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PIE 2020: Are you Managing, or Heading Toward an Iceberg?

January 24, 2020

Chad Gamble

“So, Rick, were you able to take the marketing message that was developed at the last meeting and present the multiple copy versions to the printers and get quotes?” Rick immediately starts to look around the room. This is the moment when the project manager’s heart rate goes up 30 clicks. Rick takes a deep breath and retorts “I thought that the PR team was going to take that and run with it.” The PM states “well, I was speaking about marketing items and directly to you at the meeting, you are the marketing lead on this project, right?” 


When I graduated from college the idea of Project Management “training” was “do you know how to spell project management?”


Well, you can guess where this meeting heads, with an express pass straight to the South Pole. 


Did you ever find yourself wondering: how in the heck did this project/I get myself into this situation? Or ask: “why did I not put that language into a contract?” Or want to cry because you are 3 months behind on a project and you now have to answer some really hard questions from the Mayor or University President. Well, I don’t know about you, but I sure have had those thoughts/conversations and they were not fun. 


Project Management (PM): two easy words to say, but boy oh boy if not done in the right way and with the right direction and focus you can find yourself in a world of hurt. If you look online you can find many universities and/or continuing education opportunities and even degrees in PM. When I graduated from college (what seems to be a lifetime ago) the idea of PM education and or “training” was “do you know how to spell project management?” (now this may be a challenge to some engineers) but yes, I was able to spell it (barely) and I passed. 


I then found myself in the real world trying to manage projects with little to no training and avoiding pitfalls and bad situations by the skin of my teeth and a whole lot of prayer. You may not have the extra time to take a class in PM, let alone the commitment and years involved in obtaining a four-year degree. But there we find ourselves - managing consultants, construction projects, budgets, contractors, customers and in massive need of some guidance, or at least faking it until we make it look good.


I was lucky to have some great mentors along the way to at least throw me a couple of PM bones and/or give me a few get-out-of-jail-free cards. You will hear some of these stories at PIE 2020. Some people are not that lucky and have to learn from the school of hard knocks or read about their epic fails in the next day’s paper - or even better yet, be required to explain their actions or lack thereof at Monday’s council meeting on live TV. Now that one was super fun! 


If you are able to pry yourself from the waning days of winter and attend the PIE conference in beautiful San Diego, then you may want to check out the PIE Project Manager Boot Camp. I hope to give you a deep dive into several areas of PM that I have learned about and honed over my 30-year career. This will not be limited to the “keep good lists” shtick but the real issues of real-life PROJECT MANAGEMENT. 


Topics that I will cover will include key points to help you set yourself up for success, and more importantly, set up your TEAM up for success. Being a PM is not a position of power, it is a position in which you SERVE your team. Having a “can-do” attitude, blended with a pound of positive persistence and topped off with giant dollop of humility are characteristics that will cause your team members to WANT to follow you and not be drug behind you because you are their supervisor “on paper”.


I’ll be sharing simple, straightforward, and easy-to-remember rules about making sure that you are leading the team, YOUR TEAM, toward success and not on a collision course with an iceberg, straight ahead. I hope to elaborate on this example as well as many other “PM must dos” and give you some tips on handling some hard questions in front of a camera or at a live broadcast council meeting. 


In addition, I will remind and inform y’all of one of the most important things to remember - that your job is simply that, a JOB and to have fun! You have to be able to add some smiles to peoples’ lives, or, as I like to say “add a little corn dog to your TEAM, heavy on the mustard”. Looking forward to seeing you all in PIE SD 2020. Blessings. 


Chad A. Gamble, P.E. is the Parking Manager for the City of Lansing, Michigan. He can be reached at chad.gamble@lansingmi.gov.


 



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