Here we are - 14 project managers doing the annual planning session
for my department while the snow falls outside on a cold day in January. With
nothing to occupy my mind while colleagues debate the usual wordsmithing of the
third bullet point of the second SMART Annual Performance Objective, the
psychologist in me observed my test subjects (I mean colleagues, of
If you have participated in a bad strategy retreat or a mindnumbing
goal setting session, then you can relate to my story. Think back to a session
that made you want to run to the nearest bar and drown all memories of your
experience. Here are some of the characters in my setting - you probably
observed some characters in your setting.
The blocker/complainer. Every idea is rejected. "They won't let us
do that." "Yes, but the leadership needs to change before we can change - we
can't do anything about it."
The devil in the details. He responds to every suggestion with "How
will that work? Procedure 64.b, sub-paragraph 3 clearly states that we need the
application form by Tuesday every week." Which then leads to further discussion
until the idea has less chance of progressing than an Olympic sprinter in a
The social climber, aka Miss Chameleon. Ideas are supported or
rejected based on perceived social status in the group. You know the type - The
boss has GREAT ideas and subordinates always have worthless ideas.
The self-esteem basket case. Every idea is somehow his idea and
every achievement last year was a direct result of his involvement. He must top
every idea with his own spin on it.
The important point from this experiment is this. You and I
typically respond to new ideas and approach debates from our preferred
perspective. In fact, we are so predictable that you can probably imagine how a
person will respond before the next idea is even suggested to a group of people
that you know.
Try this experiment with someone that you frequently interact with,
such as your executive sponsor.
Step 1. Prepare you status report as normal.
Step 2. Play out the status meeting in your head. What will you
present? How will the sponsor react? What will his mannerisms be? What words
will he utter?
Step 3. Hold the status meeting.
Step 4. Debrief after the meeting. How did the actual meeting
compare with the meeting you imagined in step 2?
Here is your learning. To manage your projects successfully you
need to develop your creative thinking skills. You can't think creatively if you
always respond to new ideas and challenges with the same approach, without the
capacity to change.
If you see the world through only one set of lenses, always and
only have one perspective on everything then you are holding yourself back. You
can't see things in a new light or gain a larger understanding of the world if
you dismiss every perspective that is not your own.
In the coming week - observe yourself and others. Can you see other
perspectives or do you always react in only one way? How else could you react to
a situation on your project? If you always jump into action, observe
how colleague react in similar situations. Ask yourself "What would Wayne do in
this situation?" Taking a moment to consider how someone else reacts is enough
to help you grow a new perspective.