Posts Tagged ‘lazy project’

Not my circus, not my monkey

January 8, 2016

(Original Polish translation: Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy)

In simple terms this means ‘Not my problem’ but let’s be honest, ‘not my circus, not my monkey’ is a whole lot more colourful to say and will definitely get you noticed when you say it.


This thought or attitude draws us to a typical challenge for the project manager who wants to be more ‘social’ since in traditional terms a project manager would have the attitude of ‘this is my problem’ and, as a result, would get involved to resolve the issue. Now in the more ‘social’ world the project manager needs to have the attitude that the project team should be capable of resolving issues without involving the project manager in many cases. Not all of course, since some would be significant enough to escalate to the project manager level. But in general terms it is a change of focus for many project managers.

That said I have, ever since ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ was written, advocated that project managers need to trust their teams a lot more that perhaps many do, and the move towards being a social project manager demands that this is the case.

When it comes to involvement then in my other book on ‘productive laziness’ called ‘The Lazy Winner’ I speak specifically to a decision process that helps project managers, and others, assess whether any specific activity is your ‘problem’, or perhaps I should say ‘is your circus, is your monkey’ (if you can have a reverse version of the polish idiom).

There are 3 tips[1] I recommend and below I have adjusted these 3 tips to the world of the social project manager:

Tip #1: Do I want to get involved? Even if I do want to get involved, do I need to get involved?

Don’t do something just because everyone else does it or because it is the ‘usual thing to do’. Just running with the pack is never going to allow you to take control of your own time and will only lead you in to over-commitments. It will also detract from your project team’s capability and confidence in resolving questions and issues themselves, without having to always involve you, the project manager.

If you really want to change things for the better then begin by asking yourself two questions: ‘Is this really necessary I get involved?’ and ‘Is this really worth getting involved (for yourself and for the project as a whole?’

If the answer is ‘no’ to either of these questions then simply don’t! Of course there will be times when you ignore this advice because you are compelled to get involved because ‘it is the right thing to do’ but really you need to make these exceptions just that, exceptional.

Challenge yourself the very next time a decision has to be made that involves your personal time – ask those two critical questions ‘Do I need to get involved and do I want to get involved’. By addressing objectively the decision making process, rather than being swept up in enthusiasm, acceptance of delegation, or assumption that you do have to do something then you will be better prepared to a) do what is important and b) do a good job on what you accept is important.

Tip #2: Is the result or outcome worth my effort?

Only do the things with the most impact. It is all about applying the good old 80/20 rule. What are the most critical things that you need to get involved in? What is the 20% that will deliver the 80% of value (and not the other way around that most people do – often the easier actions that deliver a false sense of progress). Get the priorities right and you will achieve far more, and by prioritising this way and assessing if the outcome or output is worthwhile then you can help do what is most important.

Your time is limited (some people seem to believe that time is flexible and infinite but they also tend to over-promise and under-deliver) so invest it only in things that give you the most return on your personal investment. As with all of these guiding rules there will be exceptions.

Tip #3: Do I have to get involved myself?

Ask yourself if you really are the best possible person to do whatever it is that needs to be done or is there someone else in your project team who is better qualified than you to do this thing? Or indeed can the collective team, using social tools, address the issue or task in a far better way than you can yourself. Being honest here and thinking about the project as a whole rather than yourself will lead you to make better decisions.

The strength of saying ‘No’ should not be underestimated and saying ‘No’ can be a very positive thing, if you don’t say ‘No’, ever, then you will never achieve anything. There is the ‘what goes around comes around’ idea as well. Sometimes you shouldn’t say ‘no’ because despite the fact that you may not want to do something, need to do something and there is someone who could do it better, you do want to help out and be that team player or Good Samaritan.

Or, it is in your interests to get involved so that you can learn some new skills, in which case you may well not be the most obvious person for the job.

It is all about balance and priority. Overall you want to deal with the important stuff plus a reasonable amount of other stuff.

If you keep saying ‘yes’ then your backlog will never go down and you will spend far too much time working on the unimportant and your project team will be passive and defer always to you in your role as a project manager, in other words you won’t be a social project manager and they won’t be a social project team.

At every opportunity you must think your actions through to the end, as best that you can, and aim to optimise your personal return on your personal investment whilst at the same time maximising the project teams capability to deliver as a collective, as a social collective.

