Project managers are often asked to perform miracles, so they can be forgiven for occasionally wishing for magical powers to be able to bend or break the laws of the Universe. After all, that’s what sponsors must believe them capable of doing when they demand scope, schedule & cost constraints in advance of sufficient planning!
Let’s imagine that between project assignments, you are taking a vacation in a tropical destination. While walking on the beach, you stumble over what appears to be an ancient brass lamp. You rub the sand off it and lo and behold, a genie appears in a puff of smoke! As a reward for releasing him, he offers to bestow one super power on you.
Which will you choose?
I’m sure that you’ve wished more than once that you could be a fly on the wall when decisions were being made about your project or when key stakeholders were talking about you or your project behind your back. Wouldn’t it be great if you could eavesdrop on all of these conversations. But will this knowledge truly make you happy? Could you work with your team members knowing that everybody has bad days once in a while when they might not say the most pleasant things about you? Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
Project managers are like goalies – they are often the first to be criticized when issues arise or failure is imminent. Good project managers will also often take one for the team when criticism is being meted out. Becoming immune to the barbs of others might seem to be a good way to not get hurt. But will such invincibility make you a better project manager? Negative feedback is an indication that you need to take some action, even if it just to find out why a critic feels the way they do.
You don’t have to be managing a virtual project with your team members scattered across the globe to benefit from the ability to instantly jump to a particular location. How many times have you been on a call with a sponsor or other key stakeholder and wished that you could continue that meeting face-to-face? This particular ability deserves Uncle Ben’s warning “With great power comes great responsibility” as it could encourage you to micro-manage your team.
Jedi mind tricks
Imagine how easy our jobs would be if we didn’t have to rely on inspiring others to achieve project success. Saying “This is NOT the scope we are looking for” sounds a whole lot simpler than the effort involved in having a team analyze a change request and then trying to influence our sponsor to reject it. Without healthy conflict and differing views, innovation and creativity rarely thrives so project outcomes are unlikely to be exceptional even if you would look dashing in a Jedi robe.
Why hope that there might be an opportunity on some future project to apply a lesson you’ve learned the hard way if you could jump back in time and set things right?
Poor project decision or an impulsive communication – no problem! Just jump back in time and fix it.
Unsure if future market conditions will support the realization of your project’s benefits – don’t fret! Zoom forward a few months and see how things turned out.
While this is the super power I’d choose, the dark side of getting unlimited do overs is the temptation of pursuing absolute perfection. Instead of completing a project, warts and all, and moving on to the next one, we could become stuck in a Groundhog Day-like nightmare of managing the same project over and over again while trying to get it perfect.
What makes project management so challenging yet at the same time so interesting is that there are no super-powers to rely on – just the right combination of hard and soft skills mixed with a healthy dose of resilience!