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The heart of a sprinter

Your project timeline has just been cut, significantly. Let’s say it’s for a reason you understand. Does any part of you get excited? If so, you are one lucky project manager, because it means you have the heart of a sprinter.

I think this is a great asset. It enables you to approach the task of adjusting your priorities and negotiating the scope with energy and enthusiasm, which you can communicate to your team. Absent this characteristic, you have to spend precious time adjusting your own expectations while the rest of the team wonders what to do. This adversely affects morale, which is of course the last thing you need heading into a shortened work program.

Image courtesy of Eastman’s Originals Collection, Group 119, University of California, Davis.

I’ve written before about serving on a task force about project management skills, once regarding time management and once in connection with skills training.  I noticed, while working on our final report, that even though we had covered all the basic and even the advanced skills and techniques, we did not address this kind of inner drive.

I don’t really see much about this topic generally in the project management community. We talk and write a lot about process, and order, charts, time-frames, and inter-dependencies. But what about the juice, the spark that gets us across the finish line, especially when it’s been moved?

I think this is one reason why Agile has grabbed so much of our attention: it’s the idea of the sprint itself. I’ve worked with this model, and I have found that the 30-day rhythm , even when artificially imposed, can be an exhilarating challenge.

It’s always been the case that schedules get upended. But when budgets are as tight as they are now, and senior management is asking for transformation, not just revision, hairpin turns are more common in the project roadway.  To put it another way: you could say we are living through a new kind of environmental risk factor.

I’m arguing that the person who brings to that reality his or her own reservoir of energy is ahead of someone who is just applying good project management principles. What do you think?