Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Contributed by Brad Egeland

champagne_glasses

 

I was watching a show the other day about vineyards in Champagne, France.  I'm not much of a wine/champagne connoisseur and I did not realize that you could only make and sell champagne if your vineyard is located in Champagne. Part of the show focused on the 2008 proposed boundary changes to Champagne that were going to make some people suddenly very rich and strip others of wealth overnight.  One family owned land on both sides of a particular road and their land on one side of the road was suddenly going to be worth 200,000 times more than their land on the other side of the road...roughly like winning the lottery for them.  While others were seeing their villages and vineyards now being excluded and becoming essentially without value and no ability to sell champagne...they can only make it for personal consumption going forward.

More by chance than by choice

It really started me thinking about how sometimes in our careers we are just in the right place at the right time. Nothing more, nothing less. Dumb luck. And I think that is how many of us became project managers in the first place. More by chance or due to imperative organizational need rather than by career choice - at least I believe that's likely the case for most of us with a significant number of years of PM experience.

Likewise, we acquire some of our most important or career defining projects the same way. I've had what were originally no-brainer projects handed to me on at least three occasions where my workload was already full but "could I just take on this simple project?" Of course, we take it on with the assurance we are just providing minimal oversight and our involvement will be small and easily handled with the rest of our work. Well, it just rarely happens that way, right?  It certainly didn't for me. One went over the top in change orders after I took it over due to poor requirement definition before I took it over. Another was experiencing several issues before I took it over and uncovered an array of other issues. And the third had been poorly handled by sales and the customer soon became very upset over what they thought sales said they were getting for their money vs. what my team and I explained to them they were actually getting for their money.

The second scenario above failed miserably, but we were able to save the first and third projects and all because my team and I were able to step back, analyze, and work with the client to get expectations set correctly and get the projects back on track. And both were nice feathers in our caps - major accomplishments in the face of probable failure. Had we not been accepting of the challenge, along with our already full workloads, the projects would have likely failed and we would not have gained the valuable experiences we took forward with us to other projects.

It’s about what we do with the opportunities

The key is to make the most of those interesting opportunities to succeed, to show leadership in the face of nervous or anxious acceptance of a particular piece of work, and make a difference. Sometimes you get those challenges for a reason and sometimes it's just dumb luck...it's what you do with those challenges that can define your career and your path in the organization or possibly your reputation as a consultant. Project managers need to be bold decision makers and confident leaders. I’m not saying we need to blindly take on any and all challenges. By all means, if you’re handed something to ‘take on’ as extra work and you’re given an option because you’re already overloaded…don’t do it unless you’re absolutely comfortable with it. But sometimes those easy ones turn into important career milestones and sometimes they become opportunities for real professional accomplishments.

 

Brad-bio66Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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