Followership III: Real projects for real people

I recently read a fascinating article in the New York times but I zoned out in the middle of it several times, as the article predicted. The article was Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind by John Tierney.  To sum it up, our minds wander about 30 percent of the time, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This kind of daydreaming is an essential skill for managing mundane tasks and keeping our eye on the ball while juggling complex agendas, and furthermore may be important to creativity. Our minds may keep cranking on complex creative challenges in the background while we’re peeling cucumbers or filling out status reports in the foreground.

So in terms of project planning count on your team to be there eight hours a day but actually paying attention about five and a third hours a day.  And if you think about it, that five or so hours is interrupted by chats around the coffeepot, joking around before and after meetings, personal calls, checking scores and weather, and on and on. And, like a wandering mind, these “non-work-related” activities might be important to the social fabric of the team or the individual’s productivity.

In my experience, most projects that achieved budget and schedule targets were amply staffed and scheduled with plenty of time, and most that got in trouble and recovered either scaled back their goals or added plenty of time.

That leaves those that either failed or fell short of schedule, budget, and business goals.  As I think back on the sometimes tense meetings to plan recovery I can remember suggestions (some of which I made) like “what if we all work 10 hour days?” It seems the ones that worked out the best were the ones that made up for the long hours with inspiring leadership, incentive bonuses, or other perks.  The ones that were least successful seem to have been the ones that took a more Dickensian perspective, adding overtime and squeezing out “unproductive” time.

Or maybe I’m just daydreaming.

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