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Robert Prol Posts

Choosing the right tool (or person) for your current problem

All of us will need someone to help us at various points in life. It can be simple help, like how to find a cross-street while in a strange city. Or complicated, like what to do with the rest of our lives.

Make sure you pick the right person to provide the type of help you need. Asking an uncle who spent a career assembling widgets on a factory floor won’t help you much if you’re trying to resolve an issue with a challenging colleague or manager. Their skills may be more around the mechanical issues that arise in your life.

Aligning your needs with the expertise of the person you’re engaging will save both of you time and energy. Keep this in mind when you’re asked to help someone else. If you lack the context or expertise needed, let the person know this. Offer to connect them to someone who can provide better insight into resolving their issues.

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Breaking the rules for the organization’s good

Organizations put controls in place to minimize risks, measure productivity and outcomes, and to make more beautiful reports. These controls are often in direct conflict with individual work habits.

People bypass controls to be more productive because the tools provided by the organization aren’t meeting the person’s needs. Rarely do people bypass controls because they want to do something bad.

Organizations can learn a lot by determining why their employees bypass the controls. If they’re bypassing controls to do a better job, invest the time and money to provide them with a comparable approved tool to meet their needs. This is how an organization improves employee engagement and job satisfaction while driving up effectiveness.

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My list of excuses

I have a list of excuses not to run. I’m tired, it’s cold, it’s raining, I don’t have the time, I’d rather read a book, it’s boring, my favorite jacket is in the laundry. It’s easy to find one at a moment’s notice.

I also have the antidote for excuses. It’s having a goal that I can’t ignore. Like a race. I used to do lots of 5 kilometer races. Then it became boring. Why drive somewhere, stand around waiting for the race to start, then for the
finishers, then drive home so I could run for 20 minutes? It didn’t make sense.

Last year I signed up for my first half marathon. I downloaded a 12 week training plan, and stuck to it. Okay, I missed a week of it, but I still kept to it. I ran in cold rain and in sweltering heat. I destroyed my iPod Nano, a Garmin 305 GPS, and a pair of running shoes. There wasn’t any room for excuses.

After the race I slacked off. I ran a few times, and pulled out my list of excuses, removing the dust and using them again. Then my wife said “why don’t you do another half marathon”? Because I swore them off. I had no intention of doing one again. Never. Again.

While attending a neighborhood Christmas party, an avid runner told me that I’d change my mind. I’d run another half marathon. A couple days later I decided I’d plan on doing three of them in 2017. I signed up for a half marathon in Newport, Rhode Island¬†on April 15th.

Goals are the best way to overcome your excuses. Pick them carefully and then focus on them. Excuses are for other people.

 

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When project failure is a success

Sometimes our greatest success as a project manager is when we’re able to make the case that a project is failing and needs to be shut down. That no amount of optimism, extra efforts, or additional meetings will generate success.

Project managers must be the one place where facts override emotions. Where data shows clearly what the current status is. We need to be above the fray holding the facts to guide the team to the cold reality.

No project manager hopes to be the wielder of the reality stick. Yet we’re often all that stands between organizational bias and reality. It comes with our roles as project leaders.

What is your favorite project failure?

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