Making Resolutions That Stick

8ZCTTWTHS0As we get toward the end of the calendar year, so many of us will contemplate creating New Year’s resolutions. While I believe that it’s a really good practice to review the year that has passed, and make some plans and goals for the next year, I’m not so sure about the New Year’s resolution. It sounds like a great idea in practice, but various studies have shown that between 90% and 95% of resolutions fail, and most of them fail within the first quarter of the New Year. That means most likely that you’ve failed to achieve your New Year’s goals, yet you are probably thinking of what your resolutions will be for 2016.

Why do we do this? Why do we court a failure that is nearly sure to follow? Because we all want to do better. We all want to be the people we dream we will be, the people we know we could be if we could just find the right formula. The great think about humans is that they are, deep down, optimistic – even in the face of difficulty. We gather our friends and family close, celebrate the darkness, and look forward to a brighter future. How wonderful is that! So go ahead and make resolutions! But how can you make resolutions truly serve you, and not just fall by the wayside at the first bump?

Don’t try to change who you are in a resolution. I so often hear things like this. “This is the year I get thin.” “This is the year I change careers.” This is the year I quit my job and start my business.” These are lofty and admirable goals, but they are hard, and they can take many years to achieve. There will be many pitfalls along the way, and life can interfere. It is important to work toward these goals, but they are hard to achieve as resolutions. Resolutions work better as SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Don’t add more tasks to your schedule. We are all very busy. You struggle to get everything done as it is, and then you resolve to exercise for an hour every day, take more classes, or attend more cultural events. These are all really good ideas, but what activities are you going to jettison to get these things done? Do these things serve your most important priorities, or are the “nice-to-haves”? When thinking about resolutions, critically examine how they will fit into your life, and how they line up with your life’s priorities. If the resolution is a high priority for you, that’s great. What will you stop doing, or reduce, to make the space to inhabit the new activity.

Forget about what others say you should do. This is your life, not theirs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve vowed to do something because someone I admire was doing it, or because it was something I thought something that “someone in my business should be doing”. I recently attended an entrepreneur’s conference, and one of my most important takeaways was to “remove the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary.” Be confident in your goals and priorities, and while you can learn from others, don’t feel you need to do what others tell you to do.

Make resolutions that celebrate the person you are now. So what are the best kinds of resolutions to make? Try making resolutions that help you become better at what you are already doing? Try being more mindful as you go about your daily activities. Resolve to practice compassion and generosity to your colleagues and customers. If you want to get in better shape, work harder and dig deeper in the exercise you are already doing. Are you resolving to stop doing “bad” things, like sweets, TV, video games, etc? Have some compassion for yourself and recognize that nobody is perfect, and sometimes you need to blow off steam and treat yourself. Could you instead resolve to limit these activities, or to forgive yourself the next time you succumb, and move on. By resolving to do better, you can gain the improvements you seek in life, and if you stumble, just start doing better the next day. Is that a resolution that you can keep?

Have a wonderful 2016!

Surviving a Bully at Work

lemonfaceBullies are not just nightmares left over from high school; adult bullies can be found in our organizations as well. While they are unlikely to toss you in a locker or humiliate you in the school bathroom, bullies are still out there. They just take on a new form, and can be just as destructive and stress inducing as ever.

Have you ever worked for someone who is never pleased? They criticize in public every chance they get? They act as though no one is as good as them, and tell you how you are not meeting expectations? What about that person who says one thing in front of others, and does another? You know you can never trust or rely on that person. And then there are people who take credit for others work. These folks exist in most organizations at some time or another.

Sometimes, too, people are just mean. They treat you poorly – maybe it’s personal, maybe they treat everyone that way. You don’t know what you did to deserve this treatment, and you walk on proverbial eggshells around them. It’s stressful, it takes energy away from the work at hand, and interferes with company business. So what do you do when faced with an office bully?

In my experience, when you are being bullied at work, it is almost never about you. People aren’t perfect, and if they have challenges in life, some of them react badly. They might be anxious, insecure, unsupported, feel threatened, have issues at home, and many things in their background that are even worse. A bully is being driven by his or her “lizard brain”. Do you feel like you are living in a “fight or flight” scenario? The bully probably does too. And then, sometimes, people believe that being dictatorial and demanding is the only way to manage others. It doesn’t matter why a bully became a bully; just understand that you didn’t make the bully. You just found yourself in their cross-hairs.

