Project Management series – Magic of “FLOW” in project management

What is a flow state for a project manager?

It is being in the state of a flow wherein, you continue to do a task with gusto and tend to forget all other activities around it.

Let’s take an example. You have scheduled two meetings in the next 3 hours. You are busy with your present activity. You are so much engrossed, that you missed the two upcoming meetings. However, should not be construed as another way of skipping meetingsā€¦

In positive psychology, it is known as you have been in a flow state. Also called “in the zone”.

Let’s take a closer look at what Andew Kallman, executive coach has to say …

A flow tells one, where he/she is headed, what one needs to do to close a project or accomplish something, a task or a group of activities.

How does “flow” help project managers?

It is the optimization of efforts, strategies and their application in order to achieve. The concept comes from basketball games. Flows can be of two types – individual flow and team flow. How can oneself act positively towards a goal and how to lead the team towards the bigger goal?

Can this be treated as a methodology?

It is duplicating the success approach across projects, programs, and portfolios. Recreating remarkable results where delivery was consistently made before the planned dates.

Is there any tool to use?

Yes, there are a quite a few.. Flow friction analysis – Known initially as flow formula, where Vision with the right people, plus the 4D model = flow.

What is 4D?

A 4D model is typically, seen in a construction project; it enables planners and construction personnel to visualize the sequence of construction that combines staging (for example, cranes, material storage and the various sites that are involved). The 4D model helps identify errors within the plan and optimize the construction path.

Flow will only succeed, if there is a vision, preventing any confusion within the teams.

Note, that if you have the wrong people, confused state of goals among team members; level of risks, and fear will creep in the project. For that, the definition of the project is very important. If it is not known, project death is sure to occur.

Distilling agreement is foremost between all the stakeholders of a project. If it is not there, politics will prevail and the project will not be a success.  In a 3D model, if the team lacks capability, chaos will reign high. Once the project ends, retrospective or gate meetings must be done, to understand, what went well, and what did not. So, having a common vision is the key to the success of flow.

Remember, every organization has to avoid the most inevitable – confusion, friction and under performance as Peter Drucker said.

So, what do you do as a project manager with this tool? Put these on the radar, and bring the team back on track.

Can flow be used for agile projects?

Flow complies to the 12 principles of agile.  You can bring the critical mass into this too. Running campaigns on what the stakeholders feel; are they neutral, or are they in agreement or they think this is not going to work. Once you calculate and identify the people who are against it, can be flipped over with reasoning.

How do you deal with the different culture and flow?

Flow has been seen to kill cultural head winds by its simplicity. Be prepared what tool to be used that will bring results. The best investment is to have the CTO, CEO, COO or the business owners to be aligned with the flow along with the engineers and other staff so that all understand the common language, act in unison and do not shoot out in different directions.  This way, a team can deliver more with less and within budget.

To sum up, who is a good PM? A good PM, does not look for excuses, they get the job done.

Will it work across different countries, especially where hierarchy exits?

Yes, flow is agnostic to culture and cuts across boundaries with very good results. It gives you the ability to optimize, and feel confident under any conditions. However, it needs to be practiced and not leave it after one use. Coaching and mentoring, must be done continuously.

How long it takes to get flow showing results?

If it is agile, about 3-4 sprints, which pan to about one and half months. Agile coaching must be present when team members get stuck, they also need to come to the project manager for help and must respect their advice. Record the result, and use it consistently, for results.

Show the teams, leadership, and the clients, the benefit of flow strategy and be a winner.

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