A PM skill set ‘CHANGE MANAGEMENT’ for Writers

I have worked for the last 10 years as a Project Management (PM) professional in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry where I have spent 18 years of my professional career.  In my personal life, I am discovering and challenging myself in fiction writing, a personal passion.  I have been taking courses in various writing mediums to learn, absorb and practice.  What I am finding is that the PM and Writing skillsets are not that different in techniques.  Below are a few change management skill sets adapted for my fellow Writers to help you in your writing process from beginning to end.

BRAIN STORM

Sounds simple enough, but many of us don’t do this effectively when writing (or planning our Projects).  Brain storming takes practice and experience, the more you do the better you become.  Get the ideas flowing and spend time on it, Rome was not built in a day.  Is it a topic and situation you want to address, a feeling or emotion?  Outline the story, it doesn’t have to be formal it can be triggers that can be developed later.  A house can’t be built without a blueprint and neither can a story or project.  I am a big fan of the white board and dry erase markers, but anything will do from good ol’ pen and paper to dictation software.

  WHO’s in CHARGE

Once the need for change is identified, who is in charge of the process? Is it the editor, the author, the publisher? Know what your role is in the change.  If you feel strongly against the change you need to ensure you are communicating this with solid rationale and references as to why a change would be detrimental to your story.  Stand up for what you believe, and be prepared to defend.  Remember not all team members are cheerleaders, but you certainly want your team rooting for you in the game.

RECOGNIZING THE NEED

Many writing projects fail because of those not willing to recognize a need for change or ignore it all together.  For example if your editor, publisher or writing friend/group presents the need for an alternation to your story and you dismiss it as an author first hand without listening you are indeed failing to recognize the need.  Ultimately, as the author it’s your choice to decide if the element is really necessary and if retooling is needed, but failing to listen at all is detrimental to your writing (or Project).  The great thing about being the author is you are the judge and jury creatively, ensure you listen to the lawyers they have points to make and are skilled too.

   RESISTANCE

Are people simply defiant to change?  I often think we like to mimic that we are all for change, but deep down its work, and most of us don’t want to go backwards to go forward.  We want everything done and completed yesterday.  It takes practice to be impervious to change and criticism for that matter.  How to do this is to step away from your writing and really see it from an outsiders view (i.e., this is similar to ‘recognizing the need’).

  ROLE PLAY

Much like brain storming this can be an effective way to ensure you overcome common obstacles to change.  For example, you decide to change an element in your story half-way through and this modification will affect other sub-plots.  Role play this in an outline first, you’ll be able to see the kinks and address them before rolling out to full scale.  This is a practice in lessening the modification risk in a project.  Test the water temperature before you dive in.  Does it really make the story better?

KNOW WHEN YOU’RE DONE

This may seem obvious but often it’s not.  Change in any form involves the human element and it can be unpredictable.  You’ll find hurdles along the way – doubters, chaotic atmospheres, skeptics.  Heck, sometimes you will be the one contributing to these hurdles.  The key to stopping is the end of the story all elements are wrapped up to satisfaction.  You have not only drafted but completed the edit process several times.  You may only be done when your story is published, if that is your deliverable to the end.  The secret is not to continue working on a job that is finished, be done!

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I certainly have an appreciation for writing and the process as I am doing this more and more.   It’s become second nature for me to loop in my PM skill sets to my budding Writing skills.   I hope this small insight to project management is helpful and rings true for my fellow writers/bloggers.

Please feel free to comment and share.  Look forward to hearing from you!

Uni-Tasker Is Not an Ugly Word

“They threw rocks at him and called him a multi-tasker!  Can you believe it?  Like anyone can do more than one thing at a time successfully, give me a break.  Who do they think he is some super computer robot?” She said sarcastically.

He gave her a cross look as he finished his text message while listening to her drone on about his driving, in suggestion she had gone to far. “It must have been user error”

Smelling the roses
Smelling the roses (Photo credit: Ed.ward)
  • How many web tabs and programs do you have open right now? What other distractions are around you?
  • Have you said “I’m listening” to a friend and/or colleague while simultaneously typing a text message or reading an e-mail?

Part of the blame is the culture that’s been created from the attitude “I need it now”. People who think they are great at multitasking are usually the worst at it.  The reason is that they are less likely to realize the mistakes they are making.  Practice DOES NOT make perfect when doing several things at once. If there is a continuous speed to switching to and fro in a task, you lose the ability to think strategically and solve complex issues.  You will miss the scent of the proverbial rose sort of speak.

