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

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

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