Are You Losing the Race to Your Project Management American Dream? Here’s How to Win!

Are You Losing the Race to Your Project Management American Dream? Here’s How to Win!
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To Dream the Impossible Dream

The world is not the same anymore, and it hasn’t been for many years. Countries face economic doom and people are, in essence mad, angry and scared. The American Dream is also not the same because excelling to reach the top and making the big bucks seems like quite a leap more than it used to. Gone are the days when you hit the sidewalks, got your project management dream job and pulled in those large cash bonuses.

Umair Haque wrote a blog post for the Harvard Business Review on whether people should “make the dangerous choice to dissent,” meaning dismiss those guaranteed dreams and try something different or new in order to excel. The man has a point and he’s not just talking about money. He’s talking about self-pride, settling for less, and what he calls the challenge of venturing into “the land of broken promises.”

Is this your future in project management? It is if you want it to be, but if you don’t, maybe it is time to dissent from the norm and try something from way out of left field.

Make Your PM Mark

Working your way up to top dog is a challenge these days. In fact, even getting your foot in the door is tough because there are so many like you competing for the same job with unemployment so high. For your project management dream to succeed you absolutely must find a way to make your own mark on the world or, as Haque says, your own “impact.”

Readers of mine know I’m not President Obama’s biggest fan, but he can brag that in a time when everything looked bleak, he did insist on Obamacare and that meant health care for all. Whether or not his health care ideals will hold up in the future remains to be seen but he did indeed force this bill and, in effect, made his mark.

As a project manager, you need to do that, too. Whether it be managing in a unique way (open air outside formats) or working on projects listening to Lady Gaga so everyone wants to be on your team—find a way to make that mark and stick with it and always reinvent yourself.

No Man Is an Island

No Man Is an Island

Also in his blog, Haque talks about why you need to “connect” with people, and he’s right. Emails, tweets, and texts are all too impersonal. They don’t convey the real you. They may get your message across but when’s the last time you actually shook a client’s hand or took your team out to lunch?

Everyone knows the value of surveys and questionnaires in project management, but perhaps now is the time to skip them and talk to your stakeholders, teams and end-users face to face. Let them know who you are and if that means getting personal about your life, your dreams and even your family, just do it!

The End Result

Next Haque talks about “output” or what your projects leave or give to the customer. Sure, your teams can get through a 30-day Agile sprint like no other team before, but is the output a success or just a fad lasting only a while until the team star stops shining?

Change how you look at your project management methodology of choice. And by change I mean change it up a little. Dare to dream and mix-up methodologies! Toss the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) out the window and develop your own methods. No one said that business degree meant you had to follow all the rules, did they?

Dare to Be Different

Dare to Be Different

Haque’s next idea is to “dream bigger” and that means if you’re a follower, stop following and go in a total different direction. Much like changing your “output” you can dare to be different if you take your projects in wild, unexplored directions.

Maybe this means mind mapping everything, even the project communication plan. Maybe this means forgetting the critical path and finding your own path. Whatever it is, it must be something you choose that is so varied from your peers’ way of doing things they stand up and notice.

Stop, Freeze and Change

Finally, Haque talks about why some of us may need to “quit and do something else.” What? Is this possible after all you’ve invested in your education and project management career? Look at what you’ve done to date and if it’s not what you expect or wanted and in the end you’re unhappy, then I agree, change what you’re doing!

If this means quitting your job, do so and pursue a different dream. If this means standing up for your project management style of leadership, do that. If it means being outrageously different, be so different you stand out in a crowd.

Falling Into the Opaque World

Be Different Like Gaga

The very last thing any of us wants to do is fall into a world of sameness. Drudgery, bland, blank, and dull—none of us are fond of this dream! (If you are, why are you reading this?)

In order to “dissent” you must get out of the opaque world but you must do it on your own. No one is going to push you out. Whatever avenue you can find to stand out, speak out or change—take it.

Are you tilting toward sameness? Have you lost your project management dreams? Or, did you recognize the need for dissent early on and made a change?

Drop me a comment and let me know how you plan to dissent and become flamboyant in your career. Your peers await your ideas and, as we all know in project management, showing off your talents to peers is everything! Let’s start a discussion! No—let’s all dissent! Thanks, Mr. Haque!

On a side note here, I was happily surprised my MS Word spell check didn’t insist on a correction for the words “Lady Gaga” and you know what, she’s living proof on making your mark early, the gal is only 25. So go out and wear some meat to your next project management meeting–heck, maybe ask Cher to hold your purse!