Take the time for yourself and others to know when to stop multitasking, that is the important skill to master!

So how will you avoid falling into the black hole of multi-tasking?

Like – Comment – Share, I look forward to the discussion.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

This is always a hot topic in leadership. Is a good leader born or made?

There are certain attributes that some naturally have, such as the gift of negotiation and debate. Those with the quick wit in sticky situations, i.e., Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. The point is, everything can be learned with the right effort and practice. There is no limit to what one can achieve with the right tools, training and support. However, to know whether one was born a leader, is it even relevant today?

Psychologist have said this is a dangerous question, born or made. The idea is that the focus on a leaders’ natural ability lessens the focus on leadership development and training. In the down economy the development programs are often in the first budget cuts. Current research suggests that experience on the job plays an important catalyst for unlocking leader behavior. There is no substitute for learning through doing, making mistakes and improving with time. Maybe the question is dangerous because the definition of leadership is variable depending on who you ask.

Leaders – are individuals who establish direction for a working group of individuals, who gain commitment from these group members to this direction, and who then motivate these members to achieve the direction’s outcomes.

This definition is broad enough to allow for a wide variety of leader behavior. For example, setting direction can range from establishing strategic direction for the organization to setting daily target goals for a team or individuals. Secondly, a leader need not exercise all three elements to be a leader in the eyes of others. Leaders can be found all over organizations fulfilling one or all of these roles.

I advise that organizations don’t be seduced by someones past success. You see it often that organizations bring in new leadership based on that leaders past success in other companies to bypass in-house development. Certainly there is good reason to bring new leadership from the outside for fresh ideas and to energize an organization, just don’t short change internal leadership development in the process. Whether a person outwardly shows leadership attributes or not, an organization is smart to focus on the leadership development first then selection of the ‘natural’ leader second.

I know where Vince Lombardi sits. Where do you sit on this topic? Comment or Tweet me, looking forward to hearing from you!!

“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” –Vince Lombardi

How to Avoid Common Project Problems

In my profession, I have worked as a Project Manager for the pharmaceutical industry for over 10 years.  I have been trained in various Project Management Methodologies and have conducted various workshops on Project Management in my industry.  The overwhelming success of a project is managing risk.

Chess bishop 1000.jpg
Chess bishop 1000.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Risks in a project are in general terms those things that can go wrong. What about all those common things that are simply defined as project problems? Besides the risk of falling behind timelines, going off budget, or simply producing poor-quality results, here are some ways to avoid common project problems:

1) Too many chiefs and not enough indians.  One person wants it done by Wednesday, one says make it Tuesday; another wants you to use Microsoft Project, while another hates that program. It’s important to establish from the start who is in a position of authority and then standardize the expectations of the team. If you have to answer to nine people, you’ll have a project going in nine directions and none of them will be toward the goal.

2) Another one bites the dust. Old disasters under new names with new leaders do not work unless a key component has been changed.  Maybe it was the leader that was the issue; however make sure you do your homework and find out if this project can indeed be done, or if you are in a situation with too little funding, poor resources, and no clear-cut plan of action. If that’s the case, run like hell.

3)I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Some projects are in constant delay. Something is always slowing them down, whether it’s funding, audits, lack of resources, or simply low priority due to other, more demanding projects. This is not generally a good sign. Try to get a firm start date along with project expectations. The longer you delay, the less likely the project will succeed.

4)Speak now or forever hold your peace. Sure, there are plenty of documents, reports, and even e-mails, but poor or no communication between people is generally not a good sign. As far as things have progressed technologically, when projects that rely on people have no communication, they generally lose both enthusiasm and the element of creative thinking and planning that comes from such interaction among team members.

5)Naked Thursdays! If the boss has odd requests, make sure to tactfully, put them into perspective of the project goals. You cannot do every offbeat scheme that someone wants to try. Be very selective and always explain that your decision is based on what’s in the best interests of the project.

You’re likely nodding your head at this list of common problems. You have probably experienced the same things. It’s impossible to plan for all of the potential risks on a project or prevent projects from going off track. However, with this list of common project problems, at least you know where to start the planning process and how to start to address these risks.