Viewing Posts by Deanna Landers
Most of us are pretty uncomfortable with uncertainty. Of course we are, we’re in project management. We like neat and tidy plans. We like the process to be defined, whether it’s waterfall, agile, a hybrid of the two, or something else. We want everything to be implemented perfectly, without using any of the contingency money that we fought hard to secure. At the end we like to check that box saying that the project was completed on time and under budget, realizing the expected benefits. But the projects we manage, and the business environment that we work within are not always perfect, in fact, they rarely are.
More often than we’d like, we face ambiguity in goals, requirements, schedules, vision, or a variety of other areas within the project and work environment. We need to accept that with the ever-changing business landscape, ambiguity is something we have to deal with. It may even become more prevalent. However, we can flourish when we encounter ambiguity by viewing it as an opportunity rather than a nuisance or a threat.
Simply recognizing an unclear situation as an opportunity creates an opportunity in itself. Being comfortable with a bit of ambiguity provides you with flexibility and freedom because you’re not following the playbook any longer. You’re not filling out the template, or going on to step C after steps A and B. You can view the situation as a turning point, a chance to take a new path, or to create a better one. Being comfortable in a rapidly changing world gives you an advantage, a flexibility that will be called upon often. From ambiguity, you are free to innovate, grow, and involve others in finding solutions.
As an example, just over a year ago Kris Troukens attended PMI’s Africa Congress and learned about challenges the local community was having with recurring flooding. It was a problem that had been in existence for many decades and it was not clear how to address it. People were struggling to define the essence of what needed to be done, though many had experienced unpleasant consequences from the floods.
After gaining an understanding of the magnitude of the problem, Kris recommended the conference organizers and PMI Ghana Chapter representatives initiate contact with all speakers who had addressed the subject and devise a scope statement that could be achieved with a few local and internationally based volunteers. This decision to forge a path through ambiguity and take the first step to clarify one essential component presented a grand opportunity for the community and volunteers supporting it - to recognize an approach and structure to address an important and challenging problem.
The initial ambiguity allowed Kris to step forward and involve the appropriate other people to set the objective and clarify goals. With the direction set and a clear understanding of the goal and path to achieve it, the team was able to advance, and ultimately achieve success together.
This is how we have an opportunity to step forward into the face of ambiguity, to provide ground rules and some level of clarity for ourselves and others. THIS is leadership.
Deanna Landers is a portfolio manager whose work in ambiguous environments offers many opportunities. She also founded Project Managers Without Borders.
Project management is a unique profession that requires skills needed everywhere. Any time strategic initiatives are being implemented, anywhere there is a disaster or humanitarian relief effort, whenever there is innovation being brought to fruition, it’s through projects.
We focus much of our time on our careers, the jobs we are paid to do, and we improve our craft to increase our impact and reap the rewards. Some of those rewards are recognition, respect, greater responsibility, opportunity, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Our employers, clients, colleagues, management and teams benefit from the change that we manage. But what about those in the world who need change the most?
The world is teeming with communities in need, people who could benefit tremendously from our project management skills and experience. Many humanitarian organizations have domain knowledge and passion for these communities, but are lacking basic project management skills and knowledge. By introducing or improving project management for these organizations, we can make their work for humanity more efficient and effective, thereby increasing the positive impact they have.
Let’s share what we know with those who need it most.
Whether that means facilitating meetings for an engineering nonprofit/NGO, coordinating the schedule for a medical mission, organizing a cub scout camping trip, or clarifying the scope of a humanitarian documentary film, our skills can support meaningful change.
You may even find that your employer will donate funds, software, or services to the humanitarian organization you volunteer for, increasing the potential impact of that organization even more.
After your involvement, those benefiting, either directly or indirectly, are likely to understand and value project management more, and may even value it so much that they attribute their success to it.
If you share your project management experience and skills with those who need it most, you will likely find it to be one of the most rewarding endeavors in your career, and life.
Interested to learn more about how you can use your project management skills for a better world? Keep an eye out for updates to this blog, connect with an organization that matches professional skills with need (e.g. Social Venture Partners, PMWB, Catchafire, etc) and search for NGOs and other organizations that are aligned with your interests. Then, enjoy the satisfaction of applying your project management skills to support communities in need.
Project Managers Without Borders (PMWB) is happy to sponsor this new blog to provide project management content and tools for humanitarian organizations. PMWB is a non-profit organization that engages the global project management community through collaborative and sustainable projects that make a positive difference in the world.