It is your decision
What do you get for passing “GO” in Monopoly? Some (play) money. What do you get for taking over a troubled project? Nothing. The only thing you probably get is a warm handshake and “I am so happy to have you here, you are such an experienced project manager, you know how to master this.”
Welcome to daily madness. Everyone is on the run, due dates are late, the budget is exceeded, the customer moans, stakeholders shake their heads… And if you want to go crazy, don’t you dare to stop doing everything exactly as your predecessor did. Just continue and play your given role.
I did not. I had no wish to end with a burnout. I assessed the project and decided to experiment. I developed and stayed with some personal convictions and I tried some techniques from the Agile project management. I started with a so called “Swedish coffee”. In Sweden – so I was told by one of my team – project teams use to sit in coffee corners and discuss project relevant matters of all kind and priority. No beamer, no agenda, no minutes – just the team and the project (“just the team” means, I was very lucky to have great team members on board!). What we did while we were drinking coffee? We went through risk and actions lists – based on what every one of us had in the head – and we made decisions. Decisions about roles and responsibilities, about customer’s expectations and about priorities, even personal development, touch typing and short cuts in Excel and Word … Very simple but also very important things!
It is very easy
The next step was to involve three of project managers’ best friends in the team: Murphy, Pareto and Eisenhower.
Murphy, because unexpected events make us (project managers) happy: we can show how brilliant and how cool we are. If you have to deal with “green” projects with no issues, you are more or less useless and get totally bored. Pareto is our friend because he has shown that we only need 20% of the designated project resources to get 80% of the desired output done. This works for all team members, not only for the project manager! Eisenhower finally helps to decide which of your tasks you definitely need to do by yourself.
So we sat in the coffee corner, differentiated our tasks into “handle”, “delegate” or “leave”, discussed about soccer and weekend activities and … stressed the nerves of most of the other people in the company. While everyone else was running around like headless chicken, my team and me decided to be lazy and to work less for more fruits. As a new project manager within this organization, I had some doubts if I do experiment too much, but: our project went well, we mastered our tasks, we were nearly on budget and wonderful on time and our customer was – yes no kidding: relaxed.
You are not alone
Have you read the “4 hours week” by Tim Ferris? Some recommendations to eliminate time consuming things are very easy to implement and Tim has a huge number of followers. You want it less general and more related to project management? Read Peter Taylor!
I met Peter in 2010. He spoke about productive laziness in one project management conference, and from this day I knew: I am on the right way. I am not alone. It is possible to reduce effort and still get your project in good shape. It is great to have more free time for proactive planning and team building. And there is absolutely no need to run around as a headless chicken to have success.
My project is in the final phase now. From Peter’s book I learned that the dinosaur is fat in the end and that I need to invest some more hours now. I have enough energy for this, because I was very lazy in the past 4 to 6 months. And you can do it as well!
p.s. This article is also posted by Peter on his blog.