Sunday, June 15, 2008

June 16, 2008 - Along for the Ride

For Father’s Day yesterday, we went to Knott’s Berry Farm, technically the oldest theme park in the United States. Father’s Day has to be the best day to go to an amusement park because there were no lines.

While we were waiting to board one of the roller coasters I snapped a picture of the warning sign: “Many rides at Knott’s Berry Farm are dynamic and thrilling. There are inherent risks in riding any amusement ride. For your protection, each ride is rated for its special features, such as high speed drops, sharp turns or other dynamic forces. If you choose to ride, you accept all of these risks.”

Perhaps projects should have their own warning signs:

“Many of the projects at are dynamic and thrilling but you probably won’t be assigned any of those. Regardless, there are inherent risks in managing any project. For our amusement, each project is rated for its special features, such as highly frustrating directors, unproductive team members, over ambitious time lines, unrealistic expectations and only a vague sense of scope. Unfortunately, we will keep this knowledge from you.”

So by now your seatbelt is fastened, the lap bar is in place and the ride operator has pushed the final button. Your project is picking up speed as it heads for the first turn. Now what?

Open Your Eyes. Rides are better if you can actually see what is coming. Take a realistic look at your project.

  • Assess your team and determine what to expect from each individual. This includes knowledge, ability, availability, work ethic and attitude.
  • If already written, re-read the charter or statement of work to understand what bumps you are expected to hit.
  • If the charter or statement of work is not written, take the opportunity to write it, defining your scope and setting everyone’s expectations.

Secure Loose Articles. Straps on your glasses are a good idea. Get a good understanding of your budget, resource allocations, scope and any other aspect of your project that isn’t well defined. If you can’t explain it, you can’t manage it.

Focus on the Horizon. Some rides can make you sick to your stomach unless you focus at a fixed point and ignore the whirling objects all around you. Set you sites on the project scope and reign in the urge to go chasing extra items to add on.

Put Your Hands in the Air. Gripping tightly to the restraining bar does nothing to direct the ride or protect you. If you are strangling your team trying to force them to do things your way, loosen up a bit. Micromanaging the team isn’t going to keep it on track.

Scream. There are appropriate times for letting it out. Surprise, shock and horror occasionally pop up while managing projects. The tricky part is keeping it from becoming anger and dismay. Maybe screaming isn’t the most effective communication method. Lower your voice, but make sure people hear your concerns and address the issues.

Enjoy the Ride. Survival shouldn’t be the only goal. Having fun along the way is good for your team and for your blood pressure.

No comments: