Turning “Pro” and redefining the meaning of success

In project management, turning “Pro” to me means reaching the point in your career when you can still feel successful, even when we end up delivering a failed project.

I believe this requires 3 things:

  • Unlearning what we have been taught, since the beginning of our careers, as the definition of a successful project manager.
  • Separating the definition of our success as individuals from that of our project’s outcome.
  • Having the capacity to detach ourselves, as much as possible, from the outcome of the project (whether it is success or failure).

Unlearning the definition success

We all grew up with the iron triangle. It has been drilled into our psyches from the day we took our first Project Management course. We have been taught that a successful project manager always brings projects on time, on budget, and on scope. This definition actually sets us up to fail, even when we succeed because as we know it is impossible for some projects to meet this definition of success. The good news is that the iron triangle is dead. PMI, after 50 years, has killed the iron triangle in its latest PMBOK edition. So we should too.

Separate your individual success from that of the project

We need to learn to separate the definition of our success as individuals from that of our project’s outcome. After many successes and failures, we eventually learn that there is a thousand reasons why a project can fail. And if we try hard, we can always find a way to link each and every reason to something we as project managers did or failed to do.

But blaming ourselves is actually not useful as it misdiagnoses the problem and ignores the fact that projects live and die in organizational ecosystems. And these ecosystems, more than the Project Manager’s actions or inactions, will determine which projects will success and which will fail.

Every day, we are tasked to lead…

  • Projects that are started for the wrong reasons. They are never supposed to be started in the first place because they are not aligned with the organization’s strategy
  • Projects that start out as a good idea but then the organization’s priorities change
  • Projects that start out as a good idea and remain a priority but they represent a threat to a faction within the organization and they do everything they can to derail them.
  • Projects that are a good idea, remain a priority, everyone supports them but the organization does not have the capacity to deliver them successfully. This could be due to lack of skill or high workload.

In most organization, the project manager does not have the luxury to say “No”.

I am not saying that as PMs we don’t have our own contributions to this ecosystem and to the outcome of project, but there are forces that impact the project that are far and beyond what we individually can control. I wrote in Sometimes failure is an option that “When projects fail, we need to take responsibility but only for our own contributions to the outcome. We should not shoulder the responsibilities of others or for conditions outside of our control.”

We simply have to accept the fact that a percentage of our projects will fail and they should fail. And when they do, how we interpret and reframe that failure will determine how quickly we will bounce back. If we are not careful, the stories we tell ourselves can start chipping away at our confidence in our capabilities, self-esteem, and overall mental and emotional health.

Detach yourself from the outcome of the project

Acquiring the capacity to detach ourselves, as much as possible, from the outcome of our projects will actually help us to be more successful. When we are so attached to the outcome of the project, there is a danger that our egos will get in the way. We can fall in love with our projects and fail to see all the dimensions of the situation. We can get suckered into pushing the wrong initiative and carrying someone else’s water. When our egos are in the way, we can start acting defensively and miss the opportunity to exercise true leadership and do the right thing. And doing the right thing sometimes means pulling the plug on a losing proposition. We have to be O.K with that.

You can read more on this topic in the following blog posts:

Failure is in the eye of the beholder

There is really no such thing as failure, only feedback

It takes a village to fail a project

2 Responses to Turning “Pro” and redefining the meaning of success
  1. Denis
    April 23, 2010 | 10:44 am

    That’s quite a thought provoking post. I do tend to agree with you on the whole, but tend to think it’s ok to be upset if a project fails. After all, you have put a lot of effort into it. What’s wrong I think is seeing that as a reflection of you and your capabilities.

    • samad_aidane
      April 23, 2010 | 5:56 pm

      Denis,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that it is O.K to be upset if project fails as long as project managers don’t dwell on it for too long to the point where it starts undermining their self-confidence. It is all about how quickly they can bounce back and keep growing and advancing their skills. I have bookmarked your blog will be checking out out. I have read and enjoyed your insights on “Agile Project: Problems / Pitfalls”. I can confirm that I had similar experiences with Agile teams.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment.

