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Top Ten Rules of Project Management from Kindergarten
By Pam Stanton

Those of us in project management live with this conundrum: how can something so simple be so complicated? After all, a project is just a group of people trying to get something done, right?

Looking back at the earliest lessons from kindergarten, I realize that we learn all the basics of teamwork and project management. Somewhere along the way, though, other things get in the way. Politics, ego, fear of failure, personality conflicts, and stress cloud our perspective. We seek comfort in layers of methodology and formal process, instead of relying on the most basic things we learned at the age of five.

  1. Listen to Your Teacher.

    Understand what your Sponsor wants, and doesn’t want. This generally involves using your ears instead of your mouth.

  2. Get on the Right Bus.

    Know where you’re headed, and make a plan to get there.

  3. Make Friends.

    You need a posse to play with, to cover your back, and to fend off the bullies.

  4. Share Your Toys.

    Don’t hoard knowledge or resources. When you give, you will receive.

  5. Don’t Be a Bully.

    There are different ways to get people to do what you want. The bad ways work only once, and then those people avoid you, or undermine you. Don’t take credit for something that’s not yours. Don’t push and shove. Take turns at letting others be the line leader.

  6. Sometimes You’ve Gotta Get Dirty.

    Whether it’s finger-painting or data collection, sometimes the only way is to plunge in up to your elbows. Roll up your sleeves and get into the muck.

  7. Take a Nap and Have a Snack

    Your body is the host of your mind. In order to function, you must nourish and refresh. Stress takes you down not only emotionally, but physically, as well. Make sure you and the team have food, drink, a comfortable working environment, and breaks to rest.

  8. Playing is Good.

    Remember singing the ABCs? Or using modeling clay? We were playing and learning at the same time. The essential to keeping a team engaged in a complex project is high-energy, enthusiasm, and some fun.

  9. Try New Things.

    It’s how we learn. Approach old problems in new ways. Give someone’s “crazy idea” a shot (you actually want me to EAT those peas?)

  10. Clean Up After Yourself.

    Art projects and business projects can get pretty messy. When it’s done, you have to put everything away. Make sure that your team gets recognition, that documentation is in place, and that lingering issues have a plan for resolution.

Pam Stanton is the owner of Heart, Brains, & Courage, LLC, the parent entity for “Pam Stanton, The Project Whisperer” and “Perspectives Gallery.” She has 25 years experience leading business initiatives of all types, focusing in corporate I/T.

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