So here is another post I originally did for Artem’s Agile Software Development blog. This is one of my attempts to blend a non-agile topic (parenting) with agile thinking and project management. Hope you enjoy it.
Scream Free Project Management
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to read a book by Hal Edward Runkel called Scream Free Parenting. The title is a little misleading because the book is not really about screaming and the lessons Hal teaches go beyond just parenting. The book is about controlling your anxiety so you can build healthy relationships.
The key idea of the book is that anxiety is at the root of much our conflict. Think about it… we want better behavior from our kids, we are not getting it, and not getting that desired behavior stresses us out. When we yell at our children, we are really saying “I want to be calm, you are not allowing me to be calm, I demand you change your behavior so I can be calm”.
How about with our teams? We desire a certain outcome on the project, we might not be getting it, so we start to get anxious. We might not scream at our team but we do exert pressure, we threaten, we manipulate, and we control. When we behave this way as managers, we are in effect screaming at the team to change their behavior so we can be at peace.
The problem is that the more we try to control, the more pressure we put on people, the less likely we are to get what we really want. Princess Leia said it best back in the 70’s… “The more you tighten our grip Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers”. The more we scream… the more we demand… the more we try to control… the less likely we are to get what we want.
Being anxious leads us to demand control. The more we try we try to control, the less likely we are to actually get the outcomes we desire.
As project managers we need to get ourselves under control first. We need to operate from a position of confidence and strength. It is up to us to lay out the vision and lead the team. We can establish boundaries and set guidelines for behavior. As project managers we monitor the system, give support, and ensure accountability.
At the end of the day… an empowered, self-directed team will deliver more than one that is being heavily managed. It is this kind of team that will help us meet our goals and deliver on the objectives of the organization. Our anxiety is all that is standing in our way… it the only thing stopping us from creating the kinds of teams that are really going to deliver. The challenge is that we have to get ourselves under control first!
Projects come in all shapes and sizes. Some are software… some are community organizations… and some projects live in your house and eat all your food. Focus on creating context… focus on managing the environment… focus less on managing people and controlling outcomes and you’ve got a much better shot at making things happen.
You’ll lead a richer life and have more fun along the way.
Here is a link to the original post on ASD: http://www.agilesoftwaredevelopment.com/blog/mcottmeyer/scream-free-project-management