Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Project Managers: Manage thyself first

Sun Tzu in his most quoted aphorism said, “ He who has a through knowledge of himself and the enemy is bound to win all battles.” Notice the emphasis on the knowledge of self first.

Many PM”s ignore this key fact. Too many times I see people who are trying to manage groups and they can’t manage themselves: They are late for meetings, they are rarely prepared for meetings, their status reports are always late. In this day of matrix management the only resource that a project manager can truly control is themselves.

A chaotic project manager invariably means a chaotic project. The saying “a fish rots from the head” applies to all projects. If you can’t control yourself, then abandon all hope ye who would be project managers.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

PM's and the depleted ego

In the Orientate phase of the OODA loop one of the elements to be considered is the genetic make up of both yourself and your opponent. One aspect of that make up is the mental energy level of yourself, your team, and your opponent during the process.

Research detailed in Kahneman's book "Fast and Slow thinking" indicates that there is a clear linkage between mental energy and decision making. If someone or a group has been struggling with a difficult decision and then is asked to consider a less difficult but still challenging problem they will not think creatively about the matter. They are more likely to go with their default attitude, revert to the norm as it were. Their mental energy or ego has been depleted.

You know that it exists, just cast your mind back to a decision you made just after a stressful discussion. Did you bring a fresh vigor to the decision or did you either go with the prevailing opinion or accept the solution that was being proposed?

This situation typically occurs during meetings with multiple items on the agenda. If a group has struggled with a difficult problem or one with sharply divided opinions then having solved that they have a reduced appetite for more contention. If you have two or three contentious items in a row the mental energy depletion is manifest and subsequent items will be given very short shift.

From a project managers viewpoint the trick is that if you have to change opinions, to persuade, then you want your item high on the agenda or on a meeting with few contentious items on it. On the other hand if you want a decision rubber stamping then you put it late on a agenda, when mental fatigue is at its highest. Also schedule meetings when not only mental but physical energy is at its highest: early in a morning or in the early afternoon. Also if the meeting is dragging on and you can see interest and energy waning then call a recess and give people a period to recover. Unless of course you don't want them sharp!