Episode 160 – Velociteach: Celebrating 20 Years of Project Management Training

Episode #160
Original Air Date: 09.06.2022

31 Minutes

Listen Here
0:00
0:00

Our Guest This Episode: Andy Crowe

This month, we celebrate 20 years of training project managers at Velociteach. Our guest is Andy Crowe, the founder & CEO of Velociteach, and author of one of the most respected books to prepare for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification exam, The PMP® Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try. Join us as Andy talks about his bold move to step away from a successful project management career to launch Velociteach, and what he learned along the way.

Also in this episode, Andy shares great advice for project managers. Some questions we pose to him are: What makes a project manager successful? What are the biggest challenges that PMs face today? What are key competencies a project manager needs in order to excel in a project-driven world? In his career as a PM, did Andy ever have his project cancelled without notice? What did he do? Andy emphasizes the importance of being able to transition between technology, business goals, and the people on your teams. Listen in for advice on how to find balance if you’re overwhelmed, dealing with uncertainty, and managing changes.

While a leading project manager in the IT industry, Andy realized he wanted to teach others to do what he loved – project management. So in 2002, Andy founded Velociteach with a goal of empowering others to learn project management in a simple, dynamic way that would encourage personal and professional growth.

PASS THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL (PMP)® EXAM WITH VELOCITEACH’S LIVE 4-DAY PMP EXAM PREP COURSE

ACE THE ACP EXAM WITH VELOCITEACH’S LIVE 2-DAY PMI-ACP® EXAM PREP COURSE

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"To me it’s such a joy to bring order into chaos. It’s such a joy to deliver a solution, to make something, to build something. I love that."

- Andy Crowe

"...there’s an optimal level of stress. And once you go beyond that optimal level of stress, you’re no longer nearly as effective. The stress starts working against you. You know, up and to a point, it can motivate you. There’s a certain amount that gets you out of bed in the morning, gets you up, gets you motivated. You’re ready to attack. And figuring out how to manage yourself is tremendous in that regard."

- Andy Crowe

Share With Others

The podcast by project managers for project managers. Andy Crowe shares project management advice and reflects on 20 years of training project managers at Velociteach. Hear about his bold move to step away from a successful project management career to launch Velociteach, and what he learned along the way. Listen in for tips on how to find balance if you’re overwhelmed, dealing with uncertainty, and managing changes.

Table of Contents

01:20 … Behind the Book
03:05 … Comparison to Other PMP Exam Textbooks
05:05 … Defining Success
05:48 … Lessons Learned Starting Velociteach
07:14… Challenges that PMs are Facing Today
11:07 … Kevin and Kyle
12:45 … Most Successful Project
13:31 … Project Manager Competencies
15:33 … Acquiring the Technical Knowledge
17:15 … Tools and Techniques
18:52 … A Team Replaced or Project Cancelled?
21:07 … The Overwhelmed Project Manager
22:50 … Finding Balance
25:19 … Managing Changes and Unpredictability
29:07 … Best of Project Management
30:15 … Closing

ANDY CROWE: To me it’s such a joy to bring order into chaos.  It’s such a joy to deliver a solution, to make something, to build something.  I love that. 

WENDY GROUNDS:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  We are so glad you’re joining us.  If you like what you hear, please visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can leave a comment on our Manage This Podcast page.  My name is Wendy Grounds, and here in the studio is Bill Yates and Andy Crowe.  Bill, this is a very special day today; isn’t it.

BILL YATES:  Yes, we’re celebrating 20 years, a 20-year birthday or…

WENDY GROUNDS:  Love birthdays.

BILL YATES:  …anniversary for Velociteach.  That’s right, Velociteach started up in September of 2002.  And we just wanted to invite Andy into the studio just to pause and reflect on 20 years of Velociteach, and then ask him some personal questions; you know?  What makes a project manager successful?  What’s it like when your project gets canceled?  Tell us about starting a business.  So this will be a fun conversation, just to get inside the brain of Andy Crowe, CEO of Velociteach.

WENDY GROUNDS:  And I think he has a lot of great advice for younger project managers or project managers who are struggling.  He has some really good advice.  So take a listen.

