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Issue # 32 January 2011

Pow'Rful Presentations Newsletter

January 2011 - Planning to Fail
Pow'Rful Presentations is a relatively monthly investigation of ideas, strategies and techniques to assist readers be more present in life, better project managers and make effective presentations (in all senses of the word).
Disclaimer - depending on your background, and my South African origins, you may find some of my spelling and grammar to be "imaginative".

© Wayne Botha 2011

What do you do when your plan fails? 

As a great project manager and project leader you know that the key to successful project management is an up to date project plan. Without a realistic and up to date project plan, you don't know where you are on the project or where you are headed.


We also know that a project plan is never set in stone. No sooner have you updated your plan and communicated it out, than something changes and your plan needs to be updated again.  


In this article, your will learn what to do when a simple project plan update and replan is not sufficient, especially on a personal project. What do you do when your project plan is not working. Totally, not working. Let's use a simple example to illustrate the points.


Let's say that you want to write a book, and are using project management skills to accomplish your personal goal. For simple math, your book is about 50,000 words long in ten chapters, giving you about 5,000 words per chapter. Assuming that you write 1,000 words per day, you can write your book in fifty work days. Assuming that you choose to write every day, then on day one you will write 1,000 words, and after day two you will have written ,000 words.  Continuing with the simple math, after day 10 you expect to have written 10,000 words.


Now, what if you plan is not working? What if you find that at the end of day five you have written zero words? Use these tips below to help you move forward.

Tip#1 - Have a realistic plan.
You cannot measure progress or get a picture of the project without a realistic plan. Your current plan may not be realistic. You won't know until you layout the plan and then try to execute it. Therefore, go ahead and create a draft project plan for your personal project titled "Write my book." As you measure actual progress against planned progress reconsider if your plan is realistic or not. If it is not realistic for you, then swallow your pride and create a new plan that is realistic (with the benefit of your experience from the failed plan.)

Tip#2 - Honestly, evaluate why you are not making progress.
Use the 20 answers technique to honestly find out why you are not making progress. To do this, take a sheet of paper (or a new document in your word processor) and title it "Question: What can I do differently to make progress on writing my book?" Then write down at least 20 answers to this question. Don't stop until you have at least twenty, because the good answers come from the answers that are hardest to think out. If you don't have the time to write, then how can you make the time? Do you need to give up an activity that takes up your time? Do you need a better writing environment to motivate you, such as a public library? Are you stuck on a chapter or topic with writer's block? Who can you find, or where can you look to find ways to deal with writer's block? (There are resources online and published books to overcome writer's block.)

Tip#3 - What to do if you don't know why you are not making progress?
In the case that you can't identify your lack of progress, start keeping a log to observe your behavior. When you sit down to write, what goes through your mind that prevents you from getting started? If you are getting started, what keeps you from sticking to it? Once you write it down you have a starting point to look for a solution. For example, if you have an inner critic that sneers at your attempts to string words together, then I recommend reading the book "Taming Your Gremlin." If you find that you don't know how to type or use your word processing program, then look for training. Also, consider working with a professional coach to start taking action again. Don't allow your lack of progress to prevent you from moving forward, indefinitely.

Tip#4 - Put in a lot more effort.
If you are not making progress, it could be that you are motivated and committed, but have underestimated the amount of effort required to write your book. This is nothing to be ashamed of. An estimate is just an estimate. Try to put in a lot more effort for a few days to see if this gets you moving on writing your book. Instead of planning to write for one hour, block out two hours on your calendar, put off the TV and sit in front of your PC to write. Commit to sitting there, and writing, even if you are convinced that your work will result in a rough draft that will need editing afterwards. After you put in a lot more effort you have better data points to re-estimate and replan.

Tip#5 - Consider giving up the project.
What would it feel like to just give up the project? Just to live the rest of your life without it, altogether? If the project is worth pursuing, then who can you get to support you? Sometimes the way to determine the value of a project to you is to imagine what it would be like to give up the project. Then, with the contrast of "my life with this book written" versus "I gave up on writing a book", you gain a different perspective on your personal goal.
Tip#6 - Who has done what you are trying to do?
Who has already written a book? Who do you know that has written fifteen books? Can you call him and ask him how he did it? Does he offer training courses or workshops that can help you to learn to write? Is there a writing group in your area that you can join? In other words - find someone in your circle of friends who knows how to reach the goal that you are trying to reach and ask them for advice. If you don't know anyone who has written a book ask your friends if they know anyone who has written a book. You never know who your friends may know that can connect you. Also, never take advice from someone who has not done it themselves. Hearsay will hinder you more than help you. 

In summary, when your project plan to accomplish a personal goal is not working, consider it a failed plan and not a failed project. Knowing that a plan failed gives you more information and experience to create a more realistic plan in the next iteration. I speak from experience here. I used to try and make a plan work no matter how unrealistic it was. Now, I learn from the lack of progress, realize that my plans will be imperfect and sometimes fail. Then I simply incorporate the experience into my next iteration of project plan.

There you have it. Now, you also know what to do when your plan fails with these six tips in your project management tool kit.


Managing your professional development. 

How will you grow in 2011? What skills will you proactively acquire? Now is the best time to lay out a simple plan for your professional growth at the end of each month in 2011. Using the article above, track your progress. Before you know it 2011 will be a memory. When you reflect back on 2011, will you be satisfied with your professional development in 2011, or be regretful and wish that you had done more and experienced more? Don't leave your professional development to chance. Plan it and manage it, because no one else will. Subsequently your value  will decrease along with your real income while inflation erodes the value of your salary.



New Year's Resolutions for the unorthodox project manager who wants to stand out from the crowd in 2011. 

Why settle for the same old, same old resolutions "Lose twenty pounds, save more money, work harder" that every other project manager on the planet has. Instead, resolve to reach these goals in 2011, and be noticed.


1. Work every lunchtime, hold lunchtime meetings, eat at your desk, never exercise and gain at least 30 pounds. Divert attention from your weight gain by using guilt on your team members with "Are you take a lunch break, again?"


2. Develop a new hobby, such as brewing hand crafted beers at home which provides potential for extreme calorie intake. Consume large quantities of hand crafted beers, to support resolution #1. Then, attribute your weight gain to working every lunchtime to show your dedication to your projects. Use this opportunity to place additional guilt on team members with the words "You are so slim because you have time to exercise and don't work through lunches like I do."


3. Never respond to an email the first time you receive it. Wait until you receive at least one follow up email reminding you, and then respond with a curt answer. This educates stakeholders to appreciate your time and to never expect a speedy response from you, which makes you stand out from the crowd.


4. Develop a new set of project management superstitions and share them liberally with your stakeholders. For example, "Did you know that research shows that projects kicking off on a Wednesday have 95% failure rate? I suggest you wait until next week and we have the kick off meeting in Bora Bora for the highest chance of project success."

5. Begin every project management status meeting with a list of complaints. Encourage team members and stakeholders to complain about everything that is wrong with the project. You are sure to stand out as "the walking disaster manager." 


6. Purposely include errors in meeting minutes when you are the designated note taker for staff meetings. Do it often enough, and you will be taken out of the rotation pool.


There you have it. If you follow these tips then your new year's resolutions will make you stand out. However, I recommend that you apply some common sense and realize that what you are reading is for your viewing pleasure and not to be taken literally.

Do you need a speaker for your Rotary club meeting or Project Management association chapter meeting? Contact me and lets see if we can work together for a win/win/win outcome.

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Email me with any problems or questions that you have about project management or presentations and I will attempt to address them in a future newsletter.

More next time!

Wayne Botha

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