By Chris Bart
See our SITUATION MANAGEMENT CLASS on April 13.
Does it seem that you and your team keep getting blindsided by circumstances beyond your control, or outside the bounds of your department or Project? Consider this manager's predicament:
It all looked so promising. The Project had a quick, exciting launch. The client was enthusiastic, the team was ready to go, and the Goal seemed clear. Just a few short months later, all had shifted. The client was angry, the team was demoralized, the Project was mired in details and nobody seemed to know what "done" looked like.
Worst of all, this was beginning to seem familiar. The manager had always prided themselves on being the "go to" person, the one depended upon to "tough it out" when needed. Now, once again, all had gone astray.
Why was the department team so down? Was it a sense that they were helpless, that they had no control over their Project's destiny? They found themselves sinking deeper into dark feelings, less and less capable of moving forward.
The manager asked: Might there be some fundamentally different approach that would help avoid this in the future? Many had suggested finding a Problem or Goal and setting a Project to attain it. Unfortunately, that was just what had led to the current predicament.
There had to be other factors (or Arrows, as they came to be called) to be considered first. One manager pointed out that only a fool would attempt to manage without getting information first. This made good sense. Information – the Data Arrow – was always first.
The next in the sequence was the Risks Arrow. Before Problem-solving, we need to assess Risks. A cop may be called to address a possible burglary Problem at a business, but she had better get information (the Data Arrow,) such as whether she is wearing her body armor and has adequate fire-power if she is to address the Situation.
As the manager considers Risks, they may need to loop back up to obtain still more Data. This was another key message from the most successful managers. They looped through the Arrows one level at a time, until they were prepared to go down to the next Arrow in the list.
With Data and Risks addressed, top-performing managers look at Problems, because a Problem is a Risk that has already occurred. After gathering enough Data on Problems, the manager can move to Decision-making, looping back up to Data and then down through the Arrows as needed.
A key Decision is the creation of a Goal. Remember Goals? That was where we wanted to be, so we could start a Project to attain the Goal. With a thorough analysis and processing of the first four Arrows, we can now proceed.
All managers always need People and Communications. Taken as a group, these eight factors came to be known as the Arrows of ZengWay, which is the system of Situation Management.
It occurred to the manager that these eight factors were everything needed to manage. The realization hit home that up until that moment they had been reactive, more fire-fighter than manager. As such being knocked off track to attaining Goals was predictable. The manager became determined to be one of those people they admired — a Situation Manager.
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