Behind the Book

Hi, Andy.  Welcome back to Manage This.

ANDY CROWE:  Thank you.  I’m excited to be here.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, we’re excited to talk with you today.  So Velociteach, it all started with a book.  And writing a book is a huge project.  Could you tell us a bit about your book, “The PMP Exam:  How to Pass on Your First Try,” and your motivation to write it?

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, I was motivated because when I read other books I wasn’t happy with them.  And they didn’t explain things the way I did.  So, you know, certainly there were a lot of resources out there, and people definitely passed the PMP before this.  But it was something that I like to explain things.  I love to write.  I just write a lot regardless.  And so it was a good marriage of things.  As I was going through, I took all of my notes that I had used previously to study for the PMP and kind of put them to use and organized them.  And then it evolved over time.

BILL YATES:  I’ve known you for a while, and I think that’s a  natural evolution for you.  That’s part of your DNA is you look at something, you go through something personally like the PMP Exam.  And you go, you know what, I think I would have done better if I’d had this, or if.  It makes sense to me that you would go through that, pass the PMP Exam, and then go, you know, I think I could write a book about this.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, and also, you know, it was something that, as I’m going through trying to explain things, there were just things that I thought I would love to have stated that differently.  I would love to have explained this a different way.  And so, you know, some of the resources that were out there either talked down to you, or they explained things that, well, yeah, if you already understood them, that would help.  And if you didn’t understand, it didn’t help at all.  So I was trying to bridge that gap.

Comparison to Other PMP Exam Textbooks

WENDY GROUNDS:  What else about your book makes it different from other PMP textbooks?

ANDY CROWE:  I think a lot of it is the voice we use and the way we try and relate back to the work that project managers are doing.  So there aren’t a ton of assumptions in there necessarily.  We try and explain concepts from the ground up.  A lot of illustrations, a lot of diagrams, a lot of examples.  And then a whole ton of questions.  I don’t know if any other resource has that many sample practice questions built in.

BILL YATES:  One of the things that I think gives you a unique voice with the book is it includes both predictive and adaptive.  And I think when PMI expanded the test to include all the agile content, for us it was like, ooh, this is a great opportunity.  We’ve already written a lot of content.  You had the PMI ACP book already.

And then I think it just added to the value of your book because then you added, gosh, dozens and dozens of pages to go into agile content, which again had the same mindset of this is how it makes sense to me.  This has been my experience.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  And you know, it was – that was a weird time in the industry because you had a lot of companies trying to suddenly brand themselves as agile experts.  And some of them had no idea, and some of them were trying hard to do agile through this waterfall or predictive lens.  So it was just a really interesting time with a lot of chaos.  And it was fun to try and step in and bring some order and some reason to that.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  And I would say you brought simplicity to it. You know, being able to take a difficult concept, a complex concept, and bring simplicity to it.  And I think for many it’s just very hard to think, okay, predictive versus adaptive.  They’re very different.  But how can I understand them both? 

ANDY CROWE:  Thanks.  You’ve not the first person to call me “simple.”  No, the two are in opposition to each other to a large degree, and they’re trying to accomplish the same thing through not necessarily opposite means, but certainly different.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, very different.

Defining Success

WENDY GROUNDS:  Andy, with your book, what defines success?

ANDY CROWE:  Number of units sold.  No.  I’m kidding.  Although, you know, it is nice to have some success in the market.  But to me the real success comes through the number of people who use it successfully, the number of people who pass.  And this is the only job in my life that I’ve ever had where people write thank-you notes.  So we’ll regularly get notes from people because this makes a difference in their career, makes a difference in their life.  And so that is wonderful, to get those.  That never gets old.  I read every one.  I try and response to every one I get. That to me defines success.

Lessons Learned Starting Velociteach

WENDY GROUNDS:  People are often afraid to step out and take a risk, to do that career change, and especially going alone in a new business.  Can you tell us a bit about starting Velociteach and your lessons learned in that process?

