Being Mindful or being concerned- Part II

In Part I of this blog – I had looked at a possible way of construing the tango of being mindful and being concerned about risk. So, it seems like that the cocktail of being mindful and also being concerned about risk, appears explosive. So, is there a possibly different approach to being mindful and still being concerned about risk? If yes, what would be the implications of that? Let us explore that further in this part.

Is an alternative possible?

In fact this was the question that set me to thinking about this blog in the first place. Is being mindful going to be just another fad that a PM has to bear and grin for a while? Or is the new mindful way, the way forward?

So let us now start with a postulate – that we are a mindful team with a mindful manager. So as a mindful team, we are compassionate, empathetic and we stay in the present.

Earlier when the team member was struggling with a complex task, you as the PM, decided that you would not allocate it to him in the future. You felt that you was being compassionate, by not burdening him. Now we are a mindful team. So, the team member also would assess the complexity and the need to meet the project objective. As a mindful team member, if he feels that he would de-rail the project, he will not volunteer to take up the task, and potentially state his perspective. If on the other hand, he feels he has learnt enough and has the confidence to take it up – he would stand up and so state. So he would outline how he intends to achieve it. Others would pitch in with insights to help him firm up his mind. Either way, the team member will be more energized, stay in the moment, fully own the decision and be more productive – thereby definitely contributing better to the project. So as a mindful PM, you have enabled the team member to stay more in the present, not worrying about the impact of the past, nor worrying about the future – and more importantly acting in the best interest of the project.

Earlier, you knew the customer wanted the project by a particular date. So you were diligently tracking the risks, working out mitigation plans. You would be constantly bothered about, what-if this happened or that happened. So invariably the focus and the energy of the team would be to ensure that we are not the ones de-railing the project/ customer’s goals. So, to that extend the team’s thinking becomes defensive (in my experience, it even leads to CYA!).

Now let us switch to being a mindful team. We know that the customer wants this project by a particular date, because he wants to be the first to launch this product. As an empathetic team, we look at what does it mean to him, if the project is ready by that date. So we are able to better internalize the true value of being able to launch the product first (using this project). We then will plan the project appropriately to ensure that we can get the value of being the first to launch (in this example). So as a mindful team, every time, we work on something, we focus on getting that value. So if it means we have to build some of the things, that was earlier in our mitigation plan – we will do it – but we are doing it because we look at is as the most effective way of meeting the project goal. So we are no longer doubting whether it was a thing to have been done or not. We stay in the present. We channelize our energies towards it. Our energies are no longer focused on the what-ifs, nor is it focused on the defensive (CYA!). It is active focus on what we are doing, so we are far more effective and productive.

In this approach we have increased the touch-time of our mind on the present task.

After all these mindful actions, if the risk still exists, that is probably the residual risk that would have always existed. So we are not going to be any higher level of risk than earlier. But with the increased, in-the-moment energy and time, due to being a mindful team, we would have achieved things better and would feel a lot better!

The alternate conclusion

Yes it is possible to be mindful and still not ignore the risks (as defined in the current way) in the project.

However, it means a change in the way we approach the (stated and the unstated) risks in our action. The classic paradigm of how we approach Risk Management (be it implicit – like in the work allocation example, or explicit – like the mitigation plan in a formal risk management process) is quite unlikely to work, as we saw in our first conclusion.

However, if we re-frame the approach, with a mindful team (and a mindful organization) – the need for the classic approach to risk management itself would give way, as the approach and the plan itself would have built it in the best possible way. So many an item in the risk list, would potentially vanish. Also, many of the risk action-types could vanish. e.g. Do we still have a concept like mitigating risk? Even a contingency plan, would be done, if the value of it warrants it to be done, compared to the other requirements that need to be met – in that sense it turns out to become a project deliverable, rather than the classic risk management plan.

So, such an approach, can definitely then lead the PM and the team to stay in the present. This by itself would help propel all the energy (touch time of the mind) towards to present without the bug-bear of the past and the fear of the unknown future.

The 2% Masala

The switch from the classic approach to risk management to one which respects the millennial generation’s aspiration and way of working – needs mindful leadership, a mindful organization and redefinition of the risk management process itself. All the underlying reasons that generated the earlier risk list (implicit or explicit) are still likely to be valid. What needs a change – is the way you internalize and approach them.

The big gain from such an approach is, in my opinion, you are not carrying the pressure of the various what-if scenarios in your risk plan. Many a time this has either significantly consumed the Project Manager’s thinking time or has led the Project Manager and team to be defensive and take the pressure on. You no longer deliver under pressure, but do it as the action at the moment, and enjoy what you are doing unmindful of the future that you do not control. You have increased your touch time of the mind on the task at hand, to be more productive. Any action, like risk mitigation, is now done as part of the value analysis at a given point of time.

Can you be a mindful team in a classic organization? That topic needs to be explored in its own right, independently.

As far as the millennial work-force, this can be a game changer, I believe!

As far as the (apparent) paradox you see in the Metro example, it could be a topic for another day. In the meanwhile I am eagerly waiting (nay, praying) for the much-delayed Metro to be launched in my part of the city!

What do you think?

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