Three practices for Zen Project Management

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It’s the beginning of the year, and things feel busy already. There’s new projects to be done – energy within our organizations to harness. Ideas to explore. But how can we keep the energy (and projects) flowing without drowning in a feeling of too much to do? These are my hard-learned lessons of Zen project management. And like any good lessons, I too have to keep practicing!

  1. Repeat the Mantra: This Project is a Marathon, not a Sprint.

Agile project methodology be damned: when you introduce those amazing, interesting and fascinating variables called people – projects have their own rhythm. This isn’t to say you can’t use Agile methodology to build and deliver a product — structure to keep things moving is important. This is more of a personal mantra – if your regular pattern of getting things done is killing yourself to do so (and those around you) take a deep breath and repeat after me: This Project is a Marathon, not a Sprint.

Sometimes, often, mostly! groups take time to come to consensus, and any project involving organizational change will have some detours that involve those fascinating people variables. Keep breathing. Repeat “This project is a marathon not a sprint.”

2. Beware of Artificial Deadlines

Particularly when you are managing multiple projects, it’s really tempting to become a victim of artificial deadlines – often that are self-imposed. For example: the sales leadership asked for a new dashboard. You’re busy this week, but commit to producing next Tuesday. Meanwhile something really urgent comes up, and the sales teams are all out at a conference next week anyhow?

Artificial deadline = self-imposed I’ll get this done by next week – causing undue stress and no one’s around to notice the doneness anyhow

This is the number one issue I’ve seen new project managers struggle with – because it’s so hard for us responsible people entrusted with projects of importance.  Keep breathing. Repeat. “I will beware of setting artificial deadlines.”

3. Know your Moment

Getting into a marathon rhythm and not setting artificial deadlines are the foundation for practice #3. Know your Moment.

Which moment is this? If you’re too stressed from not practicing #1 and #2 you’ll miss it. (I know, I’ve been there, I’ve missed the moment, and I’ve seen others miss it too). Feeling resentful and bone-tired will truly cause you to miss a moment of greatness.

What’s a moment? That singular time in the project when it’s do or die. When the team is gathering in the morning to commit to moving forward with a platform, and having their data in the system makes all the difference. When a client is running a statewide campaign, and a form is broken. When the sales leader says they can’t use the tool and get trained on it tomorrow because they don’t have time to enter the new opportunities from the spreadsheet.

Often this moment coincides with a go-live date, but not always. You have to feel it. And when you do feel it – choose to step forward. The people on this project may not remember every step of the project, but they’ll remember this moment. And so you will you. Take it! Stay up late. Do the work. Choose to Commit.

You’ll know you gave it your all, and so will the people around you.

Megan Himan has over fifteen years experience in the nonprofit sector and over ten years working on the force.com platform. She has a unique combination of deep technical skills paired with an ability to strategically convene groups, coach executives and leadership through transitions, and execute on project deliverables. She is Founder & Principal of BrightStep Partners - solutions with strategy for nonprofit success. In September 2017, she was named a Salesforce MVP.

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