Improve Project Management In 2008: Flex Your Mind

sims1.jpgIf you really want to improve your projects in 2008, the best place to start is inside your head. Who cares if you just became a Turquoise Belt Agile Master? Very impressive if you got yourself PiMP certified. If you are a true believer of one particular way of thinking about projects (agile or plan-driven) it is time you start looking for a new occupation.

Every project is unique. Circumstances are always different. Different people. Different goals. To lead a project to success, you need to tailor your approach to the situation. To be able to do this you got to have a flexible mind. One that can switch from one world view to another; one that can use one set of assumptions right now, and an entire different way of thinking in a couple of minutes. The true agile project manager can switch mental models about his project world with the blink of an eye.

If you are trying to run a country and you have a communist background, you probably are trying to regulate, centralize and formalize as much as possible. You want to control every individual behavior in order to control the whole system. When you are raised with a more laissez-faire world view, you can adopt a reign that is totally governed by the free market. Nothing is centrally controlled, everything will take care of itself. Needless to say that both world views have drawbacks and advantages. 🙂

In our world every country has its own customized version of one of the world views, or something on the gliding scale between them. The successful Project Manager can look at his project and assess the situation using different world views, one in which “control” is the answer to everything, and one where “let it go” is the holy grail. And if he trains his mind enough, he can even use a mental slider to get to the spots between the two extremes.

This sounds easy. But letting go of your default assumptions, and adopt a different set for a brief moment is a real challenge; you have to be as open minded as you possibly can be. The switch between communism and free-market is just one exercise. If a Project Manager looks at his project as a group of people (stakeholders) interacting together, he can train his flexible mind by using tree “lenses” through which a project can be viewed:

1) The individual: in this view each person is regarded as a independent, rational entity, that will perform behavior that benefits him the most. Each individual selects the proper strategy based upon his personal aspects and inputs from the environment.

2) Individual as member of social groups: each persons’ identity is created by his associations with different social groups, based upon his race, religion, occupation,hobbies . Each social group has its own rituals, laws, sense of common wisdom. Being part of a group, or a desired wish to belong to a certain group influences individual behavior.

3) Interactions: instead of the individual members of the group, you can also focus on the interactions between the members. The flow of information, the flow and distribution of power, the structure of the task flows.

For 2008, bend your mind. Flex your head. Challenge your believes. Give that mental slider a spin. You’ll love it!

Bas de Baar

Project Shrink 

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2 thoughts on “Improve Project Management In 2008: Flex Your Mind”

  1. Nice to see you here Kimberly.
    Your latest book has really changed my life, (for the better)
    How about a book on Supply Chain Management?
    This seems to be the wave of the future!!!
    Also I agree that a cert. PM,
    may not assure a projects success.
    At many project end reviews-
    the scrappy PM will be able to
    think way out of the box and
    off the grid to create the next project success.
    Looking forward to your next book…
    Dina (h)

  2. Excellent to read your blog, Bas! I, too, am a strong believer in adapting the project management approach to the situation. We need to be project management GUMBYs!! VERY flexible, and open to many different possible ways to accomplish impossible tasks. Getting a credential is fine, just so long as it doesn’t replace one’s brain!! Well done. – Kimberly Wiefling, Author of Scrappy Project Management, among the top 100 Project Management books on the US Amazon.com web site, and sometimes even in the top 10

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