Project Management

3 Valuable PM Lessons I Learned in 2023

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By Sree Rao, PMP, PgMP, PMI-ACP

We are almost at the end of 2023! As I take a moment to reflect on this wild ride of a year, here are three key lessons I learned that I wanted to share with you all.

1. Embrace change: Projects are like a box of chocolates…you never know which ones might get canceled.
As program managers, we are no strangers to change. Yet some types of changes are easier to deal with than others. 2023 has been a turbulent year for me with multiple project cancellations right before releasing them to production.

It was super demotivating. But as technology continues to evolve, customer needs shift and market trends change, it's essential to stay flexible and change course as strategy demands. If you ever have to deal with such a situation, rather than feeling demotivated you should embrace it as an opportunity for growth and learning. By doing so, you'll be better equipped to lead your team through the ups and downs.

One of my mentors gave this perspective, which has helped me immensely: “We get paid to do the work without promises that the features/projects will be released to production. So as long as you get paid and you are continuing to learn, do your best work and leave the rest.”


2. About pursuing your passion: Stop comparing yourself to others.
You might have heard this advice from several people: If you pursue your passion, your work will be more enjoyable. For the longest time, I have been beating myself up because I don’t have any passions (unless binge watching TV counts as a passion? :)). I personally do not find this advice to be practical, so I made peace with the realization that it is important to be content with myself rather than compare myself to others who are “pursuing their passion.”

What I realized is that we can pursue our interests in other ways and means instead of completely switching careers or trying to turn hobbies into a living. We can pursue our passions/interests in small ways like finding opportunities in the domain that we are interested in. As an example, if your hobby is photography and photo editing, perhaps you could continue being a program manager but find a job in a company that specializes in photo editing software like Adobe.

Find the domain or area that brings you joy—whether it's event management, innovation or team building—and find opportunities in that domain. When you enjoy what you do, everyone benefits—not just your own well-being, but also your program's success.


3. Attitude of gratitude: The secret ingredient to well-being, in both your professional and personal life!
Last but not least is cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Sure, there are always things that could have gone better (like projects not getting canceled), but be grateful for what we have.

As a program manager, we have the privilege of working with talented team members who contribute their skills and expertise to our projects. Rather than thinking “they are doing their job,” make it a point to express gratitude toward them regularly. A simple "thank you" or acknowledgement can go a long way in building positive relationships within your team
and fostering a supportive work environment. Additionally, practicing gratitude can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

By embracing these three lessons, you'll be better equipped to navigate the challenges of program management in 2024 and beyond. Remember, as a program manager, our role goes beyond managing projects; it's about leading people, fostering collaboration and driving impactful results.

As we bid farewell to another year, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for your thoughtful comments and engagement. (A special shoutout to our editor Cameron for inspiring me to write and for shaping my musings a better way). Wishing you all a blessed 2024!

Posted by Sree Rao on: December 11, 2023 11:10 PM | Permalink

Comments (15)

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Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Sree
The topic you brought to our reflection and debate is very interesting.

Thank you for sharing your lessons learned in 2023

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Markus Kopko, PMP Principal Project Management Consultant| Karer Consulting AG Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Dear Sree,


Reflecting on your experiences and the lessons learned in 2023 offers valuable insights for anyone in project or program management. Your journey through the year highlights essential skills and perspectives that are crucial in the ever-changing landscape of project management.

Embrace Change: Your experience with project cancellations and the need to remain flexible and adaptable is a potent reminder of the dynamic nature of project management. The ability to embrace change and view it as an opportunity for growth is a critical skill for any program manager. Your mentor's perspective that our work is valuable in itself, regardless of the project's final outcome, is a healthy and practical way to approach the uncertainties inherent in project work.

Pursuing Your Passion in Practical Ways: Your approach to passion in work is refreshingly realistic. Understanding that it's not always feasible or desirable to turn a hobby into a career is important. Finding joy in your current domain, and seeking opportunities within that domain that align with your interests, is a more attainable and satisfying approach. Your example of integrating a hobby like photography into a related professional field is a great illustration of how to blend personal interests with professional work.

Attitude of Gratitude: The importance of gratitude in the workplace cannot be overstated. Recognizing and appreciating the contributions of team members not only creates a positive work environment but also contributes to personal well-being. This practice of gratitude is essential for building strong, supportive relationships and fostering a collaborative team culture.

Your reflections offer a roadmap for navigating the complexities and challenges of program management with resilience, adaptability, and a positive mindset. These lessons are not just valuable for the realm of project management but are applicable in many areas of professional and personal life.

As we look forward to 2024, these lessons can guide us in becoming more effective, content, and resilient leaders. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights, and best wishes for a successful and fulfilling new year.

Do you have any specific goals or areas of focus for 2024 based on these lessons learned? How do you plan to implement these learnings in your day-to-day management practices? Your thoughts on these would be intriguing to hear.

BR,

Markus

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Sree Rao Technical Program Manager San Jose, Ca, USA
Dear Luis, really appreciate your encouraging comments on every post! Thank you.

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Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Thanks

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Zohaib Qadir System Administrator Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS)| Peshawar Institute of Cardiology Peshawar, Kpk, Pakistan
Loved it.

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Anil Jassal India
On the attitude of gratitude, I would like to add below.

In the past, the labor class experienced exploitation through overwork and inadequate compensation. In addressing this issue, a shift occurred toward fostering a more supportive work environment. However, this transformation has inadvertently led to heightened sensitivity among some team members. Some individuals now tend to cite a lack of appreciation as a reason for not fulfilling their responsibilities promptly.

Contrastingly, individuals genuinely dedicated to their work and driven by a desire to achieve significant goals do not let a perceived lack of appreciation become a hindrance. Their commitment is unwavering, and they prioritize completing tasks before seeking recognition. True dedication is exemplified by a focus on achieving objectives rather than using a lack of acknowledgment as a mid-process excuse to discontinue efforts. In the real world, those who are genuinely committed to their work demonstrate perseverance and a determination to excel, irrespective of immediate recognition.

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Hany George Alx, Egypt
Thanks

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Ming Yeung Compliance Manager| Blockchain Venture Capital Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Thank you for sharing the article with fellow incumbent and aspiring practitioners in this timely topic as 2023 is about to conclude.

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Abdelfadil Mostafa Abdelfadil Mohammed Dubai, Du, United Arab Emirates
Thanks

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Sree Rao Technical Program Manager San Jose, Ca, USA
Dear Marcus,
Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed and thoughtful comment. Sincere thanks for that.

Regarding your questions, I have already started implementing these lessons. I am prepared that any project might get canceled. I have started working in a domain that interests me. I have been intentional about thanking my coworkers.

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Sree Rao Technical Program Manager San Jose, Ca, USA
Anil, thanks for sharing your take on gratitude. Absolutely agree that "individuals genuinely dedicated to their work and driven by a desire to achieve significant goals do not let a perceived lack of appreciation become a hindrance".

However, showing appreciation doesn't hurt :)

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Markus Kopko, PMP Principal Project Management Consultant| Karer Consulting AG Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
@Sree

Thanks for your response; keep up the great work!

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Piotr Hajnus Poland
Thanks for sharing.

How do you deal with that demotivation mentioned in point 1?

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Antonio Villarruel Project Management Coordinator| Saputo Inc. San Fernando, Buenos Aires, Argentina
I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing

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Tiago Lourenco MSc, PMP Candidate Project Manager| High Profile Magazine (12-month contract) London, Eng, United Kingdom
Never compare yourself to another project manager, each one of us had a different path to get to where we are today. Build your own path with the tools available to you.

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