The project manager walks into his boss’s office and says, “Here is the bottom line budget needed for the success of the project.” The boss asks, “What can you do for half the money?” The project manager says, “Fail.” The boss asks, “When can you get started?” The project manager says, “I think I just did.”
Observe your reaction to the previous paragraph. Did you laugh quietly, snicker, break out in a hearty laugh,…? People react differently, but just the process of telling that story makes an indelible impact on others. The dialogue between two people starts out very common place and takes an interesting turn, perhaps even one we wished we had the presence of mind to express. The humorous story sets the stage for addressing serious issues, such as success or failure.
We advocate for the use of humor and fun in a complete project manager’s toolkit. We do so because we believe it is effective, productive, and memorable. While we cannot offer an exhaustive study and description of humor nor prescribe how to create fun in every situation, we do share our commitment to creating fun working environments, with the hope that others may validate and renew their commitment to the same or else come to a new understanding of the need for “lightening up” some of the serious work of project management.
One program manager I worked with injected humor into the minutes of program team meetings. Usually the brunt of his humor was himself, which is a safe way to do it, such as “Well, yours truly screwed up again…”. One project manager told me she looked forward to reading these reports and passed them along to her sponsor who likewise was eager to read them. Combining entertainment value with reporting progress motivated people to pay more attention to the program.
Humor plays a vital role in getting a person to laugh at situations that may seem overwhelming. One cannot truly laugh and still retain anger or hostility. A project manager’s toolkit is more complete when fun is on the agenda, and every day includes laughter. Life in general and projects specifically seem to flow better and accomplish more when people have fun doing whatever they are doing. Possibly no other single factor provides more benefits than humor and fun. Health, both personally and organizationally, is improved. People want to work together again when they know the experience includes having fun.
Humor may be experienced through the telling of jokes but also may happen through paying attention and making the commitment to the moments in projects that deserve a good laugh. Think differently about various moments encountered throughout a project. Seek a fun path that lightens the load while remaining on target.
Randy Englund, Englund Project Management Consultancy, www.englundpmc.com