PMTip - Formula for Success

What if the formula for success is backwards. We’re told that if we work hard, we’ll be successful. And of course, if we’re successful then we’ll be happy.

Think about that..... it’s all about the next thing. The next step will make us happy. Keep striving for it, just a little more hard work..... But it doesn’t really work this way.

I recently worked with a CEO that is growing exponentially, but struggling with priorities. His thoughts how to stay on top of things and get that next milestone is to work harder.  That formula is not sustainable and full of inefficiency and lost opportunity cost!   Also, in today's work culture it creates stress and anxiety and lessens collaboration and innovation.

If we’re always focused on what’s next and think we have to dig deeper, work harder, work longer hours,  then we are never in the present and we are more open to mistakes, panic attacks, bursts of anger, burn-out, and this leads to nasty vices ....... and we never truly get a chance to be happy, re-charge and re-energize.  Check out the link www.farnamstreet  (is not too big of a panic attack but enough that he loses his dream job).

This relates to both project work and personal life work.

Projects are short term and temporary, so often we get started (fun times), then soon we get into execution and have to push extra to get it closed.  The later parts are where we seem to hit a lot of negativity and say things such as "push through and then we'll get a rest" or "work harder then we'll be onto the next one".

How often do we get in the rut of working and never stopping to really celebrate the current little things.  We live in a society that constantly raises the bar.

The present, of course, is where we live, interact, learn, grow, feel and enjoy life. 

We need to enjoy the present, we need to enjoy the project planning and execution and also the closing - don't have all the fun only in the early stages (where things are new, fresh and exciting) - enjoy all project stages!!! The objective of everyone of course is to manage our levels of stress and anxiety and bond as a team and have fun throughout the entire life cycle.  Celebrate and be happy today!!!

Pride and happiness are not the result of success but rather they are the fuel. “When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.”

Project Management systems are some of the most influential tools that we can use in both work and personal life to help us be happy.  Understanding Projects enables one to enjoy work at all stages (start, middle, end). This is critical since we spend the majority of our life at work.  Becoming happier means enjoying every day, with less stress and anxiety and higher probabilities of success. Sample formulas for success include:
  • Follow a structured approach for projects you work on (vary the structure with the level of uniqueness & complexity)
  • Remember, the best muscle you have is your brain, work smarter, collaborate, innovate, delegate, prioritize..... avoid the traditional response "time to buckle down and work harder"
  • Focus on PPTV:
  1. People - they will always be the biggest influencers, understand organizational design
  2. Process -  keep level of formality aligned with complexity and have workflows and plans
  3. Technology - embrace and learn, then forget what you learned and be open to learn new
  4. Value - clarify and ensure your work is delivering Value and be clear on how value is consistently defined by all stakeholders
  • Celebrate milestones (find reasons to celebrate, take a chapter from the cultures of Central and South America - when they have a STAT holiday, they shut down the whole city!!!)

Soft Tips for becoming happier (that we can use in both personal and work life) include:
  • Meditate (relaxed minds open doors to collaboration, innovation and openness)
  • Recognize yourself and others
  • Do something nice for someone
  • Change-up your work environment often, regularly get outside
  • Have more team "experiences" and less focus on stuff

Much of this is also talked about by Shawn Achor, check out his TedTalk at   An excerpt from his ted talk includes:

"90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we are then we can affect reality. What we found is that only 25 percent of job successes are predicted by I.Q.  75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat."

Tools - why we suck & fail at project management (top 5)

Don't take this out of context ... but let's face it... we fail a lot and continue to fail in projects.

First of all, we need to address how we define the word "failure".

Try not to get caught up with people that don't understand projects or business and get very stressed and label things that don't go according to plan as a Terrible, Big, Bad, Failure.

For a PM/Business Manager, there will always be parts of the project that "do not go according to plan" (no one has the crystal ball). That is where our TRUE skills, tools and techniques come into play and we steer things back towards the original baseline or plan.

Over the past several weeks I taught to groups of experienced project managers.  A consistent theme is there.  We all fail at projects no matter how experienced, knowledgeable, passionate and focused we are.  AND, we try new tools, get more certifications, better tools, teams, etc, and yet we still seem to fail.

I also attend conferences and have met so many great people that continuously talk about the stress and anxiety of projects they have worked on that failed.

This needs to change.  The main reason is because they have levels of uncertainty/risk (this is real life and they will always be there!).

Lets go back to the basics, with a review of the definition of a project = "Temporary and Unique".

Based on that definition, the level of uniqueness is the tricky part since it can vary so much.  It can be simple and fast (hence not require a lot of detailed planning and risk analysis) or it can be extremely complex and difficult (hence require extensive documentation, planning and innovation).

I have seen a trend shift over the past decade as to why projects fail.  I used to place more technical reasons at the top of the list (poor scope, schedule, budget, quality), but now things have started to change.