Resist the urge to respond in kind. As much as you may want to, resist the urge to fight back, be snarky, or treat them the same way. Not only will it not resolve the issue, but it may make the issue worse. Give the bully ammunition to use against you. As difficult as it is, focus on the work at hand and respond as professionally as possible. Do NOT apologize if you have done nothing wrong. Instead, refer back to facts, and request specifics if additional work is being requested. Keep calm and professional at all costs. Sometimes, avoidance can help, particularly if the person is not your immediate supervisor. Try to be with this person only with at least one other person present.

Separate intent from style. Can you negotiate a path to work with the person? A while back I had a client organization that had a very difficult office culture. There was a lot of mistrust and animosity in the organization, and this tricked down to my team as well. One of my key contracts was particularly difficult. He was bellicose, threatened to fire us on a regular basis, and never seemed to be satisfied. I avoided him for a long time, but I really couldn’t be effective that way. So I decided to treat him as if he was a great guy. It took a while, but I gained his trust. I came to understand that he felt disrespected and ignored by his colleagues, and passed down that frustration. Also, he worried how the work of the team would reflect on him. Once I understood this, and we had learned what each other expected, we developed a much better working relationship, and I was able to see the nice guy that he usually kept at home. I talk a lot in my work about starting from a place of compassion. Having compassion for bullies helps remind you that it is their issue, not yours.

Document and keep records. It’s not enough to keep your behavior professional. When dealing with a bully personality, it helps to formalize your communication. Get as much in writing as possible. If the bully assigns work to you verbally, confirm the request in a follow up email. Make sure that you have a mutual understanding of the work to be produced, including the format, the level of detail, and the timeline for production. Frequent check-ins may help build rapport and trust. Also, take notes of all incidents of poor behavior or criticism. Take note of any time that reference is made to unsatisfactory performance. You may need these later. It takes time and energy, and you may never need it (bullies rarely follow through on threats). But if you do need it, it will be invaluable.

Build strong networks for support. The wider and deeper your network extends into the organization, the less power the bully has. Develop relationships across various departments, and at various levels of authority. This network will serve you in many ways. It will help you see beyond the bully to what others think of your work. It can protect you by providing an alternate narrative to the one the bully is promoting. And, if all else fails, your network can help you move to another position in the organization, away from the bully’s reach.

What Did You Learn Today?

library-books-1442528-1920x1440At the end of each year, so many of us look back over the past year, examine the highs and the lows, and think about what we want for the next year. Do you make big, well-meaning resolutions? Are they abandoned by February? Or are you one of those people who don’t bother anymore, since it doesn’t really change much anyway. At the end of the year, many of us also think about what we are thankful for, and vow to practice gratitude more in the New Year.

I love the idea of practicing gratitude. It can keep you grounded and help you focus on the positive forces in your life. I can also boost your patience and empathy with others. I also find that practicing gratitude often focuses on external situations, what we have and what have been given. I have found a companion practice that focuses internally, and can really enhance your life and work. At the end of each work day, or before you go to bed at night, take 5 minutes or less to answer this one question:

What did I learn today?

This isn’t intended to be a journal practice, although this is a great prompt for journaling as well. It’s more of a bullet list. It is just one sentence, maybe two, to remind you of the lesson. For example, last Tuesday’s might have been “Physical Therapy after shoulder surgery takes a lot of time and effort; there are no shortcuts.”  I wrote about this little incident in my last post. Reading this item in the future will be a reminder not only of the conversation, and the time spend rehabilitating my shoulder, but will hopefully also be a reminder of the good results from the effort, and of gratitude for a fully functioning shoulder (hopefully coming soon).

There are lessons large and small that swirl around us every day. Some are academic, some are silly, and some are personal. Of course, this is not an original idea. Put “what did I learn today” into a search engine, and you will see everything from TIL on Reddit to sites that will show you a new fact every day. (Confession time – I only recently learned what TIL stood for on Reddit. It stands for “Today I Learned”, in case you didn’t know.) While fact-a-day trivia is a lot of fun and a great way to spend a couple of minutes, the practice I recommend is more personal. Look for lessons that will make you a better leader, a better producer, a better friend, and – most of all – more the person you want to be.

By resolving to document one lesson a day, you will become more observant to the learning experiences happening all around you, and you will begin to see and retain the little lessons life brings you more readily. Some days you will learn something new about yourself – you may identify a bias, find a talent you didn’t know you had, or find a new interest. Other days you will learn something about a loved one, or you will meet an intriguing new person. And on some days you might learn new information, such as a new software feature, a new method, or a new professional skill. For example, I find that I often learn new approaches to communication and teaching.

