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Moving from Planning to Doing on Your Project
By Glenn Briskin

I’m almost three weeks into a new job. This job requires me to build stronger relationships between a complex business environment and its IT providers. No one has had this same job for this business before, so I’m figuring out how to do it. Among many startup considerations, it requires me to consider how much to read vs. how much to act. I’m looking back to old advice and advisers for wisdom.

Early in my career I was lucky enough to participate in a 12 week leadership and management training in the US Air Force called Squadron Officers School. About a thousand junior officers (it was on in 1977) gathered at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama for intensive physical, military, and management training. Among many memories and takeaways I retained was a small foldout card with a few management models we had learned about. One was the read/act model. It illustrated the need to build strengths to both read and act; and to judge and balance the need for reading and action in any new situation. I did a little Google research on Read/Act and found only one website. It gives me the impression that the concept was developed at SOS. What I remember is that many officers err toward action with bad results, so we needed to build our read skills. If we tend to be readers (like me), then we need to work on balancing reading with acting. It’s situational and intuitive. I’m in a new situation.

As there are many challenges in the current situation, people I talk to in both the business and IT are anxious for me to act. I’ve been pulled into a large project to provide input and am working to advise other business areas and projects on next steps. I want to plot a course of action that recognizes past challenges, current capacity and strengths, and identifies next steps that build on a set of guiding principles we will need to agree upon. So I need to figure out how hard to push and how fast to go.

Reading the local paper this morning, I saw an interesting article which was a set of several short notes from respected community members on lessons they’ve learned. Each was a different take on common themes of respect, humanity, patience, listening, and trust. Each acknowledged that we want to charge ahead and make things better; and that we each have strong ideas about how to do that. But, in each note, the message was that real solutions need to build on understanding and leveraging the strengths of those involved. My favorite was from one of the first bright and helpful people I met when I started my civilian career in Olympia. Jim was a fellow manager in that first private sector job (also in the 70′s). He was one of the contributors to the article. Now he’s the president of a local consulting company. Here’s what Jim said:

I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned is to take time before rushing to judgment. Too many times,I acted quickly using only a portion of facts available. This was often the case in dealing with positions or people I didn’t agree with.

Life and people are too complex to evaluate with only surface details. I try to ask questions and listen more to get a fuller perspective before acting. This can slow the process sometimes, but it greatly reduces the amount of time spent backtracking and apologizing.

So, as I conclude my discovery and move toward action, I’m trying to take Jim’s advice into account to balance the need for action with the need for understanding. This way, I’m more likely to find what can go right on my upcoming projects.

Copyright Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk” 2013

Glenn Briskin is a a project management consultant working with organizations around Washington State’s beautiful Puget Sound. He’s a certified Project Management Professional and has a Master’s degree in Management. He works primarily with information technology projects that improve the way state and local governments manage information and deliver services. These projects are usually complex.

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