In today's new age of project management, we are much more focused on: People, Process, Technology and Value, thus:

Top 5 reasons we still suck at projects include:
1 - Mis-aligned expectations (transparency, consistency, prioritization)
2 - Organizational Design (understand R&R, follow requisite structure)
3 - Communication (sender - message - receiver and all the influencers in between)
4 - Risk management (identify, analyze, respond)
5 - Lack of understanding that PM is a Profession ()

We are destined to have aspects of Failure everytime we manage a project, WHY..... because there are levels of uncertainty/risk based on the level of uniqueness.  Once we all get our heads around this we can all start to work through the risk events that occur with a "level-head" and enjoy our work more (less stress) and share more success!!!

Tools - PM Toolkit Sample

Often I have requests about a summary sheet that has some quick points that are foundational and always good to have in your back pocket. 

Below is a sample table of some good ones and also are good if you were studying for the PMP Test.

5 Top GM Skills   (PINLC)
Problem solving, Influencing, Negotiating, Leadership /Mgmt,
Why Do A Proj (MBTLC) Market demand, Business need, Technological advance, Legal requirement, Customer request
Mandatory, External, Discretionary
Quality Metrics (Operational Dfns)
Criteria, Test, Decision
RAM – Resp Assignmt Matrix (PARIS) Participant, Accountable, Reviewer, Input, Sign off

Org Structures
Functional, Matrix, Projectized
Risk Mgmt Circle
Identify, Analyze, Plan, Track, Control, Communicate
Risk Decision Making Matrices
State of Nature, Strategy, Pay Off
Risk Analysis (PICTA)
Probability, Impact, Cause, Timing, Frequency, Alternatives
Risk Classifications
Effect Based Vs Source Based
Expert Judgment Sources
Your company, Web, Consultants
Org/Assoc/Instit/Industry Groups
Communicatin Matrix
who, who, what, when, how
Cause & Effect or Risk Analysis Triggers (5M)
Man, Machine, Material, Method, Metrics, Mother Nature
Categories (POTPEQ) PM, Org, Tech, Performance, External, Quality
Risk Mgmt Columns (IDCDTORSP) Id, Date, Category, Description, Trigger, Owner, Response, PICTA
Risk Responses
Avoid, Accept, Mitigate, Transfer
Leadership Styles
Autocratic, Consultive, Consensus
Team Dev Stages
forming, storming, norming, performing (adjourning)
5 Sources of Power  (ERRLC)
Expert, Referent, Reward, Legitimate, Coercive
5 Conflict Mgmt Styles (PCSWF)
Problem solving, Compromise, Smoothing, Withdrawal, Forcing
Project Interfaces or Problem Categories:  Internal, External, Managerial, Interpersonal, Technical
Manage the different  wants, needs, experiences, optimism, agendas, expectations, vested-interests
Project Influencers Of Quality
Producability         Flexibility
Usability                Operability
Reliability              Social Acceptability
Maintainability      Affordability
Motivation Theories
Theory X and Y
Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
Herzberg Theory
Other:  Goal setting, Equity, Reinforcement, Expectancy,
Requirements Gathering
Functional, Design, Performance
Cost Estimates
Bottom Up (+/- 5%), Analogous (15%), Parametric (35%)
Budget Analysis Payback Period, Discounted Cashflow, NPV, IRR
Cost Of Quality  Prevention, Appraisal, Failure  
Types of Failure Scrap, Rework, Expediting, Add. Inventory/Material, Warranty, Recall, Liability, Complaint handling, Service/product image, Resource Allocation
Types of Waste  Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Wait, OverProduce, OverProcess, Defects, Intellect
Negotiation Tactics
Deadline, Stall (no authority),
Delay/break, Surprise, Confusion
Fairness/reasonable, Reasoning
Withdraw, Concession point out
Arbitration, Binding arbitration
Attack, Personal insults
Resource Types  Labour, Materials, Facilities, Equipmt, Consultants, Supplies, Utilities
Schedule Dev
Math Analysis = CPM, Pert, GERT
Estimation = Monte Carlo, Lateral Thinking, Brainstorming
Schedule Mgmt =  Fast Track, Crash
Flowchart Techniques (QA)
 Cause & Effect, Process Flowchart, tree
Scheduling Techniques Network Diagrams (PDM, ADM, CDM), Bar Charts (Gantt), Milestone Charts
Estimating Ranges
Order of magnitude    
-25%  to  +75%
-10%  to  +25%
-  5%  to  +10%
Sender (encoder), Message, Receiver (decoder)  Influencers:  Education, Knowledge, Language, Technology, Culture , Politics, Sex, Agenda, Understanding, Past Experiences, Work Experience, priorities, expectations, wants
Process Mapping Eg.  (SIPOC)
Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer