You jump into your car in the morning and are ready to go to work. You’ve looked in the rear-view and side mirrors and everything is clear. You start to back up and hear and feel a sickening crunch as your back tire rolls over a bike that was left out the night before. Even though you’ve been driving for years, you didn’t know it was there and you couldn’t see it because it was in your Blind Spot.
The same thing can happen to us in our role as a Project Manager if we’re not careful. It’s not that we don’t know what we’re may have been a Project Manager for years. It’s more a case of we don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes situations, circumstances, project politics, and other dynamics may be in our Blind Spot and the first time we become aware of them is after we’ve backed right over them.
This is typically going to occur when we take a new job or consulting engagement, or pick up a project that was already in motion. While there is a brief window of “I can’t be expected to know everything about this project, I’ve only been on it for two weeks”, that window quickly closes and we are expected to be up to speed.
Below are a couple of suggestions for eliminating project Blind Spots:
???? Interview the SMEs – Time permitting, spend 30-60 minutes per day with the key people on the project. This time should be spent not on giving them direction, but rather on listening. Find out what they do, how they do it, what tools they use, how they interact with other groups in the organization, and what are they concerned about. This will not only provide knowledge that you can apply later, but is also the beginning of building a strong relationship.
???? Become a Sponge – Get your hands on and absorb every bit of documentation that is directly or indirectly related to your project, especially if you are joining mid-stream. Develop a way to categorize and organize this documentation. Now, when you hear a topic of concern come up, you can read up on it quickly and be that much more informed.
???? Run over the Bike – While the least desirable (and certainly not intentional), this is probably the most effective way to learn about what you don’t know. After you’ve backed over the bike that first time and heard metal against metal, chances are 100% more likely that you will be on the lookout for something behind your car in the future. Likewise, once you’ve dealt with the consequences of running over the bike in your project (for example, a deliverable not identified, sending an email with outdated information, misplaced trust, etc.) chances are you will never allow that happen to again on your project.
In no time, the ratio of “I’ve never heard of that before” to “I’ve heard that before” will come down and you will move from not knowing what you don’t know, to at least knowing what you don’t know and then doing something about it.