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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Management by Just Showing Up

     “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.”
     That was Woody Allen, demonstrating in just a few words how deeply meaningful a comedic quickie can be.

     “I don’t know anything about music. In my line, you don’t have to.”
     That was Elvis Presley, displaying wisdom we might not have expected from a guy who swiveled his hips like that.

     "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."
     And Peter Drucker had a way of blowing up our comfortable suppositions in ways we can't disagree with.

     If all of us project managers were to follow those dictates, we’d be much better prepared to do our jobs well.


     Well, here’s why:

     Allen was defining the most dominant KPI (key performance indicator) of credibility in the churning, destabilizing atmosphere of a demanding project. If the top guy is on the job, is seen as always on the job, the working team is reassured, empowered, and able to focus its attention on the tasks at hand. Now people know this project really is important.
     That is management presence, literally. There are multiple personnel performance payoffs in the boss being on the scene, but the most basic is its unspoken furtherance of all that has been established as group purpose.
     Presley knew that countless others had done the songs he was doing, or similar music. Whether he could have been a better musician was irrelevant. What he understood was that he was a unique entertainer, a performer with a stage personality all his own. His role was to present that unparalleled kinetic personality.
     There never had been anything quite like Elvis before (and hasn’t been since, so far). He knew how to project a sexy dynamism, and – man – did he! That was his job, and he did not clutter it up with conventional stagecraft.

     Drucker was blunt and incisive about articulating the lesson that Woody Allen and Elvis Presley were voicing in their own artful ways.
     You, the project manager, need to know what it is that essentially defines your job. The essence isn’t tasks and obligations and the expectations of all those diverse people who are watching you.
    It is your clear, crisp personal job description, not long and not easy, that displays for your eyes only those few demanding goal-directed imperatives that you are to meet. You make it your business to know it intimately, and clasp it in all its prickly reality.

     And you DO it.

     We in the project management profession often devote ourselves to parsing the DNA and the differences between management and leadership, and it’s not really a bad thing to do.
     However, if each of us were to confer intently with our specific memories of our personal experiences of bosses and colleagues over a career, we doubtless would find some ambiguity.
     We would remember that we have had managers whose directions were sensible and even fulfilling. They listened, they explained, they understood and they made sense. We did what they asked us to do. We liked them. We admired them. We followed them.
     We would, on the other hand, think back on figures in supervision over us, or in the highest atmosphere of our hierarchies, who seemed laughably devoid of evidence that they belonged there.
     They might have been designated and honored as “leaders,” but their words and even their presence evoked zero response in us.
     In both general categories, of course, we have vivid examples opposite to those of the great managers and the lousy people of authority. And gradations both ways.
     In brief: There is no handy definition, no clear separation, no two distinct sets of behaviors than make our man/woman one or the other, manager or leader.
     The person is either good at the job or not. If there are effective group decision-makers in our organization, we often can’t really tell who is which, or even who is doing what. We just know it’s a good place to work, or a great project.

      Of the three philosophers whose sayings lead off this commentary, I look to Woody Allen’s insight to conclude it for our individual consideration.
     “Showing up” is a phrase that lends itself to extensive application.
     When you show up, you’re there. You’re a comforting presence just standing by with a proud, supportive smile for me while I engage and achieve something that is difficult for me to do.
     When I conduct an event that might be routine, or maybe even boring for some people, you’re a dignified, attentive presence.
     And, most supremely, when things go really bad, chaos reigns and all seems on the lip of lost . . . there you are. You may help me find what to do, or you may not. But you do know, and I know, that you want to be there with me.
     I’ll never forget that. Even if we lost, I always had you right there. With me.
     You showed up. Thanks.

See Also: The Biggest, Sneakiest Project Risk

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