Project Management 3 – Mechanisms

Brida Audio
Brida Audio
Project Management 3 - Mechanisms

Gentlemen, we are live. Igor, 46 minutes. It’s all yours.

Thank you. So we are here talking about project management again. Thank you for being here, by the way.

You’re welcome.

And just to give a recap, there’s a long time we don’t talk about that. I think two or three weeks. And so far we have talked about definitions and why it’s important to define project management, what are the key concepts, how you can make a living off it, what I recommend in terms of career.

And today I want to bring those concepts and those lessons we have been discussing to our personal life and how it can be applied to improve our life, right? So how we can transcend the professional context of project management.

And I don’t know if I ever told Ritesh that. I’m sure I told Frank about that. But I have an eyesight issue called glaucoma, which is pretty much I was born with glaucoma. It’s pretty much like a condition in which the pressure of my eye, if I don’t treat it through surgery and medication, it gets too high and if it’s too high, it can identify the nerves of my optic nerve and I can get blind. So it’s like a serious disease. I’m controlling it. That’s OK. I’m fine. But that’s a condition that, especially in the first years of my life, that the treatment wasn’t good because it didn’t exist, I lost a little bit of my peripheral vision. So I’m saying that because I had to adapt to many things.

And it’s interesting how some people that appear in our lives have a huge impact in our life, although they just appear for a brief period, right?

So I remember when I was 14 years old, something like that, my brother, we lived in a small town back in Brazil, a very small town, I think like 50,000 people, something like that. And I was living with my mom and my brothers, my five brothers. And one of my brothers, they started doing jujitsu, like back when I was 14 years old, right? And then I went once to do jujitsu with him in his gym. And my mom used it like knowing that I had this eye sight problem, my mom and my family were always very overprotective with my eye.

So every time I would start something in my childhood, my mom would go and talk to the professor, oh, he has an eye sight problem, be careful with his eye, etc. I used it to hate that, by the way. But my mom would do that and she went to talk to the professor about my eyesight.

And then the professor came to me and he said something that completely changed my perspective and it was very helpful. I just talked to this professor in this time. I didn’t talk to him afterwards, but he said something in the lines of, your mom told me that you have an eyesight problem, but I wanted you to know that it doesn’t matter here because everyone here in the room was filled with people and he said, everyone here has some problem. Like, I have any problem, this guy has a brain problem, this other guy has some other problem. And what we do, we plan and we adapt, we create mechanism to deal with that. So, your eyesight problem doesn’t mean anything for us, just to let you know.

He told me that. And what he said completely changed my perspective because from that point on, I started to see my limitations as something that I have to create mechanisms to deal with and not accept or be a victim of that.

And why I’m saying that?

Because in project management, something we learn and every good project manager out there, they will be very good at doing that.It’s like planning and create mechanism to deal with things that happens in a daily basis, right? So, if you are talking about a professional context, everyone who works in constructions, for instance, they know that the budget is very unlikely to be met in the end.

And what do they do? Like, they complain, they say that. Do they complain? Do they, like, say that there is nothing to do? No, like, they create mechanisms to deal with that. So, they can, like, they have some credit in some other investments so they can use the money. Like, they let their bosses know that the budget has 30% chance of being off what they are planning.

So, they create mechanisms. And that’s an important concept of project management that it appeared in my life. I had no idea about project management.

Of course, I was 14 years old and I didn’t know anything about life. But it’s interesting how it was somehow added to my mindset, like my mental models. And when I started learning about project management, I understood the theory behind it. So, you have to create mechanisms to deal with stuff.

I was talking, a good thing that it happened two days ago. Oh, actually it happened yesterday. So, I have this colleague. He’s very kind and I really like to work with him. But I noticed he wasn’t paying attention to me when we are in a meeting room. So, I was talking about something important and I would notice that he was looking to different directions. He was typing, he was looking on the phone, he was talking to his wife. And I noticed that and I was sure that he wouldn’t understand what I was saying. And down the road, he would ask me questions. And it happened multiple times in the past year. So, yesterday he asked me feedback because he’s leaving the company and he asked me feedback.

