Category: Room for inspiration

The door to the Room for Inspiration is opened 24 hours a day. It its meant to help put things into a perspective and to discover ways your project management skills can make a difference. Inspiration is a free commodity. I just have to open my eyes and look around me. Sometimes a bird building her nest can help you learn a trick or too about project management for house building :)

A difficult or just messy project?

A difficult project is usually a result of external influences and circumstances, beyond project team control.

Chaotic processes, blurred roles and responsibilities between team members, unrelated and stand alone resource-consuming activities, scattered resources make a messy project.

Mess is usually self-created and contributed to by team members in a laisser-faire type of project management. “Do not do today what can be done tomorrow” leisurely style.

What can you do if you find yourself in charge of a messy project?

For a “change”, you can create your own MESS:

Measure/monitor

Evaluate

Solve

Submit

Measure what can be measured: time to task completion, delivery delays, number and price of units for inputs etc.

Evaluate why is it taking so much time/ resources. Why things do not work in the team. Where is the bottleneck.

Solve things that can be solved quickly, for a team motivation boost.

Submit results to sponsor/client.

Keep doing it until sail is on course.

A project story: a project was dragging its feet for eight months, in a 18 month timeline. It had:

– three team members,

– a beginner project manager, with very little experience and no coaching,

– no activities in sight and lots of email traffic,

– an abundance of frustration between field and headquarter’s team members,

– a client left to wonder why it wanted the services in the first place.

After a quick MESS by the new the project manager, the project was recovered and reached 96% of spending. It delivered the promised on time. The solution was to facilitate the team’s access to inputs (international expertise in this case). The client was happy and asked to continue the collaboration. From MESS to mission accomplished.

What’s your experience with messy projects?

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Measuring impact

I literally absorbed the article “AEI’s President on Measuring the Impact of Ideas”, which appeared in Harvard Business Review. The author Arthur C. Brooks, the President of American Enterprise Institute—one of the oldest and best-known think tanks in the USA – gives many insightful perspectives on measuring the success of think tanks on the ideas market.

I drew parallels to the development work where demonstrating impact was a challenge even before the “golden era”. Donors need to show evidence to the tax payers that they’re creating value with what they give. They need to see data. Having an intangible product or a number of short lived outputs impresses no one. The (hopefully positive) change needs to be seen and felt.

The article helped reminding that a clear and genuine metric for success is a good start in any development project. Yet, one tends to turn it, for a variety of reasons, in a formal ticking-the-box exercise or toss it all together on the “no-one-reads-it-anyway shelf”.  I found that by simply asking the members of the team “why are we doing this? how will we report against it in one/two year time?” helps in crafting a realistic and committing metric.

Thanks for the inspiration, Harvard Business Review! The link to the article: https://hbr.org/2018/03/aeis-president-on-measuring-the-impact-of-ideas?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

Thought of the year

2017 felt as a year of resilience testing more than before. Constant demands. Changing circumstances. It brought the knowledge of thyself and others to a new level. Humanity was put to test. Relationships evolved. All these are precious gifts of knowledge.

Thank you, 2017!

2018, let’s make the most of it and continue to thrive!

Inspired by “Those leaders with strong self-knowledge – who have a clear understanding of their skills and shortcomings, their frustrations, and their core principles – are more likely to sustain those needed reserves of resilience to thrive through adversity and change.” Ron Carucci, The Better you know Yourself, the More Resilient You’ll Be, Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/09/the-better-you-know-yourself-the-more-resilient-youll-be?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

A happy project manager

– What are you reading, Oxana? asked Frank, a consultant on the team.

– “The Project Manager who smiled”.

– Did you write the book?

-I wish. It’s Bob Taylor’s book, i smiled in response.

-See, it could be easily about you.

A smiling project manager is a happy one. What makes a project manager happy? A few things here and there. An approved budget report. A reached milestone. Or just getting to bed early at night. A visit to a spa also counts. Time for some manicure would be nice…

Throughout years i found out that there is an inner thing that makes us glow. The research on Emotional Intelligence – EI- shows that EI is the critical skill that happy people have in common.

Here is my list of what happy project managers have in common:

1. The Remember That They Are In Charge of the Project and Their Own Happiness

They set a reminder on their smartphone in case they forget.

2. They Let Go of Things They Can’t Control

They try their best to reach the objective. They spend the budget diligently. They persuade sponsors. They work hard. And they let go if the sponsor’s policy changes. They just take a deep breath, swear (sometimes loudly) and …. look for another sponsor. Looking at the pay grade also helps to let go ;).

3. They do not compare themselves to other project managers. They may steal an idea or two – as a form of flattery – but otherwise they stay clean on this record. And they know their self-worth.

4. They celebrate each milestone with the team. They love to be the Project Managers of fun.

5. They choose their shortcuts and battles wisely. They rarely fight. They negotiate a lot.

6. They keep their moral boundaries untouched. They do not compromise on quality. Their integrity is rock solid. This gives the a good night sleep.

7. They keep their desk clean and tidy, files organised and always ready to be put on display. Auditors knocking on the door? No problem. Come on in.

8. They roll their sleeves up and do the work and help others. They notice if an assistant cleaning the meeting room desks of the piles of documents needs a helping hand. Happy project managers are also mindful of generosity burn-out.

9. They smile, tell jokes and do not take themselves too seriously. After all, they know projects come and go. And all we need is fun and love!

Did you recognise yourself in the above? You can also make your own top ten happiness tips with anything that works for you and keep it close, for a moral boost .