Category Archives: InterGenLink

Creating Business Value by connecting the Generations.

Where are the Partnerships we Need?

In my former life as a Project Manager- cloaked as  Youth and Family Minister – I saw a significant need for generational healing in the church setting. I saw over and over the fiery zeal of youth extinguished by direct or perceived criticism of effort or intent. On the other side, it was not uncommon to hear seasoned people include “these kids these days…” in their conversation. I also heard a lot of how useless and dumb older people were coming from the other direction.  I thought… “that’s stupid”… and I set about to do something about it. I talked with a lot of people and explored a lot of ideas and the outcome of the quest was a successful leadership program for youth that sought team up people across generations for something bigger than themselves.

Fast forward and I have transitioned to Project Management in the business world. The transition was a positive one for a positive reason, in case you are wondering. I work for a great company and I deal with lots of companies daily. I don’t get taken aback that often, but I’m taken aback when I see the same dynamic playing out in the business world that I saw in the young folk’s world in the past.

I’m excited to hear of the initiatives to connect millennials. Smart companies are restructuring how they do business and what the work place looks like. Cities are being rebuilt with millennials in mind. All of this I get excited about for the future – even though I passed up the targeted age group a good while back. Honestly speaking, however, that doesn’t mean it’s all good or the most productive way to do all things. I’m digesting everything I can on more flexible project management approaches. It’s good, but it’s not all good.

On the other hand, I hear – let’s call them “seasoned professionals” (actually, I qualify) – still lamenting the “kids these days”. Attitudes, dress code, approaches to using the tools (i.e. phones), work ethics -and on and on – permeate discussions.  Are the generalizations true? Sometimes, but not always.  I have learned that sometimes people on their phones in my meetings are doing work for me… not playing games – or maybe they are doing both. I have also learned that someone who is anxious about a software enhancement isn’t dead yet – and has tremendous value to offer.

There are efforts on many fronts to be inclusive and to break down barriers. I see more about one generation “breaking the other” than I do the breaking down barriers between age groups. And that is stupid. I believe enormous business value is being missed over this dynamic – and I want to do something about it. It’s what I do. My motto is, “I’m not afraid to be wrong, but I’m not going to do nothing with projects and people entrusted to my care”.  There’s far more wisdom out there than I have – regardless of age group. If you are willing, please share your thoughts or your answers to these questions.

What commonalities span all age groups as points of agreement?

What business functions or tasks do you see that a “cross generation” team could benefit? What are the things in business or client relationships that are “bigger” than age?

What efforts have you see to bridge the generations at work?

So far, as a PM…

I officially began my career in Project Management in a business setting on October 6, 2015. Before that I served as a youth and family minister who did a whole of projects in the church setting. It’s an interesting comparison and contrast. The journey from my former career started with acquiring PMP certification followed by a roller coaster ride of searching for a career opportunity. Since being hired as a project manager, I’ve learned a whole lot, and continue to learn a lot more every day. I was asked recently what I think is important when beginning a career in Project Management and that caused me to think of these things.

Don’t be afraid to be wrong. There’s a lot to be said for giving it your best shot while being correctable and teachable.  I have found more tools (usually for sale) to manage projects than I can possibly ever understand. Certifications offer a host of tools best used not as a standard to achieve, but as a toolbox from which to pull. Sometimes you can see much of what has to be done, and sometimes it’s foggy. That human tendency to not make a move until you have checked, double checked, verified every detail will make it tough to progress. Study the project’s needs and proceed in a direction until you know better. When you know better, do better.

Don’t do “nothing” on your project (s). This statement follows the first point, in my motto. Get past the fear of being wrong, and then be tenacious about the project. In a world where the absolute least effective way to communicate (email) is used most, by far – well, I just don’t think a PM can be content with that much of the time. Communicate, communicate, and communicate.  Whether it’s a powerful schedule program, an excel sheet, or a post-it on your nose, find a way to track the lose ends. Those are the things that have been my gotchya’s – so don’t do nothing. Carefully dig deeper so that you don’t believe something’s being done or is done, that isn’t. Those loose ends need not be from a slacker, most folks are simply washed away with their work loads. So, don’t do nothing on the project.

Work to truly be a team player.  As much as possible, cultivate a “I’m here to help” culture everywhere you can. I think one can have the best tools, perfect schedule, and watertight plan, but if you must resort to “making” people do their work – whatever that means – it’s a tough road ahead. I’ve already figured out that some PMs are just downright annoying about this. In my view the PM is a leader, a leader of people. When I have been able to “come along beside” a team in a helpful way, I have found a welcome mat and a willingness to work together. That’s not to say that you won’t have to “make” some people do their stuff, but I believe success is a lot closer when you can lead by doing, by being present, by pitching in to help, by understanding and by being willing to work just as hard as you ask anyone else to work. And be positive and optimistic!

That’s my story so far. It may end up like parenting – I thought I knew a lot more about that till I had kids – but I think not fearing being wrong, doing something with projects, and helping your team will help a PM along the way. I’m interested in any thoughts or feedback.