Happy Project Management by Peter Taylor

How many project managers does it take to change a light bulb? A better question to ask is perhaps ‘how many project managers does it take to have a good project?’ I think just the one if they have a real sense of humor and an appreciation for the value of ‘fun’ in a project team.

Richard Branson, Virgin Group said ‘Have fun, success will follow. If you aren’t having fun, you are doing it wrong. If you feel like getting up in the morning to work on your business is a chore, then it's time to try something else. If you are having a good time, there is a far greater chance a positive, innovative atmosphere will be nurtured… A smile and a joke can go a long way, so be quick to see the lighter side of life’.

And fun is definitely out there in the world of project management. When I asked for contributions for my new book on project fun from all of my social contacts:  ‘Author is seeking stories and experiences from the lighter side of project management’ I received this reply via Twitter from @PMOPlanet ‘I'm afraid with my waistline, I'm on the heavier side of project management, as opposed to the lighter side’.

In my first book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ I dedicated a chapter to ‘Having Fun’ (perhaps one of the first project management books to do so?) and stated ‘You have to laugh; well I think you have to laugh.  

Without a little bit of fun in every project then the project world can be a dark and depressing place. Setting a professional but fun structure for your project can really be beneficial for when the problems start to rise up to challenge your plan of perfection. And problems will inevitably arise’.

And I know as I have traveled the world and presented at many conferences and congresses that the humor that I put into my keynote presentations makes them popular, enjoyable, and, as a result, it gets the message to the audience. There is nothing worse than 60 minutes of fact-based detail being presented in a monotone voice without the slightest glimmer of a smile.

There is the commonly shared piece of wisdom that declares that ‘it takes more muscles to frown than to smile’? Well it is rubbish. You will hear a whole range of numbers of muscles used but the truth is that medically there is no such balance for or against the ‘smile’ but what is a universal truth was proven in a Swedish study back in 2002 that confirmed what we already knew and that is people respond in kind to the facial expressions that they encounter. If it was a frown then a frown was returned, if it was a smile then it was a smile that was returned automatically. Interestingly when the subjects of the test were asked to respond to a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile they really struggled. So, it isn’t any easier to be a happy face rather than a grumpy face but a happy face generally engendered a whole lot of other happy faces.

And what do happy faces make? Well, a lot of things it seems. Happy, positive people tend to live longer apparently: A number of studies have shown that happy people tend to live longer. One study looked at a group of nuns who wrote a short biographical sketch before taking their vows. At the age of 85, 90% of the nuns with ‘cheerful’ biographies were still alive compared to 54% of the least ‘cheerful’. So be positive and you might make it to the end of that never-ending project.

Happy, positive people have the ‘bounce back’ factor: It seems that happiness and an attitude of optimism tend to go hand in hand. Optimistic people see bad things as only temporary and good things as mostly permanent. Their positive expectation helps them see and act on opportunities faster and to overcome setbacks easier. So be positive and you can deal with all of that [insert expletive of your choice here] that heads your way on the projects from hell.

Happy, positive people are better teamies: There is also a strong link between feeling good and doing good. Studies have shown that happy people are more willing to help others, so happy people make the world a better place. So be positive and your project team members will be all the better for it.

Happy, positive people feel pretty good about it all: Let’s face it, we all get a good feeling when we feel positive and upbeat, it is infectious isn’t it? The better that we feel the more we achieve and get on with others and, as a direct result, we feel even more positive as a result. Linked to that if we choose work that we like to do and that is meaningful to us, and that is challenging as well, it can generate those peak moments of enjoyment. So be positive and enjoy your chosen profession of project management.

And, as I say in ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, the right sort of ‘fun’ project environment can be good for you as well, ‘Done right you will have set the acceptable parameters for fun in your project, both in content and in extent, and you will have engendered that spirit amongst your project team to the point where, one day, when you are the one on a low, they will make come up and make you smile.’ Be Happy – Have Fun!

******* Peter Taylor  is a dynamic and commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in business. His background is in project management and marketing across three major business areas over the last 28 years and with the last 8 years building and leading PMOs. He is an accomplished communicator, a professional speaker, workshop trainer and PM/PMO consultant. Peter is the author of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager and the Project from Hell’ (Infinite Ideas), as well as ‘Leading Successful PMOs’ (Gower). More information can be found at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

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