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December 2007

Full Contact Project Management

Masonry MagazineSuit up and Show Up

For relaxation, education and friendship, I meet with a group of guys on Saturday mornings, which I've been doing for about a dozen years. We spend about an hour together over a cup of coffee, digging into deep and profound issues. These issues spring from a number of books that we've studied. Good leadership and mutual respect hold it all together, even when the subject at hand is difficult. It doesn't hurt to have a room full of guys with a lot of combined wisdom.

project managementLast week's gathering was no exception. However, I didn't realize how important the lesson was until a day or two later, when the fires started.

Maybe you've had meetings like this at work. You have a troubling or difficult issue on a project, and you pull in your key people to discuss it. Discuss, heck! You dissect the issue. The issue gets laid out, examined and pulled apart until everyone has a chance to weigh in on it, and some kind of a new direction is forged.

At most of the companies I've worked or consulted with, I'm often not the guy with the most technical or field expertise. That's why I usually rely on our key field people — our officers — to help sort things out. Together, we figure out what can be done, and how we can get the project built while benefiting (or not damaging) our company.

That's where I, with a ‘Full Contact Project Management" attitude, come into play. I try to assure we get paid for changes, or minimize our costs of doing this new piece of business.

Back to Saturday...
At my meeting with the guys, we were discussing the idea of doing the right thing and not getting sidetracked by bad habits. My friend, Patrick, gave us the key and set us all straight on how we can't compromise, take shortcuts, or even tolerate poor performance, especially in ourselves.

That's when he said it, "Suit up and show up!" He even put it another way, "Just fake it ‘til you make it."

Right about now, you're probably saying, "But Coach, what does this all have to do with being a better PM? Aren't you kind of going off the deep end here? And, what does all this have to do with the fires?"

I'm glad you finally asked.


Coach Gary says:

You can't become what you need to be...if you remain where you've always been!

You see, I live in Southern California, and we get some nasty wildfires out here, usually in October or so. We've had one close enough to us these past few days that we actually packed up our vehicles with the important stuff we wanted to take with us from our house, should we have had to evacuate before the fire took it to the ground. You know, when you stare at the orange glow on the nearby horizon, and there's a stiff wind blowing toward your house, you do some contemplating. What stuff do you put in your truck, and where do you go when it is time to evacuate? And, when there are a half-million people in your county who have already been ordered to evacuate, with the fire working on another thousand homes a few miles away, you take this contemplation thing pretty seriously.

As I stood there at dawn, staring at the horizon and thinking about all of this, I had no clue Patrick's lesson was about to be made abundantly clear to me, and to you. I was about to witness some amazing people who decided to suit up and show up, and to fake it ‘til they made it. I'm not even talking about the firemen; those heroes don't have to fake anything.

I'm talking about the volunteers. These men and women literally sprung into action, out of nowhere, and did great things, most of it without any formal training. Of the dozens of evacuation centers set up across the counties of Southern California, about half of them were created by private organizations, like churches, and staffed by regular people, like you and me.

No one was complaining about what the government was going to do or supposed to do, or when it would be done. They just took matters into their own hands and made things happen.

It was obvious that all of these people and groups had remembered the lessons learned the last time something like this happened. And how did they pull this off? They suited up. They showed up. They faked it ‘til they made it. They chased a simple idea: Find a way to help out, because it's important.

Here's how this applies to your job: You realize that you need to change the way your company manages some of its projects, deals with its schedules, distributes its resources, and chases that dream of better profitability. And yet, you have resources at your disposal that will help you to do exactly this: to be a better PM and get into the chase.

Sometimes it's hard to think that you could pull this off, or that you could be the kind of a PM who gets things done, on time and on budget. I appreciate how that can be. Maybe that was just the way things were done in 2007, but 2008 is here. So, I'm going to ask you to try something new, and it's a three-step process:

Suit up by using a proven PM system that can get things done, and do this even if you aren't sure that the "suit" fits.

Show up by implementing this system, even if it's little-by-little, and realize that too many contractors do too much extra work for free. Remind yourself, every time your client asks you to do something else for free, that "It's not ours!" Send out your RFI. Become proactive. Keep yourself and your company from getting burned.

Keep on faking it until you start making it. Even if you aren't convinced some system will work for you, realize that it has worked for others, especially the most successful. That's not even arguable. Is everyone else that much smarter than you? Of course not! Have a little faith in yourself; in the systems out there that will improve your bottom line; and maybe even in your self-image.

I just know this: During these past few days, a few thousand people made a heck of a difference in the lives of a few hundred thousand with no formal training. They did it just by chasing an idea, because it's the right thing to do.

Coach Gary's Corner:






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