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Monday, April 25, 2011

Fear, Avoidance & the Nonsecret of Success

          Most project managers work hard. Some of the best of us work too hard – especially considering the disappointment that all too frequently dogs our results.
          Give yourself a little private test, whether you carry the title “Project Manager,” or do projects without the portfolio, or just too often have to do stuff without enough time, information, competent personnel, etc.
Actually, we’re ALL project managers. Everybody is, at least part of the time.
This test requires that you do a quick – honest – review of your emotional state at work over the last few weeks. Zero in on the moments when the situation was not going particularly well. There may have been moments when you felt stress, panic, anger, frustration and/or the blues.
What was causing those reactions? Identify the moment, the feeling and the circumstances. This may not be easy, if poor performance and negative emotion have become so common in your life that they are virtually the standard state.
If necessary, just pick any old project or situation.
         What exactly was going on? Were results coming in as expected/predicted/promised? Were people doing what they were supposed to do, what they had promised they would do? Was stuff showing up on schedule? Were problems being addressed, meaningfully, in time to do so properly?
         How about ongoing support and response on the part of management?  
         If everything was going swimmingly, congratulations. If that was not the case, how did you feel about it?
         Stress, panic, anger, frustration, depression? OK, maybe just a modest level of pressure, fright and the general sense of just never getting things done? Do you feel this way often? Have you become resigned to poor performance? Have you, perhaps, even come to believe that that’s the way it is, and always will be?
Well, that’s not the way it should be. If that has become your way of life, you’re not in a good place. You don’t “fail” this test, but it does tell you something about your potential for effective management of projects.
The worst state is that of the project manager who accepts the false reality that their projects will never really work well, that organizations and individuals, however highly placed, simply cannot or will not consistently come through.
When that happens, the only sensible personal strategy is survival – keeping a watchful eye out for threats, staying away from hotspots, going with the flow – and managing to mediocrity. Not a noble occupation.
The solution is not particularly simple, nor is it easy. But it works.