1. A Time to Whine
|I can only
take so much whining before I mentally shut down
and begin to ignore what a person is telling me.
As I mentor/coach Project Managers (PMs) and others, I
have established a 10-minute maximum whining limit for
our meetings. When the 10 minutes are up, the person has
a decision to make -- either say "Thanks, that helped
me get a lot of things off my chest," or start to create
a proposal on how to change the situation that is causing
This sounds cut and dried, but the 10-minute rule
has proved very helpful to me. I can only take so much
whining before I mentally shut down and begin to ignore
what a person is telling me. I meet with 3-5 people
daily; thus, I am still getting more than the recommended
daily dosage of whining. Over time, the people I meet
with have begun to understand the 10-minute rule is
an effective one. It provides them with either a defined
"venting" space or an opportunity to formulate a proposal
to change the status quo.
2. Change Things You Can Control
The balance between time spent at work and at home is
a recurring topic in my 1:1 meetings. Recently, a project
manager (PM) complained he couldn't keep up with his
e-mail/paper work because of all the interruptions he
has in the office. After 10 minutes, I asked him what
would it take for him to better manage this situation.
He felt working at home and coming to the office later
in the morning would improve this situation. I asked
what was stopping him from doing this. He indicated
he always came to work at 7 a.m. and would feel funny
staying home as his co-workers would see he wasn't in
his office. After thinking about this, he realized it
was his routine keeping him from alleviating this situation.
Thus, he proposed to change his work routine. Now he
uses uninterrupted time at home to manage his workload.
This was no small feat, as changing a personal routine
is hard, but if it accomplishes what you want it is
3. Seek Ways to Use Innovation to Your Advantage
|I have always
believed it best to strike a balance between my
work and my personal life.
There are many tasks to which you can apply your energies
to effectively change the status quo at work and in your
personal life. There are only 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, and 365 days a year. Thus, you need to pick the
items you want to change in your personal and work life
I have always believed it best to strike a balance
between my work and my personal life. To put too much
into one and not enough into the other always leaves
me feeling unsatisfied with myself at the core. At this
stage of my life and career, you would expect I would
have it all worked out by now. Not so! To achieve the
balance I require, I've found I must constantly tinker
with the scales.
Here is an example of how I used an innovative solution
to help me at a time I felt "unbalanced." During portions
of my career I have traveled in excess of 80 percent
of the time on business. I don't dislike travel, but
there was a time when I felt a desire to minimize it.
I thought it was killing my personal life, so I considered
One of my bi-weekly trips then was to Phoenix for
project reviews. This was before the days of videoconferences
and web cams -- but after the telegraph was invented.
I spent 3 or 4 days a month traveling to and from Phoenix
and sitting in project reviews. I had to change this
and proposed a different communication vehicle to the
person I was working with. I proposed we invest the
money the project spent on my travel to buy a video
camera. He could then videotape the site and the process-and-packing
construction areas we normally toured before our meetings
and send me the tape. I'd review the tape in my office,
and then we would conduct a conference call and accomplish
in less than four hours what normally took 3 or 4 days
per month of travel. It was a success and I felt satisfied,
both at home and at the office.
4. Understand the Difference between Status Quo
Procter & Gamble, in my opinion, has a very robust way
of obtaining project funding. In a nutshell, you write
a proposal stating the business needs/benefits and its
financial impact, and then you gain your hierarchy's
approval or rejection. Many PMs complain it is too hard
to obtain project funding. When asked why they feel
this way, they eventually admit they do not understand
the funding process. Their bosses also do not always
understand this process but are generally willing to
give the PM their personal experience (folklore), saying
something like "You can't do that because I've never
done it that way!"
I try to have people understand what the status quo
really is versus what others think it is (folklore).
Once you understand what the status quo is, you are
in a far better position to either change it or whine
about it -- 10 minutes max!
Scott Cameron is Capital Systems Manager for
the Food & Beverage Global Business Unit of Procter
& Gamble. He has been managing capital projects
and mentoring other capital management practitioners
for the past 20 years at Procter & Gamble within
its Beauty Care, Health Care, Food & Beverage, and
Fabric & Home Care Businesses.