Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 39;   September 25, 2002: Make Space for Serendipity

Make Space for Serendipity

by

Serendipity in project management is rare, in part, because we're under too much pressure to see it. If we can reduce the pressure, wonderful things happen.

It's mid-afternoon when Bill and I arrive at the little one-ticket-agent airport in Gunnison, Colorado, for our trips back home. We're on the same 28-seat eggbeater to Denver, where we'll have a quick dinner and then split — Bill to LA and me back to Boston. It's been a great week and we're in a good mood.

Ice cream barWe have a nice chatty time with the ticket agent. As she finishes checking us in, I ask her, "Where can I get an ice cream bar?"

"Nowhere around here," she replies. "Do you have a car?"

"No…I guess we're out of luck, huh?"

"Want to use my car?"

I stifle a gasp. She wants to lend us her car so we can get ice cream? I check to see if we're still on planet Earth. We are. I reply, "Sure!"

She gives us her car keys, points out her car through the airport terminal window, and directs us to a convenience store. Off we go, dumbfounded.

Serendipity. Sometimes things go right — or more than right — beyond your wildest dreams. But Serendipity needs space. You have to make time for it, you have to be open to it, and you have to pass it on.

Serendipity needs space.
You have to make
time for it, you
have to be open
to it, and you
have to pass it on.
Take time
In the Gunnison airport, Bill and I had time to chat with the ticket agent. And we could afford the twenty minutes or so that it took us to drive to the store and back for the ice cream. Serendipity takes time.
Be open
In Gunnison, we were open. We expressed our desire for ice cream. When we were presented with a car, we accepted it — and we accepted responsibility for it. Openness and Acceptance make Serendipity possible.
Pass it on
Serendipity goes around. It's wonderful when you get some, but if you want to get it again, pass it on. That way there will be more Serendipity going around.

When it happens, Serendipity in project management works the same way. But it's rare, in part, because we're under too much pressure.

Under severe pressure, we have little time to notice Serendipity — the insight that saves a week of work, or the design idea that eliminates three components. Obliviously, we plow forward.

Even when we do notice Serendipity, a sense of pressure can keep us from accepting it — we're closed to it. Exploiting the brilliant idea can feel too risky to us when we're under pressure.

And under pressure, passing Serendipity along is impossible. To pass along a wonderfulness takes effort — exactly what we can't spare when we're up against a tight budget or deadline.

When you cut a project's budget, understand that you're cutting Serendipity, too. If you want the advantages of Serendipity in your projects, find ways to reduce the pressure. It will pay off.

How did Bill and I pass along our Serendipity? When we returned the ticket agent's car keys, we gave her an ice cream bar. She lit up. Go to top Top  Next issue: Getting Around Hawthorne  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenkPIZulpOmAUHnysdner@ChacOsRGDhWDUrFWWxWQoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Bowling pins for ten-pin bowlingPygmalion Side Effects: Bowling a Strike
Elise slowly walked back to her office, beaten. Her supervisor, Alton, had just given Elise her performance review — her third consecutive "meets expectations." No point now to her strategy of giving 120% to turn it all around. She is living a part of the Pygmalion Effect, and she's about to experience the Pygmalion Side Effects.
The main reading room of the US Library of CongressPersonal Trade Secrets
Do you have some little secret tricks you use that make you and your team more effective? Do you wish you could know what secret tricks others have? Here's a way to share your secrets without risk.
A sleeping dogRecovering Time: I
Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get so little done? To recover time, limit the fragmentation of your day. Here are some tips for structuring your working day in larger chunks.
Senator Susan Collins of MaineDiscussion Distractions: I
Meetings could be far more productive, if only we could learn to recognize and prevent the distractions that lead us off topic and into the woods. Here is Part I of a small catalog of distractions frequently seen in meetings.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and President Bush in a press conference on September 17, 2001Overconfidence at Work
Confidence in our judgments and ourselves is essential to success. Confidence misplaced — overconfidence — leads to trouble and failure. Understanding the causes and consequences of overconfidence can be most useful.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

C. Northcote Parkinson in 1961Coming September 27: Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are three examples of this pattern. Available here and by RSS on September 27.
A typical standup meetingAnd on October 4: Meeting Troubles: Culture
Sometimes meetings are less effective than they might be because of cultural factors that are outside our awareness. Here are some examples. Available here and by RSS on October 4.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenHnttQqUoVCeUFmsIner@ChacHCwcQEsYopysKVJMoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around.
Reader Comments About My Newsletter
A sampling:
  • Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
  • You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
  • I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
  • A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
  • …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.
  • More
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.