And I said that. And I said that, oh, that’s something I would recommend. Like, try to listen more proactively. Like, try to focus on what people are saying because otherwise X, Y, and Z, those things will happen. And he told me that he is like 32 years old, the same age as me. And he said that he has some kind of, he thinks he has some kind of neurodivergency that he cannot focus. Like, he’s easily distracted.

And then I thought, okay, that’s what happened in my brain. I didn’t tell him that, of course. I thought, whatever, create mechanism to deal with that. Because, like, everyone has limitations, everyone has issues. Like, if you are 30 years old, you should have created mechanism to deal with that, if that’s the case. And that’s just an example of things that, like, are good examples of why understanding the need of creating mechanisms and planning is so important in our daily lives. Even though a lot of people don’t notice that. I want to know, does that make sense?

And can I start to Ritesh?

Does it make sense, first question?

And the second question, like, can you think of areas of your life that would be completely crazy if you didn’t plan or if you didn’t have mechanism to deal with?

Ritesh Yes.

So, first of all, that planning thing, it makes sense. And I feel that everything we do, we should have a plan for that. Sometimes it happens as a spontaneous, but for, as you said, that to deal with your problems or situations, we should have a mechanism to deal with that situation, what we are in.

And you said the second question was that what things in my life, if I will not plan that it will go crazy. It’s first of all, like a morning routine to start going gym. And if I’m one day I’m late for the gym, then going office become late. And this and then everything goes like, I will not focus on work. And if I’m late for half an hour to gym, then when I go to the office, there will be a lot of, I will not concentrate my work and then it piles off.

So those things is required. As of now, I feel that this is required. And still, I feel that sometimes I need time management.What I do actually after this thing happened with me and when I am coming from office to home, I’m starting calls, talking with people and family and friends.

So this is a little hectic, but I have to deal with this situation. Sometimes I have to make a plan for that. And similarly, this calls also is a plan. If I’m not planning something for that, then it goes miss. So I think planning is very, very important for us to deal with anything, be it a personal situation or professional work.

Yeah, thank you.

Igor It makes sense. I wouldn’t agree 100% that we have to plan everything, but I understand your point. I think if you want to achieve things and if you want to have a level of organization, you need to plan. And before passing the word to Frank, I just want to add that I have this concept that I’m not able to explain it in words.

I have tried it multiple times, but I have to put more effort to that because when we talk about planning and I think that’s what you’re saying, Ritesh, people think that we are obsessed with planning, right? So we are like, oh, with spreadsheets about our breakfast, with spreadsheets about what we’re going to do in December 22nd, 2045.

That’s not what I mean.

What I mean by planning is being aware of what can happen and what you’re going to do if that happens. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated. And sometimes I even plan to not have plans, but that’s a plan. You know what I mean?

Planning to not have plans is a plan. So sometimes I travel and I think I won’t make any plans because I want to deal with the things that are going to emerge. I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to do before I get there. And that’s a plan.

That’s a mechanism to, in this case, the trip case, to have more joy. I just want to clarify that. But thanks for your comment, Ritesh.

Frank, are there areas of your life that if you stopped planning, your life would suddenly become terrible? And if so, can you give us examples?

Frank What an incredibly difficult question to answer at very short notice.

And the challenge is that we have to listen to you and we have to listen to Ritesh and we have to think of an answer. And maybe the question is slightly modified when it comes to me. So I had a girlfriend. She’s American. She lives in the Bay Area now.

And she gave me probably the best thing that someone has ever told me is prepare to be spontaneous. And that’s a really, really good phrase, but also incredibly difficult to implement. So is my life crazy if I don’t plan it?

I’m going to go back to the thing that’s really impacted my life in the last few months, and that is Mary’s accident. Because that has really been a game changer in so many ways.

And I actually made a joke of it because I said to a lot of people, including the community, I said, okay, I need to become a better woman. Because all of a sudden, I had the responsibility of doing her work as well as my work. And having an now 87 year old mother in the house as well, who is not always familiar with how we do things in France. So I had to create mechanisms to use that word.

It wasn’t anything health related, as in your case, Igor, and as in the case of your colleague. But it was simply that my life from one second to the next changed, and I didn’t actually know where this was going to go. I didn’t know what changes were ahead of me. And I had to sort of focus on a severely injured woman who happens to be my wife. And I needed to support her. I needed to figure out a whole series of issues on how the French medical system works, where to do, what to ask. You have to actually figure out what am I going to ask in order to get the question.

