Many of us tend to be hard-core pessimists. I would go as far in saying that pessimism is the number one mental problem of project managers. And there is a simple reason behind this: From the very beginning of our careers we are trained to keep an eye on the risks and potential extra costs of everything we do. And … it is wise to do so! There is anawful lot of things that can go wrong and wreak havoc upon your project.
But on the other hand this is a real shame. Wouldn’t it be much more fun to focus on the good things instead: your chances? These project opportuniuties are more or less the opposite of project risks: additional benefits which offer themselves on top of you project goals. Of course I do not advise to ignore your risks. That could be fatal for your project. But I do advise to not exclusively focus on them. Think positive, open your eyes to special opportunities.
Sounds good, right? So you better start now:
List your opportunities
Wether you prefer brainstorming methods or you simply let your thoughts wander during a short walk out in nature: Collect potential opportunities and write them down. Do not be afraid, think big: What would make your client really happy? What could you do to surprise and impress your stakeholders. Try not to think about the problems at this moment, or how realistic your thoughts are. Switch on dream-mode. Most projects contain hidden bonus opportunities, which you will not discover at first sight.
Spread the word! Do not keep it to yourself! Opportunities, just like goals, can be a great motivation for yourself and certainly for your team. And as a side effect, thoughts are guided in a positive direction. Talking about those additional aspects of your project inspires people, encourages them to think beyond and to be creative. It will create an atmosphere where project work is not just about reaching the set goals, but to potentially exceed them, to think in greater dimensions. And if this comes at no extra costs, it can be great fun.
Seize the opportunity
Take your chances, grab opportunities once you spot them and do not let them escape. In particular, if the efforts to do so are miniscule. Of course you should only do that if it does not distract from your set project goals, if it does not pose a risk. But in most cases not harvesting low-hanging fruits would be a shame.
And once you have done so, let the world know you did. What is better for advertising your project than unexpected extra-benefits at no additional costs? By the way, it is a good idea to be prepared for these opportunities beforehand. Think about possibilities and opportunities well in advance. Then you can be sure you will recognise them once they are in realistic reach.
Extra opportunities are wonderful creatures! Time for you to spend some serious thoughts on them.
Take pen and paper and start right away. What opportunities in the above explained way can you identify in your project? What would you like to achieve in addition to the core goals of your project? Consult with your team!
Alexander Blumenau (*1972) is a portfolio and project manager. With over a decade of international project experience he has been in charge as head of R&D in high-tech industries.
Originally Alexander started his career as a scientist and holds a doctoral degree in Physics. Besides his interests in project management, company processes and structures, he works as a free author and arts photographer.