ANDY CROWE:  That’s a big question, Wendy.  I understand that fear of taking a leap of faith.  You know, I had done training, a good bit of training at the very beginning of my career, and I loved it.  I loved training.  And what I loved about it was seeing the light bulb come on.  I used to teach for the federal government.  And this goes way back into the late ‘80s.  But I loved seeing the light bulbs come on.  I loved seeing people understand concepts and trying to help lead them along a path. 

So that was a natural transition for me.  I absolutely loved project management.  I had been doing it. And I had been growing as a project manager, promoted up, director of project management for a public company.  And it was a nice marriage of the two.  But it was still a terrifying thing to do, and to jump out and make that change.  So I definitely understand it.

Lessons learned?  I wish I had done it earlier, honestly.  I think, you know, it was something that I’ve never looked back and said, oh, this was a career mistake; or, wow, I shouldn’t have done this.  Not every venture like that works.  This one did.  And it was a real delight.

Challenges that PMs are Facing Today

BILL YATES:  Andy, when you look at project managers and the role of the project manager, what are the biggest challenges that PMs are facing today?

ANDY CROWE:  You know, I’ve said for years it’s a tough gig.  Being a project manager is tough because you’re caught in a vise of organization expectations, customer expectations.  And sometimes they’re unreasonable on both sides, and they all pinch in on the PM.  So the PM’s got to try and figure out how to make this work and how to broker some kind of satisfaction among all the parties.  And of course you’ve got the team, as well.  And so a lot of times if the PM is sort of a pleaser personality, he or she is trying to make the customer happy, and the team gets creamed by having to work too hard, having to put in too much.  They’re redlining all the time.  It’s a difficult job.

And then you’ve got a lot of organizations are mandating a specific approach that may or may not work well for that project.  So some organizations are purely predictive, some organizations are pure agile, and there’s really almost no appeal or no discussion, even though that may not be tailored just right to this particular project.  Again, the PM’s got to figure out how to make that work.  Some people are better at that naturally than others.  But I think there’s a lot of challenges out there.

And, you know, I talked to somebody very recently who learned to swim, literally, by getting thrown in the water, just tossed in.  And that’s, you know, now you’re going to learn to swim.  I think that’s the way a lot of PMs are having to do their job.  They’re getting tossed in.  That’s the way I learned.  I was told, “You’re a project manager.”  I didn’t know what a project manager did.  I did not fully understand it.  So now, you know, you’re trying to figure this out as you’re going along.  It can be incredibly challenging.  And there probably aren’t enough resources out there, aren’t enough communities out there to rely on to get really good advice.

BILL YATES:  That’s true.  It’s funny, you said something that reminded me I just recently met a colleague for coffee.  And as we were talking, the person was describing the frustration with the organization.  This is a consulting gig working with a large organization who has now embraced agile in name only.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  They’re looking at, okay, “How are we going to set up how we do our work for this project?”  “Well, it’s going to be a sprint.”  And, okay, well, “How do we know the prioritized work,” you know, you think of a prioritized backlog, product owner.  “Well, we’re going to figure that out.  But we can tell you the sprint’s going to be this long.”  “What are we working on?”  “Well, we’ll figure that out.”  “Do you have a product owner?  What’s the role that’s set up?”  “We’ll figure that out.  But we’re agile.”

So you have these organizations that have embraced whatever.  It could be a particular software tool, or it could be a methodology.  You know, leadership at the high level doesn’t really know what they’re dealing with.  Yet they’re forcing it on the project manager at the grassroots level.

ANDY CROWE:  Right, and he or she is the one who has to figure out what to do with that.  How seriously do I take this?  What are my real critical success factors?  How do I really deliver value here in that kind of environment and still keep everybody happy?  So no, it’s a tough gig.  There’s no way around that.

BILL YATES:  I think, Wendy, I think of the conversation we had recently with Matt Cooke and the largest salvage project.

WENDY GROUNDS:  The Golden Ray shipwreck?

BILL YATES:  Yes, in the United States.  Here’s this guy, and there’s a couple of guys in the role of project manager because they’re working 24 hours a day.  And he described the intensity of that project early on.  And the isolation, I think COVID hit early in that project, so they were having to isolate people for 14 days before they could come to the jobsite.  There’s so much complexity added to this.

ANDY CROWE:  Unbelievable.

Kevin and Kyle

WENDY GROUNDS: And now for something a little different. We’d like to introduce two of our team members, Kevin and Kyle. They’re going to be popping on occasionally to talk about what they are learning on their projects. And we really appreciate hearing from them.

KEVIN RONEY: Thanks Wendy. Have you ever heard of the 90/10 ratio? It’s the idea that when you are 90% done with any large project (a house, a film, an app), the last 10% of work will take 90% of the time to complete. Or in other words, the first 90 percent of the code of an app will take 90 percent of your development time, while the last 10 percent of the code will take you another 90 percent of the time.

KYLE CROWE:  In other words, nothing is ever quite finished. It’s always almost done. How is the 90/10 rule killing your projects?  The sad but true observation is that the last ‘little bit of stuff’ always seems to take forever to get done. When you’re working on your projects, ask yourself are you busy or productive?  When is the last time you measured your efficiency ratio?

KEVIN RONEY: And what is an efficiency ratio? Consider your typical workweek and log your normal activity during the workdays. Identify the time spent creating value.  Value is defined as activities that directly contribute to the product or service you are providing. Add up the total number of hours worked. Then add up the total number of hours spent creating value. Your efficiency ratio is the number of value hours divided by the total hours worked. Don’t be too shocked – it’s common for efficiency ratio to be in the 20-30% range.

KYLE CROWE: If this is something you find yourself struggling with, we have some great resources to help.  Alan Zucker’s Agile Beyond IT course, delves deeply into how using an agile mindset can help improve productivity on all types of projects. Maybe you should take a look at it.

BILL YATES: Thanks Guys! Let’s go back to our podcast.

Most Successful Project

WENDY GROUNDS:  Andy, what would you consider your most successful project?

ANDY CROWE:  Oh, wow.  You know, I cut my teeth in this world as a software developer.  And so I immediately go back to some of the software projects I worked on.  And I still dream that one day I’m going to retire and go write software somewhere.  Isn’t that funny?  And I’m not.  I’m absolutely not.  I don’t need to be doing that at this point in my life.  But I think a lot of it is our building and offering for training at Velociteach, to be honest.  I think that was what I look back at, that’s what I’m very proud of, the writing.  I’m still working on some other projects back in the lab and cooking things up.  So I’m not done with that yet.  And hopefully, hopefully it’s in my future.

Project Manager Competencies

BILL YATES:  It’s often said projects are only as good as the people who run them.  What would you say are some key competencies a project manager needs in order to excel in a project-driven world?

ANDY CROWE:  That is an interesting question.  You know, when you look at really successful project managers, it’s been a frustration of a lot of engineers out there that the top PMs are heavy on the soft skills.  That doesn’t mean they’re light on technical skills by any stretch.  The better you can blend those, somebody who’s analytical, somebody who understands data, somebody who understands the domain, and that’s controversial, as well.  But I’m firmly in the camp that believes that a good project manager needs to have some expertise in their domain.  Or at least needs to get it quickly.  I think those things.

But then being able to lead people, to lead people to a solution.  You’re going to get into a room with groups that have conflicting goals.  Any project has this.  And you have people with conflicting goals, conflicting ideals, conflicting approaches, and you’ve got to make it all work.  You’ve got to be great at negotiation. You’ve got to be great at leadership.  And you’ve got to be really, really, really great at communication.  And yes, those are things – nobody’s born with all of that.  People struggle with one or more of those all the time.  And so the biggest one to me, Bill, is somebody who’s willing to grow and who’s going to continue to grow in their skill set over time.  And learn.  Ask questions.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.  It takes a humility because it’s like nobody’s arrived.  There’s always an area you can get stronger in.  And being open and having that posture of I have things I can learn from everybody on this team.

ANDY CROWE:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  From other stakeholders.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, and I’ve watched you through your career read and read and read.  And I pay attention to the books you read.  And there’s a lot of that there that you’re paying attention, you’re learning and growing.  So I love it.

