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.
We 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.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 23: Power Distance and Teams
- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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Many people 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.
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