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When you go through your year-end reflections, maybe consider how the people you work with are all different and how that impacts you and the work you all do together. A recent article, by Chloe Berger of Fortune magazine, points to the potential for a growing split among executives on culture, and whether work-life balance is important. According to the article, Michael Friedman, chief executive of First Level Capital, told Callum Borchers of the Wall Street Journal, that he thinks “every successful CEO, including myself, is tired of all the whining.” Apparently, executives are now starting to take sides on the work-life balance issues, particularly following some of Elon Musk’s latest moves. I have to wonder if any executives going through their year-end reflections may question the work-life balance in their organizations.

I remember the early days of Agile and Scrum and the sense that some teams were being driven incredibly hard, with no allowance for personal needs. How important is it to create a sustainable work journey?

I have struggled with that myself in some of my own projects, both those with clients and a few personal ones as well. And in this blog, I thought I would discuss some take-aways from my year-end reflections. It is, after all, that time of year.

Six Take-Aways from My Year-End Reflections That Might Help #projectmanagement #smartprojex #reflections Click To Tweet

1. We are all different. We’re all human. And we all have different priorities.

One of the reasons I like working with teams is that I find the different perspectives and interests fascinating. I’m not sure I’d like working with robots. They are all the same, and they just do whatever a human has programmed them to do, for now.

Do project managers owe it to their direct reports to care about their different priorities? The question asks us to address the rightness or wrongness of a particular choice. Project managers do this all the time.

I find it helpful to consider the outcomes if both choices are magnified. What would a world look like if all employees felt like their bosses cared about them? They could know that what they were doing mattered and know what mattered most to the boss. At the same time, they would not need to ignore their family’s needs, or their own health needs. How would that have a trickle-down effect?

On the other hand, when bosses do not engage with their employees about priorities, both personal and professional, what is the impact there? There is no work-life balance and employees can become paralyzed by indecision because they don’t know what the bosses’ priorities are. They may not be free to consider the needs of their family or their health. The company may do exceptionally well, and employees may or may not reap the benefits of increasing profits. Frequently, we do not see the growing wealth distributed down the corporate food chain but paid out to executives and stockholders.

What do you think represents the best outcome for the world? I know I’d opt in favor of a work-life balance, and apparently the resignations at Twitter suggest others feel the same way.

2. Personal responsibility and attitude are as crucial as any technology that you buy

I’ve written before about the importance of personal responsibility and attitude for everyone on the team. There are plenty of people who work because they must support themselves and their families. But regardless of why you come to work every day, the attitude you bring to the job and your willingness to accept personal responsibility for performing at exceptional levels is critical.

When you go through your year-end reflections, consider how your attitude and level of responsibility to your colleagues impacts the organization. Resilience on a personal level is critical. We all have setbacks. Friends or family members die. We get sick or suffer an injury. We lose interest in the work at times. But the ability to get back up on the horse, so to speak, is essential.

The company can invest in the most state of the art technologies but if the people who are working with those technologies aren’t performing at their best and taking their work seriously, that investment will not return the benefits that were planned.

High performance takes a team – and that team depends on everyone in the group. Weed out the people who aren’t bringing a can-do attitude to the job or delivering the results that they have promised.

High performance takes a team – and that team depends on everyone in the group. #projectmanagement #smartprojex #team #teamwork #teammanagement Click To Tweet

3. Health is a journey that is just as important as your career

It’s easy when your team is young and healthy to think that they will stay this way. But, as we’ve learned during the pandemic, life is fragile. Aging can be cruel. Whether it’s the impact of poor diet, lack of exercise, or genetics, people often find that they must work harder on their health journey when they are older. In my year-end reflections, it was hard to ignore that impact of health issues on my productivity and performance.

And executives must accept some responsibility for their role in helping teams stay healthy. I work with startups periodically. The pressure to perform is high. It can be tempting to reward teams with fun activities – and they often include booze and junk food.

