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How proactivity can improve momentum in your project


Proactivity, Project Management, Coaching

Written by  

Proactivity, Project Management, Coaching


Proactivity, Project Management, Coaching

Writen by  

Proactivity, Project Management, Coaching

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new – Dan Millman

The map is not the territory. This also holds true when it comes to managing projects. Misalignment of where we are and where we want to go, with where we think we are and how we can reasonably get there, is common in both life and projects. We work with assumptions, of which we should remain aware and sometimes remember to revisit, in order to improve project outcomes or momentum. Proactively revisiting the assumptions upon which our operations are based, and which can prove incorrect or obsolete over time, will benefit the eventual advancement of our projects.

Let’s adopt proactivity as habit

We manage challenging situations by balancing our behavior and our attitude. For instance, when running behind in project delivery, some tend to rush decisions and let anxiety about the situation influence the actions they take. Others will procrastinate and become absent-minded. We all react according to our various experience and relevant skills.

Proactivity involves only oneself. We don’t need anyone else to improve our own proficiency. This is a personal challenge to overcome, which has only the individual as stakeholder. So, there is simply no excuse not to start improving our own proactivity and to monitor the change in momentum and outcomes wherever it is applied.

Sometimes we’ll believe what we see, but sometimes we’ll see only what we believe. The way we see the problem can be a problem in itself or can create new problems. Alternatively, the way we see a problem can bring solutions or changes to project momentum. Often, changing position or perspective helps us to see a situation differently and grasp new possibilities. By changing or adapting our mindset, we can see from multiple viewpoints and consequently we can self-correct for biases and learn to adopt different practices to maintain project momentum and outcomes.

Habit is at the core of

·       knowledge – what and why we act the way we do,

·       skills – how we act the way we do,

·       desire – the outcomes and results that drive what we are doing.

So, to achieve new outcomes, we should be proactive about the acquisition of knowledge and skills, enhancing our ability to change the way we see, believe and act.

How does proactivity help?

Classification and focus

Projects are full of problems to resolve and dealing with them all at once is simply not possible. The good news is that categorizing the types of the problems at hand will help in managing some of them and resolving others. Learn to face problems by asking yourself the following questions:

1.     Type I – Is this problem directly under my control, my management, my area of expertise?

Yes, the problem is directly within your area of influence. You know what to do and how to resolve it. It is now only up to you to prioritize its resolution based on your resources, the deadline or urgency, and the potential impact of the resolution on your project or its strategy. Resolving this “direct control” type of problem brings both satisfaction and confidence, thus expanding your capacity to influence; it demonstrates your expertise and knowledge while improving the practices involved in your project.

2.     Type II – Is this problem indirectly under my control? Does it involve other people: stakeholders, partners, clients, collaborators?

Yes, the problem is within your area of concern. However, the solution does not depend solely on you; you are reliant on others to either play a role in addressing or fully addressing the situation at hand. This could be due to a lack of expertise or knowledge on your side, or to sequential or time dependencies on the project or process. Resolving this type of problem is complex.

3.     Type III – Is this problem outside your control and outside your team’s control?

Yes, the problem is outside your direct or indirect control. There is nothing which can be done at this moment by you or any team member. While it may be difficult to do, take a deep breath and smile: there is nothing you can do in this moment. Accept it and move quickly on to a problem within your reach and your area of influence. It is liberating to be able to move on and leave problems outside of your control behind.

Past mistakes fall into the last category: outside your control, you can’t undo a mistake. However, you can accept it, acknowledge it, correct it, and learn not to reproduce it. This is also an example of proactivity when dealing with mistakes.

Proactivity helps in resolving two of the three problem types identified, i.e., type I and III, the “direct” and the “outside your control” types of problems.

Choose your response and act responsibly

When responding to stimulus, our behavior is sometimes reactive (rather than proactive). If the response to the stimulus is too fast and lacking due reflection, then we are in a reaction mode and not necessarily taking the decisions or actions in our projects’ best interests. This is not often the ideal response in conflict resolution: being reactive could trigger negative behavior that leads to a drop in team morale and poorer outcomes.

The good news is that we can learn to add reflection time between a stimulus and a response; a time to pause and choose to act more intentionally. Adopting the necessary behavior befitting the level of seriousness or not of the problem. We can learn not to be reactive, but to respond with due consideration and with a focus on solutions in mind.

Be mindful of how you speak

One way to evaluate our response in the face of a challenge is through the language we use toward others and toward ourselves. Careful attention to our choice of words could help identify where we sit on a scale of reactivity versus proactivity. Types of language such as “there is nothing I can do”, “I have to”, “that’s the way I am”, “I can’t”, suggest a high level of reactivity. On the other hand, phrases such as “let’s look at the options”, “I could choose another alternative”, “I prefer” indicate a high level of proactivity. In this second example, the person makes a habit of considering different options and choosing an appropriate manner in which to respond.

How proactivity improves project

Proactivity improves momentum in your project in multiple ways. It helps you to keep your energy focused on solutions within your control and avoids wasting energy on problems beyond your influence. A proactive approach will ensure you remain focused on what you have the power to address and keep your energy for progress and momentum.

Improving your behavior prevents you from creating additional problems unrelated to your project’s objectives. Further, demonstrating the ability to respond proportionally to the problem at hand helps your team to feel safe, empowered to take decisions and show initiative, and to focus on the overall goals. This ensures higher team spirit, energy and willingness to collaborate and drives momentum in your project.

Enjoy being proactive

In summary, be more proactive:

1.     Classify the problem type: direct, indirect or outside the circle of influence, and focus on what you can do now

2.     Be empowered and empower your team by choosing the best or most appropriate response to problems

3.     Be mindful of your choice of words when addressing others and yourself

Take action and get practicing! Enjoy the mapping process alongside the opportunity for continuous understanding and improvement. Remember that for a problem outside your circle of influence, the key action is to accept what you can do now: breathe, smile, accept, learn to live with the problem and move on. Focus on resolving problems within your circle of influence, skills and experience.

The map is not the territory. Nonetheless, mapping is a never-ending activity that can be improved with continuous understanding and a conscious and intentional examination of one’s own habits, relations to others, and the ensuing project outcomes.

If this article has been useful or you would like to learn more about generating momentum in your projects, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Reference: Covey, S.R., 1989, The seven habits of effective people.

Proactivity, Project Management, Coaching

Optimize your project success and delivery !

360° Energy and Environment Consultant

Geoscience & Monitoring Consulting (GMC) is delivering project management and digital solutions to guide innovative and technical leaders.

Proactivity, Project Management, Coaching

Gwenola Michaud

360° Energy and Environment Consultant

20 years of expertise in managing people and projects, as well as developing, testing and delivering software solutions to improve team success and business growth.

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