Webinar Recap: Lessons Learned in Project Management

Please find a transcription of the audio portion of Ed Killingsworth’s Lessons Learned in Project Management webinar being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions such as those steps included in product demonstrations. Watch the complete webinar on-demand at your convenience.


This Webinar Goes to 11: Lessons Learned in Project Management
Posted: 9/12/2018
Presenter: Ed Killingsworth
Moderator: Kyle


So, let’s go to the first lesson, lesson number 1 and many of us have learned this the hard way. I know I have. It just happened, didn’t it? You can’t multitask. It’s impossible for me. Maybe you can but the majority of people cannot multitask. It’s a myth. Just last week, when I was at the office…we have weekly staff calls which I don’t really like but I attend, being a good student and everything. So I attend the staff call but I also printed out a document that I took with me, I was supposed to make some comments at work and turn it in later in the day…when the presentation is going on and they’re going through all their slides, I’m reading the statement of work and making comments, I’m not listening at all, obviously. When someone calls on me to ask a question, I have no idea what they said, don’t know what the topic was, anything…you know, I was looking at my statement of work then I go back to what they say, completely distracted. Your brain doesn’t work this way and science even proves it. Frankly, you can do one thing at a time. Come back to each thing. If you try, your attention just gets fractured and you’re not engaged in any one activity fully which only makes you lose focus. So I assume everybody has a routine at work. You go in, turn on your computer, maybe check your emails, phone messages, pull up your meeting calendar or maybe get started on something. So let’s say you’re starting on your spreadsheet. Well, you’re starting on your spreadsheet, doing work and someone comes in and says “hey, I need you to work on this”. Can’t do both at the same time. You stop this, move on to the other thing then maybe an email message pops up, you go to a meeting so you forget the first thing you were doing, you neglect the second thing and you’re on the third thing. So my point is, you can’t do everything at once. You have to focus on one task at a time. Sometimes, when I’m really busy or I have to get things done, I’ll even completely shut off email. You know as well as I do, whatever application you have open, that little chime pops up, you’re going to check it or you’re going to open it, see who it’s from. Again, you’re distracted.


On to lesson 2. Delegate, delegate, delegate…this is probably everyones biggest mistake they make when you first become a manager. I know I did it. You try to do it all, you try to be a good manager but you’ve got all this stuff to do. “I’ve got all this stuff to do, I’ve gotta do this…you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself, no one can do this better than me”. Both of those are, frankly, myths. When you delegate tasks, you’re actually encouraging teamwork because you’re not really just commanding someone to go do something, you’re making a request and when you make a request to finish a task, you’re actually requesting feedback from the person that’s going to complete the task for you. They get back to you and then you have some feedback. You get some good synergy with the team, it helps to improve everybody’s tasks and if you don’t delegate, you’re just telling everybody “ugh, I don’t trust anybody, I’m smarter than you, I’ll just do it myself”. You got to learn to let go. So anytime I’m doing a presentation or maybe sending out an important email, email to upper management, I like to get feedback from a couple of coworkers who have really good typical writing skills. Maybe I’ll screw up a verb tense or make a grammatical mistake or something. That way, someone else is checking the work and it’s kind of nice, again, to get that synergy…everybody’s kind of working together. Back to learning to let go. We’ve all had workaholic bosses, I certainly have over the years and I had one workaholic boss who could never let go. Even when he was on vacation, we’d get emails. He went on a cruise last year, he was off in a cruise ship somewhere, we were still getting emails from this guy and it’s just one of those things…you’ve got to learn to let go, learn to let your team…trust them to do the work. Frankly, if you’ve gone a week without using your phone, maybe you’ve been on a cruise or something, it’s kind of nice, it’s liberating. You know, the team, back at the office, is taking care of it and you’re out there having fun and the whole point of a vacation is to spend time with your friends and family and relax. It’s very, very liberating to be free from that sometimes. Next time I take a cruise, I’m definitely putting my phone in airplane mode and i’m not turning it on the whole time. So there’s your second lesson. Learn how to delegate.