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Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.guerrillaprojectmanagement.com/turning-pro-and-redefining-the-meaning-of-success/trackback

Turning “Pro” and redefining the meaning of success

In project management, turning “Pro” to me means reaching the point in your career when you can still feel successful, even when we end up delivering a failed project.

I believe this requires 3 things:

  • Unlearning what we have been taught, since the beginning of our careers, as the definition of a successful project manager.
  • Separating the definition of our success as individuals from that of our project’s outcome.
  • Having the capacity to detach ourselves, as much as possible, from the outcome of the project (whether it is success or failure).

Unlearning the definition success

We all grew up with the iron triangle. It has been drilled into our psyches from the day we took our first Project Management course. We have been taught that a successful project manager always brings projects on time, on budget, and on scope. This definition actually sets us up to fail, even when we succeed because as we know it is impossible for some projects to meet this definition of success. The good news is that the iron triangle is dead. PMI, after 50 years, has killed the iron triangle in its latest PMBOK edition. So we should too.

Separate your individual success from that of the project

We need to learn to separate the definition of our success as individuals from that of our project’s outcome. After many successes and failures, we eventually learn that there is a thousand reasons why a project can fail. And if we try hard, we can always find a way to link each and every reason to something we as project managers did or failed to do.

But blaming ourselves is actually not useful as it misdiagnoses the problem and ignores the fact that projects live and die in organizational ecosystems. And these ecosystems, more than the Project Manager’s actions or inactions, will determine which projects will success and which will fail.

Every day, we are tasked to lead…

  • Projects that are started for the wrong reasons. They are never supposed to be started in the first place because they are not aligned with the organization’s strategy
  • Projects that start out as a good idea but then the organization’s priorities change
  • Projects that start out as a good idea and remain a priority but they represent a threat to a faction within the organization and they do everything they can to derail them.
  • Projects that are a good idea, remain a priority, everyone supports them but the organization does not have the capacity to deliver them successfully. This could be due to lack of skill or high workload.

In most organization, the project manager does not have the luxury to say “No”.

I am not saying that as PMs we don’t have our own contributions to this ecosystem and to the outcome of project, but there are forces that impact the project that are far and beyond what we individually can control. I wrote in Sometimes failure is an option that “When projects fail, we need to take responsibility but only for our own contributions to the outcome. We should not shoulder the responsibilities of others or for conditions outside of our control.”

We simply have to accept the fact that a percentage of our projects will fail and they should fail. And when they do, how we interpret and reframe that failure will determine how quickly we will bounce back. If we are not careful, the stories we tell ourselves can start chipping away at our confidence in our capabilities, self-esteem, and overall mental and emotional health.

Detach yourself from the outcome of the project

Acquiring the capacity to detach ourselves, as much as possible, from the outcome of our projects will actually help us to be more successful. When we are so attached to the outcome of the project, there is a danger that our egos will get in the way. We can fall in love with our projects and fail to see all the dimensions of the situation. We can get suckered into pushing the wrong initiative and carrying someone else’s water. When our egos are in the way, we can start acting defensively and miss the opportunity to exercise true leadership and do the right thing. And doing the right thing sometimes means pulling the plug on a losing proposition. We have to be O.K with that.

You can read more on this topic in the following blog posts:

Failure is in the eye of the beholder

There is really no such thing as failure, only feedback

It takes a village to fail a project

2 Responses to Turning “Pro” and redefining the meaning of success
  1. Denis
    April 23, 2010 | 10:44 am

    That’s quite a thought provoking post. I do tend to agree with you on the whole, but tend to think it’s ok to be upset if a project fails. After all, you have put a lot of effort into it. What’s wrong I think is seeing that as a reflection of you and your capabilities.

    • samad_aidane
      April 23, 2010 | 5:56 pm

      Denis,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that it is O.K to be upset if project fails as long as project managers don’t dwell on it for too long to the point where it starts undermining their self-confidence. It is all about how quickly they can bounce back and keep growing and advancing their skills. I have bookmarked your blog will be checking out out. I have read and enjoyed your insights on “Agile Project: Problems / Pitfalls”. I can confirm that I had similar experiences with Agile teams.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.guerrillaprojectmanagement.com/turning-pro-and-redefining-the-meaning-of-success/trackback

Turning “Pro” and redefining the meaning of success

In project management, turning “Pro” to me means reaching the point in your career when you can still feel successful, even when we end up delivering a failed project.

