News for the ‘Inspiration and Motivation’ Category
I was recently corresponding with Geoff Crane, the creative force behind The Papercut Project Manager website, about how people can get started in Project Management (PM). After some thought-provoking back and forth with him on the topic, I was inspired to create the following article. (Thanks, Geoff!)
In more than three decades of working with PM newbies in my classes, I’ve heard a lot of great stories about how people became project managers. Based on what I’ve heard, I have two broad suggestions for anyone who would like to get that first job as a project manager:
- Become a valuable and trusted contributor on project teams.
- “Act as if” you are in charge of (or at least responsible for) one or more projects.
Here’s a closer look each of these.
Become a Valuable and Trusted Project Contributor
Something every would-be project manager ought to consider: PM is an activity that is often regarded as “overhead.” That means that the time project managers spend on their PM chores is budgeted under “administrative costs” or a similar heading. In contrast, the primary work of creating project deliverables is typically done by specialists in a given field. The scriptwriters, computer programmers, researchers, systems analysts, plumbers and electricians, etc. – all these folks make unique contributions that are based on their mastering a chosen specialty. Over time, if they do good work, they come to be regarded as valuable and trusted project contributors. They are the “go to” people who get things done, know how to deal with obstacles and can creatively invent short-cuts that can be implemented without sacrificing quality.
Now if you are going to manage a project in a given field, you need to have developed a substantial working knowledge of that field for two primary reasons:
- Your detailed plans, inspections, reviews and client/stakeholder outreach efforts need to make sense within the context of that field and its professional “best practices” and,
- You need to have the respect of those key project contributors so that when you ask them to do something they trust that you know what you’re talking about and will comply. And the best way to get their respect is if you, yourself, have spent some time working shoulder-to-shoulder with them, getting good results.
So whether you’re trying to create an accurate task list and matching project schedule, trying to sell the project to stakeholders whose support you need or trying to nudge project team members to take a specific course of action, it really helps to have spent some time yourself as a project team member, making valuable contributions and earning the trust of your peers, SMEs and other stakeholders. (And it also helps if you love this field, can empathize with the passions of its practitioners and truly enjoy working with them!)
“Act as If” You Are Responsible
In his book The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer suggests that we: “Act as if everything you desire is already here… treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to become.” And in his book,Get Out of Your Own Way, Robert K. Cooper writes: “Brain scans show that simply imagining a complex and compelling goal will actually fire the same neurons that will be required to actually achieve the goal… In order to sense a new idea or shape a better future, we must first create it in the brain as a possibility…”
Translating these high-sounding suggestions to our topic of getting a foothold in PM (and getting a bit more specific) here is a list of things I’ve observed that “ordinary” project team members were doing just before they broke into their official role of project manager:
- Anticipating problems that the team might face, then helping to prevent them
- Going beyond simply enduring or complaining about obstacles or roadblocks to taking the actions that were necessary to help remove them
- Filling in the gaps by doing the dirty, thankless jobs when no one else was available in order to keep the project moving
- Stepping up and acting on behalf of — or, more specifically, acting as if they “owned”:
- The schedule
- The budget
- The resource work load that may have needed balancing
- The quality of the finished product
- Advocating on behalf of team members who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) speak up for themselves
- Serving as a bridge between stakeholders and the professionals on the project team by helping translate technical jargon, explain field-specific best practices or generally selling the project and its value
- Leading, in critical moments when there was no one else around to serve as leader
In short, when a member of the project team starts doing the kinds of things listed above, the senior managers and stakeholders who are orbiting the project begin to listen more carefully when this person speaks. And eventually this person acquires the personal gravitas to be asked to serve, officially, as a project manager.
Like a Glacier
If you practice the two broad collections of behaviors discussed above, it is almost inevitable that you acquire the job title of project manager. And this job title will be deserved because you have authentically:
- Mastered a profession and earned the respect of your peers through a track record of competence
- Become a de facto project manager by “acting as if” you own and take responsibility for the projects on which you work
Do these things and slowly but surely, with the inevitability of a glacier moving inexorably down a mountain, you will become a project manager.
Suggested Links (Further Study)
- Project Management is a Broad Human Practice, not Merely a Profession (See also several links at the end of this article.)
- Podcast: Act As If
- Podcast: Trust Your Judgment
- Podcast: Just Do It!
Edited: May 28th, 2014
This brief video uses simple, real-world examples to distinguish between authority & responsibility. And it makes the argument that by finding the balance between the two, we can improve the quality of life in our projects and project teams, in our personal relationships and in the world at large.
“It’s the fair and decent thing to do!”