Lesson number 3. Taking an interest in your coworkers. Sounds like a simple thing. And to start this off, I’m really not comfortable sometimes with small talk, especially with strangers. You know, you’re at the airport, people are trying to talk about the weather. Sometimes I have my headphones on and I don’t really acknowledge them, maybe just smile and nod my head. But, back to your coworkers, get to know them a little bit…their interests. Way back when, when I first was working with NASA, when I was younger, I had my first experience with a “difficult person”. And the way I dealt with them…I always heard “oh, this guy is cranky, he’s pretty angry, he’s not going to like anything you did”. So I’m sitting in his office, I’m waiting to get this big assignment and frankly I’m nervous. I’m a young kid and it’s my first big assignment. I’m looking at his walls and he has all these race [?] and at the time, I was a pretty good runner myself so I’m looking at all these race [?] and I noticed one particular one and when he came in his office, we started talking about running and training and different races. I don’t even remember us talking about the assignment. Actually, to this day, we still keep in touch. Every year, I volunteer for a couple of races locally and he helps me out do it’s kind of nice. Again, take interest in someone else, get them to talk about their interests and have something in common and you may make some new friends. So also, a couple of other rules of thumb about taking interest. Do you know the custodian’s name? Most people don’t and that’s actually a good rule of thumb. Do you know them and if not, get to know them. Ours is one of the friendliest guys. He’s always whistling and smiling, he brings in free food, he comes from a large family, he rides motorcycles…here’s the thing, get to know everybody so to speak. And just another little thing about your coworkers, get to know everybody’s birthday, it means something. Even though, “yeah, well, people don’t celebrate birthdays like when we were kids” but it’s kind of nice to be acknowledged. Maybe you can’t go out to lunch for every single birthday but it is nice to go out to celebrate once in a while with your coworkers. The little things do mean a lot.


Lesson 4. You can learn more from your failures than your triumphs. I can certainly talk about that. We’ve all had the coworkers, maybe you have Facebook friends that do this. They like to whine and sniffle all the time. “Oh, whoa is me. Oh, I don’t like my job. Oh, my arm hurts. My kids are horrible”. Do you really want to have anything to do with those folks? Hey, everybody has a bad day, I’ve certainly had plenty of them. Just don’t be a victim. So, about failures. I’ve certainly had plenty of them and my first job out of college, I was an instructor at this place called New[?]. I thought I was going to go off in the web realm, be a webmaster. I was learning HTML, I was learning how to code and build webpages and graphics and that’s what I thought I was going to do but one day, my boss comes up to me and tells me somebody quit and says “hey! You’re going to teach the Microsoft Project class tomorrow”. I said I don’t know Microsoft Project and he says “well, learn it, you’re teaching it tomorrow”. Hands me the book. Frankly, the class was a complete disaster. I do remember it going so bad, at the end of the day I did literally burst into tears. It was horrible, I did terrible at it but I learned a good lesson from a bad failure. For one, just simply be prepared. It’s not like I could’ve done great in that class. I had a little bit of time to prepare and if I had just prepared a little bit, read over the lessons and been comfortable enough to walk through things, I could’ve “faked it ’til I made it”. But that is the big lesson there. Be prepared. Remember, the boy scout motto is “be prepared”. We’ve all had speeches that may have gone badly. Did you do better the next time? You were prepared. So if you’re prepared, it goes a lot better. Like the Ted talks that are given. The average Ted talk speaker practices 100 times. That’s why it looks so natural and polished. When people are bumbling and nervous, if you prepared, it certainly goes over a lot better. Maybe traveling. A lot of times when you travel, you’ve forgotten things. Maybe this has happened to you, where you forget the hotel name or maybe you forget the address where you’re going. That is just part of being prepared. Now when I travel, I have a routine when I pack. I always make sure I know the address, where the hotel is, the address of exactly where I’m going, I have things pre-planned in my phone…just prepare and things will be a lot better. Another lesson about learning from your failures. Maybe you’ve heard the term “helicopter parents”. I was at my daughters orientation and they kept emphasizing, 2 or 3 times each that were not to call or email our child’s professors. I just couldn’t believe that, “that’s kind of weird, why would you do that?”. At the end of the presentation, I went up to them and asked “does that happen?” and they said yes, a lot. The lesson there: learn to let go, learn to let your child make a mistake. You can learn a lot more from your mistakes than your triumphs so to speak. Another lesson, this happens many many times. I’ll just give you an example, Mike Rowe. One of the presenters I really liked, he has a good Ted Talk too. One of his favorite quotes of mine is “failure is a necessary stop on the road to success”. Sounds simple but he has certainly experienced failure. He is of course nationally known but he got his start as just a regular, local guy in Baltimore. He just decided to branch out nationally and failed over and over, time and time again. When he finally got his “big break”, he was a QVC host, the home shopping network. He was so bad at it, he was actually fired 3 different times. The point is, time and time again this happens to successful folks. Whether it’s Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Stephen King…we’ve all experienced numerous, numerous rejections before you’ve finally triumphed. There’s your lesson there. Every problem has a solution, everything that you think can go wrong can be fixed. You may not like the solution, the solution may be difficult. It may be very, very expensive but everything has a solution. So there is lesson 4.

