Ok, “fun” may be a stretch…but not really. When do we dislike our jobs the most? When they are dead ends. When we’re micro-managed. When we don’t feel leadership is leading us. When we feel that we aren’t given the tools or authority to succeed. I’ve had one or more positions where all of this happened….maybe not all in one job (though I can think of one specific job that encompassed most of these). I’m sure we all can think of a job where we were pushed down and we were unhappy. We tend to not be at our most productive selves in these types of jobs and under these types of conditions.
I’ve always found that I am at my most productive when the work is fun and when I have a great deal of control over that work. The same goes for the projects that I lead. If I have executive management that has a great deal of confidence in my skills and basically lets me run the show with the understanding I’ll shout out when there are needs as well as keeping them up-to-date on status, then I usually truly enjoy. In fact, I find that managing projects with the some or all of the following 6 characteristics end up being the most “fun” for me to manage:
- Job Autonomy – This basically means being allowed a great degree of freedom and discretion in a job. When I’m allowed to lead a project and do the job well, make the right choices, and decisions and lead the customer without an excess of executive involvement, work is more fun, more productive and I can form a much better relationship with the customer.
- Focused Resources – Having skilled, focused resources that you know you can count on to get the job done certainly makes managing the project with confidence a lot easier. Knowing those resources are focused on your project tasks when they should be gives you the confidence to make appropriate promises to the customer and have your word stick.
- No Micro-Managing – Somewhat similar to Job Autonomy. I’m at my worst when I’m micro-managed and second-guessed. That’s for managers with nothing better to do. I once was leading a team onsite with a customer and had 5 other projects I was also leading. I was onsite with this team for 2 weeks – meaning I had 10 other weekly status meetings during those two weeks, 10 other status reports to delivery, 10 other project schedules to get out, etc. Unfortunately, I also had a senior manager there doing nothing more than walking around trying to make sure my team was focused on the onsite customer – I think because hewas being micro managed as well. It made it difficult to serve my other customers for this company with this individual constantly trying to get me back to focusing on the onsite customer – even though the technical resources on the project we engaged in the tasks we were actually there to perform (I was mainly there to just oversee that…which doesn’t require 24/7 oversight – and I could certainly afford 2-3 hours per day to devote to other projects).
- Requires Some Innovation – Leading a project that isn’t just a slam-dunk is more challenging to me and therefore more fun. One that requires more out of the box thinking definitely gets my attention – and usually challenges my team even more and keeps them excited and engaged.
- Cool Technology – We’ve all been here…any project that requires some cool technology makes the work more fun, right? What’s more fun…a project that requires an out of the box CRM system to be tested and implemented or a project that calls for a slot machine load testing simulator to be built from scratch, heavily tested, and implemented?
- Some Technical Hands-On – Coming from a technical background, I appreciate the chance to get my feet wet sometimes rather than just ‘manage’ resources and project deliverables. Even if it’s just cleansing and manipulating data and loading it into the final solution. Anything technically hands-on that changes the pace for me adds to the fun of managing a successful project.
So, there are projects out there that are cool and fun and cutting edge and there are others that are as dull as burnt toast. The best we can hope for is that we get a decent mix of both. We need some easy ones once in awhile – especially if our load is usually heavy. But the really challenging projects involving some and cool technology can help keep us fresh and having fun in our Project Management positions that, let’s face it, can be somewhat boring (and dull) at times, at least that what I think my wife always imagines.