You Need to Practice PM Yoga

I was participating in an interview the other day and a new term (at least to me) popped into my head and then out of my mouth: “You have to exercise PM yoga.” At first I was alarmed that my mouth out ran my brain. While normally, this is a bad thing, that day it ended up being a perfect analogy.

It was being used to describe the fact that in today’s world, project leaders have to be extremely flexible. In the age of “do more with less,” we have to often times wear many hats.

Now. I’m not talking about being an SME and a PM all at the same time. No no no! I am a HUGE proponent of having dedicated project leaders in all organizations. What I refer to here is that a project leader has to be able to move from project to project quickly, and sometimes, even simultaneously.

Most companies do not utilize a project leader to his or her full capacity. My experience has actually been quite the opposite. So, with that in mind, I know what a PM does, I know how to do the work and when to actually do it. I have experience in all of that. What I also know, is that not all projects require a full onslaught of the PMI methodologies and processes. I also understand that not all companies utilize all of these methodologies either. So it is important to find a good balance. We need to be able to structure each project according to the needs of the project and the needs of the entire organization. We need to be flexible in the work we do while bringing enough structure to give it all the best chance for success.

What are some ways you have had to be flexible? Have you ever been too flexible?

Thanks for giving me a few minutes of your day.

April 19th: I will never forget

April 19th, 1995, I was sitting in a college class in Oklahoma City when the building seemed to shake. We barely noticed it and most of us assumed that it was caused by something going on in the construction area just outside. What I would later find out about that rumble would change my life forever.

At 9:02AM a bomb exploded in downtown Oklahoma City. At first, the cause was was unknown. Some thought it was a ruptured gas line. It turned out to be the worst terrorist attack on American soil which has since been eclipsed by September 11th. It still is the worst domestic attack.

At the time, I volunteered with a local emergency management group. Our main function was weather spotting, but we were also trained in traffic control and disaster assistance. I left my class early to see if there was anything I could do to help, knowing my team would be called for assistance.

I arrived just before noon at the bombing site. What I would see would affect me in ways I didnt’ think possible. As I wandered around the site waiting for orders, I found myself standing on a sidewalk next to where the YMCA playground once was, looking at a deformed tree surrounded by burning cars. I remember vividly looking at the tree with its new shape as decided by the blast and finding hope. I remember specifically thinking that this tree is a survivor.

The devistation was unbelievable:

  • 168 lives lost – 19 were children under 6
  • Almost 700 people injured
  • Over 300 buldings damaged or destroyed
  • Countless lives affected including my own

I was there for the first two days, making myself available for anything that was needed. It was so amazing to see the countless volunteers giving of their time selflessly. Oklahoma City came together to show the world that our will cannot be broken. The conspirators who performed that terrorist act may have broken our backs, but they did not break our spirits. In fact, they made us stronger.

Since then, I have only been able to go back to the site twice. Once after the memorial was first opened and once after the museum was opened. It is an emotional place for so many. It is so quiet, even in the middle of a busy downtown. I have driven by it many times and get the same feeling every time. I want to go back to see again, to pray, to remember, and to hope.

Here is a link to the official Oklahoma City National Memorial: http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/ 

To all the victims, families, and volunteers of the Oklahoma City bombing, I will never forget you or your suport.

Keeping a Positive Attitude

Some of you that know me know that I have just undergone a fairly serious surgery to repair two ruptured disks in my lower neck. For almost 13 years now, I have dealt with severe pain of one type or another on the rite side of my neck or even upper back, shoulder-blades, and shoulders. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being barely no pain and 10 being the most excruciating pain experienced, my levels were sitting at a consistent 8+. I dealt with it for yeas, hardly able to move my head and having doctors tell me that I’m simply “deconditioned” or out of shape. Grr, really? I just had an MRI if my back and skull, and all you can say is I need to take a walk? Wow, I wonder how much that cost me. So you can see a real internal battle brewing in my head. I am a positive person! Well, at least I try to be. I don’t like to dwell on the negative aspects of events. It is kind of like getting your heart broken over and over and over again. I’m not sure anyone would think that is fun.

SO? What do I do?

Well, honestly, that part is easy. There are several avenues that can be taken here, and sometimes you can or even have to take more than one.

  1. Deal with it! Sound harsh? Well, it is. It is also extremely hard to do. Just “dealing with it” does not mean you are prepared to deal with it and this can end badly.
  2. Get some help and deal with it! This is the preferable approach to the first item. Find someone who’s been there or has the expertise to help you. In my case, a neurosurgeon.
  3. Learn from it. How did you get here in the first place? How can you avoid this situation again? Look back on it, what were the tell tale signs that this was going to happen.
  4. Seek the bright side of the bad situation. This particular point gets a lot of people. I just broke my leg in a wreck where my car was totalled, my lunch was ruined, and my cell phone went flying out of the window. Seems bad, right? Well, it is, but let’s analyze a little closer.
  • Had a car wreck: This is one of the single most disruptive items that can happen in a day. It can and will disrupt your life for quite some time. You’ve had a learning process here though. Now you’re looking at more safety features on the next car. Perhaps you’ve been wanting a different car with a different color, or added sunroof or DVD Player for the kids. Hello silver lining, now you have an opportunity to look for all of these things in the replacement car, which if done right, can even cost you less than you were paying before
  • You just broke your leg. Well, your friends will come around more often to see if they can help you. If you are anything like me, you’re always the giver and rarely get treated the other direction. Not only that, but you might get some sympathy from another new girl that thinks your cute and wants to use that as an ice breaker. Heck, if nothing else, just remember that the broken bone will now be twice as strong as it was before making it hard to break again.
  • Lost your cell phone? Well, let the insurance company buy you another one – brand new 🙂

In the end, it all boils down to how you react to the situation you are given. I spent 10 years angry with the drs telling me there was nothing wrong with me. After I realize how silly this really is, I finally got the medical help I needed and had a diagnosis in a few days. Then we setup a plan of action and the executed the plan, with almost perfect precision. I could have been pain free 11 years ago if I had stopped being mad and started being  results oriented. Now, I am on the way to a complete recovery and no longer have the pain level 8s that were plaguing me daily. Instead, I have a level 3 in areas that are new and the old areas are pain free. PAIN FREE!

I still need to take a walk though, and I so. Anywhere from 2-5 miles almost every day. That makes a difference too.

So, my friends, don’t get mad. Don’t waller in your own self pitty. Nobody wants to hear it, and neither do you. Keep your chin up, look for the silver lining. Let the other stuff just roll off your back like water on a duck!

Welcome!!

Welcome folks to my new blog. I’m sure it’s just like everyone else’s but I hope you get a chance to keep coming back to see new content. I am so excited to finally have this site up as I have so many things to write about.

I hope you guys don’t get bored with my site to quickly. I will try to get more and more content up as I think of it. Come back soon!!

Jim Shaffer