I can’t criticize them. I understand the temptation and the need to compete with other employers. And yet, turnover is costly. Sickness takes a toll on a company. According to the CDC, “heart disease in the United States costs more than $321 billion each year—$193 billion in direct medical costs and $128 billion in lost productivity from early death.”

This discussion circles back to the need to have open communications with your team about priorities and value systems and to build consensus within the organization.

4. Any project management tool needs to accommodate easy changes to a project plan

Illness, injury, and deaths happen. And all of it can wreak havoc with project schedules. It can have a cumulative impact with a large team. Rarely is only one person having setbacks.

What happens to the deadlines that you have created in your project plan? What happens to the scope and the schedule? Sometimes, it’s a simple as deleting scope. Or postponing a deliverable. But some deadlines can’t be moved.

As a mom with youngsters, I simply couldn’t move Christmas. I could scale back the celebrations or the gift buying. I could wrap less. I perhaps could hire help. But I could not change the date.

And it was good practice for a career in project management, where deadlines can be equally important. I learned early to plan and work steadily towards a goal. I learned to focus on what was most important now, given the overall landscape of all the demands on my time.

Whatever tool you choose to use for managing your projects, pay attention to the ease with which schedules can be changed. Pay attention to how many deadlines you factor into your plan.

For years, I have promoted the use of fixed deadlines and target deadlines. I’m not a huge fan of putting a deadline on each activity. I recommend that you strategically designate some deadlines as target deadlines to help you drive the project forward. Selectively, choose a few fixed deadlines to ensure that you don’t miss anything that is truly important.

That way, if major setbacks occur, you can easily identify your critical deadlines across the entire organization – allowing you to pivot, if needed. If you want to read more, check out this blog on managing critical deadlines.

5. If you build it, they will come is a myth

Many are familiar with the movie, Field of Dreams. And it might be fun entertainment, but don’t fall for the belief that if you build a product or a service that it will sell. And don’t fall for the myth that if you install new technology that people will use it or love it. I’ve made this mistake more than once. In my year-end reflections, I questioned if I had done it once again.

I’m not alone. How many companies have invested in technologies that are barely used? The last I heard about 90% of startups fail. You can pursue your own dreams with your own money. That’s fine. But when you are using investor money, you owe it to your investors to do your due diligence about the problem you think you are trying to solve.

Yes, there will still be failures. That’s part of entrepreneurship. But do your homework. And if you are buying technologies in your organization, don’t fail your company by ignoring what the people who work with you, or your customers, think about any technology that impacts them.

If you build it, they will come is a myth. You owe it to your investors and employees to do your due diligence #projectmanagement #entrepreneurship #smartprojex #duediligence Click To Tweet

6. Don’t forget to celebrate, even if there are disappointments along the way

Perhaps my biggest accomplishment in 2022 is the release of a book that I have been working on for years. Speed was never my priority, but never did I expect it would take so long. But it did. And now it’s out, and, more than ever, I believe it’s an important book, and I’m getting great feedback.

And yet, when a friend asked me how I planned to celebrate the publication, I laughed and admitted that I hadn’t thought much about that. Frankly, I felt like someone who had just won a big game and realized that I needed to go play another game, on another field, with different rules. For years, I had been focused on writing and self-publishing. But now, I was going to need to focus on marketing and selling – a totally different ballgame. It hardly felt like an accomplishment that warranted celebrating if no one had read the book.

And yet, as I write about in the book, take advantage of times that offer you the opportunity for a fresh start. Small celebrations do that. According to Dan Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, “Endings of all kinds — of experiences, projects, semesters, negotiations, stages of life — shape our behavior in four predictable ways. They help us energize. They help us encode. They help us edit. And they help us elevate.” (p. 146) So celebrate — to energize your team, to encode what you’ve learned and accomplished, to edit your project plan, and to elevate those accomplishments that have value for your client.

Why don’t you buy my book? And when you do your year-end reflecting perhaps you will also discover that you need or want to increase your reading.