So you go into survival mode. And the other thing, of course, is that the support network is zero, because the French do not communicate. French authorities do not communicate. And you have to sort of go into the line of trying not to be aggressive, but pushy. But you’re learning. You are constantly learning. And you speak of a learning curve. In my case, it was a particular line going straight up.

So what do you actually do in this kind of situation? Well, it took me probably five to six months to actually understand how I needed to change. Because I knew I had to change. I didn’t really know what it was. My days became incredibly long. I would start at four or five o’clock in the morning just to get through the basics, through my job. And then drive endless amount of kilometers to get to Mary to support her, to visit her, to spend time with her.

And then sort of at like eleven o’clock, you crash into bed. And then at four or five o’clock the next morning, the whole show repeats itself. And if you’re thinking, you’re changing, you’re adapting, and you do not know what to do. You’re basically running on adrenaline on an empty battery.

And then I actually did what goes against my nature. I hate planning. I’m a hugely spontaneous person. But I was beginning to sink and I started writing things down. And I created a spreadsheet which helped me figure out what I do. And there was a guy on YouTube who showed me how to create databases on Notion.

And this completely changed everything. Because the beauty of the Notion database is that if you configure it correctly, it will only show you what you need to know, when you need to know it, and not have an endless to-do list that goes along the length of the page.

And you’re demotivated by it because all you see is this endless list. So, I learned how to configure these databases on Notion. And then I started creating a million databases to steer every issue of my life. And then I thought, well, this is actually overkill. So, I then reduced it.

But I actually used the technology and reflecting on my experience to get back the control that I was lacking. And this then permeated into creating a task management system which fulfills many functions. But now, I have the feeling that I can actually manage all of the separate issues that I have to deal with.

And the interesting thing that came out of it, then I started monitoring how long I do whatever I need for whatever task. And then I actually realized how little time I actually work.

I will actually only work for about 30 hours, 32, 35 hours a week. But the problem is that these hours or these tasks are spread across the entire day.

So, like this morning, I started working on the tasks at 6 o’clock our time. Normal people don’t do that unless you belong to the 5 a.m. club. But I sat down. I worked for about two hours. Highly, highly productive. And then I did other stuff. And when I tally up the working hours this week, I’ll be lucky if I get 35 hours. I will be really pushing it. So, it was an accident that created this whole structure. And I had to resort to tools in order to control everything.

It’s not what you are looking for, but I had to create the mechanisms in order to be able to do everything that is required of me. Be a husband, be a trainer, be a son, be a shopper, run a household, support people, motivate a community to continue learning English.

The tasks were really, really complex and I somehow had to manage to do that. Like I said, I’ve been doing this for about three months now and I’m glad I’m doing it because it really gives me structure and it helps me get through the day.

Igor Yes, well, that’s what I’m talking about. Creating mechanisms. The motivations, they change a lot. And I think it’s a fun exercise to imagine what would happen if you didn’t create those mechanisms.

Because you wouldn’t die suddenly. Your life would continue happening. So, yeah, it’s a fun exercise because I can imagine that you would be able to do everything you have to do because that’s how life works. But you would be a very stressed and unhappy person. That’s what I imagine.

And that’s the thing about planning. I have told this a million times for you, Frank, but there is this good book that you know which one I’m talking about. But I think you will love this book, Ritesh. It’s called Astronaut Guides to Life on Earth by a Canadian astronaut. His name is Christopher Hadfield, something like that. I think you will love this book. It’s a very good book.

And his message is, astronauts, they are just able to do crazy stuff, like going to space, because there are a lot of training and planning. And he says in a podcast, I think, that what makes him enjoy life is knowing that if something happens, he’s prepared for it.

So he gives us an example of when he travels and he knows he has a spare tire on his truck, he can enjoy the trip because then he’s not thinking, oh, what if the car breaks here? What am I going to do?

So that’s my main philosophy, I would say, in life, generally speaking. To enjoy life and to be able to be present like we are here, to be able to think about things I want to think about, to experience the world, I have to have mechanisms placed.

And every generalization is done at some level. But I can’t think of someone who can be present and enjoy life who doesn’t have high standards for planning and preparation.

