It's mid-afternoon when Bill and I arrive at the little one-ticket-agent airport in Gunnison, Colorado, for our trips back home. We're on the same 28-seat eggbeater to Denver, where we'll have a quick dinner and then split — Bill to LA and me back to Boston. It's been a great week and we're in a good mood.
We have a nice chatty time with the ticket agent. As she finishes checking us in, I ask her, "Where can I get an ice cream bar?"
"Nowhere around here," she replies. "Do you have a car?"
"No…I guess we're out of luck, huh?"
"Want to use my car?"
I stifle a gasp. She wants to lend us her car so we can get ice cream? I check to see if we're still on planet Earth. We are. I reply, "Sure!"
She gives us her car keys, points out her car through the airport terminal window, and directs us to a convenience store. Off we go, dumbfounded.
Serendipity. Sometimes things go right — or more than right — beyond your wildest dreams. But Serendipity needs space. You have to make time for it, you have to be open to it, and you have to pass it on.Serendipity needs space.
You have to make
time for it, you
have to be open
to it, and you
have to pass it on.
- Take time
- In the Gunnison airport, Bill and I had time to chat with the ticket agent. And we could afford the twenty minutes or so that it took us to drive to the store and back for the ice cream. Serendipity takes time.
- Be open
- In Gunnison, we were open. We expressed our desire for ice cream. When we were presented with a car, we accepted it — and we accepted responsibility for it. Openness and Acceptance make Serendipity possible.
- Pass it on
- Serendipity goes around. It's wonderful when you get some, but if you want to get it again, pass it on. That way there will be more Serendipity going around.
When it happens, Serendipity in project management works the same way. But it's rare, in part, because we're under too much pressure.
Under severe pressure, we have little time to notice Serendipity — the insight that saves a week of work, or the design idea that eliminates three components. Obliviously, we plow forward.
Even when we do notice Serendipity, a sense of pressure can keep us from accepting it — we're closed to it. Exploiting the brilliant idea can feel too risky to us when we're under pressure.
And under pressure, passing Serendipity along is impossible. To pass along a wonderfulness takes effort — exactly what we can't spare when we're up against a tight budget or deadline.
When you cut a project's budget, understand that you're cutting Serendipity, too. If you want the advantages of Serendipity in your projects, find ways to reduce the pressure. It will pay off.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
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- False Summits: I
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the summit, it turns out that there is much more climbing to do. So it is in project work.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events? Available here and by RSS on August 23.
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- When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others. Available here and by RSS on August 30.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
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Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen
had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished.
As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business
analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read
more about this program. Here are some dates for this program:
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street,
Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13,
Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street,
Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20,
Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13, Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage,
and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located
teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and
supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance.
Read more about this program. Here's a date for this
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Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19,
Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19, Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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