Posted on September 27th, 2011 in - Craig Covello, Constraints, Lessons Learned, Management | No Comments »
by Craig Covello, PMP
If you have taken the time to stop and read this article, then it’s probably safe to assume that you might be a project manager. But to narrow the readership further proves difficult, because project managers come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. Some have technical expertise. Others may have experience in sales or marketing. Still others may have backgrounds in finance. So when you’re speaking of project managers as an aggregate, it can be a rather eclectic mix of varied skills and personalities, which then translate into projects that may be run quite differently depending upon who is assigned the responsibility.
The “PM” title, however, also has a set of consistent expectations. Project management is defined around a core set of principles, tools and techniques that transcend organizations and objectives. For example, most projects have some type of scheduling and budget constraints. All projects require some form of communication among stakeholders. And many projects, hopefully, have some type of deliverables, objectives and/or accountabilities. So when thinking along those lines, project managers may tend to view life in terms of definitions, agreements and expectations. We move along a path that might be considered a straight line, from the point of origin to the point of destination. We find ways around obstacles and try to keep our eyes focused upon one or more objectives. Of course, there are times when some flexibility is required, but a project’s success depends upon a reasonably thorough definition and vision of what is to be accomplished followed by managing the expectations of stakeholders.
It’s probably not surprising, then, that many of us can fall into a “project oriented” pattern of thinking when managing our own personal lives. So allow me a moment to offer my perspective, one based more on feeling than fact. It is a perspective that is certainly not meant to paint every PM with the same brush, because as mentioned, we are all unique as individuals, even if we share project management as an occupation. Still, I suspect that some of us tend to think of our lives as “projects”. We look to the future and try to plan accordingly along a perceived path or “straight line”. That is the mind set of many PMs. There’s just one problem. Life really doesn’t work that way. None of us knows with any certainty what the future holds next week, let alone next year. And it can be a future full of promise that may go unrecognized if our focus is too restricted. Because real opportunities continually present themselves without much fanfare or notice. Look straight ahead and you may miss them.
There was an article published by Reader’s Digest a few years back expressing a very profound concept that underscores my assertion regarding limitations of “project oriented” thinking in our personal lives. The author tried to determine the attributes of perceived “lucky” people versus “unlucky” people. As you may have already guessed, the “unlucky” people were the ones who limited their goals and aspiratiosn along a single line. In striking contrast, the “lucky” people were the ones who headed in the general direction, but were able to recognize opportunity, even if it appeared only in their peripheral vision. And once opportunities were identified, they were actively pursued, often requiring a change in direction, a departure from the stright line. So it could be argued that looking at life along a perceived straight line path may not be the best strategy for personal growth and fulfillment. It limits our ability to recognize and take advantage of the best opportunities that life has to offer. It can also color our perspective, causing us to view certain events and circumstances as a negative, impeding progress on our straight line, when in fact, the same circumstances and events may actually be a positive if we choose to modify our trajectory. So lately I’ve chosen to scan the horizon in order to take advantage of the opportunities that may appear in the periphery. In some cases, these opportunities may be much better than what I can envision on the line straight ahead.
Remember that life is not a project. It is a journey.