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Early project decisions create the biggest ripples!

Repeated studies have shown that the decisions made early in a project have more impact than those made later.  This makes sense.  Think about a professional football team.  The decision of what players to recruit, what type of offense and defense to run, the coaching staff composition, how to practice, and who to start makes a much greater impact on the overall season than that one play call even at a critical moment in a critical game.

Your early project decisions create the greatest ripples!  Because you don’t have a crystal ball, many of these decisions have to be based on unproven assumptions.  Unfortunately, some of those assumptions might not be readily apparent.  One way to focus on making the right kind of ripples is to clearly identify all the critical assumptions built into your decision and seek to validate or invalidate those assumptions as rapidly as possible.  You won’t be able to do this immediately in some cases.  But, by tracking them and having a plan, you can find out sooner, rather than later, whether you made the right decision.

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Leaders overcoming project obstacles!

Project leadership is about helping your team to overcome obstacles.  A good project leader takes her responsibilities seriously and, as a result, is actually made better.  When I was an Army cadet I was assigned to a basic training company for five weeks to assist the drill sergeants in training the new recruits and to learn from them with their vastly greater Army experience.  Our unit was at the confidence obstacle course and one of the recruits froze up on the horizontal portion of an obstacle very much like the one pictured above.  He wouldn’t move.  On the horizontal portion you have to step from wooden beam to wooden beam and you can see the ground fifteen to twenty feet below you.  The Hollywood drill sergeant version of standing on the ground and yelling at him would have been an ineffective strategy (actually that’s almost always an ineffective strategy).  I said to the platoon drill sergeant, “I’ll go.”

I ran over, climbed up the first vertical segment and walked to the beam where the private was standing.  I looked him in the eyes and calmly spoke to him for a few seconds and said, “we can do this together.”  Then, side-by-side we proceeded one step at a time to the next segment of the obstacle and finished.

I’m not saying this to brag about my own prowess.  Truth be told, I tend to be afraid of heights.  But, up there, with somebody who depended on my leadership in that little matter on that one day, just being the leader made me better.  I felt no fear – only interest in getting this younger man to do what I knew he could do – overcome his own fear and complete the obstacle.

Your project team will face many obstacles.  A conscientious leader will be made better by the fact that the team depends on her leadership.  And your team will be better for it.

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Counting on a snowstorm?

Is anybody on your project team counting on a snowstorm?  Do you remember ever doing this as schoolkid?  You had an assignment due tomorrow but you put it off and now you do not think you can get it done.  But you’ve heard that it is supposed to snow tonight so you are counting on a school cancellation to get you out of the jam!

Unfortunately, sometimes project team members over promise and cannot deliver.  Then they go looking for ways to blame the project delay on others.  In school, at most, you would get a bad grade and, hopefully, learn a valuable lesson.  But in your project team this behavior can be extremely disruptive.