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Even in IT, the Tortoise Wins the Race

Even the most time-crunched folks agree that slow is better.

Whether you've read this blog since its inception a year ago or just popped by for the first time, you might be asking yourself, "Does the power of slow really work in all situations?" So I asked the most time-crunched group of people I know: IT project managers. The folks at the IT staffing firm, Vivo, Inc. came back with the most slow-affirming answers.

Michael Parish, Managing Director and Vice President of Consulting at Vivo, takes an all-encompassing view of the clock. His approach is to gather all the schedules, vacation and otherwise, into one place. "This allows me to take a holistic view of available time to get the initiative completed. It is paramount that this effort occur during the planning phase because it ensures proper expectations with stakeholders and project participants. After this the consolidated calendar provides leverage to get resources up and going on their deliverables and provides stakeholders visibility into progress."

In other words, he takes a slow moment to step back and gather the necessary data to manage expectations throughout the entire process. Another mantra by which he works is a quote someone told him once: "Plan one's work and work one's plan."

He thereby mitigates potential issues before they arise. But that doesn't mean everything always goes according to plan. Another slow principle he has adopted is clear communication.

"Clear and timely communication is key to staying on the right path as every plan must have flexibilities," he admits. "Getting together with project team members and stakeholders removes potential issues with priority on urgent/important or non-urgent/non-important matters." Vivo CEO, Marilyn Weinstein, agrees with the notion of taking a moment to gain an overview. "It is essential that project managers begin to think strategically about the big picture. We are asked to spend a great deal of time on the urgent and important. But, the true quality work is often spent in the not urgent but important quadrant. There are fewer fires to put out that way!"

Do you see the tortoise in all this? That Zen-like plodding with your eyes on the prize helps you win the race.

When I asked both of them to give me insights into delegation, they offered some sound advice. Michael says: "Ingredients to successful delegation are communication of the project tasks, goals and dependencies, clear understanding of timelines and understanding on what team members are accountable for." Marilyn Weinstein adds a few words of wisdom for those just starting out on the managerial path: "For people first learning to delegate, I'd start in the urgent but not important category, if possible." Doing so allows you to test the waters first before venturing to more important issues.

As for expectation management for stakeholders and yourself, both agreed that bringing stakeholders into the process early keeps them vested in the process. "I believe the best course of action towards managing stakeholders' expectations is to allow them to be part of the determining factor on what those expectations should be for the entire scope of the project," Michael suggests. "If they contribute to the creation of success factors, their satisfaction is more easily reached."

As for Michael's own expectations? Well, that's another matter. "Most conscientious, results-oriented people are often not satisfied with their work output," he admits. "They are always wanting to reach loftier heights of delivery or accomplishment. My only rule is to separate your own expectations from the expectations of the project."

So while you embark on the power of slow, remember to separate your personal demands from those of your boss. Most likely, you'll be much harder on yourself than he or she will be. But if you embrace the slow, you will begin to see a more singular alignment of what you do with what you value, too.

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