Tag: effective communication

« Summing up: a professional memoir» by Bertram Fields

Why is this book on a project management blog? you might ask. Well, I am a believer in learning from every trade.

First about the book. As its title says, you’ll find there the mémoires of a prominent US entertainment lawyer, who is also a writer and teacher. He is also famous for having fired Trump (before his tenure).

His writing style is brilliant, soft and tender, balanced, honest, humorous and slightly ironic. The reader is not exhausted with legalistic tournure de phrase and is treated with care and friendliness. Which makes it inspirational for other lines of business.

There are numerous reasons for featuring this book review on this blog. It has many valuable insights into relationship and stakeholders management, the cornerstone of any project. Project managers can get tips here on negotiations and deals making along with contracts management, intrinsic to the management of any project. I absorbed the parts on his work ethics and the ways he dealt with dilemmas, some of which we also encounter in project management dealings. Never compromise your values regardless of the potential financial loss (see the firing of Trump).

Finally, the graciousness with which the author refers to his numerous opposing counselors and the other parties is worth following as an example in projects and beyond. And just one more – give credit where credit is due, especially to those who work behind the scenes.

Are project managers allowed to take a vacation?

“A project manager on vacation?!” Unheard of! Tight deadlines, impatient clients, critical paths, strict sponsor, plenty of adrenalin, which keeps you going, and plenty of other imposed or self-imposed excuses. 

My first year in project management, I used to dread taking time off. In time, I understood that with some good planning and prep I can manage it well. I put my project planning skills for vacation preparations.

So if you still worry about taking time off, do yourselves a favour and be a good project managers of your own vacations.  If you are not convinced, vacation planning tends to bring happiness as shown by research in the journal “Applied Research in Quality of Life”. People actually derive most of the happiness from their vacations in the planning phase (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/18/opinion/what-your-vacation-says-about-you.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0). Let’s see though if new research will confirm the same in the times of pandemics.

You can easily guess who plans and organises my family’s vacation. I love to search for new destinations, read hotels reviews, organise ‘hotel tenders’, book, make a list of things to experience, argue with my family about what not to put in the luggage (gadgets, for once). It is fun and it pleases the protesting “brain on duty”, so it can deal with deliverables, milestones and other demands it is used to.

In addition to that, a well done pre-vacation prep will bring you the peace of mind with which you can leave the project temporarily. The purpose is to assess and prevent any foreseeable issues, to the extent you can. Here are couple of strategies I collected and applied throughout years:

    Announce your planned vacation as soon as you know. I trust you’ll not take time off on a product is planned to go-live or there is a risk of missing a milestone on the critical path.
    If feasible, consider is anyone from the team can take charge in your absence. If yes, leave clear instructions on matters to follow-up and a list of “in case of…” in a hand-over note, which is also communicated to anyone important who might be looking for you. If no one can stay in charge, make sure your out-of-office automatic reply is clear about it and gives directions to people who still need your input/feedback.
    Decide if you be available by email/phone. A wealth of studies show that it’s best to fully disconnect. Dropping ‘accidentally’ your mobile device in the pool can help disconnect. There are other less financially costly ways though. If you still need to check your email, make a deal with yourself to check it only at a certain period of the day for a certain amount of time (e.g. 1 hour after kids go to sleep or during their siesta). If you stick to it, reward yourself with a large ice-cream or cocktail you fancy. Or both.