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Becoming better at project management and by extension also becoming a better project manager does not necessarily mean learning about and then also implementing the latest tools, techniques or methodologies. Instead, it can simply mean that you start paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. That’s mindfulness.

Mindfulness as a business practice and leadership tool has seen a significant increase in press coverage lately. It originally started out as a means for improving yourself and your interactions with others but you will find that many leadership articles in the large business journals will make reference to it.

And so we are very glad to welcome Margaret Meloni ( to look at Mindfulness for Project Managers with us today. We will give you a definition, discuss the benefits, but most importantly we go through a number of familiar project management situations to see how mindfulness will help us improve and become better leaders.

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Every project manager needs to master situational awareness. That is because no two projects are perfectly alike. What worked last time may have to be tweaked next time. Even worse, what may have worked just yesterday may have to be tweaked today!

This interview about situational awareness with Wanda Curlee was recorded at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California. It was co-written and co-presented with Marie Sterling. Wanda and I discuss their presentation and white paper Situational Awareness. Do you have the Emotional Intelligence for it?. Here is the abstract:

This paper explores the relationship of situational awareness and emotional intelligence of portfolio, program, and project leadership. Included in the paper is an introduction to situational awareness, emotional intelligence, SAGAT, recommendations and details about the workshop exercise. Situational awareness plays a critical role in effective decision making, and more so in complex and challenging portfolio, program and project management environments. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the study of how in tune a person is with his or her own emotions and the ability to understand emotions of those around himself or herself. Through the use of a live training simulation, an individual’s level of situational awareness and their emotional intelligence will be determined.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014 21:07

Turning Around a Dysfunctional Project Team

Every project faces certain obstacles, but sometimes it may seem that the problems are insurmountable. If you feel like your chances of success on a project are unclear, you could look at the situation in two ways. One way is to consider yourself on a train that is heading for a certain wreck. If you are thinking of the project in this way, then the best actions to take may be to minimize the damage, see what can be salvaged and try to keep from having the company throw too much additional money on top of what has already been spent. You might be considered a hero in some circles if you recommend canceling the project.

On the other hand, there are project managers that are known as turnaround artists, and they love to take over projects like yours. In fact, many of them like the worst projects best of all. There are people like this at all levels, including CEO’s whose expertise lies in turning around companies that are in terrible shape.

The project may be need to be completed regardless of the cost in terms of dollars and human relationships. Let’s assume for now that you will try the latter course of action – the project turnaround.

The first thing you want to do is assess the current state of the project. This includes the project schedule and the project team dynamics. Your response to the project team problems will depend on where you are with the schedule. If you only have 30 days of work remaining on the schedule, you will have less ability to make an impact. In this case, the best course of action may be to try to motivate the team for the final push and watch the schedule like a hawk. On the other hand, if your project has many months to go, then you need to see what can be done to repair the damage on the team as well as to replan the schedule to deliver on a new realistic timeframe. Any plan is going to include the following items.

Communicate well. Have you been on a project where the project manager is a poor communicator? This trait usually results in a miserable project experience for everyone. Teams with poor morale tend to have poor communication channels. Don’t let rumors and uncertainty fester. Make sure you share as much information as you can about the project status and anything else that may impact the project team. There is hardly any time when over-communicating is a problem. In your case, it can do nothing but good.

Praise and compliment. When people on your team do a good job, make sure they know it. People do not expect money or gifts when they do a good job – just a pat on the back and a ‘well done’ by their manager. Give it to them – both informally and formally. Another cause of negative morale is poor or no positive feedback or recognition.

Set clear expectations. People like to understand what is expected of them so that they know the challenges they need to meet. They want to see the dragon and slay it. Make sure you give clear instructions when you hand out work so that people understand what they are expected to do. When you hand out work assignments, give a deadline date. When a team member is creating a paper deliverable, like a testing plan, give guidance on how it should be prepared.

Don’t overcommit your team. As you try to improve morale, you also need to be careful not to overcommit the team. Determine what exactly is required to finish the project, and remove anything that is extraneous or can be done after implementation. Make sure you manage scope tightly, and try to defer all changes until after the original project is completed. Poor morale can cause your team to miss deadlines, which causes more pressure and degrades morale even further. The opposite is true as well. If the team can start hitting some interim deadlines (and you communicate this fact and praise them), the team morale should improve, which may make it easier to hit your next deadline.


These are some ideas for turning the project around. First, make sure you understand where you are in the schedule so you know how much time you have to make significant changes. Also, make sure you try to identify as many team problems as you can, as well as the root causes if possible. Then, put together an action plan based on how much work and time is remaining on the project. If there is not a lot of time remaining, focus on the schedule. If a lot of time is remaining, focus on repairing the project team, as well as completing the schedule. There are many areas to look at as a part of repairing damage to the project team. Communication, timely performance feedback and clear expectations will be a part of every turnaround plan. Then, go out of your way to start building some successes – even interim ones. These general ideas, as well as others that you will identify, will give you a fighting chance to turn things around. Who knows - if you are successful and you enjoy the challenge, you might be known as a turnaround artist within your own organization!

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit or contact us at
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I know we’re supposed to be accessible as project managers, but, there’s got to be a line drawn somewhere. Resolving issues, working on project schedules, and ramping up on new technologies takes uninterrupted time to get done. What ways have you found to remain accessible AND still get this type of work done?

Love to hear your thoughts.

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