In yesterday’s PM Minute, I talked about my morbid fascination with the failed Fyre Music Festival and the documentaries that recently hit Netflix and Hulu. Particularly, Netflix’s Fyre: The Party That Never Happened. The Hulu movie is a good watch but seems to be more of a study of Billy McFarland. The Netflix version, however, spends a lot of time examining the genesis of the show and the effort to pull it off.
That’s why I believe that having a mentor is one of the three critical professional relationships. I don’t work for that executive any longer, but we stay in regular contact. In fact, we’re having breakfast this morning. He’s someone that I trust and can go to for professional advice and honest feedback.
So, if this were a project, it’d be tempting for the PM to think things went very well. After all, the requirements were correct and the service was delivered on time and on quality. But, we were left alone for much of the duration to wonder how things were going and whether we’d get what we needed in the end.
All of that is a great example of why you should think about, and involve as much as possible, the user while building your solution and completing your project. Of course you won’t have a customer on your project team. But, always try to have someone on the team who is relentlessly focused on the user experience and heavily involved in review and testing. You’ll save your customer from a bunch of pop-ups, reboots, and do-overs.
The idea for today’s PM Minute comes from the convergence of unique circumstances at my house. First, today is the Martin Luther King holiday and everyone – from our college-age son down to the grade schooler is home. Second, there was a substantial snow storm over the weekend so it’s unlikely that anyone will leave the house. Finally, I’m working from home today and am grounded at home due to the same storm.
Finally, you can decide to simply enjoy the experience and accept the risk as part of trying something new. That’s where we found ourselves Friday night. My wife and I already ate lunch at the Sugar Bowl during Christmas vacation so we knew that the food was great and that everyone in the family would find something they liked on the menu of burgers, sandwiches, and ice cream.
Leadership of projects is not really different than leadership in general. In the ideal structure, the sponsor is the senior manager who sets the vision then trusts and empowers the PM to execute it. The sponsor stays engaged enough to establish attention and priority throughout the organization, but does not micromanage or undermine the role of the PM and the rest of the team.
This is not a political blog. No matter who, where, why, or when, please make sure that you have voted by the time polls close in your corner of the United States on Tuesday night.
In my home state of Ohio, we ranked 33/50 in voter turnout during the 2014 mid-terms, with just over 36% voting. That isn’t enough.
Nationally, the 2014 mid-term turnout was 36.7%. Mid-term turnout has not crossed 40% in the US since 1994 and 45% since 1970.
Early voting numbers indicate that a whole lot of you agree with me.
Knowing my personality, I try to schedule important meetings for the morning, with the most important coming first. I also try to minimize back-to-back meetings and allow myself time to recharge in between. I typically slot important solo work, or anything that requires a lot of concentration, during my morning alone time.
The truth is that the best tool will not solve for a lousy process. It doesn’t matter what you have to write with or in if you don’t sit down every day and write. In fact, two of my favorite writers, Elmore Leonard and Hemingway, started with plain pencil and paper (29 cent pencils for Leonard, as a matter of fact). It doesn’t matter where your goals are recorded if you don’t break them into actionable tasks or revisit them regularly.
High school football is big in Massillon, Ohio. In fact, there have been at least two documentaries in the last twenty years about the sport in the town where I live: 2017’s Timeless Rivals, about the Massillon Washington - Canton McKinley rivalry and Go Tigers which was released in 2001 and features the subtitle “Massillon, Ohio. Where they live, breathe, and eat football.”
I’m very familiar with the century-plus rivalry with McKinley, having grown up in Canton and graduated from the school in 1992. For the last twenty years or so, I’ve owned season tickets at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon and have been at just about every home game during that time.
I work about forty miles north of Massillon, much closer to Cleveland than home, and where most of my co-workers have probably never been to a Tiger game. After more than a season of describing the experience - tailgating, the stadium that seats more than 16,000, fireworks, indoor practice facility, video scoreboard, and one of the state’s biggest and best marching bands - I was able to talk eight of my teammates into making the journey and taking in a game. For some of them it meant close to an hour and a half drive, so the stakes were high.
After some fairly heavy rain Friday afternoon, the clouds cleared out and the temperature dropped to an appropriate reading for fall football. The Tigers won 46-40, but that wasn’t the best part of the night.
I had plenty of help in trying to give them the Massillon experience. A group of friends invited us to their tailgate, where we had Kraus’ Pizza, John George’s subs, and tiger tails from Liebermann’s Bakery (all Massillon institutions). Another friend invited us to tour the press box and Booster Club meeting room, which is full of Tiger history. And, we even ducked on the field for a quick photo with the inflatable Obie.
I believe that everyone had a great time.
But, I also learned an important lesson as we took in the evening. Outside perspectives are important. As I wrote earlier, I’ve been going to games at the stadium for two decades. I’ve seen the sights and even take them for granted. Sometimes we come late or leave early, we never tailgate, and we’re so used to the scoreboard and fireworks that we don’t really notice them. But, on Friday my friends helped me see everything like it was the first time.
The same true with projects. Make room on your team for members who are removed from the work or problem that the project is to address. Sure, it’s important to get the input of those most impacted, but if you bring in someone who doesn’t deal with the subject matter every day, you’ll benefit from their reactions, questions, and advice.
And, if you’re looking for a teambuilder, nothing beats a high school football game. Especially in Massillon, Ohio.
Don’t forget to celebrate with some fireworks.
While we do everything to attempt to control as many external project factors as possible, do we ever turn the lens inward? What does turning the lens inward mean for a PM? And, I'm not talking about selfies. I mean doing a PM analysis. How do your personality and strengths potentially impact the project? Negative risks? Positive? Can they be accepted or mitigated? Or maybe even avoided altogether.
Know your game; your strengths and, more importantly, your weaknesses. You're not going to be an expert for every subject matter or the master of every domain. Build a complementary project team and stay out of their way while they do what they do best. The basket is still worth two points if you pass and they score.
I’ve been around project management for more than a decade and have yet to meet anyone whose career is a straight line into the profession. Most are accidental PMs who began as functional managers doing project work on the side.
In this week’s episode of Colocation, I share my story of taking on roles that I wasn’t sure I was ready for until one day I woke up to find that I was a full-time project manager.
The accidental PM is to be valued and encouraged as a key member of every team or organization, and in this episode I’ll show you why.
Plus, I’ll apologize to all of the PMs who had to chase me to get my work done or for status updates before I knew any better. I’m thinking of you, Pat and Kim!
Aunt Susie's is run entirely by volunteers and provides services for the health and general well-being of its clients, including:
Transportation to and from treatments and doctor appointments
Meal vouchers and assistance with taxable hygiene items
Dignity tops as a more comfortable alternative to hospital gowns