Acquiring the Technical Knowledge

BILL YATES:  I’m glad you brought up the technical aspect, too, because it’s so funny for me when I reflect back on my career before Velociteach, and the, the financial software that I was working with for so many years.  I remember in my 20s when I was working with this product thinking, I don’t need to know everything under the hood.  As long as I know some rough aspect, I’ll know the business side of it, and I’ll know how to relate to the client.  That’ll get me there.

And man, I remember a late night where I’m like, how am I going to explain this problem to the customer?  I’ve got to roll my sleeves up and get into this code.  I’ve got to understand how this stuff works.  And of course months later I’m writing code and figuring it out.  But I remember that, kind of that a-ha moment for me technically, which was I’ve got to go deeper if I’m going to have any level of respect and competency before the customer and the other stakeholders.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, I kind of came up through the technical ranks.  And so I was a Windows C++ coder and then got put into the business side of things where I’m dealing with the customer face to face.  I found I really enjoyed that.  I enjoyed customer interface more.  And I don’t know why.  It’s interesting.  I was a decent C++ coder.  I wasn’t the best one that’s ever been, but I was good.  And I made a living at it, and it was a really good living.  But I really enjoyed getting into the business side and trying to bridge those.

You know, that’s the funny thing.  I’ve dealt with project managers before who did not understand the technical aspect.  Then they struggle with credibility with the team.  Or sometimes you get project managers who are so locked into the technology that they forget the other side; they forget the business goals; they forget the people.  You’ve got to be able to move and transition along that continuum.

Tools and Techniques

WENDY GROUNDS:  Sometimes we hear from project managers, and they’ll tell us about a tool or technique, something that they’ve used, and they want us to highlight it on the podcast.  Have there been some tools or game-changer techniques that you’ve used as a project manager that have made a difference on your projects?

ANDY CROWE:  You know, Wendy, I’m sort of out of step with a lot of people on that.  I’ve used a lot of tools for project management.  I find that the tool is less important than the expertise and the technique.  And for me, I always make it secondary.  So I’ll put it like this.  You know, I consider myself to be a writer.  I may not be a great writer, but I’m a writer.  But if you want to become a better writer, getting a better word processor’s not necessarily the answer; right?  It’s not going to do that much for you.  And is it a game-changer?  Well, it certainly helps.  But it’s just facilitating what you can do as a writer.

So all of the tools that are out there currently, we’re still in that mode that it only makes you better if you already understand the fundamentals and understand what you’re doing.  It’s a little bit of a tricky thing.  I’m tool agnostic is the short answer.  And one of the best projects I ever did was for a company called Bertelsmann.  And we managed all of the tasks with Excel.  We just used Excel to build our charts and do all of that, and the project was very successful in that regard.  So it’s not – I’m not looking for a better tool.  I’m looking for better processes, better technologies.

A Team Replaced or Project Cancelled?

BILL YATES:  Andy, I’m sure you and I have talked about this before.  But I don’t want to speak on your behalf.  Did you ever deal with a team that was replaced, or maybe a project that got canceled without notice?  And how did you manage that?

ANDY CROWE:  I can definitely speak to the latter, a project getting canceled.  I was working with a telecom company.  I got plucked out, I think I was technically a team leader, which was similar to a PM in this role.  There may or may not have been an actual project manager.  But I was plucked up and moved to another project.  And I was angry and spitting fire that I got moved.  A week later the project that I had been on was canceled.  And it was canceled very dramatically because the CIO went in and shut off the power to all of those workstations.

BILL YATES:  Okay, that is dramatic.

ANDY CROWE:  That was the end.  And then once the power was off, literally through the breakers, workstations go down, and then called everybody in to tell them the news.

BILL YATES:  You may have noticed that you don’t have power at your station.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  Now, my station on this new project still had power, so great.  It’s a strange thing.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been on a project that was just outright canceled.  Maybe.  If it is, I’ve blocked it from memory.  But you know what, you don’t take those things personally.  You learn from them, and you grow.  I’ve definitely had projects that were successful, and I’ve had projects that weren’t, that I don’t consider successful.  You try and sit down and be introspective and learn and grow.

