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In project management you have to just do it

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In project management you have to just do it.

The People SIG is planning to build its 2012 calendar around the theme of Resilience, but what does this topic really mean?

Maybe youre struggling to finish a task; a key component hasnt been delivered; or youre meeting your targets but at the cost of working late into the evenings.  Perhaps your project goal is poorly defined and senior management just cant give you the time you need. 

Well maybe youre not cut out to work in PM. 

If you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

Youre working in Project Management: the clue is in the name you have to manage.

Personally I think youd be hard pressed to find something more stressful than trying to deliver a unique output within a specified time period, so surely anyone involved in PM is asking for trouble!

How much you stress and what you struggle to cope with depends on you. Two people confronted by the same set of circumstances will react differently and it really will depend on your perspective, but Id suggest that if you dont share your problems and concerns then they stand a strong chance of getting the better of you.

Focus on whats happening right now rather than over analysing the past or trying to predict the future and try to be absolutely clear about your goal.

Resilience is about more than just coping, it is the ability to withstand and to bounce back. 
Time spent learning how to understand your physical and mental reactions, and recognise the signs that you (or someone close to you) is struggling, is time well spent.

The People SIG is starting to develop a calendar of events around this topic and there is a forum thread for you to contribute suggestions as to what the term Resilience means to you.

Does your project or programme organisation have enough support networks in place?

Can you learn to be more resilient, or is it too late?


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  1. Sheilina Somani
    Sheilina Somani 23 March 2012, 11:17 AM

    Resilience - keeping your head when all around you are losing theirs!  Retaining humour and perspective (though not necessarily sharing what you find funny!!)

  2. Andrew Newsham
    Andrew Newsham 18 March 2012, 08:14 AM

    For me I think the learning aspect is really important. Given the temporary, time limited and output focused nature of project and programmes we need to be able to find elements of certainty in what we do.  For me that certainty comes in knowing that there will be difficulties and challenges no matter how well scoped, planned, resource profiled our work is.  Just knowing that I will have to deal with issues allows me communicate this to my teams from the outset of the work and to then manage them more effectively when they arise.  Part of developing resillience within your team is to know when you have to act and act quickly but, to also know when to take time to recover from these surges.  Key, no matter if you are flat out or easing back is to communicate the logic as to why things are being done in a certain way to your team.  This helps them understand and learn from the experience and builds up resillence for the future.Andy

  3. Sion Jones
    Sion Jones 09 March 2012, 07:42 PM

    Alistair, you bring up some really good points.To me, resilience is a many faceted thing and is not a subject that can sit comfortably in a nice little pigeion hole. So, it concerns me slightly when attempts are made do define what resilience is by using punchy one-liners or comforting little homilies. Resilience can be looked at in many different contexts such of organisational, environmental, personal and by any number of other labels.Possibly the most challenging view of resilience may well be the personal and emotional one.When one considers "Self" in terms of resilience, I believe it is about experiencing a bad time, surviving it, coming out the other side and then realising that despite it all you are still emotionally intact and capable of functioning. The true measure of "Self" resilience is the moment of realisation that the same is about to happen again and, rather than avoid it, you decide to face it and battle though. The more often it happens the tougher and more resilient you become and the more you realise your own inner strength.On encountering a bad episode for the first time, there can be a sense of surprise, deepening uncertainty and increasing realisation of vulnerability. It is a foreign place to be, one of disorientation and, in extremis, one of debilitation. This can induce severe self-doubt and loss of self-confidence.The key to gaining "Self" resilience is the recognition of what is happening and having the strength to put aside any pride or embarrasment and ask for help.I have found that there is a very simple test to show that this is not a rare thing, in fact it is a very common experience.When you go into work tomorrow, ask your colleagues a few simple questions such as:    Have you ever lost sleep over your job? (Indeed, you should ask yourself the same question)    Should this be the accepted norm and an intrinsic part of the job? (If not then why not)Who amongst them, though, has the strength to say "I could do with some help"?Maybe the hard question is who amongst you is prepared to give that help when its needed?Like many others trying to understand tough subjects, and I apologise for sounding opinionated and asking questions that I don't have the answers to.

  4. Alastair Smart
    Alastair Smart 09 March 2012, 12:23 PM

    Thank you Dave and Justin for your comments. As 'deliverers of change' and knowing how change (to most people) equates to stress, or at least some level of anxiety, how much effort is really put into understanding and managing these reactions during different phases of a project?I think that many PM professionals probably have personal development goals that are put on hold whilst delivering, ready to 'fill the gaps' between projects, rather than being pursued as soon as possible in order to try and improve delivery...

  5. Jessica Kirby
    Jessica Kirby 07 March 2012, 10:02 AM

    Reading that made me laugh. I see so many PMs getting totally overwhelmed, working all the hours of the day due to micromanaging and not focusing on the immediate priorities. With any management role, delegation and escalation are key skills as well as the ability to change direction at 'the drop of a hat'.We are all change deliverers so we must have the resilience and the mentality to handle incoming changes as well as implement outgoing change.It is part of the fun of being a PM

  6. Dave Harper
    Dave Harper 03 March 2012, 06:38 PM

    Wow, these are some very wise words. I think that the things that you say here are applicable to many situations, if not all situations of our lives. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.  In project management it is important to focus on the task at hand instead of things that happened with the cannon blog project in the past or what might happen in the future.