It may seem difficult to think of things at first, but it’s worth keeping at it. Try using a small notebook that you keep with you, although you can use your desk calendar, the note taking app on your phone, or whatever tool you use to keep organized.  There’s something very satisfying about writing it down by hand, though.  The important thing is to be able to see and review all the things you are learning, and to revisit these notes from time to time. And when you get to the end of the year, and see all the notations, it becomes a wonderful gift to yourself to review all you’ve learned over the year. When you feel like things are stagnant, that nothing is happening in your life or career, or you don’t know what to do next, look over all the lessons you have learned, and remind yourself of how much more you know now than you did last year, and how much more you will learn next year. This will not only be something to be grateful for, but can be the foundation for new endeavors in the coming year.

Sometimes There Is Just No Shortcut

peaceFive weeks ago I had shoulder surgery. When I went to the physical therapist this morning, she asked how I was doing. “Discouraged”, I replied. “Progress isn’t where I’d hoped it would be.” She responded by laughing and then turned to the other patients in the room and said (good-naturedly) “She just had shoulder surgery, and she thinks that she should be better by now.” To which everyone else laughed (kindly), including the gentleman with the shoulder-on-ice over in the corner. Then they reminded me that however much I wanted to be healed, and how diligently I did my exercises, these things still take time. Months of time. There aren’t any shortcuts.

The term shortcut is usually used to imply that someone is trying to get away with something – either getting more than deserved, delivering shoddy products, or somehow not doing what they are supposed to do. But you can also look a shortcut as a form of efficiency. There is an old adage – necessity is the mother of invention. I would maintain that looking for shortcuts has birthed a fair few inventions as well. Miracle mops, computer software, 1040EZ or commuter lanes – everyone wants to get from point A to point B as quickly and as painlessly as possible. It’s the same in the business world. You have limited resources to apply to many tasks. We use strategic planning and tactical prioritization to optimize the use of our resources. Any method that you can find to wring more productivity from your resources allows you to do more. Sometimes that means finding a way to achieve an acceptable level of performance for the task using less effort or fewer resources. As project managers, part of our job is to try to find the most efficient way to complete our projects. Often by tweaking processes, not over-engineering the methodology on non-critical activities, and making sure everyone on the team is fully tasked with appropriate but “stretch” deadlines, you can achieve a fair amount of efficiency. And then there are the times when we have to crash the schedule, often by jettisoning tasks and adding team members. Sometimes this works, but often, in my opinion, it can make things worse.

So back to the physical therapy appointment. I am not the most patient person. But I really didn’t have any choice – there is no short cut to healing a shoulder. All I can do is be diligent in my therapy and work hard, even when it hurts, and it will heal. It just takes time.

This got me to thinking about shortcuts and efficiency. There are just some things for which there is no short cut, no efficiency, and no alternative. They just have to be done. Intellectually, we know this. For example, why does crashing a schedule not always possible? Because 9 women can’t have a baby in one month. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown that one out in a schedule meeting.) Think about a landscaping project. You can place the plants appropriately, but it will take growing time to achieve full effect. It cannot be rushed, it cannot be “gone around”. So why does this matter? Because having the ability to identify those tasks which cannot be “crashed”, and particularly identifying them up front, will give you some very important information as you are managing your project. If these items are not on your critical path, you should analyze your schedule to understand if these tasks could drive a risk to your schedule. But as important that the schedule risk is, understanding which tasks happen on their own timeline can help you be a better leader for your team. You will better understand their progress reports and be able to work with your team to better monitor progress. You will be less likely to waste time and goodwill demanding impossible shortcuts. Most importantly, you’ll be prepared to support your team and your progress when the sponsor comes in saying they are “discouraged”, and that “progress isn’t where they’d hoped it would be.”


Reduce Decision Fatigue to Improve Your Decision Making

indecision-1167245-1919x1379You’ve just come home from a relatively calm day at the office. Your partner comes in the door. You both slouch on the sofa, when someone utters the dreaded question. “What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know. What do you want?”

“I don’t care. What do we have?”

“I don’t know. We could order delivery. What would you want?”

“I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?”

