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My Project Management New Year Resolution

January 5, 2011 by aguanno

aguanno's picture

As it is January, I thought it would be a good time to share with you my project management New Year resolution.  But before I share it with you, I want to share an observation: if I could make up my own personality categorization system for project managers, I might say that there are two main types:  builders and maintainers.  

Builders are the project managers who love to manage projects that create brand new things:  shopping malls, online courses, software applications, new products, etc.  They are excited by the unexpected challenges they will face and thrive on the creative energy generated by the team.

Maintainers are those project managers who prefer projects where there are fewer “unknowns” and perhaps an overall lower risk profile.  These are projects updating, renovating, or maintaining existing products, buildings or systems rather than creating new ones. These project managers focus on optimization and efficiency as their main goal.

I would imagine that the New Year resolutions of these two types of project managers would be very different.  New Year resolutions tend to say that we will begin exhibiting some positive behaviour that we probably should be doing now but aren’t, or that we will stop a negative behaviour.  Builders (who are more interested in tackling challenges like project issues than in standard administrative processes) may have a resolution saying “This year, I will begin updating my project financial tracking spreadsheet weekly instead of monthly, just before the deadline.”  Maintainers (who tend to be more interested in using metrics to optimize the project process than in dealing with broadly-defined but imprecise strategic directives) may have a resolution saying “I will take the time to perform a formal stakeholder analysis at the start of all of my new projects, and will use this information when I craft the project approach.”

Now, let’s be practical.  I know that we should probably be doing all of these things all the time; however, in the face of day-to-day project pressures, and the common problem of not having enough hours in a work day, we have to let something slip.  What that may be depends upon our organization (what they measure), our project (what our customer wants), our team (how much direction they need), and our own personality (Builder or Maintainer).  The situation is not as simple as I may have made it sound above; however, I think that a project manager’s personality does have a strong influence on his or her choice of a project management New Year resolution.

My resolution:  to spend more time following up on action items assigned to team members.  I expect that, since we spend so much time trying to hire the right people for our organizations, that we have a pool of reasonably skilled, competent, and motivated people from which to draw our project teams.  I expect that people will keep their commitments, never lie, and generally try to cooperate with others on the team.  Basically, I expect everyone to act as professionally as I do myself.  Maybe this is a little too naïve – I have had a few disappointments over the years where others fail to live up to my standard – but I believe that most people mean well and will try to do their best.

My resolution will help me avoid some future disappointments by identifying those who are not meeting their commitments early on so that I can take action to avoid any major issues occurring.  It is easier to fix problems while they are still small ones rather than avoid them until it is too late to resolve them.

Based on my resolution, I am sure that you can guess my own project management personality type.  I am a Builder.  That means that I like dealing with “fuzzy” situations, project strategy, stakeholder relations, and project issues but I am less excited about the administrative side of my job:  issuing status reports, reviewing time sheets, financial tracking, sending out meeting minutes, etc.  Yes, I do these tasks, but to me they seem like chores – not something I look forward to doing, and a candidate for procrastination in preference for more exciting project challenges.

This year, I plan on focusing a bit more on the administrative side of my job.  I must find a way to make these activities seem fun.  Maybe I can “psych” myself up to looking forward to these activities.  Maybe I can repeat a mantra ten times each morning:  “I can’t wait to start working on this week’s status report!”  No, I don’t think this is working for me.  I guess I’ll just have to bear with it and force myself to do the work.  No one said project management was all fun.


Kevin Aguanno is an executive project manager whose competence is certified by IBM and the International Project Management Association.  He is also PMP-certified by PMI.  He is currently the President of the Project Management Association of Canada and assesses project management competence for IPMA associations in Canada and the USA.  More details and contact information can be found at www.AgilePM.com.

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