Mother Nature can teach us much about managing projects if we apply her fundamental principles to the work. In this installment of The Nature of Project Leadership we will begin with the season of WINTER. This is the season of planning and preparation. There is little hope for a prosperous harvest if the soil is not fertile for the seeds that will be planted. Strategies must be devised to replenish the nutrients that were stripped away for the last crop. Likewise, cultivating new ideas, relationships or customers require upfront work and an open mind for possibilities to evolve.
As a project manager, one critical role is to create a “safe” environment for ideas and people to grow. Establishing a culture from day one that demonstrates to each individual that respect and openness are core values is essential for solid roots to be established. Just as the farmer tills the soil, project leaders must take a proactive stance on the hiring for critical skills sets and aptitude that are essential to team dynamics. In my 5 years as a program startup consultant at a fortune 50 tech companies I’ve seen many examples of one individual decimating team dynamics. It doesn’t really matter how much technical talent they have since studies show that the group geniuses smarter than the “expert”. Team cohesiveness and diversity of skill sets is what makes the environment prime for a bountiful harvest of ideas and success.
Planning is also the work of winter. Incorporating the lessons of the previous seasons and the wisdom from outside sources is essential to charting your course. Rotating crops, maintaining equipment, learning new techniques and preparing the soil must all be completed before the spring arrives. Don’t get lazy and wait till “the right day” to do the ground work for the upcoming season. That class you were going to schedule can’t wait till next year and networking events can’t be put on hold because your team is playing on TV tonight. Budget your time to ensure that key tasks are getting accomplished in a timely manner, because the spring may come early this year.
This is also the season for renewal. Take a break to reenergize the spirit too so that you’ll be refreshed for the creating a new bountiful harvest. Revisit your life and career goals to map your journey for the next few months and years. You’ll need this passion when the weather turns against you. We know that there are difficult winters after a poor harvest. But the promise of a new opportunity awaits in spring. We are certain that a spring will arrive because it always does.