“Nothing. What about you”

Argh. OK, accept the fact that you failed to plan ahead for dinner. You’re not necessarily tired, but your brain can’t seem to make any decisions. At the end of the day, you’re just not firing on all cylinders. Why does this seem to happen at the end of the day? While this example seems silly, I’ve actually had this conversation too many times to count. It doesn’t matter how simple a decision it is, or how little consequence the choice will have, it’s so hard to make decisions.

It’s not your imagination. Researchers have identified the concept of decision fatigue, where the capacity for making decisions and the quality of the decision making are reduced as the number of decisions made increase. Think about how many decisions we make each day. Everything from what clothes to wear, which lane to drive in, what size coffee to order, etc. And that is before we even start work! Start adding up the decisions you make in your professional life, and it’s no wonder our brains cry “uncle” at the end of the day.

So how do you combat decision fatigue? Well, being in good mental and physical health, eating well and getting enough sleep will certainly allow you to maximize your decision making capacity. That will help. But even more important, look to maximize the value you get from your decision-making capacity.

What does that mean? It means reducing or eliminating low consequence decisions from your day, or moving them to late in the day, and focusing your energy on the critical, high-impact decisions that you are responsible for. Sometimes our brains do this for us. For example, have you ever started to drive to work on Saturday, only to realize five minutes later what you were doing and make that U-turn to head to the grocery store instead? That’s your autopilot taking over. If you drive the same route to work every day, your brain has already made most of the decisions. Do you get the same coffee order every morning? One less decision.

Create habits out of decisions. This is about using our brains desire for patterns and repetition to help us eliminate decisions. I know some people who put their clothes out in the evening, making the morning a little easier. They feed their kids the same breakfast every morning. They use morning rituals when they get into the office to start their day. These are all habits that have the effect of reducing low value decisions. At the office, you pre-plan each morning on your calendar the previous afternoon. For example, spend a few minutes in the afternoon to make decisions about which clients you will call in the morning, allowing you to jump right into the work.

Use checklists, templates, and standard text. We all have to do some repetitive work in our jobs. Whether it’s writing reports, status meetings, management briefings, or staff reviews, the more you can standardize the work, the fewer decisions you have to make. This is akin to not “reinventing the wheel” each time you have to do a briefing. For example, when I do sponsor briefings, I use the same short slide deck each month, just updating the information. This continuity allows for better understanding by the sponsor, and makes it much faster to prepare for the briefings.

TIP: If you’ve never read The Checklist Manifesto, by Dr. Atul Gawande, I highly recommend it. It discusses how the use of checklists improved emergency room outcomes by reducing missed safety steps by 74%. Besides being a great story, and an amazing demonstration of resistance and change management, it shows how in a high pressure, high impact decision environment like a hospital emergency room, using checklists to reduce small decisions had a huge effect.

Understand willpower as based in decision making. When you fail to accomplish what you want to accomplish, make bad decisions, or avoid difficult activities, don’t just chalk it up to having no willpower. Having willpower is really just having the capacity to make good decisions. If your decision making is depleted, of course it’s easier to choose the donut rather than the banana. (If you prefer donuts to bananas, that is.) Knowing this, try to identify those decisions that require “willpower”, and find a way to make them as early in the day as possible. Buy the banana at breakfast and put it on your desk for later. Schedule that difficult “counseling” conversation for 10am.

Some people I have met are natural “habit creators”. It’s a bit of a generalization, but I find that these people tend to be more risk averse but very reliable, and tend to produce high volumes of work. They are very good at developing processes for us all to work by. By contrast, other people I know, particularly creatives and problem-solvers, are more comfortable with the unknown, and enjoy making decisions. These are often people who are less likely to rely on habits. Then again, maybe these are also people (like myself) who are less likely to remember to plan for dinner ahead of time. Whether you are a natural habit creator or not, using repetition and tools to reduce low impact decision making can strengthen your decision making ability, and allow you to make better decisions, regardless of your decision making style.

You Screwed Up? Follow These Recovery Tips


Everyone makes mistakes. Like it or not, no one is perfect. No matter how careful you are, no matter how much you double check yourself, you will screw up. It’s bad enough when your error happens on your own time – it can be potentially disastrous when it happens at work. But here is some good news – it’s how you react that makes all the difference.

A mistake does not have to damage your career; how you handle yourself afterward, however, has the potential to affect your reputation and even your future. The great jazz man Miles Davis once said, “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad.” It takes integrity and courage to own up to your mistakes and take responsibility. Successfully managing the aftermath of the error demonstrates your professionalism and builds trust with your leadership and your team.

