PROJECT PARENTHOOD

"CPM - Conscious Parenting Mindset"

by Geof Lory


Many who have read my articles or listened to me speak snicker at the thought that I would actually employ project management practices in my role as a parent. They may laugh just because they find what I say humorous, but they don't usually believe that I really do think and behave that way. Either that, or they are sure that my wife is a living saint. But, as I stated in my last article, "Who's in Charge Here?," I don't really manage my children. I lead and guide them.

In my role as a parent, finding the right balance of structure and rules (to point developing children in a positive direction) and freedom (to afford some "learning by failure") has been and continues to be my greatest challenge. Rarely is it exactly perfect, and when it is close it seems to last for only a fleeting moment before the next situation requires a new balance point. Such is the dynamic life of a parent. Does any of this sound familiar in your role as a project manager?

In my work as a project coach, helping companies strike this balance is no less challenging. Given that they are expecting me to have all the answers, the heat gets turned up as high as managing a house full of teenage boys and girls at a New Year's Eve party, raging hormones and all. But, we'll save that story for another time -- a real lesson in expectation management.

So, how do you do it? There is a basic premise asserted by Dietrich Dorner in the book The Logic of Failure that humans, when making a change, tend to overreact. Who among us hasn't turned the thermostat all the way to 80 degrees hoping that it will heat up the house faster, only to turn it down 30 minutes later when we are running around the house in our shorts? OK, maybe I'm the only one who has ever done that, but you get my point. Change usually involves implementing some process that is new or different from the existing process, if there even is a process to begin with.

Process is a tremendous tool for steering the ship, but it creates no energy by itself. People create the energy. Yet without structure (process) the energy is rarely maximized. So, when attempting to improve performance and productivity, and searching for the balance between process and people, I work from a framework that is rooted in principles. Then, I develop the structure that consciously conveys those principles. I'll call these activities surface structure because I know framework is an overused word, perhaps replacing paradigm as the new buzzword. (I for one am thankful for that since I could never spell "paradigm" anyway.) A framework or surface structure is nothing more than a common sense set of behaviors that displays a set of underlying principles and values.

When creating appropriate surface structures, I try to remain as conscious as I can and follow a continually evolving process that clearly and effectively embodies my values as a project manager and as a parent. As a parent, I don't really follow a formal methodology, but if I were to decompose my behaviors and document my personal surface structures (certainly not beyond my anal tendencies), you could probably see one in action. Here's what it would look like. It's my own CPM: Conscious Parenting Mindset.
  1. Be clear about intent. Call it envisioning, scoping, inception, whatever. If I don't know where I am going it shows up in my inability to stand behind the effort I put forth in leading my team or family. We'll look at this a little closer in the first of a series of articles to be published later on CPM in, "Are We There Yet?"
  2. Think ahead. I try to think about what I am going to do before I do it. A form of planning, this can avoid rework, which in the case of children usually turns up as therapy bills later in life. I'm pretty certain the incident when I accidentally killed Sparky the goldfish while cleaning the fishbowl will be good for at least three sessions with Dr. Feelgood. More detail on this and on managing expectations in "A Man with a Plan."
  3. Do it. At some point you just don't know what you don't know, and more thinking gets you no farther along the path. You've hit the planning point of diminishing returns, where additional time spent thinking does not save time or reduce risk in doing. Decide to do it or not to do it, but move forward. Plenty on this in "Nikkie - Just Do It!"
  4. Learn to stay fluid. What you think was going to happen rarely comes off as planned, so keep your eyes on the goal and ride it out. I have some interesting thoughts on this in "Going with the Flow."
  5. Bring it full circle. In spite of the outcome of any endeavor, there is always the opportunity to take something away from it and learn. If we take the time and are willing to go there, we can learn as much if not more from our less-than-perfect performances. I'll try to cover some of this in "Are We Having Fun Yet?"
I haven't flow-charted my methodology yet (mostly because there is a major family debate during Sunday dinners about whether we should use a waterfall diagram or a spiral, and until that is resolved no progress will be made). So I am proposing a new diagram, or more like an image. It is a series of Cs connected like the Barrel of Monkeys we used to play with as kids. The Cs are connected like the arms of the monkeys to form a circle. I would diagram it, but then it would be real and it is probably better to allow it to exist only in your mind. I know it is clearer in my mind. There will be more on these Cs and what they mean in "C-ing is Believing."

I hope you will enjoy this integrated series of articles as it unfolds over the next several months. It flows like I do as a parent - a general plan guided by common sense, with the details surfacing only as they are needed.

As always, your feedback and story ideas are both welcomed and encouraged.






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