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Taking the first step


You have these big plans, big goals and dreams and live for the big moments in life. So where are these big moments and why does it feel that you are always on the outside of success looking in? I am now in my fifties, and was that an eye opener for me. When looking back on a life well lived, I have plenty to be thankful for, and yet if you would ask me if my life was a success, my honest response would be that I am far from being successful. Is it because I have been opting to live for big moments? When I make these statements, my husband would be the first to ask me what my definition of success then is. Is success driving the big new car, staying in the modern mansion and having this high-powered position at the end of the corporate ladder.  Well if that is my definition of success, I surely took all the wrong steps to get there.

John Maxwell in his book called: “Today Matters”, explains the concept of making the correct choices today as it determines what tomorrow would hold. It emphasize the importance of well thought through decision making and an attitude of not wasting a single day.  And in reality, it is scary how easy it is to waste time.  It might be due to the fact that we live as if we have ample supply of time. There is no though associated with the reality of death.

This is a very grim prospect and believe me I do not live with the fear of my life ending either. We all live today with thoughts and hopes for tomorrow, next week, next year and in that, we build a future orientated picture. Now this aligns with a goal orientated mindset. Working and striving to do our best and to achieve more than what we achieving today.  However, if we set the bar too high, we can get discouraged and frustrated in the process.

Let’s take for example the goal to run the Comrades in 2020.  To achieve that objective, we cannot start by running a marathon. You need to train for short distances first, stretch it as you become more comfortable, then run a few half marathons, a few at sea level and a few in the high veld and only then can you be ready to attempt the Comrades.  If the single achievement sat in running the marathon, the probability of failure and fall out would be high.  I have a friend that is training for this. She started to run a 1 km every day and did so for a month. Never running more than what she set out, and enjoyed slowly getting accustomed to the pace and the feel of it. She then started doing 2.5 km and then she participated in park runs that was 5 km and so she is on this journey to her ultimate goal. With every achievement however she celebrated success. She did not wait for the big moment, but enjoyed the smaller achievement of just getting out of bed and doing it despite all the reasons she could find to stay indoors.

Goal orientation is thus important, but it means nothing if you are not taking the right steps towards achieving it. Taking the right step means starting today, not wasting time and setting realistic and achievable success declaration points. In those success declaration points you have defined success realistically; you work diligently at achieving them and take stock as you celebrate each.

Bringing it now to project management, we find that the objective of a project is often the big moment things. The implemented software, the operational building, the trained workers. These big moment things needs to follow smaller and realistic success declaration points. Do not wait to celebrate at the end of the project, but decide today to take the first step towards a project life cycle that is built for celebrating success…and stop wasting time, get to it today.

Written by Lizette Venter August 2019

Being Ready to Bloom

flowersEver had that itch to be somewhere beautiful? Well South Africa has an array of amazing spots to visits that can attest to the diversity and beauty of our country. One such a place is Namaqualand. It is not much during most of the year, but spring brings with it a burst of colour and its splendour can barely be captured by camera.  More than 4000 types of seeds sit in wait for the perfect moment to bloom. Timing is everything and so they wait for the right circumstances. Everything has to work together, including the wind, rain and temperature, to ensure that the environment is ready for this spectacle.

It is not so different for projects. If you want to see real beauty in the success of your project it is important to understand the dynamics within your project, organisation and team and wait for the right moment. It all has to come together at the right moment just like the flowers of the Namaqualand. Too little rain means no flowers, too strong winds leads to flowers that quickly withers. No wind means not enough pollination, little rain implies not enough damp soil to help a seeds grow. So all elements are needed…even those that we sometimes consider to be roadblocks to our success.

And therein lies the art of project management. Those of us having had the privilege to manage projects before knows that a lot of the success of the project lies in the ability of the project manager to know when to block the wind and when to let it blow through. It is knowing when rain is needed and when rain is going to be damaging to the mind-set of the team.

Getting to see your project bloom is definitely fortunate, but getting it to bloom in its diversity is even more special. Too early will have not enough flowers bloom or too late will see most of the blossoms already withered. Both will leave you disappointed. Timing is thus everything and celebrating the differences that lies within each team member and directing the differences to bring together a solid team performance is part of the skillset needed from the project manager.

The Namaqualand flowers will mean nothing if there is nobody who make an effort to witness its splendour every year. Tourists (both international and local) flock to the area every year between August and September and create an economic bloom for accommodation establishment and local businesses in those areas. Similarly it is necessary for the project manager to sell the project success to those within, and outside the organisation and thus create an economic bloom for the organisation, the project team and individuals who can benefit from the success of the project.

So in summary then, the project manager’s role in project success should never be underestimated, diversity should be embraced and successes celebrated. That way the beauty of success can be enjoyed.

Written by: Lizette Venter,  September 2018

5 Things you should know about Project Management

image 5Within the world of Project Management we tend to think we have it covered. Yet when the tire proverbially hits the tar, there are always a few things from the woodwork that we did not think of. It tends to be more complicated and more intricate than what we realised at first and therefore my objective with this article is to shed some light on the things I have learned that just happens to be important.

The first thing you need to realise as a project manager is that you are not always welcome. Yes that is correct, there is always some resentment at the beginning as there are a few mindsets that needs to shift. One of the first that come to mind is that of the techies that think they are better equipped to also manage their project. Now some do have the skills, but if you are honest with yourself you cannot be the gate keeper and the one delivering the goods. The second is that of the client that see you in the way of what they want. Their objective is to get as much work done for as little pay and if they want to change their mind mid-way, they will do so and you are in the way of that objective. Then there is a mindset called the boss syndrome. Here we deal with resource managers, sponsors and owners that own the work and the resources needed to get it done. If they have a different task in mind, who are you to tell them differently. I am sure there are a few other mindsets that you might think of that fits the bill. So don’t expect to be valued, but show your worth. They will thank you for it later.

The second lessons that I learned was that administration suck, but is so necessary. Yes those time consuming tasks of going through minutes to ensure it is representative of what was said, ensuring scope documentation is aligned to contracts as signed off, change requests etc. Those things that we think we can do without because the project is in such a good place can be a saving grace on the day the project turns. Evidence of the paths taken and the picnic stops helps provided a map of the journey taken and can help your team and you towards auditable justification.

The third lesson I learned was to never underestimate personalities. Politics and character differences are often things that nobody talks about, but can lead to stormy encounters in safe coves. They need to be dealt with diplomatically, effectively and their effects neutralised before the damage to team and project are done. These stormy encounters can lead up the food chain pretty quick and defocus the team and steal the show.

Plan and measure. It sounds like a cliché but there is never enough time put into planning and never enough time thinking about how you get measured. Yes and I do understand that sometimes you cannot plan in detail, but even the basics of planning aren’t always done.  This also implies planning for measuring. Knowing your customer and establish measurement criteria that talks to what is important for him/her is important.

The last thing that you need to take note of is balance. It is such a simple word for a world full of unhappiness. Nothing in your project is worth the sacrifice of a marriage, or time lost with loved ones during their last days, health, being there for children and good conversations. If you want your project to succeed you need to know when to burn the candle and when to let it go.  There is no retry on lost time and no remedy for regrets.

There are probably a few more things that you need to know, but these provided clear guidelines for me in my journey as a project manager and consultant. I have seen many unnecessary turmoil around these that could have been better handled if we just knew these five simple things.

Author: Lizette Venter

Date: August 2018