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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Projects, Processes & Professionalism

     I’ve been at this project management stuff for less than 30 years, so I probably don’t qualify as an expert. Still, I have built up a few working hypotheses and dark suspicions:
     1. Most people who hold the title “project manager” are not real project managers, and most activities called “projects” are not real projects.
    2.  Nearly all people who manage real projects do not carry the title “project manager,” and many of them – maybe most – don’t even know they’re managing projects.
    3.  Most appointments of true project managers do not result from job postings, which is a good thing because most job postings essentially say “Superman Wanted,” and have very little to do with what the job is really about.
    4. The most fundamental trait of real project managers (designated or not) is that they can’t bring themselves to turn their backs on problems, no matter how hairy and scary the problems might be.
     5. Projects, real projects, require original thinking, flexible leadership, courage, persistence, integrity and strong skills of communication, collaboration and persuasion. And other strengths.
     6. There is one important skill set that most good project managers are lousy at.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Negotiating Oranges & Project Stakes

     Oranges used to be really big in the negotiation industry.
     One practice case opened with the story of a dozen oranges – unlike any others in the world – that possessed powerful medicinal properties.
     A group of scientists needed the oranges to save an entire village from certain death. A competing group had to have those oranges if it was to create a vaccine that would save future generations from great suffering. Both groups insisted they needed all the fruit.
     A simpler case involved a brother and sister disputing possession of a single orange. The essential nature of the situation was the same as that of the scientists. However, in the siblings’ case, the Dad stepped in to deal with the problem (not satisfactorily).
     I use a similar approach in negotiation training for project managers. No fruit, but I mix in a marriage, employment security, a failing project and the survival of an entire company. Positions that are apparently irreconcilable must be brought into agreement in a role-play exercise to which we commit about half an hour.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Putdowns, Insults, Attacks . . . and You

     Here they are at the old boys’ class reunion, sharing memories of those long-ago highs and lows in the classroom, the dorm, the gym and the dining hall.
     Sure enough, it happens, one of them tells a story, and the guy across the picnic table from him stands up and says, “That’s a really old joke.” The guy walks off a few feet and stands impatiently, waiting for his buddies to leave.
     The insulted person sits there looking at the insulter. “You haven’t changed a bit,” he says, silently to himself. What does he do now?
     We all dream of coming up with the perfect response for these moments. Actually, any response at all is just one option.
     If the targeted person says aloud what’s on his mind – “You haven’t changed a bit” – he is acting on the fight option, albeit at the lower-octane range of that approach. He is fighting fire with fire; not taking the putdown lying down.