Monday, April 4, 2011
A Positive Mindset
It is what it is. This is one of my favorite statements. I teach project managers that they should always reveal the truth and believe in the concept of "it is what it is." No amount of sugar-coating or truth bending can shade the fact that the project is where it is. It may be behind budget, it may be late or doing very well. No matter what, the project manager should always tell the truth. This statement seems to get questioned the most. In a recent seminar, I received the question "Telling the truth is often considered 'being negative' or 'not a team player' even with data. How do you get past that?" Fantastic question! I get past that with my mindset.
I truly believe that with the right time and resources, a project manager can accomplish anything. In the 1960's, John F. Kennedy stated that we would put a man on the moon, which at the time was only accomplished in science fiction. We have accomplished that feat. There were many failures before success, but we did it. Computers today are more robust and cheaper than they ever have been. We would have never dreamed that 25 years ago. That being said, I have the mindset that we can accomplish anything, given that we have enough time and resources. If I have the proper mindset, then the message that I am delivering to my sponsors or stakeholders takes a different spin. If I say, "That date is impossible unless I get three more resources," then likely that is perceived as negative. However, if I state it as "We have analyzed what you want and found a way to deliver it successfully. I need three more resources, but we can deliver," it takes on a different connotation. I try to never say no. Instead, I try to say yes with conditions. It is the same statement. One is negative and one is more positive.
Being a stakeholder on many projects, more often the project manager approaches me with why something can't be done versus the data of what is necessary to accomplish the task. Remember that in your next negotiation. Instead of telling a sponsor why it is unlikely to achieve success, tell them how to achieve it. I often hear "we can't, we don't, it is unlikely" instead of "here is what I need for success." It is all about mindset and approach. If you establish the proper mindset, it can be very freeing. In fact, you are more likely to achieve success by asking the question of "how can we meet this objective" instead of "why will this objective fail?" It is human nature to grab the negative and roll with it. It takes practice and optimism to grab the positive and enable it.
I know that most project managers have been taught that they own a project from start to finish. Ownership and accountability are two different things. The reality is that project managers do not own the budget, timeframe, or scope. They enable them. Therefore, a project manager should never say no. They should say, "absolutely we can get that done, here is what we need." Try it. You might like it!