The stress of being a project leader can be enormous, having to deal with time and budget constraints, unforeseen obstacles, uneasy executive stakeholders, and a thousand other concerns. J Scott saw the need leaders have — for a tested and proven toolkit that ensured every job in their portfolio was done right — and decided to take action.
His book, The Irreverent Guide to Project Management: An Agile Approach to Enterprise Project Management, offers comprehensive, step-by-step instruction and best practice techniques to help leaders move projects forward aggressively and achieve optimum results.
What caused J to recognize the need for a book like this, and what is his favorite idea that he shares? I recently sat down with him to find out the answers to these questions.
What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?
I actually wrote the book out of necessity. When I started 120VC, my intent was to spend my career as an independent consultant. After a couple of years, I had more work than I could handle and my clients were pushing me to take on more. So I started telling them I could bring in others that would “deliver just like me.” When I finally had the opportunity to bring in my first team member, they did NOT deliver just like me and trying to train them using the tribal techniques of passing down information as it seemed necessary was not working.
So I realized I need a playbook, and the first version of the Irreverent Guide to Project Management was born. This, of course, was only the first step. As we began handing out the guidebook to new team members, I thought the problem was solved.
Then, one day, I walked into a new-ish team member’s office who had been with us for two months. The guidebook, in its 3 ring binder, was sitting on his deck still wrapped in plastic! That’s when I realized we needed to create some formal training. The lesson: just because you give someone a book, doesn’t mean they will read and apply it. Even if they are collecting a paycheck to do so. Classic change management faux pas.
What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?
“We communicate to lead.” This is a fundamental premise in all that we do at 120VC. Nobody hires a leader because they want their organization to be the same in a week, month, or year. Leaders change things, they push the human race forward. To do that effectively, it’s critical that we understand the sole purpose of communication is to move a project forward as aggressively as possible, leaving no time or money on the table. Then, when you don’t get the outcome you needed, don’t blame it on communication. If you do, you will work to improve your communication, and that won’t necessarily improve your outcomes.
If you acknowledge the unexpected outcome was a failed attempt at leadership, you will focus on improving your leadership, and you will end up with better outcomes. We communicate to lead. So miscommunication, status that leads to confusion, or even a status report that causes a ton of questions, is a failed attempt at leadership. Period.
What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?
It helps me take ownership of the outcomes in my life, instead of seeking blame. When I don’t get the outcome I was looking for, I question my approach instead of assuming the other person didn’t get it. I seek the lesson, evaluate what I could have done differently, then commit to experimenting with a new approach. This enables me to find the right leadership style for each individual on my team or in my life. If after taking ownership of someone else’s unexpected outcomes, it becomes clear they aren’t taking ownership, I don’t feel guilty or that I haven’t done enough before I start helping them find another team where they might be a better fit.
For more advice on moving your project forward, you can find The Irreverent Guide to Project Management: An Agile Approach to Enterprise Project Management on Amazon.