Lesson 5, archive. Sounds like a simple thing and we’ve all done this to where you have something and you lose it. Misplace it. Whether it’s a file, a document, an email address, a contact…but, whatever you think you won’t need today, you probably will tomorrow. I don’t know if you’re like me but I have corrupted many, many Microsoft Project files. So you should always, always, we learned this in computer 101, make a backup. I’m not saying keep every single piece of paper you’ve ever printed, just have a totally messy desk but it’s good to archive everything. Nowadays, when you try to backup your computer, your work computer or your personal computer, terabyte hard drives are $50 online or you can send the most important thing on your computer which is everybody’s personal photos, you can put those on Dropbox, there’s photo programs, you can archive all those things. You want to backup your emails, upgrade your systems…you know, making this presentation, I thought “I’ve got to remember this anecdote. I can’t remember what it is”, and luckily I had backed up all my emails. 3 years ago, I typed in the advanced search and I found it, where I had emailed myself something. It’s kind of nuts. Just remember, archive everything. We’ve all gone to these websites that have lots of great information, lots of great articles…just getting the habit of…if you go to something you like, just bookmark it. Organize it, you may need it later. You can certainly come back to it another time.


Lesson number 6, this sounds like something your mother would talk about, mine did too. This is a really, really good lesson. If you don’t do this, this is another thing where you learn the hard way, it’s very, very important. Hopefully, you haven’t gone to sleep yourself during this seminar but nevertheless, we will press on. We’ve always heard how sleep is very important and recently, I’ve started doing triathlons. I can’t swim that well but that’s besides the point. The best thing I’ve read for your body to recover from exercise, swimming and running, is sleep. When you sleep, your muscles relax, your muscles recover from stress. It’s kind of the best thing you can do. We’re just now discovering in the last 20 to 30 years some scientific benefits of sleep. We’ve all heard a couple of sleep myths I want to go over the maybe you’ve heard before. Sleep is not a bank. You can’t sleep 2 or 3 hours during the workweek and make up for it over the weekend. It doesn’t work like that. All you do is wear yourself out during the week and that’s not productive for anybody. Another myth, you can’t beat the clock. Even though you try, I’ve tried too. No matter how much coffee or energy drinks you have, if you’re tired during the day, just relax. Go take a nap. Shut down, just relax. 20 minute, quick power nap. You don’t even have to fully fall asleep. It leaves you a little bit more robust. Just don’t push yourself and try to consume all those things. Again, you can’t beat the clock. And another simple thing we’ve heard, just go to bed and get up at the same time every single day. Whatever the time is, go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning. You get into a routine which certainly helps. Now, I know this doesn’t happen when you’re traveling of course. Things get out of whack. Especially if you travel internationally. I don’t know if you can, I certainly can’t, I cannot sleep on a plane. My seat doesn’t always lean back, it’s noisy, a lot of times your in the middle seat, I can’t move. So I can’t sleep on the plane. What I do, when I travel, I always try to take the first flight out, I don’t ever take the last flight out because then you get to your hotel late and it’s dark. So I try to get there early. First thing I do when I get to the hotel is take a nap. I know a lot of folks say “I can’t sleep”. Well, that makes sense. What I do when I get to the room, I want the room as dark as possible and try to make it a little cold. Sleep make work. They may look ridiculous but they really work. It helps when making the room really dark, putting on the sleep mask. Also, there’s some cool apps on your phone you can use to add some white noise to kind of distract. I know you’ve probably stayed in hotels that are very, very noisy and if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, next day you wake up and you’re still kind of tired and cranky. Your presentation may not go so well, the meeting with the client doesn’t go so well. That’s what I do when I travel, that’s what I always remember to do. [?], so to speak.


