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Robert Prol Posts

Desperate project managers

I often think of myself as an accidental project manager. I started my career in marketing, and one day got excited about project management. I shifted my focus, and BANG! I was a project manager.

Most state employment offices offer free project management training and certification support. This has made the way for what I think of as desperate project managers. Their previous occupation has disappeared due to automation, offshoring, or consolidation. Their chosen career is never coming back. They need to transition to a new career. Project management training is free and encouraged.

Few people make it into project management taking this route. They’re missing a very important component in building a new career. Passion. They focus on project management as a way to replace an income from a career they invested a decade or more in mastering. The false allure of a good career sucks them down this new career path of project management. Their motivation is desperation. Which is the worst attitude to carry into a job interview or into a new career.

Look hard at your current career and what is impacting it. Don’t wait for the layoff to have a plan. If you’re displaced from your career choice, invest time in deciding what you are passionate about. Then pursue it. It may require hard life choices. Downsizing, a move, or living on a strict budget. Desperation won’t provide you with what you need to live a fulfilling life.

Have you been forced to make a career path change?

Get your copy of my 5 star review project management book Haiku for Project Managers.

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Conditions may vary

Project management is all about taking a team from Point A to Point B to deliver an outcome. It’s a journey that often follows the same path. Organizations that execute the same project types multiple times are the paved roads of project management. If you can’t manage ambiguity, then seek this type of a project management role. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be the first project managers replaced by artificial intelligence.

Most of the roles I’ve filled in project management align with the definition of a project. Each one is unique. Even when the outcome we want is the same, how we get there will vary based on the conditions we encounter along the way. This requires us to embrace the current situation, reset expectations, and moderate our speed.

I was reminded of this as I ran our beach for about the 200th time this morning. The first 1.5 miles are predictable. It starts on pavement and continues into a tidal marsh. The conditions are predictable. When I reach the creek and turn toward the bay, all bets are off. The tides and storms constantly change the running conditions. I’m often forced to apply rolling wave planning, picking the best line on the mixed stones and sugar sand to get as far down the beach as I can. Sometimes as little as 20 feet. Then I repeat my short term planning. On these days I embrace the fact that I need to pace myself to make it to the finish without running out of energy.

What’s your preference for project management? Do you prefer paved roads, or is the thrill of the beach that energizes you?

Get my almost best selling book Haiku for Project Managers so you can enjoy the beaches more.

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Ensuring your organizational priorities are never met

Without organizational priorities in projects, all of your projects will be low priority by default. Each individual contributor is allowed to prioritize their activities based on their workload and on when individual items are due. This translates to each individual having a different criteria for determining their priorities and longer lead times to project completion.

Productivity is related to throughput. In order to maximize throughput we must refocus our teams on common priorities. The table below represents four projects where activities are completed as they come in (FIFO) and a priority approach. At the end of 6 units of effort (days in this example) we have two projects complete. In a FIFO system it takes 11 units of effort to get complete the first project.

It’s a simplistic example which plays out across many organizations. Prioritize your portfolio and communicate this to your organization. You’ll be surprised at how much better your organization will be at completing projects.

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A solution searching for a problem

I blogged for a bunch of years. The topics covered work-life balance, project management, careers, or whatever random thought that fell from my head through my fingertips. Having a writing practice is fulfilling. It helped me become succinct in my communications which saved me lots of time for other stuff.

I stopped blogging because I was interviewing for a job and a few people told me that the blog may hurt my prospects. I disagreed, but pulled the blog down anyway. The job wasn’t worth ending my blog.

My next writing practice was to write a daily (work days) project management haiku. I did that over a year. Many people asked for a book so I chose my favorite 48 haiku, added some business lessons, and published it.

Now that I have this blog back online, I search for what to write about. I have lots of ideas, but want to make sure they satisfy some criteria I’ve been penciling into a list. I want to write about fun topics that are relevant to most people. Life isn’t all work, and I take a lot of time to enjoy the buffet of life. This includes lessons learned along the way. This is an example of the types of blogs I won’t publish. At least not again. There should be a point, not just a ramble. Maybe next time.

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