Project Management

Adaptability: The Ultimate Skill for Project Leaders?

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By Jorge Valdés Garciatorres, PMP 

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

—Milton Berle


Experts say that the world will never be as we once knew it. I personally think that it will take us several years to return to some sense of normalcy. We’ll have to accept it: Adaptation is inevitable.

As I prepared to write this blog, I was looking for a personal story to illustrate my resilience skills. The truth is that many came to mind. I believe that this ability, along with creativity, is something we all have as project managers.

Working from home for the past 15 or 16 weeks (I’m one of the lucky ones who can work remotely during the pandemic) is perhaps the closest example of resilience. In my case, it has required less effort, but the overwhelming response we have had to our Managing Remote Teams program has helped me realize that, although the technology exists, there is still a lag in the ability of many to adapt to this new way of working.

Another reflection that came to my mind was that perhaps as project managers, our shifting scope of work causes us to take life as it comes. That is to say, this professional activity that I chose and that I enjoy so much helps those of us who practice it to develop that capacity of hyper-adaptation. For example, life has led me to give courses in parking lots, and on one occasion a few years ago, I almost had to give a course while on the presidential plane for a group of Mexican government officials. I have learned to work at home, where I have a spacious and comfortable office totally adapted to my taste, and I’ve also transitioned to suddenly having to work at a 35 inch x 35 inch desk in a client's facilities. 

Other reflections come to my mind with regard to the technological changes that people in my generation have experienced. My kids just can’t believe that when I was young, I was my mother’s remote control, and that in my time, the “smart” were the people who used phones—and not the phones themselves. 

In the end, whether it is a generational skill or whether it is fostered by the career someone chooses, there is no doubt that adapting to changing situations is an important and vital skill in these times.

During the "Googleographic" research I did to write this article, I came across this page in which the American Psychological Association, in addition to defining resilience, proposes some activities to help foster it.

The literature available on the web around this topic has been increasing. I can also recommend two books, not to be missed, that can help you better understand how resilience can make the difference between success and failure.

One story that has marked me in particular, masterfully narrated in the book Desde la Adversidad,  that of Ernest Shackleton, a ship captain of about 110 years ago. He went down in history for having formed what is perhaps the most resilient team in history.

Another book that I highly recommend is Bonnie St John's Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy. I had the opportunity to listen to Bonnie while attending an event a few years ago. Her story is incredible, and an inspiration for everyone. The fruit of her experience is explained very assertively in her excellent book.

If you are a project manager or a consultant, chances are that you are already a resilient person. But remember that you must keep exercising your skills to keep them in shape.

How do you exercise your resilience?  


Posted by Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres on: September 01, 2020 02:11 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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Wow... So inline even with risks assessments.
Our level of adaptability to the changing environments is key

Thanks for sharing this article. There is no doubt that adapting to changing situations is indeed an important and vital skill in these times. Also thanks for recommending 2 books on resilience.

Thank you for sharing this invaluable article!

Thanks for sharing and good reading suggestions. Will check it out.

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