Lesson number 7. Stay relevant. We kind of have a joke around our place, I’m a contractor for the U.S. government and we call folks who are close to retirement “R.I.P.’s”. Not “rest in peace”, “retired in place”. A lot of folks get close to retirement, they’ll just want to coast. “I just want to coast, I don’t want any new assignments. I’ll just kind of coast my last couple of years out”. I’m not really like that because I get bored. We’ve all had days where you goof off at work, you surf the web all day. You just feel non-productive. It gets boring after a while so you need a challenge and the first thing about staying relevant here is never stop learning. One of my favorite historic anecdotes is a story about Franklin Roosevelt when he was first elected and inaugurated in 1934. He goes to the hospital to visit the famous old supreme court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the one that said that famous quote “free speech doesn’t mean you can shout fire in a theater”. He’s elderly, about 90 years old. Roosevelt goes to meet him and the President finds Oliver lying in bed, reading a copy of Plato’s Republic in the original Greek and the President says “why’re you doing this? You should be recovering, why are you reading an old Greek manual here?” and Judge Holmes looked up and said “to improve my mind, Mr. President”. I’ll always love that story. Just illustrates the point: never stop learning. You’ve always got something to learn, no matter what your skillset is…project management, visual basic, programming, MS Project…you can always learn more, get involved. That’s kind of why we attend these webinars, it’s why we buy books and learn more about our software systems. You want to “become an expert”. Frankly, becoming an expert isn’t really that hard. It’s been estimated that if you spend 3 hours a day in your chosen field, you will become an expert in 10 years. That sounds like a long time but it’s not when you think of your work career. Incidentally, it’s where the “10,000 Rule” comes from. This is where you become the expert 10,000 Rule from Malcolm Gladwell thinks [?]. Here’s a couple of reading statistics that actually bother me. 25% of adults do not read a single book every year. That’s troublesome. The point is, read a book. It can be a biography or sports book, whatever you’re interested in. Any topic you’re interested in, there are some books that you would find interesting. A lot of you are saying “I don’t have time to read, I just can’t do that. I can’t afford to buy books all the time”. Well, if you get a library card, you can read for free and frankly, you can check out audio books for free. You can listen to it in your car on your commute, you can listen to it on your cell phone, on your iPad or whatever. I’ve gone through many, many books running or walking the dog or riding my bike. It’s just great. I really can’t recommend that enough. I not only like to read paperbacks, I certainly like to read on my kindle as well. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be a scientific book or anything, it can be articles or something but certainly, the folks that read are up to date and they’re experts in their field and it’s just one of those keeping you relevant.


Number 8. Back in the 90’s…kind of showing my age here, there was a very popular book called “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Not that I’m recommending the book, it’s alright but I did what any good presenter does: steal that and make it your own idea. So instead of saying “don’t sweat the small stuff”, don’t sweat any stuff. I’m not saying don’t be nonchalant, you don’t care about anything, that’s not what I’m saying. Try not to worry about every little thing. Another manager that I used to work with…this guy was so antsy, he was always sweating, always emailing. It’s not the same guy who emailed from the cruise, different guy but he would always speak nervously. He would just come into the office, his hands would shake, “we got this action item, we need to do this!”. He was always nervous. He would literally run around the halls talking about work, he was fanatical. Probably too much coffee but anyway, just slow down a little bit. Take a deep breath. You’re not even more productive when you’re nervous or highfalutin, so to speak. Just slow down, take a deep breath and don’t sweat it. That’s what you need to be doing. Part of the reason why folks are so busy, everybody’s busy, we kind of do it to ourselves. You take on too much. One of the best lessons here is just to say no. Very simple and very powerful. You don’t have to sign up for every committee, you don’t have to take up all of your weekends with obligations. Work and personal things. Now certainly, if you have kids that play sports, many Saturdays and Sundays in the ballfields, I know I’ve done that. There’s nothing wrong with sitting on the couch on Sundays watching football. Point is, be able to relax. Back to kind of the point of getting enough sleep and the power of naps. Did you know in Japan, many offices have rooms specifically for naps. You go during the day, shut down. We all know, take a 20 minute power nap, recharge, it makes the day go better and you’re certainly more productive. The next bullet point here, “things are going to change”. That’s another one that people freak out about. They don’t like change. Change is coming. I’ll give you a little hint. We all know this too. From any project you’ve ever been on, there will be change. Every project that’s ever existed goes through changes. It’s going to happen. Don’t take it personally. Know the change will be there. Now one of the things that I’ve been working on, still bad about that, is getting interrupted. Sometimes when I’m deep into my Microsoft Project file or Excel file or I’m working on something, trying to really make something work here, someone walks into my office and interrupts me. I used to be bad about it, “what do you want?”. “Lately, I’m trying to encourage feedback. Somebody wants to come in and talk to me, that’s fine. In my past, I certainly had a temper and I’m working on it but that’s part of relaxing. Learn how to relax. Maybe you’ve heard things on meditation. Just taking a deep breath. What I’ve found a lot of times that helps at work is to put on headphones, music, podcast, whatever but if I really want to relax, concentrate on something and really get the deep focus on a certain file I’m in, I like listening to classical music which is kind of nice. Now I don’t even put it in the earbuds, I have the wireless headphones which totally drowns out everything else. It really puts you in a good, relaxed state and you can focus on the task at hand.