BILL YATES:  It’s funny, too.  I think the culture today with projects, and certainly with business, is the fail fast culture, the let’s embrace this idea, let’s try something.  If it doesn’t work, if there’s not a market for it, if we can’t deliver at the cost we thought we could, let’s just pull the plug and move our resources somewhere else.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  I’m aware of that.  I’m not necessarily a fan.  You miss something about the long game and endurance and overcoming obstacles and some of that.  But I do know that is the culture.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  For those project leaders they have to be even more resilient that perhaps back in the day.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, and people change jobs a lot more often now than they did when I started my career.

The Overwhelmed Project Manager

WENDY GROUNDS:  So for the project managers that are staying in those projects, that are persisting, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and it’s important for them to know where to focus their energy.  What advice would you have for those project managers?

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, that’s easier said than done.  I think it’s obvious to me that there’s an optimal level of stress.  And once you go beyond that optimal level of stress, you’re no longer nearly as effective.  The stress starts working against you.  You know, up and to a point, it can motivate you.  There’s a certain amount that gets you out of bed in the morning, gets you up, gets you motivated.  You’re ready to attack.  And figuring out how to manage yourself is tremendous in that regard; figuring out when, okay, I’ve taken on too much.  I’m overwhelmed.  I’m anxious.  And now that anxiety is beyond the curve.  You know, I’m sure they make medicine to help fix that.  But if there’s any way you can learn to self-regulate and dial back.

And I’ll tell you what, a lot of people started working from home.  A lot of project managers started working from home.  And a lot of people that I talk to found that that helped in that regard.  It helped not to be constantly under the microscope.  You learn ideally how to manage your own time, how to work to priorities, how to figure out this is what’s going to make today successful. I literally did that this past week, sat down and wrote down some things that would make a particular day successful for me, and then tried to work to those goals as best I could because there’s a lot of noise getting in the way and a lot of competing demands.  But any way you can figure that out is a positive thing. 

Finding Balance

BILL YATES:  So Andy, I think you and I agree there’s a certain level of stress that’s healthy.  Like you said, it gets you up in the morning.  It gets you fired up to get going.  And I think it’s in the book “Flow,” when you think about flow.

ANDY CROWE:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  And there’s that level of I need to have a challenge in front of me that maybe I do lose a little bit of sleep, or at least it takes me a minute to fall asleep.  So when I get up in the morning, I’m ready to go at it and direct resources at it and lead the team into it.  So there’s like a healthy balance there of trying to find that right piece of I’ve got motivation, I’ve got challenge, I’ve got a hill to conquer.  But it’s not overwhelming.  I think our tendency is sometimes we can get overwhelmed where we get out of balance, and then what do we do?

ANDY CROWE:  You know, I had an organization I worked with a long time ago as an employee in the supply chain world.  And I had a boss that I don’t think his style and my style was such that I could never make him happy.  You know?  He was a good guy.  He was a successful guy.  But he always wanted a little bit more.  And I found that I was breaking out in hives.  I was completely nervous.  My stomach was upset all of the time.  So I was definitely over that curve.  I knew it.  I knew I was on wrong unhealthy side of that equation.  But figuring out how to manage it was really challenging.

WENDY GROUNDS:  How did you manage it?

ANDY CROWE:  Two ways.  One, I sat down, and what I did was started keeping a list of achievements.  And it got to be kind of shock and awe, the cumulative effect.  One day he called me in, complaining we weren’t getting anything done.  And I just sat down – I had it memorized at this point.  I said, let me go over what we’ve done in the past six months.  And his jaw was just open by the end.  He said, “That’s really helpful to hear, and you need to keep that in front of me more.”  And I thought, well, no, I probably do.  You know, I don’t like running around going “Look at what I’ve done.  Look at what I’ve done.”  But kind of had to with him.  And then I left.  And that was how I managed it, and it was wonderful.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, sometimes you’ve got to know when to step away.

ANDY CROWE:  No, it was – yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Yeah, and I made too much money to leave, so it was really, really painful.  Had little kids.  So I resigned on Memorial Day Weekend 2002 and started Velociteach September 30th.

Managing Changes and Unpredictability

BILL YATES:  Andy, I know you’re passionate about sailing.  And you’re passionate about Velociteach.  I’m sure you can share accounts from both.  What’s your advice about managing changes as they’ve hit your sailing world or your Velociteach world?  Managing changes, managing unpredictability.

