I confess that I succumbed to the temptation to try out chatGPT. In a few cases, the suggestions that it offered on blogs were pretty good. I was tempted to stop writing my blog. But I quickly reconsidered because I really want to write a blog about winning at work.
I realized that you won’t get access to the kinds of suggestions that I make about project management from mainstream writers. I have a few contrarian opinions about how we should be rethinking project management, and ultimately all work efforts.
And in this blog, I want to share a few that I believe are the keys to winning at work, though not all of them are particularly contrarian views.
1. Build a circle of safety on your team
Simon Sinek discussed the concept of a circle of safety in his book, Leaders Eat Last. It comes down to prioritizing the needs of the people on your team – over everything else. There will always be a conflict between what is best for employees and what is best for stockholders.
Australian blogger, Tim Denning, published a blog on Medium about millennials and their distrust of businesses. They are quite tired of those who talk the talk, but then, fall under the spell of the capitalistic need to maximize EPS. Obviously, publicly traded companies must focus on what’s best for stockholders. And the EPS metric is easy. It’s much harder to create metrics around how engaged your employees are and the engagement trends on your team.There will always be a conflict between what is best for employees and what is best for stockholders. #project #business #management #projectmanagement Click To Tweet
That’s one of the reasons that I’m trying to build a project methodology that offers employee metrics that are useful. I dream about turning this methodology into a software solution that could be scaled to manage all work. We can’t read people’s minds yet, but we can measure results. We rely on teams of individuals to deliver products and services that increase our profits and competitiveness. Shouldn’t we have reliable ways of measuring the work that those teams do?
We need to focus on results and delivering what matters most next. And project leaders need to protect the team from distractions so that they can focus on delivering the results that matter most right now.
And in doing that, project leaders are helping to build a circle of safety and keep their teams winning at work.Circle of Safety: when your project leader protects the team so they can focus on delivering results that matter. Winning at work! #project #business #management #projectmanagement #win Click To Tweet
2. Create an inspiring vision statement
I have written about the need for teams to have a powerful ‘why?’ for each project. A team that is very excited about a project will run rings around a team that is lethargic and doing the work just to get a paycheck.
And after you have written that powerful statement about why you are doing the project, define how you will measure success. What does the final outcome look like? How will you know you are there? How will you measure success?
Even on an exploratory project, where you simply want to explore the possibility of creating a new product or service, you can figure out what crossing the goal line looks like.
3. Work in sprints
This is an Agile concept – and not unique to me. Generally, I recommend that you start with a two-week sprint length.
What is different about my approach is that I don’t believe that sprint lengths necessarily need to remain constant in a project. Yes, when they do, you will get some burn metrics that are very useful. So I would not change them willy nilly.
Some projects will, by their nature, ebb and flow. For those projects, varying the sprint length allows you to taper the sprint to the speed that the project needs and glean some different kinds of data. And it allows you to shorten the sprint length when the project kicks into overdrive.
4. Identify critical deadlines early
This is one of my more contrarian ideas. I believe it is one of the secrets to winning at work. Many project managers assign deadlines to all the activities on a project – and then, sequence those activities – hence – a schedule. I think it’s fine to have an overall sense of how the project will unfold. But the more teams can do to remain flexible, the better equipped they are when a pivot is needed.
Using the Smart Projex methodology, teams identify the activities or work packages that are needed, and identify the handful of critical deadlines that cannot be missed. And then, project leaders must insist that teams meet those deadlines. Identify most of the activity deadlines as “target deadlines” and use those to guide the successful completion of the project.
If the team is making steady progress in each sprint, the project leader can relax about the schedule and deadlines. This is when keeping the sprint length and the size of the team consistent can give you data to make it easy to know whether you are on track to finish by the final deadline.
Many kinds of events can cause businesses to have to reevaluate their project portfolio: a cash flow drop, a major staffing concern, or an environmental issue of some sort. When teams have identified all of the critical deadlines early in their projects, the business leaders can examine the entire project portfolio should anything need to be delayed or reconsidered.
5. Prioritize cost & risk management
There are many areas where project managers need to focus. But history and science both support the idea that spreading your focus thinly can reduce effectiveness. In my last blog, I wrote about why project managers need to be aggressive on both risk and cost management.
6. Don’t skip checkpoint meetings
And checkpoint meetings, with their very specific agenda are proprietary to the Smart Projex methodology. Checkpoint meetings are held at the end of every sprint. I discuss them in great detail in a blog on why they are better than sprint planning meetings. The temptation can be to think that there isn’t much to discuss. But when you really start planning the meeting you will realize that there is much to discuss. Don’t skip them. If it feels like not much happened in the sprint, that is all the more reason to have the meeting. Use it to uncover problems.
Winning at work takes a collaborative effort and project managers can lead the way. I believe there is much room for improvement. Whether you choose to use a new methodology or a new software tool is up to you. But I’m convinced that all the effort around slack messaging, HR badges issued to certain employees, and software that tracks people who are working away from the office is a misdirected effort.