It’s not what we see in the movies. When we watch movies, we see crazy people living life, but that’s not how it works. There’s a very good article on New York Times, I think, of a journalist talking about how Woodstock was really like.

Because when we hear about Woodstock, we think, oh, everyone happy for five days, blah, blah, blah. But this journalist, he shows pictures, he interviewed people, testimonials, and it was a hell. It was good in the first hour.

But when the food went over, when people started to get really crazy because of the drugs, when it started raining, the experience was terrible. But of course, afterwards, people created their narratives on their heads, right?

So yeah, that’s the point of planning for me. To enjoy life and be present, you have to worry about that. That’s how life works, regardless of what the Hollywood movies tell you.

And you can’t do a lot of things without knowing. It goes back to what we discussed at the beginning. You have to have a core skill to be able to do this. Then you have to have another thing called experience, which you cannot plan for. It just happens.

And then if you are aware of your core skills and the experience, and you plan to be spontaneous, you have a cocktail that kind of works. Because you cannot know what’s going to happen in the next moments of the future down into the distance.

So you have to look retrospectively in order to live now and be prepared for the future. Whatever happens.

Yeah, yes. And bringing another important concept of project management to our personal lives, which I really understood it late in life. I would like to have understood it earlier. I was maybe 27 years old, 26. My agency in Brazil was just starting growing.

I was a freelancer, and then I hired my first employee. And then things started happening very fast back when I was 27 years old. And I remember having a client, a lawyer firm in Brazil. And I was very close to the owner. We had a very close relationship in terms of talking about anything, talking about life.

We had a kind of friendship. And he would tell me that he would complain all the time about one of his partners. He would say things like, oh, this guy doesn’t work, but he always gets the higher cut of the commissions.

The guys, he would show up in the office two times a week, but he earns the same, sometimes more than everyone else. And I would have the image of this guy, his partner being a very street smart person in terms of getting away with doing little things.

But after one or two years working with this client, I got the opportunity to meet this partner. And he was such a charismatic guy. Everyone would fall in love with this guy.

And I was having lunch with him in Sao Paulo once. And I was, of course, talking to him and trying to understand what he does, what’s the deal with him.

And he told me that he doesn’t work that much because he understands that in an actual lawyer firm, having the right connections is more important than being productive in terms of writing stuff.

And then I realized, OK, that makes total sense because when we learn about productivity, most of the things we learn, they are built upon the idea that if you do more and more and more, you’re going to earn more and more and more.

In the first place, it’s not true. Maybe it’s true if you are a machine. If you do more, you’re going to be more effective and earn more maybe.

But for human beings, different things we do have different values. And you can do a few things with high value or a lot of things with low value.

And when we learn about productivity, we are not taught that. We are taught that we have to do more.

And the key concept of project management that I’m talking about is the art. I know Frank doesn’t like the word art, so I am not going to use it.

It’s the concept of prioritization. That’s so important and so underrated when we talk about project management and life.

I’m talking about myself now. Sometimes I’m lazy in prioritizing stuff and I just decide I’m going to do everything and whatever. I won’t take the time to prioritize.

And most of the time it works because I work a lot. I work multiple hours. But when I decided to prioritize, I see that I have more free time and I get the same and sometimes better results than what I would do otherwise.

So when we think about prioritizing, it’s pretty much then find what’s the highest value thing we can do now.

And having the peace of mind, and I would say the maturity to understand that some things, they don’t have to be done in the first place.

And if they have to be done, maybe you can outsource them. Maybe you can automate them.

And that’s just a concept that I would like to bring as an important lesson from project management because there are so many things in our life and in my life, of course, I’m not perfect.

So there are a lot of things in my life that I should prioritize because it would bring more results, would make me happier, but I don’t do that because I am confined in this mindset of doing more and more.

One example, jiu jitsu. So I do jiu jitsu, right? And that’s the thing I most enjoy doing in my daily basis. I really love it.

And I have noticed that when I train with smaller guys, but better in terms of skills, so they have better skills than me, but they are lighter.

They are very good at getting submissions with the same movement. It’s always the same movement.

And for a long time, I wouldn’t care about that because in the end of the day, I have my own skills and I can use my own skills to try to defeat them.

But when I started to realize, okay, I have to prioritize defending those attacks because that’s clearly the gap in my game that they are exploiting.

