Communication is the biggest problem in human life. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because we do it all wrong. So let’s drop our typical vision of business “communication” to start something much more effective: “dialogue.”
I’ve been reading an interesting discussion of project managers on LinkedIn. The discussion started with a question about the most important element of successful projects. A large percentage of the comments center around project communication with a recurring theme that said roughly this: “you can be the world’s best communicator, but some people just won’t get with the program.”
Today is International Women’s Day, so it’s fitting that I capture a few thoughts on women and influence. Last year, Warren Buffett said, “America has forged (their) success while utilizing, in large part, only half of the country’s talent. For most of our history, women — whatever their abilities — have been relegated to the sidelines. Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem.”
Women are often relegated to the sidelines. Despite Sheryl Sandberg’s advice that we “lean in”, there are forces at work that have nothing to do with an ability to get the job done. Many of those forces are benign, a simple artifact of decades (centuries) of male-dominated societies. Women do things differently, and those differences are somewhat hard-to-understand for the pantheon of men-at-the-top.
What does it really take to run a project successfully? I hear that question on a regular basis. It sometimes surprises me, because the answer is really very simple.
Don’t get me wrong… Most project managers work very hard. This job is the closest thing most of us will ever come to juggling angry kittens. Even small projects have lots of “what ifs” and “yes, buts”. While some large projects can take years, small projects might be finished in a matter of days. No matter the size, here’s the action framework to keep in mind.
First, make progress toward goal(s).
Nothing else matters if you’re not proceeding toward one or more of your goals. Job one for all project managers should be to understand ALL the goals of the project, from all stakeholders. Job two is to understand – and clearly communicate – the priority for those goals. There will be conflicts, which you are there to resolve. Understand your goals and priorities BEFORE you start the project and you will have an all-purpose roadmap for resolving issues along the way.
Almost four years ago in a fit of pique over bad reception and high prices, we ditched cable television. It was very satisfying to take our cable boxes and remotes down to the cable company and say, “Here, we’re done with these.” The woman in the service center wasn’t really our antagonist, so we just politely told her why we were ditching our service, and as we were leaving she good-naturedly said, “Good luck, but feel free to come back if you miss us.”
Most of us know the story of Kodak. The company was a powerhouse. It was founded in 1888, and for about 100 years, was THE company you thought of when you thought of cameras, or film, or photography. I still have my grandfather’s Brownie camera (that’s it in the photo). My brother has my dad’s, the one he used to take pictures during the Korean War.
Ever have a day when you don’t have any deadlines? If it only happens occasionally, you’ll feel blessed to have a day to catch up on a few things. But there’s a hidden lesson here: without client- or boss-driven deadlines, it’s often hard to get started.
Centuries ago, there were landowners (managers) and there were peasants (workers). That management structured worked up until roughly ten years ago, when we began to see the rapid move toward the “matrix organization”.
I know… it already sounds like I’m skeptical of the matrix. I’m not. But I’ve seen it plenty. And it doesn’t always work as well as it could.