A project management genie appears


by Paula K. Martin and Karen Tate, PMP, Contributing Editors

Leslie was sitting in her cubicle one fine day, dreaming about whether to have turkey or tuna for lunch, when a burst of light appeared. There, in the center of her cubicle, was an 8-foot-tall, lime green genie.

“You called?” he bellowed. She looked around to see how everyone was reacting to her visitor, but no one seemed to have noticed.

“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” she demanded.

“I‘m the project management genie. I‘m here to help.”

“Yeah, right. What do you want?”

“I‘m here to help you improve the results of your projects.”

“What do you know about project management anyway?”

His eyes began to pulse and turn an agitated reddish color.

“I‘ve managed projects from the dawn of time. Who do you think managed the projects that built the pyramids?”

“Nice job, but back then you had slaves. The people on my team have minds of their own, and they don't even report to me.”

“How, then, do you get your team committed to your project?”

“Well, I explain the purpose for the project. I explain my project plan to them …”

“Enough! This strategy is working for you?” the genie inquired.

“Well, to be quite honest, no,” Leslie replied. “People don't seem to see the big picture, and I‘m constantly fighting fires. I usually can pull things together before the end, but it's exhausting and not much fun.”


Paula Martin and Karen Tate, co-founders of project management training and consulting firm MartinTate, specialize in team-based project man-agement.They also are the authors of the Project Management Memory Jogger (available through the PMI® Bookstore). A project plan template can be found on their Web site, ww.projectresults.com. They can be reached at +513-563-3010 or +877-563-3010. Send comments on this column to [email protected].

“So do you want my help or not?”

“Can't hurt. What do you suggest?”

“Involve the team in planning and monitoring the project. Think of it as their project, not yours. Your role is to facilitate the process, not do it yourself.”

“But they aren't project managers,” Leslie protested. “They may screw it up, and then my head is on the block.”

“Don't tell me they're still resorting to decapitation in the 21st century?”

“It's just an expression.”

“Good. You're afraid that you'll lose control and that you'll be less successful if you let the team participate. In fact, they'll do a better job with the project than you could do on your own.”

“Look, I‘ve got to run. I‘ve got a meeting scheduled to review the risk assessment I did with the team.”

“Trash your risk assessment—try this instead,” the genie suggested. “Give everyone sticky notes and a marker, and ask them to brainstorm all the things that could go wrong with the project. Have them write each potential problem on a sticky note, say it out loud and place it on paper that has been taped to the wall.”

Leslie made notes as the genie talked. It sounded simple enough so far.

“After the group has generated all the potential risks, have them draw a grid with low, medium and high probability on one axis and low, medium and high impact on the other. Ask the team to rate each risk and place it on the grid. After they've rated the risks, ask them to brainstorm countermeasures to avoid or mitigate the risks. Then have the team analyze and select the countermeasures that will be part of your project plan. Voilá, you've produced a risk assessment that everyone understands and buys into.”

“That doesn't sound too difficult. What the heck, I‘ll give it a try. Say, can you stick around? I might need some more help.”

“Just think of me when you need help, and if I don't have anything better to do, I‘ll show up. Excuse me, I‘m being beckoned from the first century. Good luck,” and with that, he was gone.

Leslie grabbed a stack of sticky notes and some markers and headed off to her risk meeting. “Yes,” she thought, “I think it's definitely a tuna day today.”

PM Network August 2001