that as soon as my previous employer got back to me, I returned to the job I felt comfortable at.

In time, project management became a professionally delightful love. This perspective made me cherish my first experiences. I wish back then I had a mentor or coach to talk to, a source of info which would explain the tips and tricks of the trade.  This blog is inspired by my younger self and the every day learner I am aspiring to be. Myprojectdelight.com is my Giving Pledge!

I manage projects mainly in the development management environment, which fosters numerous transferable skills and competences for both private and public sectors. The kings and queens of project management are always welcome to share a tip or two.  “Tips are like hugs, without the awkward body contact” I once read next to a tips box in a Juice Bar in an airport. So are the tips on this blog. Sometimes they are just my two cents :). Anyway, let’s get tipping for a delightful project management experience!

How well do you know your team mates? Party time!

I was a newbie on a team which was there for couple of years. I met them once at an annual meeting.

– Do you know Oxana, my colleague asked a team member, as an introduction when we met for dinner.

– Yes, he said.

– Yes, I confirmed. He knows “office Oxana”. He does not know “after 8pm Oxana”.

We all laughed.

We often spend more time with team members than with our family members. Considerably more, when projects are intense and demanding. Yet, we tend to know one side of the person’s story. Some choose privacy, and are very much protective of that. I understand that. They might have met someone who took advantage of their vulnerability. Some open up easily and are OK to let others know other dimensions they live in. There are also those who make sure everyone on the team knows about the lattest trick their puppy did. And that is also fine.

The degree to which people open up depends on their history and character. The extent to which it affects a project depends on the project environment and the project manager. As the Winter Holidays approach and end-of-year parties are being scheduled, I aspire to use this opportunity to get to know eachother and to learn what makes people tick. Careful party planning is warranted if you want it to be appealing to both introverts and extroverts.

I tailor make it each time for each team and remain prepared to adapt. I have a couple of ideas in my sleeve from which I choose, depending on the stage the project is and how well the team members know eachother. For new teams, “two truths and a lie” is fun, especially if you announce a prize for the person who “catches” most of lies. For team who worked together longer, I choose fun challenges, where they get to “work” with team members they have less interaction with during the year. One game is to have them design solutions in the shape of fairy tales. You would be surprised by the springs of imagination. In multi-cultural teams, it is interesting to ask each team member to bring a gift specific to their country/culture. It can be a song, a dish, a story …. . Also, if decorating a Christmas tree is something you do in your cultures/the team’s culture, decorate it together. No need to cut trees. I use a flipchart and post-it notes in different shapes on which each team member gets to write a New Year wish or more for him/herself and for the team. Have fun!

“The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance and Happiness”, by James Altucher and Claudia Azula

The book is centered around stories told in turn by authors. These are personal stories and examples. I read the book in 2015. I find it continuously relevant in professional and personal environments.

Any project manager finds him/herself overwhelmed with demands and requests. The book offers tips on how to regain the control of your project. As they say, “it is you who manages the project, not the other way around”.

The-Power-of-No

Of the tips of interest, I collected for instance:

– how to say No to stress;

– how to get unstuck;

– what thoughts are useful or unuseful or how to separate yourself from your brain;

– burn the excuses (“I cannot change”, “I have too many responsibilities”, “what would they say”….);

– “no-complaints” diet.

I loved the concept of “Homo luminous” this book introduced. The book suggests quite a few practices/exercises to make it happen. Gratitude is one of them. This part inspired me to start sending hand-written Winter Holidays cards, to express my gratitude to anyone who has done me a favour or was of good service and/or made a difference in a project.

“The Lazy project manager” by Peter Taylor

I liked Taylor’s book “The Project manager who smiled”. I also liked “The Lazy project manager”.

I find the book’s lazy stuff very entertaining. Being on a train back from a mission and with two very serious gentlemen did not stop me from bursting into a loud laugh. You’ll read the story of Peter’s photograph taken in a giant bright orange and green carrot outfit, when he worked on the introduction of project management methodology in a company, and you’ll understand it. I could have used it when I worked in a project management office and had the same carrot or stick dilemma to incentivize the introduction of a similar methodology. Even only if to diffuse the tension around it.

The book spoke to me, as it seemed in parts dedicated to me: “You are on yet another flight, either to or from your latest project engagement, somewhere in the world.” Yes, that’s where I read it.

Taylor is honest. He does not present it as a project management book. Still, anyone on a learning path will find something useful. There were a number of things I learned. There were others I changed perspective on. Depending on your background and experience in project management, some of the lines of the book might resonate with you. Some may do so to a less extent. For example, for me the part on “complex project – senior project manager” in the context of risks raised other considerations. In addition to the number of years of experience, I would also consider the risk aversion. Some senior project managers might take on more risks, namely because of their experience. At the same time, some project managers at the start of their career might embrace a more cautious approach.

If you adhere to the productive laziness approach, you will find many useful tips in this book. Still, regardless of your productivity philosophy, I wish you to enjoy a pleasant project management ride wherever you are.