Don’t panic.  Focus on your plan to resolve the issue. Admittedly it’s really hard not to lose it. But by remaining calm you give the impression that you are in control, and you will have the capacity to take whatever corrective actions you need to take.

Fix what you can immediately. I’ll never forget the time a colleague and I were working long hours on this rather complicated proposal. We had finally finished it, and the print shop had printed all the copies and assembled 10 binders. We were doing a last “white glove” review, and guess what – the customer’s name was spelled wrong on the front cover! Luckily we caught it. With very little time, we put our heads together, and quickly created new covers, printed them on the local printer, and replaced all the covers. And then went to happy hour and lost it!

Apologize to the right people, at the right time. Determine who is affected by your mistake. Consider any potential adverse impact on the organization as  well. On whom will your mistake reflect negatively – your boss? Your colleagues? Your team? Identify specifically who you must apologize to. Also consider when the best time to talk to that person is. It’s best to discuss it when you have their full attention, even for just a few minutes. But remember that bad news is not fine wine – it does not improve with age. Consider what you will say, prepare yourself, then go to them and apologize in person. Keep it brief and to the point. Say the words “I’m sorry”. However, while it is important to take responsibility for your mistakes, apologizing too much or to the wrong person can make the mistake appear bigger than it was and make you look unprofessional. Apologize once, take appropriate action, and then let it drop. Don’t discuss it with anyone who doesn’t need to know. If your mistake impacted no one but you, keep it to yourself. There is no one else to apologize to.

Focus on the impact of you mistake. In addition to simply acknowledging the action itself and apologizing, make it clear that you understand the impact of your error, and the efforts you will make to ensure that it does not happen again. When you apologize, apologize for the impact, not for the error. Don’t discuss why you made the error – it will sound like an excuse. By focusing on the impact your mistake had on others, or on the company, it demonstrates your understanding of the impact and value of your work and the work of your team.

Prepare a recommendation if appropriate. If you couldn’t fix the error immediately, determine whether or not the mistake can be fixed. If so, propose how you can fix it. If not, determine if there is some corrective action you can take to smooth the situation or prevent it from happening again. You can offer to call the customer, drive to the warehouse to pick up the missing parts, adjust the procedure, whatever is appropriate to the error. Of course, sometimes a mistake just cannot be fixed. It is just as important to be able to recognize when the best course of action is to do nothing. Be able to explain why you believe that is the case.

Forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes, develop better processes to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and, in the immortal words of Elsa, “Let it go”. Recognize that mistakes will happen, but that handling stressful situations with grace and competence will allow you to recover from errors and improve your skills. Research has shown that CEOs and managers who take responsibility for their errors have better reputations and perform better. So acknowledge, apologize, repair, and then declare the situation over. Going back to building your professional reputation by doing great work is the best antidote to mistakes, and will rebuild any lost trust over time.

Get More Done by Trying “To-Do” Less

to-do-1156681I don’t know about you, but I always feel like I will never have the time to do everything I need to do. Whether it’s always feeling a little behind at the office, coming home at the end of the day to chores and family needs, or trying to pack too much into a too short weekend, we all look for ways to get it all done. There are scores of time and task management tools that promise to help you organize all of your tasks so you can presumably “get things done”.  I have tried so many of them, with little to no improvement, except for being in possession of extensive detailed task lists with due dates that always seem to get pushed into the future. But I recently had an epiphany. To-do lists are like closets – only by getting rid of the big piles of stuff we’re keeping for “someday”, and freeing up space for the things that are most important, can we conquer our time.

I love organizing. I watch shows with organizers helping hoarders clear their homes. The Container Store is one of my favorite places to browse. I read books written by professional organizers. I have done a fabulous job of using bins, boxes, hooks, and other tools to get the most stuff into my closets and into my office. Friends have even asked me to come to their homes and offices to do the same for them. But I realized something recently. All that stuff goes unused because it takes too much effort to pull down the boxes, get what I need and put the pile back together. Have you ever bought something a second time because you couldn’t find the one you had? I have finally come to the conclusion that only when you eliminate everything but what is most important, and have these important things readily accessible, are you really organized. After several large charity deliveries, I now have empty shelves and I am actually spending more time doing what I really want to do and less time straightening my house. But could this work for my calendar as well as my closets?

One of the things that prompted the clear out was that I was reminded of this

Instead of saying “I don’t have time”, try saying “it’s not a priority”.

