by Doug DeCarlo, Principal
The Doug DeCarlo Group
Author of eXtreme Project Management:
Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility

Programming Your Success in 2006:
Affirmations for the eXtreme Project Manager

I much prefer the idea of "affirmations" over "resolutions." There's an important difference between the two: a resolution is something you commit to do in the future, even if the future you are committing to is just 15 minutes away. An affirmation, on the other hand, is something you experience yourself as already doing and feeling. It's present tense. Resolutions are future tense.

Affirmations are powerful. That's because the mind doesn't know the difference between what's real and what's imagined. It doesn't mind fooling itself. For instance, notice how your physical and emotional state reacts to vivid dreams. Just like they were real. As far as the mind is concerned, they are real. Together, the combination of acting out (doing) and feeling serves to program and re-program our behavior.

So instead of planning and talking about success (making resolutions), affirmations—properly stated—catapult us immediately into a mental state of success. Mentally, there's no longer a gap between the thinking, the doing and the being.

For these reasons, over the past 10 years, I personally have substituted affirmations for resolutions and have met with great success. In putting together possible affirmations for eXtreme project managers for 2006, I reflected on my experiences over the last couple of years in working with a variety of project managers. I asked myself the following:

What practices have I observed among successful project managers who were faced with extreme projects?

In hindsight, these success affirmations did not come as a big surprise to me since to a great extent, eXtreme Project Management—which consists of practices, processes and tools—is based on my observations of successful project managers and what they do. Here, I merely turned those practices into affirmations.

Getting the Most Out of These Affirmations
  1. Use it as a checklist to see how your beliefs match up with the affirmations.

  2. Pick just one to three that resonate the most with you. Avoid the trap of thinking you have to focus on all of these to be successful; it's too overwhelming.

  3. If you don't see any that hit home, make up a few of your own if you are so moved. Or, reword some of my examples here to make them emotionally meaningful to you.

  4. In creating your own affirmations, write them down. That helps to make them real. Be sure to write them in the present tense, as if you are already living them.

  5. Revisit them daily for a few seconds. If not, go for at least 3 times a week.

Here are the affirmations. As you read them, actually see and feel yourself living them. That is, consider them to be true for you, even if you have to pretend. It's O.K.

Project Methodology
Right Fit
I am a whole-brained project manager. I use waterfall methods for projects that feature low change and low uncertainty. I use agile approaches for projects that have a high change / high uncertainty factor.

I shun bureaucratic practices and routinely do the simplest things that work

Value Creation
My project plans are comprised of results (work products and deliverables) to be produced rather than tasks to be completed.

Reality Rules
I do not defend the project plan; rather I routinely re-do it to reflect the latest information and surprises. I no longer try to change reality to fit the plan.

Business Focus
I plan and manage my projects as financial ventures with an expected business payback.

Meaningful Metrics
My projects define success in an actionable, measurable way that is agreed to by the sponsor and other key stakeholders.1

Quantum Mindset
Mental Model
My picture of an extreme project is that of a looping, squiggly line moving from left to right rather than a nice orderly waterfall (even though I wish the latter were the reality).

  • I recognize that adaptability is more important than predictability.
  • Since the future is uncertain, I allow the latest results to drive planning rather than expecting the plan to drive results.

My Role
  • As project manager, I am first and foremost a relationship manager and not a taskmaster.
  • I now realize that when I lead the process, I lead the people (even though I have little direct authority over them.) As such, I have mastered the essential process skills.2

I ensure that each of my projects has a strong sponsor. When I have no named sponsor, I get one. When I have the wrong sponsor, I find a proper way to replace him.

I not only talk about the "good," but am open and honest about the "bad and the ugly," even in the face of fear.

I consistently foster a project environment that creates ownership for results and builds on people's desire to make a difference.

I passionately encourage new ways of doing things, even when they are not popular.

I ensure that key project stakeholders routinely collaborate with the project team to provide timely input, feedback and to solve problems when needed.

  • I assert myself and stand up for the team when I feel people's expectations are out of line for me or the project.
  • Faced with policies and methodologies that are counterproductive to my project, I seek to change them, get dispensation from using them, or just plain break the rules.

Quality of Life
My work life does not sacrifice my personal and family life.

I don't whine about things over which I have little control. When others whine, I re-focus their attention on things over which they can have an impact.
It turns out that we have a lot more control over our destiny and success than we might imagine. Creating success, whichever way we want to define it, starts with consciously programming our mind. Making affirmations is a big leap forward. But, don�t fall into the trap of making a resolution to make your affirmations. Begin by saying, �I am affirming now!� Then, start with just one affirmation and you are well on your way.

eXtremely yours,

Doug DeCarlo

1The 7 Win Conditions of eXtreme Project Management are covered in my article entitled, Katrina: a Lesson in eXtreme Project Management. (Member login required.)

2Some essential process skills for eXtreme project managers are meeting facilitation, conflict resolution, negotiation, group problem solving and decision reaching, consensus reaching, facilitating project management processes appropriate to the type of project at hand.

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