Then my jiu jitsu game completely changed because now I know what to prioritize. It’s a choice. When you choose something, you don’t choose a lot of things.

So that’s part of the game. But when I train by prioritizing some stuff, I get really better in a short period of time.

So it’s just an example. There are tons of examples, of course. And that’s my question for you, Ritesh.

So do you know someone who doesn’t seem to do a lot, but somehow they achieve a lot in life because they know how to prioritize?

Ritesh Yes, I have seen it in my project only that they don’t do much, but they have seen in the domain of what I’m working, development and product management team. They need to convince people to get things done.

And sometimes what happens, they go directly. Some people, what they do, they follow the professional method, writing a mail, pinging them. Sometimes what I do, I need some information. Then I schedule a call and then I try to get those things.

But I have seen some people that they go directly, they start conversation normally and then they get the information. They don’t have to do so much work. And it feels like completely different than the people who professionally try to make a schedule, go try and get the information.

So it feels similarly when the two product analysts working. So what happened that sometimes the development team ask a lot of questions to them and most of the time they get frustrated because they are not helping. They’re not answering the questions. But some of the people I have seen that they’re very happy. They come personally, start talking and then they get the information. They don’t have to follow a normal chain and then go to the things.

So you can see that this person is favourite for that person. That’s why he’s able to get the information or do the task easily. But it was a different game because that person just going directly and having a relationship or communication with them. It helps them. And this helps. I have seen, I’m working with 4 or 5 BA.

We call it business analyst or product analyst. And they are working same at same hours. But one person is favourite for everyone and other are not. They are jealous because this person is likable and all the things. So it happens. I have seen.

Igor Wow. Yeah, that’s interesting.

And I always think that I should be like them because in my way of talking to people is professional way. Like writing a mail or scheduling a call to get the information. But I feel that that is a personal approach that how friendly you are with that person. And they can help in minutes. Not required to wait for several hours and get the information. But it happens on a personal basis. And I try to have such kind of skills. And I think I value looking at them.

And I feel them ideal that I should have such skills to have a personal connect with people to get the information. Yeah, that’s so interesting because I am also this type of person that I am like very concentrated in process, like in how we make it a process. But yeah, I share the same experience. Back now it doesn’t happen too much because I don’t deal with like so many people as I used to do.

But when I had my company in Brazil and you used to do sales and then I would go to sales training, like we would hire a salesman, et cetera. And it was so interesting to notice that like good sales people, they kind of know what to prioritize in terms of a relationship.

That’s what I remember when you are talking because like a process person, as me, would think, okay, I will follow up once a week, every Thursday, two o’clock. I will talk about something they like. I have process in my mind, right? And it works at some level. But like good sales people, like they know what to prioritize in a relationship.

So sometimes they say, oh, now like intuitively, of course, there’s a science behind, but they just know that, oh, maybe this week I shouldn’t reach out. Maybe I should reach out next week. Or maybe I should reach out two times this week. Maybe I should talk about this with this person. So they just know what to do in the right moment. And this is prioritization.

Yeah, so I’m just reminded of this situation, which, of course, I think having this process mind has advantages in different contexts.

But in our work environment, since we are working with other human beings, of course, this ability to create friendships and connections, it’s so important, right?

That’s something, when I think about my past, like if I had to change one thing in terms of skill set, it would be like being more charismatic and understanding how to navigate networking and people, because that makes total difference.

Yeah, I feel the same, like I share the same situation with me. I don’t know this, I feel sometimes I imagine my childhood or the upbringing.

So I feel that it is the way you are raised. And I try to find out what is wrong.

Sometimes I feel that there is something wrong with me because two person, two same classmates, they are sitting together and one person is easily able to mingle with the people and easily able to communicate with the people. But you are not doing that. What is wrong with you? And it happens that your personality traits and all the things matter a lot. And sometimes people that say that in my, some of my close friends who are right now, who are close friends, they said that once we are playing the game after having party and all.

So they said that, what was your impression, first impression when you met me? Then one of my close friends, he told that when I met with you in the class, you were arrogant.

Like you are not responding well, or you are not giving your notes and all the things helping. That’s how I remember you, your first day.

So I thought that no, I was very kind person. I never raise questions and my voice and all things.

But whatever the image we have, our own, it is something different from others.