For my extended essay on this topic, as well as some practical “Challenge” questions that can help you put these concepts to work, see this blog post:
Edited: April 24th, 2014
As regular readers of this blog know, I don’t exactly push PM newbies toward PMP (or any other commercially available) certification. In fact, in several extended essays and PDFs, I’ve tried mightily to make the case for local, do-it-yourself PM certification while providing specific, step-by-step instructions in how to do so:
- Do-It-Yourself PM Certification: How to Document Your Skills & Get the Credibility You’ve Earned without Jumping Through Someone Else’s Hoops
- Seven Benefits of Local PM Certification: Why Pursuing Locally-Relevant PM Skills Makes More Sense Than Buying Generic, External PM Certifications
- Beyond PM Certification: Achieving PM Performance Improvement
- How to Create a Locally-Relevant Set of PM Job Tasks & Competencies Based on Job Level
- Project Management is a Broad Human Practice, not Merely a Profession
Still, if your employer or clients have drunk the PMI Kool-Aid and are absolutely, positively convinced that you need their PMP stamp of approval to do your job, then you should know about Firebrand’s amazing collection of powerful, “accelerated” PMP study tools, exercises and answers. The Firebrand collection can do two important things for you:
- If you are undecided about pursuing PMP certification, it can help you take a very fast, efficient “deep dive” into the conceptual database that makes up the PMP certification body of content. This way you can quickly decide for yourself whether this stuff is going to be helpful to your unique PM career.
- If you are committed to the PMP certification path, it can serve as a well-designed set of “crib notes,” reference tools and practice exercises to speed you on your way to the certification exam.
Video Tour: Firebrand’s Free PMP Training
Below is my quick video tour of the free online training materials available at the Firebrand website to help you qualify for your PMP certification. Enjoy!
======= Related Articles =========
- The Origins of My PM Minimalism: It’s Not Merely Simple-Minded… It’s About PM Essences
- My Incredible Shrinking PM Recommendations
- My 10 Favorite PM Articles, Posts, or Videos from 2013
- Free e-Book “What Project Management Means to Me” from #PMFlashBlog Authors
- (Video) The Project Management Change Agent: How to Lead Your PM Revolution (55 minute video includes links to 25-page PDF.)
Edited: March 21st, 2014
A couple of weeks ago I tried to watch the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I say tried because I eventually became so frustrated by Matt Lauer’s and Meredith Vieira’s endless stream of intrusive babble that I switched the whole thing off. From what I saw, the ceremony had been painstakingly designed by its Olympic hosts to tell a story. The producers of the event had obviously worked hard to weave together a collection of objects, images, performers and music to create a spectacular narrative that highlighted Russia’s history.
Was it mere propaganda? Was it an idealized rewriting of history? Frankly, I can’t say because every time I started to become absorbed by the narrative and allow its images and music to carry me along with it, Lauer or Vieira would yank me out of the story line with their own narrative. And since theirs consisted mostly of arcane trivia, details of the mechanics of the production, or political editorializing, I found it impossible to sustain the sense of wonder that the grand production had been designed to stimulate. Unfortunately, turning off the sound to shut off their prattling also muted the beautiful music and sound effects. So I finally just gave up in disgust and switched the whole thing off.
A Colossal Waste!
As the room became silent, I found myself wondering about — and feeling sympathy for — the producers of the event. They clearly had undertaken months of preparation. They constructed a logical “through line” that told their story, then they rehearsed and coordinated hundreds of moving parts. In short, they had attempted to deliver a powerfully moving and cohesive viewer experience. Yet here sat these American TV talking heads intruding themselves at random throughout the event, dragging viewers on endless, mood-destroying side trips and distracting us from absorbing any coherent message or from being swept away in the spectacle. What a colossal waste!
Like Your Last Business Presentation?
The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that this NBC-broadcast of the Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony was an apt metaphor for many business meetings I’ve attended. The same elements are present:
- Someone works hard to prepare a logical narrative, often supported with multi-media components.
- This person rehearses, then delivers the presentation.
- Members of the audience ostensibly attend to the presentation.
- Members of the audience are ceaselessly, often pointlessly, interrupted by their own, personal talking heads in the form of the ever-present “second screen” of a smartphone or tablet.
- These interrupted members of the audience, in turn, become someone else’s “second screen” interruptions as their fingers tap out terse little messages that intrude into another presenter’s carefully-crafted presentation.
The result of all this fracturing of a presenter’s logical, cohesive message is that attendees acquire an understanding of it that is incomplete or badly distorted.
Half-Baked Comprehension = Half-Baked Decisions!
Now here’s the big deal: What distinguishes these business presentations from the Olympics Opening Ceremony is that those attending are frequently called upon to take an action or make a decision at the conclusion. But if your recall of the presenter’s message is sketchy or skewed, your comprehension is… well… half-baked! And half-baked comprehension can only lead to half-baked decisions!
So here’s your challenge: The next time you attend a meeting, try to fully “attend” to the presentation. Put yourself in the shoes of the presenter. Try to imagine the effort she expended to accumulate information, sift it down to its essences and build a presentation that would be engaging and informative. Then ask yourself if it makes good business sense to allow your own jabbering little device (your pocket-sized network talking head) to ceaselessly interrupt and water down your engagement.