Lesson 9. Communication. This could be a webinar in and of itself. Frankly, it could be a week long webinar. We’ve all taken the work surveys. Everyones taken a work survey at some point in their life and the number 1 thing on the work survey is of course, as you know, lack of communication. Why does this happen? Why does lack of communication happen? Well, the first point here is a good lesson learned: never write an email angry. We’ve all done that, we’ve all made that mistake. I know I certainly have. Here’s another good, historical lesson: Abraham Lincoln, one of the great models of leadership in the history of this country, think back to July 1863, the battle of Gettysburg had just happened. General Lee’s forces were defeated there at Gettysburg, he’s retreating back to the Potomac but he’s blocked. There was a storm. He couldn’t get his troops across the river. President Lincoln immediately telegraphs General Meade who was the head of the Union forces, to go attack. “Attack Lee, we’ve got it!”. But General Meade hesitated. That allowed General Lee to cross the Potomac and drag the war on for 2 more years. If he’d have been successful, the war could’ve ended right there, saved thousands of lives. Ended the war. Two thirds of Lee’s army was trapped right there at the river and they allowed him to escape. Lincoln was furious. He wrote a bitter, bitter telegram that basically said “you fool, we could’ve ended the war. We had him trapped, how could you let him escape?”. Now the lesson here is this: Lincoln never sent the letter. He never sent the telegram. Now, it’s just conjecture here but probably what happened, doing like us, he gets real upset and fires off an email but he didn’t hit send. He sits back, relaxes and says “well, I wasn’t there and there’s a reason for that”. So that’s probably one of the greatest lessons from anything today. Never write an email angry. If you wait 5 minutes, you will have a clearer head and what you write will be totally different. A couple other email rules of thumb. Remember, email is for communication. It’s not for you to just vent and complain about things. You never know who that email will be sent or forwarded to. Now personally, this has happened to me, maybe it’s happened to you. About 20 years ago, when email was very different, I don’t even remember what email platform I used but I felt bad about some negative comments I made about a coworker. I called him a stupid nickname [???]. Now, I thought I was just replying back to my friend but for some reason, I still don’t know how I did this, I replied to all. So everybody in the whole building saw the remark I made. Some people thought it was funny but I was embarrassed, I felt bad. I did go to the guy and apologize. He thought it was actually funny. He took it in stride, maybe he was mad but the point is this: don’t communicate information like that in an email. Don’t send angry information, don’t use bad language. Certainly, one of those rules of thumb about email. Don’t do that. Sounds like common sense but keep it clean. Don’t curse, don’t use four letter words in emails and it’s amazing to me, still to this day, I see a number of emails that go back and forth with two people and personal attacks and a lot of us are CC’d or BCC’d. I don’t know how that is but it’s just one of those things. Be professional in your emails. My daughter worked in a law firm and this is another interesting thing tip that I learned over the summer. The lawyers there had a rule of thumb regarding emails. Only write emails that you wouldn’t mind being read aloud in a deposition. I thought that was pretty cool and you can think of all the dirty laundry that someone’s writing back and forth to one person. Those emails are out there, they can become public and bite you. We’ve all heard that. Second bullet point here on communication and maybe you’ve heard this when you’re studying for your PMP. 55% of communication is nonverbal. Now, when you’re actually engaged in a conversation with somebody, the way you talk…you know, you’re talking and you’re listening, maybe you have your arms crossed, maybe you’re looking around, rolling your eyes…that’s the nonverbal communication and they’re gaining clues from that. So that goes with active listening, another term from your PMP if you remember it. Now remember what active listening is…if you look at the person when they’re talking, you’re not staring off into space, playing with your cell phone, have your back turned, have your arms crossed…person talking to you really won’t think you’re taking them seriously. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with that, sometimes I am, you can actually stare at the space between their eyes, it’s not as uncomfortable. That’s another little trick I learned. Obviously, don’t interrupt. Let the person finish before you start talking. Simple. And here, one of the biggest things in communication of course is just don’t lie. I remember this from way back in my beginning days of my career at NASA. Also, with lying, if you keep the truth from management, that’s the same as lying. I used to have managers that would make these stoplight charts. You know, these red, yellow and green stoplight charts…they would never let us put red on a stoplight chart. They didn’t like conveying bad news. Now, bad news needs to be conveyed as quickly as possible so you can make arrangements to work around the bad news. That is just the same as lying. Another example about communication. Back in another job I had where I was a schedule analyst. I would just basically fly around as a scheduler for hire. I worked in a number of companies across the country, it was fun for a while. It was a lot of traveling obviously and it got old. Some weekends I was able to be home and it just so happened this Sunday morning I got a frantic phone call from this manager and they said “we need you in Arlington, someone had gotten into a car wreck, there’s a big presentation. We need you there Monday, jump on a plane to Arlington”. “Okay, alright, sure”. I went and got my pack, I went to the airport, airport wasn’t far away. I got a direct flight and I flew to Arlington. Arlington, Texas. So I flew to Dallas. And I got there and I said “alright, I’m in Texas, where [?]” and the manager just said “no, no, not Arlington, Texas! Arlington, Virginia!”. Now, it actually did work out. Since I was in Dallas, I was able to get a direct flight out and I was there the same day and was able to make the meeting the next day. It was like, that was dumb! All I had to do was ask questions, communicate with the person. They were frantic and obviously frazzled about the coworker who got in a car wreck pretty bad but all I had to do was ask a question. A lot of times, when a manager asks me to do a big assignment, they may think that they’re asking you to do something simple and they think that you understand. I’d say “well sir (or mam), what you’re trying to say is you want me to do this, this and this?”. Sometimes they’ll say “no, no, I want you to do this and this, thanks for asking”. It’s just a simple thing with feedback. Communication. That’s how we can improve things. Certainly another harsh lesson learned.