ANDY CROWE:  Sailors have a saying that sailing is 99% relaxing, punctuated by 1% moments of sheer terror.

BILL YATES:  Sheer terror.

ANDY CROWE:  Oh, no, no, I have lived that equation. My wife and I talk about it a lot, that this is a really accurate description of sailing because everything’s going along fine, and then a storm comes in out of nowhere.  You know, I was struck by lightning once.  And things can change in an instant.

So I read something wonderful.  I was reading another, a very experienced sailor’s account.  And he made the statement that no matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, he’s committed to not panicking.  I thought, well, that’s easier said than done.  But you know what?  I got into a situation the last time I was sailing that could have been panic inducing.  It was one of those 1% moments of sheer terror where things did not go as expected. 

The boat got sort of out of my control.  And I felt my stress level rising and then was able just to remember, as he was talking about, hey, don’t panic.  Just stay focused.  Stay calm.  And I was able to manage that.  And that’s progress.  That’s growth for me.  As a human being, that’s growth for me.  But I was able to calm down, deal with the problem.  Everything turned out just fine.

I think if you can get to that point in a project where, yes, you’re going to have days when you’re blindsided, unpredictability, the 1% moments of sheer terror, the text message from a team member who decides they’re leaving, the phone call from the boss who wants to see you, the customer threatening to cancel, you can go on and on and on.  Missed deliverables.  Over budget.  And don’t panic.  It’s like Douglas Adams in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  Don’t panic.  Try and stay focused on a solution.  Keep plugging away. And you’ll be shocked.

I’ll tell you one more thing that’s funny for me.  I remember I had a team member who was a really sharp guy.  He was a coder, and he was working for me as a project manager on a project.  And I got into what I look back at now as not a good idea, but an argument with the organization about whether or not we should do something. 

And at some point I just dug in.  You know, I dug in and was arguing this point.  Meanwhile, my team member went and solved the problem.  And he came back, and while I’m busy arguing about it, right, he’s actually fixed it.  And that changed my thinking, changed my mindset quite a lot, that I can spend all the time I want arguing about whether or not it should be done, but it’s never a bad idea just to focus on the solution.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I think I can speak to not panicking.  I spent many years in children’s healthcare.  I worked at Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, and a lot of that was in ER.  And when those little ones come in, and it’s a life-or-death situation, nobody panics.  You know, the staff had to have their wits.  They knew what they were supposed to do.  Your routine kicks in, your training kicks in, and you can save a life.  And so learning to get panic under control I think is vital, not just in healthcare, but for in your projects, as well.  It’s just being strong enough to say, “I’m not going to panic.  I’m going to focus on what I need to do.”

Best of Project Management

So Andy, in your opinion, what’s the best parts of being a project manager?

ANDY CROWE:  To me it’s such a joy to bring order into chaos.  It’s such a joy to deliver a solution, to make something, to build something.  I love that.  You know, also project management is a pretty good-paying career.  So it’s a good way to put food on the table.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  I think it’s sort of naturally what I love and what I want to do with my life.  So it fits well.

BILL YATES:  There’s such an influence to it, too.  It’s like you get to influence the vibe, the environment for people that are on the team.  So if you’re a good leader, you’re going to have a healthy team.  If you’re a bad leader, or it’s early in your career, you haven’t figured things out yet, people are going to suffer as a result.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, you’ve got a big growth opportunity there.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Well, Andy, thank you so much.  This has been really good.  And congratulations on 20 years of Velociteach.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s gone by very fast, honestly.

WENDY GROUNDS:  If our listeners want to reach out…

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, find me on LinkedIn.  I’m easy to find.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah.  And thank you so much for talking with us today.

ANDY CROWE:  Thank you all very much.

Closing

WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.  We also want to take a moment to say thank you to our listeners who have reached out to us and left comments on our website or on social media.  We love hearing from you, and we appreciate positive ratings on Apple Podcasts or whichever podcast listening app you use.

You’ve also just earned your free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com, choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page, click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

{"cart_token":"","hash":"","cart_data":""}