(NOTE: For more on the phenomenon of scrambled consciousness & the illusion of competence held by “multi-taskers,” see Managing People with Self-Induced ADHD (er… Chronic Multitaskers)
Edited: February 27th, 2014
On September 25th at 0100 hours GMT project management (PM) bloggers from all over the planet published blog posts to answer this question: “What does project management mean to me? (a project manager’s sermon).”
Conceived by Australian PM expert Shim Marom, publisher of the quantmleap blog, this #PMFlashBlog was the first-ever world-wide synchronized PM publishing effort.
Allen Ruddock, Director of UK-based ARRA Management Ltd., took on the challenge of collecting, compiling and creating an e-book from all the #PMFlashBlog blog posts published. (Check out Allen’s upcoming webinar “3 Biggest PM mistakes…”)
The result of all this hard work was a powerful collection of heart-felt (and sometimes humorous!) blog posts that will help you discover the true meaning of PM as seen through the eyes of PM experts and practitioners from all over the world.
- DOWNLOAD your 117 page PMFlashBlog ebook, here: http://michaelgreer.biz/pmflashblog-ebook.pdf
- Here’s a complete list of all #PMFlashBlog contributors, including Twitter names & links to their websites.
=== Other Free e-Books & PM Freebies ===
- Free E-Book: One Simple Thing to Improve Projects or PM (An Anthology)
- A Gift for You: A Free Project Management Book for Your Kindle, NOOK, iPad or Other Tablet / E-Reader
- The PM Minimalist Support System & Freebies
=== Other Articles You Might Like ===
- What Project Management Means to Me: “A Technology of Manifestation…” (My #PMFlashBlog post.)
- New PM Reference: Gower Handbook of People in Project Management
- 6 Reasons Why the New Book “Strategies for Project Sponsorship” Will Be an Instant PM Classic
- Vicki James’ Book Review: The Project Management Minimalist
- Top 10 Most Downloaded Project Management Resources
- Announcing My Amazon Author Page!
Edited: December 4th, 2013
[This post is part of the #PMFlashBlog event "What does project management mean to me?" Learn more here: Free e-Book “What Project Management Means to Me” from #PMFlashBlog Authors]
Sometimes it takes someone on the outside looking in to provide you with that “whack on the side of the head” that changes the meaning of what you are doing. Such was the case with this simple email from a student.
Edited: September 24th, 2013
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware of the power of project management (PM) to bring order to potentially chaotic human endeavors. Organizations everywhere apply tried-and-true PM practices to get higher quality finished products, more quickly, and with less pain and frustration than if no PM were applied. In short, PM works almost anywhere where there are formal relationships among team members: businesses, governments, not-for-profits, etc.
Still, there’s one organization in which we spend much of our time that is not generally regarded as a candidate for PM techniques: the family. Seen through the lens of PM, a family can appear to be a random collection of informal, emotionally-charged relationships whose team members struggle mightily for control, power, recognition, autonomy, or simply to avoid work and avoid spending money. It is within this context that family reunions, weddings, home repair & improvement, landscaping, graduation parties and countless other domestic projects are undertaken by families. Some families are more successful than others in emerging from these efforts with their affections intact. Many complete such projects with permanent scars to relationships that must still, somehow, last a lifetime.
So how might your family avoid such self-inflicted wounds? Below are 5 PM “best practices” that could help your family handle its next project more effectively. (Note: You might also apply these to other unofficial project teams made up of close friends, volunteers, or anyone with whom you’d like to maintain a healthy personal relationship after the project is completed.)
Edited: August 28th, 2013
Got clients or stakeholders who are driving you nuts and always causing scope creep? Share this simple video with them and maybe raise their consciousness. Enjoy!
Edited: July 26th, 2013
I just emailed my latest PM Minimalist Update to subscribers. Highlights from this issue include links to 31 new articles, tools and media, including:
Subscribe today & get a Bonus zip file containing 15 PM articles or tools in PDF format (88-pages total!) plus a 37-minute PM podcast!
Edited: June 13th, 2013
One of the things I most enjoy about teaching project management (PM) is the deeper knowledge of the field I get when students share their insights. Last week I asked my Franklin University PM students to write a brief essay answering this question: “Assume you are one of the guest authors for the e-book “One Simple Thing to Improve Projects or Project Management“…..what would be your ‘One Simple Thing?’”
Now this is one of my favorite questions to ask of everyone who’s been involved in project work or PM. It triggers their “wisdom filters” as they sift through all the projects they’ve worked on (good and bad) to find that one simple thing. And best of all, it helps them clarify their own deeply held PM values. So it’s always enlightening to hear what people come up with. (more…)
Edited: May 30th, 2013