Quotes for the Self Actualized Project Manager

One of my favorite frameworks for looking at how one is doing in life is through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  I’m not certain if it is the oversimplification of how we approach life, or the fact that I can broadly apply it to many of life’s circumstances, but I do think that it is the most succinct framework out there.

Thinking about the top of the triangle, I often ponder what true self actualization would feel like.   I think that being truly self actualized is the meaning of life.  I know many of my friends and colleagues have found their niche (pronounced “nee-sh”, not “nit-ch”) and say that they are self-actualizing in their career.  Personally, I think that most people stumble at the Self Actualization level due to the need to be displaying and constantly seeking their full potential.  So, that being said, I would offer this advice for those Project Managers who desire mastery of their art.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

This quote from Mr. Drucker is so often forgotten when plowing forward with a project.  One can be technically brilliant, but may fail to recognize the political currents of an organization.  The use of Change Managers can sometimes help with this, but “managing change” usually requires a good deal of effort.  Unless the project is one of slash and burn, a Project Manager should never forget to elicit requirements and work with the sponsor to communicate the benefits of the project before the project even starts.  It is so much easier to modify the scope and approach before moving from the Planning to Execution phase – which is what makes this so important.

Have you talked to your stakeholders today?

“Complacency will be the architecture of your downfall.” – Jeremy Gutsche
When Mr. Gutsche flashed this quote on screen during his Unlocking Cool presentation to my class during my undergrad degree, I had my eureka moment.  However, instead of being in a bath tub, I was in a cramped classroom.  This notion is not a new one, but it sure is more catchy than “continuous improvement”.  From the largest software implementation project, to the smallest birthday party planning project, if you, Mr. or Ms. Project Manager, do not take an active interest in everything that is happening on your project, or you do not consider externalities on your project, you will meet your downfall.  There is only so long that that horseshoe that is firmly wedged between your shoulder blades will last (i.e. luck will only take you so far).  Be a little concerned, be a little neurotic, and make sure that your team knows why.
“Be eager to please and willing to learn, just know whom you want to please and what you want to learn.” – Jason Zalmanowitz

Is it kind of weird to quote oneself?  I’m not 100% certain, so I’m going to do it anyways.  This was the opening line of my final co-op term report during my undergrad, and it has stuck with me since.  I have since used terms like “sweat/equity” or “I just don’t think that we’re right for each other”, but it ultimately boils down to the same thought – your time and energy is limited; be smart on what and whom you allocate it to.  Just like my career preferences are to stay out of the Gambling and Online Money Transfer Industries, and I have no desire to work with That Guy, you will need to identify what you want to be and why.  If you can clearly articulate your personal goals, and how the project you are working on will help you achieve them, then you are well ahead of the curve.

Those are my thoughts on how to move from Esteem to Self Actualization.  What are yours?

About Jason H Zalmanowitz
I am a nerdy Management Consultant / Project Manager with a MBA, have spent the majority of my career working for consulting firms in Calgary, and I race in triathlons because of (and thanks to) my wife. As a Project Manager, I have managed field implementations, strategy development projects, software development projects, and hardware implementation projects. As a consultant, I have helped companies articulate how and why they are going to implement and interact with sustaining technology to support their business.

2 Responses to Quotes for the Self Actualized Project Manager

  1. I like these quotes, particularly the first one: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I’m sure that many project managers know about it, but many choose to ignore it, despite its importance and its critical role in the success/failure of the project.

  2. jzalmanowitz says:

    Thanks! And absolutely – I have been burned a few times where the planned effort was only n hours, but, due to client culture, the actual effort was much higher. It is now something that I attempt to ascertain early on in a project. I think that by being able to quickly re-plan and re-baseline based on client culture is how a project manager demonstrates maturity and seniority

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