The Project Notebook

Just for Today

By: Susan Peterson, M.B.A., PMP
Copyright 2011, Susan Peterson, All Rights Reserved

It’s that time of year when so many of us contemplate a “fresh start” for a better life personally and professionally. Making New Year’s resolutions is often a part of starting this process. However, statistics indicate that few resolutions are still in force by the end of January. One reason for the demise of so many well-intentioned goals is that it seems impossible to maintain challenging resolutions for the rest of our lives. Some “experts” advocate shortening the time perspective by focusing on keeping the resolution “just for today”. Project managers can also become overwhelmed by the thought of having to sustain efforts for the entire length of a project. Let’s look at some possibilities for applying “just for today” to project management challenges.

Just for today. . . I will have the courage and the intestinal fortitude:

 To not accept that a project has to be underfunded
I will use relevant terms and concerns that make the project sponsor realize the true impacts of taking the lowest bid or cutting corners at every step. Sponsors may not comprehend earned value analysis, dependencies or any of a number of common project management terms. However, “decreased net sales revenue”, “lack of customer confidence”, and other specifically business-related phrases are more apt to grab the attention of sponsors. I will also rise to the challenge of finding creative (and legal) sources of additional funding so that the sponsor appreciates the seriousness of my budgetary concerns.

To get to the source of unrealistic completion dates
I will uncover what force is driving the project implementation date. I will also work with the client, customer, and/or user to determine what really needs to be done by the target completion date. Using education regarding tradeoffs will assist in setting realistic expectations. I will remind myself that these people have probably always been told at the beginning of the project that the target date is “doable”. They don’t make the connection that an upfront “yes” is often followed by a backend “we need a little more time”.

To focus on needs not wants
I will ask questions that cause the client, customer, and/or user to dig deep beyond the surface symptoms to get at the real problem or opportunity. At that point we can all focus effectively on addressing the actual issues rather than spinning off on tangents that will hinder project performance. I will also identify relevant measures of success that are meaningful to the project sponsor.

Let’s not forget the project manager’s need for a “just for today” assessment:

 Just for today . . . I will focus on the strengths that make me a good project manager. I will think about the many good things that have happened on the projects that I have managed. After all, there are always plenty of people who are willing to criticize but few who are willing to praise.

May all of your 2012 projects be successful . . . and if not, remember the upbeat thought of the “Gone With the Wind” heroine, Scarlet O’Hara, . . . “tomorrow is another day!”

Susan Peterson, M.B.A., PMP, is a consultant who manages diverse programs and projects in both the private and public sectors for individual organizations and consortia. She also conducts enterprise assessments of project portfolio management practices. Prior to establishing her consulting practice Susan led major efforts for Fortune 100 organizations throughout the United States. She teaches the Project Management Simulation capstone course as well as the Project Portfolio Management course in the University of California, San Diego, Project Management certificate program and is a member of the curriculum committee. She can be contacted at susanada@aol.com

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP