What makes you take pause? What means success?

In a world that moves so quickly, many times the deliberate acts of introspection and observation are tough. There’s a push to move onto the next project. Wrap up the loose ends and yes, take some time to debrief so that there’s a written record (somewhere) that there could be improvement on the way something was implemented. Don’t take too long though. Time means money. Also, when you debrief, do make certain you don’t rock the boat too much. It’s important we keep our eye on the ball, revenue target, or goal.

One of my favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, also happens to write career advice. I was blindly searching for a way to communicate to a new co-worker about the dynamics of a team we work with; the responsibilities of which are very closely tied to introspection and observation but struggles with the task, as we all do. As always, Penelope didn’t let me down. “Learn Goal Setting from the Olympics” sums up in one paragraph what I had been struggling to find a way to say:

“Today most advice is about how to dream big. But goals need to be flexible. Too small a goal would not be rewarding, but too big a goal can be stifling. You need to create goals for yourself that enable you to stay focused. One way to know how well you’re setting goals is to look at your intensity of focus: Too small a goal does not require focus, and if you want for focus but you can’t make it happen, then your goal is probably too large. The better you know yourself the better you will be at setting goals.” (italics mine)

See, this is why introspection is so important. How can we set goals for ourselves and organizationally if we don’t truly know ourselves, our teammates, and to a certain extent, our customers? Stalking aside, making use of the data, evaluation, and feedback you’re given is crucial. You need to set aside time to not only gather but to process. In a safe, collaborative environment that encourages constructive criticism. It helps highlight targets for the next project’s goals as well as highlight the traits of the team you might work with consistently so you can improve communication, process, flow, etc.

You should never look back over two or three years at your evaluation notes and see that the trend isn’t necessarily towards improvement but not really decline either. A stalemate or an impasse? Just as you should never look back and see some measure of success, but you cannot identify the lightening in the bottle that made the project so.

Egads…the perfectionist inside me just cringed, while the project manager just sighed. See, the perfectionist wants to know why and how she can do it better. Because I know I can. And the first born coupled with that perfectionist says “Of course you can, but why didn’t you?”.  Oh, the forest for the trees. The pragmatic project manager side sighs again, unclenches the perfectionist’s fists, and says “Because sometimes you have to be flexible, things happen. Teams are made of people and that’s unpredictable and risky. But admit it, that’s kind of why you like it. ”

The definition of doing the same thing over and over again without changing is also close to the definition of insanity, as Sisyphus learned in the greek myth. Build in time to debrief and learn from whatever you just executed. Your team (and career) will be better for it.

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