Some time back I was in a meeting with a project manager who presented the status on his troubled project to the project sponsor and other executive stakeholders. This project was of high interest to the sponsor and stakeholders as they were depending on its successful completion to make some major changes in their respective organizations. The project sponsor asked the project manager a very straightforward question:
Why is the project slipping?
The project manager went into a long, meandering monologue. The sponsor interrupted and asked the question again. More meandering from the project manager. Seeing the sponsor and other stakeholders’ growing frustration, the project manager’s boss stepped in and said they needed to do more homework and would come back the next day better prepared. The next day, the project manager’s boss presented the status and answered questions--along with a new project manager.
In a recent phone call I told the CEO of my insurance brokerage that after being a loyal customer for 15 years I had moved all my business to other providers. Given our long-standing relationship, I felt I owed him an explanation; not because I wanted to see someone fired, but because I wanted him to know my reasons for leaving so he could put any lessons learned to use.
It started about seven years ago when the person assigned to my business insurance seemed to lose interest in me. He wasn’t on top of my renewals, made me do work that he could have done for me, and didn’t competitively bid my insurance. I moved all of my business insurance to another agency. A similar issue happened in the past year with my personal insurance; I simply didn’t feel that I was important to my agent. The final nail in the coffin came when my bank notified me that my homeowners’ insurance had lapsed two months earlier without any notification from my insurance agent. I then reached out to another agency, who quickly bound coverage for me at 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening.
In 2004, my wife Patty and I decided to team homeschool our autistic son because we knew he would need more help as he entered middle school. I had spent 20 years in corporate America, working for both Accenture and Microsoft, but in the Fall of 2004, I became his part-time math and science teacher, spending the remainder of my time doing business consulting and writing books.
Up to that time I always had either a client or office to go to. With the change to homeschool teacher/author/consultant, I now had no place to go each day. My office was either our playroom where we homeschooled, our home office, or local coffee shops. It was definitely an adjustment and I learned a lot about how to be effective without going to a workplace. Now I can’t imagine it any other way.
In Behind Gold Doors-Nine Crucial Elements to Achieve Good-Enough Contentment I discuss how to achieve what I term "good-enough" contentment in your life. The book is a story about Ty, who seemed to have it all, then one day it all changed. At the end of his rope, Ty had a chance encounter with a quirky old woman who brought him on a journey to discover the nine crucial elements of good-enough contentment and helped him put a plan in place to fill his contentment gaps. His outlook on life changed forever as a result of him thinking through each of the contentment areas, re-aligning his expectations to think in terms of good-enough, and creating a prioritized plan to work towards good-enough contentment. If you haven't read the book yet I recommend you pick it up :-).
Done and Done - Promoting Disability Inclusion by Helping Our Autistic Son Transition from College to Workforce
In December 2015 our son Trevor, who was diagnosed with autism at age 5, graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Film and Media Studies. Despite the challenges and all of the change Trevor endured in his college experience, he graduated with a 3.5 GPA with very little assistance. He also experienced living by himself, living with nice and not-so-nice roommates, internships, and a summer job as a photographer at a boys camp in North Carolina. He gained a tremendous amount of life experience and learned a ton about himself as a person. His graduation in December put an exclamation point on a very rich college experience. But college is only one race in the marathon called life; his next race - employment - was yet to start. Read more
Within a few months of my open door policy, I saw my own productivity drop and my frustration level rise because I kept getting interrupted by people taking me up on my open-door policy. My open-door policy soon turned into a series of random interruptions that caused me to not get my stuff done. I came to recognize that I needed to be accessible to people but that I could control the accessibility through scheduled time. Open-door means be accessible, not come in whenever you want.
Bill was a newly appointed project manager over a mission-critical systems development initiative. Ann, Bill’s boss, trusted Bill to lead the initiative and gave him the latitude he needed to execute without getting in his way. While the two worked well together, they did struggle in one area: decision-making. They had several instances where Ann was surprised by key decisions Bill made but didn’t inform Ann. Bill also didn’t benefit from Ann’s experience on several issues and made uninformed decisions that hurt the project. Ann asked Bill to include her more on decisions, but Bill took that as him needing to come to her on decisions he could have made on his own. Bill grew frustrated with his perception of Ann micromanaging him, whereas Ann just wanted to ensure she was in the loop on key decisions. The project ultimately got done, but not without a lot of friction between the two.
Friction that could have been avoided.
Talk about your character-building experience...
I was a young hot-shot project manager on an engagement that I had sold to a client. I had it all planned out and had delusions of completely delighting my client with an issue-free project. It all seemed so simple, then the project started...and never finished.
I'll spare you the gory details of my harrowing experience but what I can tell you is that I put more focus on selling and planning the project than I did on its execution. I took a naive attitude of the project being able to pretty much run itself with some junior analysts running the day-to-day aspects of the work. It blew up in my face and I got booted from the client never to return again. It was my inaugural visit to the project management guillotine.
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