Scan the horizon

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When I was learning to drive, I was taught to “scan the horizon” all the time. Watch about 1-2 kilometers ahead, then check the car right in front, then check the gauges, then back out to the 1-2 kilometer horizon. You won’t run out of gas (well, you won’t be surprised if you do!), you are less likely to hit the car in front – and you will be able to slow with lots of time if something way up ahead is going wrong.

Project Managers should develop this habit. Scan your project’s horizon, then what’s coming next month, then next week, and then deal with whats happening right now. Then – BACK to the far horizon, etc. in a non-stop scan. Try to live about 3/4 of our PM life in the future, preparing to deal with what is coming up tomorrow, next week, next month, and about 1/4 of our time checking on the today stuff. Trust your team to do their work (checking periodically, of course) and manage the future so they can keep doing their work well. 

You will be home in time for dinner more often. You will be surprised less often. You might even have more fun.

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Love your team

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In any project, your team will make everything happen – or not happen. Teams are made up of people, humans hired to do the work. But if we treat them like “human resources” or simple units of labor, we will not get the best results.

Love them. Like them. Talk to them. Be a friend, a supporter. Let them experiment. Ask their opinions, and take their advice. If we have done our jobs right as a project manager, when the project is done the team should say “Look what we did!”. 

A very wise PM once challenged me to go an entire week without using any personal pronouns whatsoever. No “me”. no “I” or “my”. Try it. Instead of saying “I want this done by Thursday”, say “The project needs this output by Thursday. How would you make that happen? What support would you need? What obstacles stand in your way?”

Try it. Build up your team. Then hang on!