• Posted on December 9, 2012 1:12 am
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    It’s the wise project manager who garners tools for dealing with stress. One such tool I have to suggest:Perspective. Last night I went to the memorial service for a friend of mine. A swell guy, gifted musician and teacher, wonderful husband, father and friend, was taken from us in an untimely manner by that most wily of foes, cancer. I didn’t know him as well as I wanted to, but I liked him. Sitting in my seat in the sanctuary of the church he’d attended, I thought that one of the most appealing things about him was the calm he seemed to have. Maybe that came with his being, among other things, a jazz musician—playing it cool just came with the territory. Stress, at least as far as I could tell, wasnot a big player in this man’s life. Reminiscing about my friend’s constant aplomb got me thinking about all the times I’ve let myself become stressed out and wondering, “Was it worth all that?” Which brings me to project management. We project managers are the herders of cats, the ones with the lion’s share of the responsibility and the kitten’s share of authority, the traffic cops trying to get everyone to get where they’re going without a catastrophe. Stress comes with the territory. But how to we deal with it? Does it rule our lives or do we allow it to roll over us like a wave, shaking us for a moment and then draining away? If we can keep our work in perspective, we can have stress break over us and drain off more often than not. Put the fact that Project Z is going to be over budget next to the fact that you have an unknown, but certainly limited, number of days to enjoy this life. I think you’ll find that when placed in perspective this way, Project Z’s budget woes look pretty insignificant. Buddha is quoted as saying “Many do not realize that we here must die. For those who realize this, quarrels end.”* I propose that stress ends, too, or at least subsides a good bit. Regardless of your beliefs about what occurs after death, this is the only chance you’ll have to enjoy this particular lifetime. There is much more to life than our projects—the love of our families, the inspiration of our religions, the warmth of our communities and the beauty of the natural world, to name a few. When the inevitable problems come along, stress for a moment or two if you must—nobody’s perfect—but no more. Then let it go. Because you only go around once, and the ride can be awfully short. * The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations, by Gil Fronsdal. Shambala Press, 2006.

    Project Management Skills
  • Posted on December 9, 2012 1:08 am
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    Change is the basic condition of our lives. Buddha said, “Everything changes, nothing remains without change.” Jesus was hip to change, too: “…no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.” Even a worldly guy like Robert C. Gallagher, retired chairman of Associated Banc-Corp, observed, “Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine.” If you’re a project manager, sooner or later that beautiful plan you and your team crafted is going to get slammed by a rogue asteroid with “change” carved into it. Get used to it. (It’s okay to hate it—just get used to it.) Based on my relentless research, I’ve concluded there are two general categories of change. Because I can’t think of any really good names for them, I call them Closeup Change and Big Picture Change (if you think those names are bad, you should have seen the ones I had before the edit). Closeup Change is the type directly related to your project. Your plan calls for a widget, a dowhat and a thingy, but partway in Somebody Important decides you need a geegaw, too. Being sagacious, you have planned for such changes and have a process in place for dealing with them. (You do, right? Don’t make me come over there!) In our line of work, we probably deal with Big Picture Change less than with Closeup. Big Picture is the type of change that permeates an entire organization and has a material effect on people and various aspects of their work. Your project could be the beneficiary or victim of Big Picture Change, or it could be a cause of or contributor to the change. Company mergers are a good example of Big Picture change. With Closeup Change, you’ve got to deal with project management nuts and bolts. With Big Picture Change, you’ve got to look up from the nuts and bolts for a bit and see, well… the Big Picture! You must become familiar with your organization’sstrategic direction, the business environment in which it operates, its cultural valuesand, perhaps most important, the way in which various parts of the organizationinteract. You may not be able to affect anything about the Big Picture Change, but if you see it coming and can make an educated appraisal of how it will affect your sponsors, your team, etc., you’re less likely to get whacked by a corner of the Big Picture Frame. (Yes, that’s a terrible pun. No, I’m not sorry.) I hope to write more about change—both kinds—in future posts. Quotation sources: http://www.basicjokes.com/dquotes.php?cid=118 http://paulpetersonlive.com/2009/06/19/how-jesus-viewed-change/ http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quotes_by/buddha

    Project Management Skills