And it can only come if you start communicating with people and having to know directly and ask their opinion.

So I feel that sometimes I have seen that I have changed a lot, but still there’s those past haunts that I am not a person who is easily get along with people.

Yeah. Well, I am completely like you. Like, exactly. I feel the same. I don’t feel bad. Exactly. I don’t understand sometimes why.

It’s hard to make connections. And some people just like, they just, when you see they are friends and they are talking, oh my God, what’s going on?

Yeah. I sometimes like when I was working, I was getting some jealous because the person who is not better than me, I feel that whatever knowledge I have, I work, I have, I’m better than that person and do better job than that person.

But that person is recognized and they, they, they, people say that this person is very helpful and that.

So then I realize that it is not how well he knows what, what knowledge he has.

He has a ability to connect with people and help them. I’m helping him whenever someone is asking me anything, any doubt, I leave my work and help them.

This is my nature. And then I still, I feel that those persons are better treated.

It is because of the personality it leads because we are not able to make a connection with them. And that’s why this happens.

So now I feel that whenever a person is getting attention or he’s becoming a good friend with someone, it’s because of the connection he makes, not about the skills you have.

It’s how you present yourself and how you connect with others.

Yeah. Frank, what are your thoughts on all of that?

Frank For me, for me, I sort of have these, these words buzzing around and, and one of them is this, this story or this, this speech, this whole scenario around the speech, given what the hell is, what is it called? What the hell is water? You remember that?

Igor Oh, yes, yes.

Frank I think, I think a lot of these thoughts are based on observing people and situation, taking notes and just sitting down and thinking about these situations and trying to understand them. And that’s what I do a lot where I would just figure out why do people say the things they do? Why do they act the way they do? And just observe. And there is this in the Japanese management world, in production processes, they call it kaizen, where you actually sit and observe something over a very long period of time. And then you become part of this process. And then it’s almost as if it’s speaking to you through observation, you see little, little details.

Yeah. And I think this is something maybe it’s because I’m now a really old man. I’m used to this kind of just constantly observing and thinking and trying to understand. Yeah. And then it all falls into place at some point and not to compare yourself with others, because that’s quite deadly, because then at some point you think, well, he’s better than me or she’s worse than me or something like that.

And comparing yourself with others is really, really dangerous, because we’re all individuals.

Yeah. So sit down, think, observe, have a look, reflect, make a few notes, keep the notes, and then it all falls into place.

Igor Yeah. Good advice. I feel like we diverged a little bit from the prioritization part, but, yeah, just because we have just a few minutes, just to make the final point is that, yeah, so when I think about project management as a science, as a subject, and I think, okay, what it teaches about life, right? Yeah, those are the main things I would say.

So, like, planning and creating mechanisms to dealing with what’s going on in your life, and it creates the freedom you need to have joy and be present. And prioritization, which is hard. It’s easy to understand, but it’s hard to apply, because, as I mentioned, at least in my case, a lot of times I’m just lazy to prioritize. I just want to go through everything without too much reflection. But, yeah, that’s not what smart people do, I guess. So I hope you guys enjoyed it.

Frank We certainly did. And thank you for some challenging thinking here, Igor. We can certainly appreciate the time difference. It’s early morning with you in LA.

Ritesh is quite late in the evening, and I’m sort of thinking about the waft of popcorn coming through the office, thinking about dinner. So this is actually an unfair balance. We’re a little more tired than you are.

Yeah, that’s true. That’s a good point.

But there you go. That’s part and parcel. OK, Igor, thank you very, very much for this extremely interesting session this week.

Next week we come to the final one of these four on project management. I’m really curious to see what you will have in store for us. I’m also a little worried.

Igor OK, don’t be worried. It will be fine. Everyone will be fine. Just get your priorities right. Yeah. OK. OK, go ahead, Ritesh.

Ritesh Yeah. So as you spoke about the prioritization, we in our product development, they do what certain features comes in our backlogs and they prioritize this work. Which one is going to be in development and what? And then there is a concept of we bring business values.

Suppose there is some features and situation which is very priority, but business value is very low. So we are going to do the things, but I can relate all the situation and what we do with the things you are explaining in this project planning and priority and everything.

Frank Yeah, I’m glad to hear that. And that’s it. So see you guys next week.