Instead of trying yet another system for getting everything done, focus instead on getting the most important tasks tone. Identify your top priorities. Be honest with yourself – what needs to get done, and what do you most want to do. Make a list of priorities – it should be short.  Then eliminate all tasks that don’t support those priorities. For example, let’s say one of your tasks is to learn a new skill during your lunch hour. Now look at your task list – how many lunch hour tasks are there? What is your priority? If you want to do the other things too, how much of a priority is learning that new task? This is a ruthless process, but only by being honest with ourselves about what we can truly accomplish can we truly get “more” done.

When you have identified your most high-priority tasks, make time for these tasks. It is easier to make time for two tasks than for twenty. One of two things will happen. You will have freed yourself from the noise of overtasking, and will accomplish what you need to, or something will get in the way and prevent you from completing your task. In other words, you allowed something else to become a higher priority. Analyze what made that task a higher priority – did you choose a new priority, or did someone else? This will tell you if you’ve mistaken “someday” for “priority”. This happens all the time – sometimes it’s hard to let go. It is a process. If someone else prompted the change, ask if they had the authority to do so. If they did, or you allowed them to, then it wasn’t really your time to manage – it was theirs.

I have had the task “start a blog” on my to-do list for something like 4 years. It was mostly just an idea, so it stayed there on my to-do list. But to be honest, it wasn’t really a priority. So it kept getting put off. Recently I decided to make it a priority. I eliminated other things I planned to do to make space for it. I let go of all the other idea-related tasks and actually start writing. It’s maintaining a vigilant focus on your limited set of priorities that makes the difference, and not letting yourself get distracted by the immediate want or the someday daydream.

By keeping your priorities front and center, and clearing the clutter to make space for only the most important tasks, you actually end up accomplishing more. Since less time is spent managing the clutter of your to-do lists, more of your time is spend accomplishing your real priorities. Unless spending time with time management tools is your priority, get more done by focusing less on how to pile more stuff into your calendar, and more on identifying and acting on high priority tasks.


Create a Compelling Project Narrative to Improve Buy-In

negativespace-8Projects, by their very nature, are journeys into the unknown. I’ve managed projects as small as a software upgrade and as large as standing up a new business unit. Regardless of the size of the project, all projects encounter uncertainty, risk, and resistance. Not everyone is comfortable with change, and projects can carry with them real risks to organizations. Discomfort with an unknown future, aversion to risk, and resistance to change are real impediments to project success. In particular, they can negatively affect decision making and buy in to the project. Creating and promoting a compelling project narrative can help to reduce resistance and improve decision making.

Think of the project narrative as an “elevator speech” for your project. As such, your narrative should be short and focused. It should identify the project and its key sponsor(s), summarize the scope of the project, and then describe the future impact of the project. The narrative should address clearly the main problem being solved or the key benefit to be realized by the completion of the project. When highlighting the impact of the project, focus not just the dollars or corporate benefits, but on the impact to the individuals, both in the company and its customers. By focusing on the people, your goal is to show them what their life will be like after the project is completed. To reduce a little of the uncertainty by demonstrating that the project is fully aware of the impacts, and has examined and is prepared to describe the future state. This is a tall order. This is not a change management exercise, but by highlighting change impacts at a high level, it will demonstrate that sensitivity to these impacts is part of the project brand.

But for the narrative to be effective, it has to be repeated – over and over again. It must become the default description of the project when anyone asks. Make sure your team members know the narrative and can repeat it. Provide it as talking points for senior managers, sponsors, and stakeholders. The goal of this consistent repetition is for the narrative to become your project brand. And it is this brand that will be the focus point for decision making and change management.

The narrative will be used at the beginning of any meetings or presentations. It will be part of the executive summary of any document deliverables. A well-crafted project narrative will focus on the most important goals and outcomes, so it can be used in decision documents and meetings to limit the noise and keep the focus on the desired outcome. It will also support more detailed change management activities.

Lastly, a compelling project narrative can support buy-in. It acts as your sales pitch; it allows all of the project team members, sponsors, and executives to “get the story straight”.  Getting everyone to describe the project in the same way, focused on the same details, gives the impression that everyone is on board. Everyone will sound more confident. There will be less opportunity for unimportant or erroneous details to get out into the wild. Senior managers can be your best storytellers. By giving them solid talking points, they can own your story and spread the word. This will help promote buy-in from the top down. And by including a focus on the impacts to the customers and employees, it will also support buy-in from the bottom up.