Number 10. The worst decision you can make is not making a decision at all and this happens quite a bit. Here’s another example I’m going to go over that maybe you’ve heard of called the “Abilene Paradox”. There’s a management guru, he’s from the 70’s, from Texas. He tells the true story that happened to his family. It’s a hot summer day in the middle of Texas. A family is sitting on the porch and there’s 6 of them or so and they say “hey! Let’s go to Abilene’s for lunch”. You have to remember, this is the 70’s. It’s hot so sitting on the front porch would be cool. Abilene’s is 50 miles away. They all pile into a car, six of them into one car. It doesn’t have air conditioning because it’s the 70’s. They get to where they’re going to go to lunch and the food is really bad and the service is even worse. They all pile back into the hot sweaty car, back to where they were in the middle of nowhere and then they kind of look around and say “you know, I didn’t really want to go to Abilene’s, I just thought you did”. The other person said “I didn’t want to go either, I wanted to go because you wanted to go” and it turned out nobody wanted to go to Abilene’s and that’s where the term Abilene Paradox comes from. It’s basically…you’ve heard of this, it’s called “bandwagon effect”…”group think”. Now, that’s kind of a funny story. It may be a funny story but there’s been a lot of historical consequences because of that. Because of the Abilene Paradox, that’s what allowed the Bay of Pigs invasion to happen. It wasn’t because of the Kennedy administration planning that. Eisenhower administration planned that. Somebody in the Kennedy administration said “[?]”. Same thing with Watergate. An individual did not stand up and say “not a good idea, we shouldn’t do this, we should just go along with the group”. Don’t be afraid to disagree. Once you think something is wrong, say something. Most managers will, frankly, respect your honest opinion. They may go against it but they will respect you for saying that. Another term here is “distinction bias”. I don’t know if you’ve heard this term before but this is interesting. The definition is this: making too much emphasis on small differences comparing items side by side. That sounds kind of “huh?”. Let me give you an example. This is another thing that happened to me over the summer. I went to an electronic store last month, we needed a new TV…didn’t really “need” a new TV, I just wanted one. Anyway, if you’ve ever been to an audio place, there’s TVs everywhere. Wall to wall, all around you can look, there’s enormous TVs. 72 inch TVs, 4K, crystal clear and great images of people skydiving and all these great things and it looks great. I’m pretty confused. There’s all these different features, all these different price ranges. I can’t afford the $4,000 TV so I “settle” for the lesser model that’s $800 but I got a really nice TV for 48 inches and I kind of have buyer’s remorse because I was looking at all the other ones that have great features and I think “let me get the smaller, cheaper one”. But when I plugged it in, looked at it at home, popped in a DVD, it looked great. Well, the reason was, I was comparing everything else together and that’s what distinction bias is. That is lesson number 10. Sometimes the worst decision you can make is not making a decision at all.


