While Wes is out of the office this week, Anne Hale, our Director of Client Services, is stepping in for this week’s post …
I love this time of the year. The seasons are changing. The weather is cooling. And the best part – Football is back! I was up in Minnesota visiting family last weekend and the Twin Cities are already buzzing about hosting Super Bowl LII in the shiny new stadium (and in case you’re making travel plans – yes, it’s enclosed and heated – & you’ll get extra points from the locals if you dress in purple).
September always offers me great hope and optimism for my Vikings. I was very young during the time of the Purple People Eaters and I frequently flash back on freezing games in my purple snowmobile suit, hot chocolate and my Dad yelling unheard advice to the Refs. Good times.
This year my thoughts include how great would it be if they made it to the Super Bowl when they’re hosting (says every host city annually). But it has been a few seasons since the Vikings made it (well 41, actually). And while they’ve often looked good on paper going into a season, clearly that paper isn’t as clairvoyant as I’d like it to be.
The same is true for projects. You can layout all of the tasks, align all of the resources, plan around the risks – and very often the resulting experience goes off track from the plan on paper. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a success. But like all of the teams out there that have been carefully planning and preparing – once the season starts, things can go sideways….quickly.
In my opinion, it’s the synergy of a few different factors that gets you to a successful conclusion – both in projects and football, for that matter.
The Fantasy Football fanatics are nearing the hyperventilation stage at this point in the calendar (at least the ones I know are). They will be the first to tell you that it’s all about the team. The team that you assemble is critical. You need to make sure that you have the people with the right skills and experiences available at the right times for your plan to be a success.
But it’s not just about the individuals. Beyond skills and experiences, ideally the work (and attitude) of each player complements the efforts of others on the team – so that collectively their results are stronger. You may have some incredibly talented people on your team, but how they interact and support each other can change the whole team atmosphere and productivity of the project – or progress moving the ball down field. Basically – (in Vikings speak) you want to balance your Cris Carter types with your Randy Moss types.
A key factor in success is your strategy. As a team, you know the strengths (and weaknesses) that you bring. Your experience tells you what risks the normal run of the game may present. Your strategy then couples these elements with the variables.
In football, the variables are the talent, experience and results of the opposing teams. In a project, the variables mainly surround your client: their environment, their team, the problems that they’re trying to solve – and their variables (their clients, changing regulations, their other service providers, etc.). Variables could also include your partners and their performance, and so on.
A strategy takes the known – the tasks to be completed, the team that you bring to the game, the understanding of your variables – and defines a plan of approach (your project plan or game plan). A good strategy takes that plan and couples it with a variety of options should X, Y or Z happen. A Hail Mary can be the right play to run when there’s a change in the plan – but it might not be the best one to run if that change was that your star quarterback arm is now out of commission.
So your star quarterback is out of commission, or your lead programmer just won the lottery & ditched you – all kinds of things can change over the course of executing your plan. One of the greatest factors to still achieving success, in my opinion, is how you respond to these events.
Some teams will dwell on whatever happened and who’s to blame. Others will look at the event, where it puts them now and assess how to move forward given the resulting change in where they’re at. My money will always be on the latter team achieving success.
There will be time after the project or the game to look at how events occurred and what the lessons are to be learned. But in my experience, keeping an attitude positive and focused on recovery and repositioning are the best response to staying on track for success overall. And as a project manager (or coach), your attitude and focus will more than likely set the tone for the entire team – and project.
We project managers love our plans. I know it’s a little weird – but we do. And the best way to meet that all important end goal of the plan is to flesh it out with the right team, the right options and the right response when things go awry. It might not get you to a Super Bowl, but I bet your clients will be happy!
So who do you think looks good on paper to make it to the Super Bowl? My Vikings may be a bit of a stretch – but I’m looking forward to cheering them on. In purple, naturally.
Anne Hale is the Director of Client Services at HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management and warehouse solutions. She manages our client engagements, works with Wes on sales and marketing and has an unwavering belief that the Vikings will win the Super Bowl…some day.