I believe this requires 3 things:

  • Unlearning what we have been taught, since the beginning of our careers, as the definition of a successful project manager.
  • Separating the definition of our success as individuals from that of our project’s outcome.
  • Having the capacity to detach ourselves, as much as possible, from the outcome of the project (whether it is success or failure).

Unlearning the definition success

We all grew up with the iron triangle. It has been drilled into our psyches from the day we took our first Project Management course. We have been taught that a successful project manager always brings projects on time, on budget, and on scope. This definition actually sets us up to fail, even when we succeed because as we know it is impossible for some projects to meet this definition of success. The good news is that the iron triangle is dead. PMI, after 50 years, has killed the iron triangle in its latest PMBOK edition. So we should too.

Separate your individual success from that of the project

We need to learn to separate the definition of our success as individuals from that of our project’s outcome. After many successes and failures, we eventually learn that there is a thousand reasons why a project can fail. And if we try hard, we can always find a way to link each and every reason to something we as project managers did or failed to do.

But blaming ourselves is actually not useful as it misdiagnoses the problem and ignores the fact that projects live and die in organizational ecosystems. And these ecosystems, more than the Project Manager’s actions or inactions, will determine which projects will success and which will fail.

Every day, we are tasked to lead…

  • Projects that are started for the wrong reasons. They are never supposed to be started in the first place because they are not aligned with the organization’s strategy
  • Projects that start out as a good idea but then the organization’s priorities change
  • Projects that start out as a good idea and remain a priority but they represent a threat to a faction within the organization and they do everything they can to derail them.
  • Projects that are a good idea, remain a priority, everyone supports them but the organization does not have the capacity to deliver them successfully. This could be due to lack of skill or high workload.

In most organization, the project manager does not have the luxury to say “No”.

I am not saying that as PMs we don’t have our own contributions to this ecosystem and to the outcome of project, but there are forces that impact the project that are far and beyond what we individually can control. I wrote in Sometimes failure is an option that “When projects fail, we need to take responsibility but only for our own contributions to the outcome. We should not shoulder the responsibilities of others or for conditions outside of our control.”

We simply have to accept the fact that a percentage of our projects will fail and they should fail. And when they do, how we interpret and reframe that failure will determine how quickly we will bounce back. If we are not careful, the stories we tell ourselves can start chipping away at our confidence in our capabilities, self-esteem, and overall mental and emotional health.

Detach yourself from the outcome of the project

Acquiring the capacity to detach ourselves, as much as possible, from the outcome of our projects will actually help us to be more successful. When we are so attached to the outcome of the project, there is a danger that our egos will get in the way. We can fall in love with our projects and fail to see all the dimensions of the situation. We can get suckered into pushing the wrong initiative and carrying someone else’s water. When our egos are in the way, we can start acting defensively and miss the opportunity to exercise true leadership and do the right thing. And doing the right thing sometimes means pulling the plug on a losing proposition. We have to be O.K with that.

You can read more on this topic in the following blog posts:

Failure is in the eye of the beholder

There is really no such thing as failure, only feedback

It takes a village to fail a project

2 Responses to Turning “Pro” and redefining the meaning of success
  1. Denis
    April 23, 2010 | 10:44 am

    That’s quite a thought provoking post. I do tend to agree with you on the whole, but tend to think it’s ok to be upset if a project fails. After all, you have put a lot of effort into it. What’s wrong I think is seeing that as a reflection of you and your capabilities.

    • samad_aidane
      April 23, 2010 | 5:56 pm

      Denis,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that it is O.K to be upset if project fails as long as project managers don’t dwell on it for too long to the point where it starts undermining their self-confidence. It is all about how quickly they can bounce back and keep growing and advancing their skills. I have bookmarked your blog will be checking out out. I have read and enjoyed your insights on “Agile Project: Problems / Pitfalls”. I can confirm that I had similar experiences with Agile teams.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.guerrillaprojectmanagement.com/turning-pro-and-redefining-the-meaning-of-success/trackback