“I am very disappointed with you.”
“I can’t believe you haven’t finished the task I forgot to assign you.”
“Well, I am a project manager, not a magician.”
If you’re a project manager, there must be a lot of times you’ve been asked to make project management look like magic. The conversation above, calls for a project manager to possess some supernatural powers which are too fictional to be real.
Project managers sure do all the time think of how their team perceives them to be magicians. And why not shall we even give it a thought?
- Do project managers have the art of turning even the impossible to possible under their belt?
- Is everything under their supervision happening with a wave of their magic wand?
We all know it cannot be the case. At the same time, we also know how having the title ‘project manager’ will make people think that you’re a pro at pulling a rabbit out of your hat.
Having said that, don’t you think project managers actually are in many ways similar to magicians? They wear many hats. Also, there are project management tips and tricks that they can implement in their project management and task management practices to create project life cycles that help them stay on top of the show. Well, so do magicians – stay on top of their show!
Project management tricks that turn project management look like magic
Let’s jump onto how can project managers play their project management tricks and turn project management look like pulling tricks out of a hat:
Be clear about what you intend to deliver and what you don’t
There can be zillions of magic tricks. But can magicians pull all of them off? Some may be easy, some may be tough. Some may be suitable for a particular location, some maybe not.
One doesn’t have to agree to a project that doesn’t describe what they do. There is, of course, a possibility and a chance to grow when you choose the kind of projects that you’ve never attempted before. However, when one needs to say no is also an important lesson for each of us.
It’s ok to accept or decline a project. Projects are important, and thus managing them in the best possible way is the way to go.
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2. Stay updated on the deliverables and make the results count
The magic show’s success at times heavily depends on the engagement of the audience. Magicians make sure there’s an ‘agreement’ between them and the public while they’re performing magic tricks. That’s when risk management comes in the picture.
One cannot deny how clients do often revise and rewrite deliverable details. Now, do they always share those changes with you? The deliverables’ changes, sometimes, are not even limited to time and location. They’re straight away promising something that the project managers never agreed to.
Have all the conversations that you want. From the customers to the suppliers and the team members, just make sure there is no ‘agreement drift’. You have to produce something that meets the expectations of the clients, after all. A project’s success is strongly based on how strong the delivery is.
Stay on top of your supplies and tools & so will you stay on top of the show
Magic tricks require props. Now, one cannot wait until last minute to end up forgetting buying the special decks of cards, storage capacity, the right rabbit (stuffed ones or the others), and even the software licenses. Also, there are always some tricks that have pieces that degrade, wear out and break over time. So, coming short of resources isn’t unexpected.
Project management requires resources too. From project management tools that are required to put on a great show to teams and budgets, everything matters. Crucial to any project, technology and teams, are also the most challenging to acquire all at once and coming short of them isn’t unexpected just like the props of a magician.
Waiting until the last minute means you either have to compromise or pay more than you were required in the first place. Risk management is a thing.
Check calendars and pay attention to schedules
Magicians have all kinds of audience. It may include kids too. Now, a too early timing or a too late timing implies that kids may be sleepy, or cranky, or both. Why even choose a time you know isn’t going to work out well for you?
The same is with the presentation one keeps for their customers or clients. One shall consider their availability. You don’t want them to be cranky or them eyeing the door so they can go have lunch, do you?
It’s also important to check the calendar for holidays or key events. If there are any, one should plan on how to work around them.
Perform a milestone check to verify accuracy
A good rule of thumb for magicians is to poke their head in the room ahead of the timings of their show. Go see whether they want to re-arrange tables or chairs, maybe? From audio to other presentations, everything requires a pre-check.
Similarly, if you do not want to pull off a trick at the drop of a hat, you can sure go for a final check or a final review, whatever you may like to call it. One can check the project’s overall completion status before delivering it. Verifying that the deliverables are matching client’s expectations is also one thing to be taken care of.
Having a checklist of what needs to be reviewed will make sure you have a check of whatever you’ll be relying on while delivering any type of project.
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Jot down your ‘For Next Time’ to improve performance
Regardless you like or dislike to think if or which things went wrong, you have to. Magicians need to consider which magic tricks fail and what can be disastrous for their next show. At the same time, they also take time to recognize what went really well so that they can repeat it the next time.
The same is the situation with project managers. Of course, one cannot plan for everything that can go wrong. But one can prepare themselves for the next time. Risk assessment is a crucial part of project management. From the impact of things that went wrong to the potential solutions, one can write their ‘For Next Time’ to improve performance the next time.
One shall remember that every show has a different level of success, challenges and also learnings. There will be things that went too well too. So, maybe it’s time to recognize and thank team members for their contributions too.
That’s how project management may feel like pulling tricks out of a hat. Turning project management fun and exciting is in your hands. The ‘show’ shall be the thing, after all.
One final thought:
Project managers and magicians are similar in ways that they keep on practicing, they’re used to read people’s minds and predict future, both dispel myths and present facts using logic, they do believe in risk management and both sure do believe in putting on a great show.
Is there a way you think project managers pull of tricks like magicians? Sure, let us know how do you implement your project management tricks!
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