Uncertainty isn’t always negative

Uncertainty is a part of our lives. We don’t know the future and we we try to estimate it (as a species) we fail miserably.

8 X 8 does not equal 64.

Why? because 8 might feel like an accurate assessment but there is some level of variation. If you did (8+/-1) X (8+/-1) you don’t get 64. You get a range that includes 64.

Because we’ve all been burned by estimates not becoming reality we can have a tenuous view of the future.

That tenuous view isn’t an absolute. Sometimes we like uncertainty. Comedy and Magic both play on our love of uncertainty with a positive outcome. Presents are another form of uncertainty with a positive connotation.

As a Project Leader it’s important to view uncertainty as neutral. There are both threats and positive surprises. The balance may be more on the threats, don’t be wary of being guarded against them.

Be cautious about being too guarded. If your project sees you constantly overcome and viewing uncertainty as only a negative element, they’ll follow your lead. Treat uncertainty in a way where it can be both positive an negative.

Tie the Task

Tie the task back to the business value.

Tie the task to the project value.

Tie the task to the stakeholder’s value.

If you don’t tie the task to where it adds value then why do the task?

Sometimes the stakeholder you’re serving is you.

Sometimes the value you add to the project is isn’t to the project, but those who are doing it with you.

Not every task improves the business.

But every task should help some part improve.

To Appreciate

As a PM I’m not the most technical guy when it comes to certain parts of the project. This makes it hard to do the “go-and-see” portion of continuous learning. Often times when I go-and-see people will try to teach me what they know so I could do their job.

This month I’ve changed tactic a bit. I’ve asked them to show me so I can appreciate what they do.

Instead of deep diving into specifics how-tos I come away with a better understanding of workflow and how it intersects that person’s technical role.

Give it a try in your space.

I’d like to learn more about what you do so I can appreciate your contributions. Can you show much what your day-to-day is like?

agreeing isn’t the last step

This was a big deal. Millions of dollars were spent to get to this point. On the call were resources in Hong Kong, S. Korea, and China. Not on the call were a team of other resources spanning from Florida to Hyderabad. The whole team would be waiting on the outcome of the discussion.

The topic, the first scheduled system outage. We needed to agree on a time and method for dealing with the interruption at a manufacturing facility. Mandarin was the primary language on the call. We let each section leader discuss the impact and their plans to overcome the disruptions of the outage.

I don’t speak Mandarin, but it was clear after about 20 minutes that we had an agreement that would work for everyone. Successful collaboration had occurred. We almost ended the call.

But agreeing wasn’t the last step.

Once we reached our consensus we needed to make sure that our plan to communicate and coordinate was smooth after all we just spent 20 minutes discussion what we’d do and when. How would we know when the when was happening?

How many times have you had a good plan go awry because we didn’t build in the communications plan?

Just as important as any agreement is the plan to execute that agreement. It may come across as tedious to talk about, but reminding your group that agreeing isn’t the last step should help them see the value in the effort.

The right thing to do isn’t always on the checklist

People often make checklists, and while they’re not bad tools they really aren’t the best tools ever. Most people who read English have their brain trained to read top to bottom left to right. What happens if the thing that’s the most important on your list isn’t what you remembered first and isn’t what you wrote first on the list?

Then there’s the question about who value to whom.

Don’t smirk. It’s real.

Different stakeholders will see different items on the list as having different values. At work, I measure each task I do based upon the value it has to the business (business value), project value (does it help us move the project forward), stakeholder value (something that improves the stakeholder experience). By measuring my tasks against their intended benefits I can easily adjust and pivot to doing the work that has the most value.

Often times though, the right thing to do never makes it to my checklist.

I saw Michele in the hallway the other day and she looked like she needed a friend. So I asked a question that allowed her to stop and take a breath and describe what was going on. As I listened she could see the value of her efforts. I could appreciate the challenges she was facing. The conversation was mutually beneficial.

Listening was the right thing to do.

But it wasn’t on the checklist…