Last lesson, lesson number 11. Perfection only exists in the movies. And maybe you’ve heard this first bullet point, maybe you’ve heard it around the office. People attribute it to certain generals in history. “Perfect is the enemy of good”. That’s actually from a famous French philosopher Voltaire but if you think about it, a lot of people continue to tweak and tweak and tweak and change things and change things trying to make it perfect. Let me fix this memo, let me fix this slide, let me fix this document…waiting until they turn in something at the last minute. They spent so much time spinning their wheels, they could’ve gone on to other things so that’s one thing I’ve actually said and I’ve actually said that many times at the office. As I told you, I work as a contractor in a government office and we have a number of project offices. And above us, in the government, is called a “program office”. And this program office from time to time sends down requirements and things we need to do. In fact, I’ve got an action item I need to work on right after this. People tend to freak out when the program office sends you something. “Oh, we’ve got to get on it, we’ve got to do it right away!”. Well, it so happens, this one was pretty simple. They simply wanted a different metric style in our weekly charts we turn in. They just simply wanted the standard red, yellow and green for cost, schedule and performance. It sounds easy. I can handle that, right? Well, one of my managers, again, trying to please someone, trying to make things too perfect…he’s actually held 4 meetings on these different metrics. It seems like something very easy. He’s engaging in something called “gold plating”. That’s known as gold plating in project management. Trying to do all sorts of other features and making things wonderful and perfect when that’s not the requirements of what they actually gave you. Now, I’m going to mention one more Ted Talk and I’m going to give it to you in another slide that has links and maybe you’ve heard of her, Brené Browns. It’s called “Powers of Vulnerability”. She’s a research professor and she talks about how we as human beings, well, we’re not good enough, we’re not thin enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not doing enough, we’re not making much money…that’s kind of a flaw in being human. We as humans pursue perfection and we tend to overly criticize. And the last bullet point here is, everyone is a hypocrite. Yes, again, no one is perfect. We like to criticize other folks, everyone is a hypocrite, no one is perfect including ourselves. We need to stop trying to be perfect, it only exists in the movies. Now I’m not saying don’t turn in anything incomplete or bad, run it by your team and make sure it’s as good as possible but once you complete one task, you can certainly move on to something else. That’s lesson 11. Thanks so much Kyle.


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Ed Killingsworth is a Senior Program Analyst, currently working at System Studies & Simulation, Inc. (S³) in Huntsville, Alabama. He has used Microsoft Project since 1999. Ed is a member of the local PMI group and earned his PMP certification in 2014. He holds a BSBA in Management Information Systems from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and his MBA from UNA. Although he doesn’t run very fast, he is also a member and volunteer of the Huntsville Track Club.
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