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All Productivity Is Personal


This commentary extends ideas posted April 27, 2010 at JimMillikenProject.blogspot.com


    The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, then starting on the first one.

                                                                                                                                          -- Mark Twain


  Easy for Mark to say. He never managed complex Projects, as far as we know. There is the counter-quote from someone who said, “They tell me to solve my first problem, then move on to the second, and so on. But I can't get my problems to wait in line.”


  You don't have to be a Project Manager to be familiar with that suffocating sensation of overwork, struggling against a tide of undifferentiated demands and distractions while viewing several catastrophes beginning to unfold just outside your reach. When you're a Project Manager, that syndrome is a more present danger, more frequent and often more serious. That's the nature of Projects.


  An added frustration can be the obvious availability of capable people who stand helplessly by because they simply don't know how to help. You never had time to show them how – and now it's too late.


  Here's news: You never have enough time, and you never will have enough time. You're a Project Manager.


  Actually, this commentary is not at all a throwing in of the towel. It's a plea for understanding. The Project Manager's commitment to hard work and devotion to duty often dictate an impossible workstyle. That must radically change if the person is to become effective in getting the job done, while becoming mentally and emotionally serene and capable of living a life outside the battleground of current Projects.


  All it takes is changing the fundamental attitude one takes towards the work. This is done on two levels.


   First, the Project Manager declares herself/himself to be a leader of people, not a doer of tasks, and deliberately lays out strategies and plans of personal action that implement the new self-concept.


  That means approaching any new Project, and any function within any Project, with an eye first to who should be and/or will be involved, what is expected of them, what they're like, how to influence them. The Project Manager's actions from the very beginning must be tuned to getting maximum engagement and productive input/output from each person.


   Second, the Project Manager adopts a thoroughgoing WBS way of life. “WBS” stands for “Work Breakdown Structure,” and it dictates that nothing the Project Manager does starts with action – it starts with action planning.


  That's what Mark Twain was referring to in the quote above. (Note to Mark: Didn't really mean that snide shot. Actually, I'm a big fan of yours, but making a point trumps personal loyalty).


  Obviously, the two underlying principles – the primacy of people management and the fundamental requirement for planned discipline – go together. The combination dictates the thought patterns of the Project Manager, and directs the exercise of the skills that assemble the human infrastructure of successful projects. The Project Manager is more a developer/designer/persuader/guide than a doer of things.


  A huge factor in conducting this multiple role is the Project Manager's ability to do the right things at the right time, not only in planning and executing leadership functions, but in foreseeing challenges – frequently far in advance – and managing the entire enterprise to account for them.


  One of the most satisfying components of this kind of success is that key Project Team Members, delighted and inspired by the absence of nasty surprises, redouble their own investments of energy and talent.


  It all happens when the Project Manager decides that all productivity is personal, and acts that way.


Organizations need frequent tune-ups to maintain effective workflow amid change. Jim has long experience – plus creative tools -- to help executives analyze their organizations, then design and implement better ways.
Project Management is the 21st-century model for managing complex, risky innovations to on-time outcomes within budget. Jim Milliken offers workplace-tested designs in customized formats for onsite implementation and classroom training.
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