When you ask most project managers how they landed in that position, most of them will say they fell into it. It was a natural transition they made once they realized project management was a ‘thing’ and they possessed the skills it required. There is usually a type — these were the kids in school who took control during group projects, they are the person in the friend groups tasked with planning vacations or events, and they’re the first to suggest creating a calendar invite. However, most people don’t know much about project management until they realize they already were one. While the day to day tasks and metrics of success change from industry to industry, project managers are always the hub of workflow, production, and communication.
Project managers have been project managers their whole lives; it didn’t start when their Linkedin title was updated.
Yvette speaking at 2018 Digital PM Summit on non-technical project management while working on a project in Haiti.
I wasn’t able to attend the PM Summit this year but I caught this quote on Twitter and realized nothing summarized my personal and professional life intersections quite like this. I always aim to leave work at work but that does not mean I stop pm-ing when I head home. So how can I embrace this and keep utilizing this part of me outside of planning all my friends’ weddings?
At the start of my projects, I lead a team start-up exercise I found at a Kickass PM Meetup from Frog Design years ago. The goal of this internal team exercise is to kick-off the project outside of the scope and client goals. Why do you personally care about this project? What secret weapons do you have in this project? What is your working style? It’s a way to quickly get a new team aligned on the process outside of sprints and retros. The way we create is just as if not more important than the end result product we’re working toward.
I had a eureka moment while my boyfriend and I were discussing how we would start the process of moving in together. We have both previously lived with partners and learned a lot from past situations. I decided to treat this like one of my projects, keeping in mind I do not want this particular project to end :-). My projects begin with a team start-up so why can’t other parts of my life begin with it? What could we bring into this new beginning to ensure success before we get started? I pitched this idea to my partner and he was extremely receptive, another indicator of why we are taking this next step together. I edited the team start-up exercise with prompts from a variety of websites that advise what to ask before cohabitation as well as crafting from my own experiences.
You will read a question and have 2 minutes to answer individually. Write one thought per post-it. For example, if you listed what you want to be in charge of for chores, you would have a separate post-it for dishes, laundry, dog walking, etc.
At the end of the two minutes, share your answers. Try to match up similar ones you had with your partner to find common themes. With each question, alternate who shares first.
The activity was a complete success. We decided to do it after dinner with a few glasses of wine and made sure we gave ourselves enough time. We were able to ask questions further if we needed clarification or wanted to dig deeper. All of our answers confirmed we are doing this for the right reasons and on the same page about how we want our household to run.
After our session, I digitized in a Google Sheet and shared with my partner. It helped to both write them down for externalization and digitize for accountability. Our plan is to revisit the list six months into living together as a retrospective and see if anything has changed.
There are a lot of tactical uses for this exercise. I would suggest trying it before any large transition or start of a new chapter. The point is to open up the conversation between yourself and other stakeholders. Make a list of 8 to 10 questions that address important decisions that need to made in order for your path forward to be a success. I’ve devised a templated list based on how I approach every project that can work across various scenarios:
Tailor the questions depending on your life event at hand. This activity can be used for cohabitation (with roommates or romantic partner), considering adding a new member to the family (pet or human), and creative projects (such as starting a podcast with a friend or producing a show for community theater) to name a few.
Go into this exercise with an open mind. Listen to your partner(s) and ask curious questions before jumping to conclusions. This is meant to start an important conversation to address risks and find your internal motivations and goals. Your inner project manager is in there, you just need some post-its. 🙂