[1] In The Lazy Winner there are actually 5 tips but the latter 2 are focused in the scale and scope of involvement rather than the question of being involved or not.


Project Branding: Using Marketing to Win the Hearts and Minds of Stakeholders

February 4, 2015

Extract from my book ‘Project Branding’ published by RMC Publications, Inc.


The project name is important in setting the tone and personality of the project, and this name can be a powerful marketing tool, or even a major part of the brand for a significant project. The name should reflect the overall goals and objectives of the project—what the project is about and what it’s meant to deliver. Over time, people will subconsciously start to link the name to a set of associations they make with the project.

Consider, for example, “Project Phoenix” (how many of those have you come across?)—a good enough name and one that is often selected to show the desire to resurrect or improve some system or other. But (yes, there is a “but” in this case) what happens when the project hits issues? Then the jokes about “burning up” or “going to ashes” or “this bird is dead” might come thick and fast, and the project name becomes tainted.

In short, the project name is a valuable aid to communications inside and outside the project team. So it’s worth taking the time to think carefully about a suitable name for the project. Make sure the name conveys the following:

  • The “big idea.” What lies at the heart of the project change?
  • The vision for what this project will accomplish. Where are we going? What will the outcome be?
  • The principles behind the project. What are the key features/characteristics that will be reflected in the project deliverables?
  • The personality of the project. How do you want the project to be perceived?

Typically a name falls into one of the following four types:

Descriptive: These are names that simply say what the company or project actually does. For example, “Move” was used to label an office move, saying all that needed to be said about what was happening.

Evocative: Names in this category suggest associations with the project or company, but they don’t try to describe it precisely. For example, “Advance” is a project name that evokes thoughts of progress, things getting better, and advantage.

Abstract: These names are unusual (in the context in which they’re being used) and therefore stand out from the crowd. They make no clear reference to the nature of the project. For example, “Blue” was a project name that came about because the supplier’s primary color for their marketing material was blue, but the name eventually came to stand for a brighter horizon/future

Acronym (or abbreviation): These are contractions of a title or phrase based on the first letters of each word. The end result should be a name that is easier to say and recall than the full version, but one that still clearly relates to the organization, project, or item. A simple example might be “RED” (Rapid Enterprise Deployment), a memorable acronym with a suggestion of importance and criticality.

Here are some other tips to consider when choosing a project name:

  • First, when you are brainstorming or collecting ideas for a project name, you will need to filter the suggestions. You will need to imagine the name in various potential moments—both positive and negative—of the project’s future. How will the name stand up at these potential points in time? Will the name work in all extremes?
  • Then, ask yourself if the name is politically correct, and not just in your mind. Remember here to consider the full spectrum of stakeholders, too: both those closely related to the project and those more widely associated with the project. In these days of multi-country, multi-cultural projects, just be careful what you end up with when choosing a project name. The clever acronym that you have constructed in Portuguese or English might well be just that at home—a clever acronym. But in another country, it might just mean or translate into something completely different.
  • Make sure your project name is easy to pronounce. If people can’t say it, then they won’t use it. And make sure it isn’t awkward. Don’t, for example, misspell a word to fit an acronym. You will get fed up with people telling you that you have spelled it incorrectly.

Now, you do need to think through your project name carefully, but don’t overthink it either. Too much can be made of a project or product name, but many great names start out with humble and less thought-out origins. In the biography Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson describes how Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak discussed many options for company names, including “Matrix,” “Personal Computers, Inc.,” and “Executek.” Jobs, however, had just arrived back from working on a fruit farm. He suggested “Apple” and the rest, as they say, is history.

On the other side of the marketing coin, Apple experienced some issues with the pre-Macintosh PC when it was named “Lisa” (allegedly after Jobs’s daughter). The official company line was that it stood for “Local Integrated System Architecture,” and the unofficial one was that it stood for “Lisa: Invented Stupid Acronym.”

There is a wonderful Dilbert cartoon by Scott Adams that starts with the news that the company has run out of acronyms, and so they can’t start any more projects. They can’t create any new acronyms either, because that would then be a project, and they can’t start a new project because . . .they’ve run out of acronyms!

So don’t push that one too far. Be creative, but don’t constrain yourself by trying to be too clever or to force something out as an acronym.