John C. Maxwell can be a mesmerizing speaker.   When he exhorts you to give your best, you give your best.  When he beckons you to take on a great challenge, you say “How soon can I start?”

I just listened to his audio CD lesson on “Conquering Life’s Great Challenges” for the fifth time, and every time I felt like he was speaking directly to me.  Maxwell’s theme is that everyone is faced with great challenges in their life, and those who successfully conquer these challenges are enormously enriched, and better equipped and prepared for the even greater challenges that await them later in their lives.

Preparation is a key ingredient.  Keeping a positive outlook about the end result is essential.  Keeping the drive going when obstacles seem formidable is essential.  But you can do it.

Maxwell says that there are SIX great “ADD-VANTAGES” that one gains from conquering a great challenge:

1.  Adds Self Awareness And Understanding Of Self:    Conquering a challenge makes you more aware of what your real capabilities are, and helps you solidify your thinking about what you have to contribute.

2.  Adds And Builds Confidence:  Conquering a challenge gives a person great confidence to proceed to the next challenge with the knowledge that you have a process for facing and conquering that next challenge.

3.  Adds Personal Growth And Stretch:  Expands your capabilities to handle key issues.

4.  Adds Momentum:  Creates the drive to move forward proactively with other key challenges.

5.  Adds New Territory and Growth into New Activities.

6.  Adds Great Value To Others, Their Lives, And The World In General.

Maxwell goes on to say that, before an individual attempts the challenge, an individual’s world is filled with questioning, intimidation, fear, and uncertainty about his own ability to meet the challenge.  But completing the challenge creates a sense of breakthrough, encouragement, strength, purpose, and value.  What a difference completing a challenge can have on the willingness and proactive behavior of an individual.

In my case, my most recent great challenge was to develop and facilitate a new Project Closeout and Lessons Learned training for an organization that specifically requested the training because it desired to fill a void in its current project process.  The organization also wanted to instill a culture that valued the discipline.  The organization was itself faced with a great challenge in the form of a major super-project that was taking place over a number of years.

While Project Closeout and Lessons Learned is one of my favorite topics, and one I had been preparing to tackle for many years, my work for this organization spurred me to focus in-depth on the area for a sustained period of time, leading to my own personal development in each of the six Add-Vantages mentioned by Maxwell in his lesson.

At first, like many of us when faced with a new project, I faced all of Maxwell’s classic roadblocks.  I felt fear and uncertainty that I would be able to deliverm, but I forced myself to overcome this fear.  After I prepared a training manual and a well-choreographed presentation, I still had to travel to the organization and present the final product.  As I was leaving, one of my closest friends said “Just think how much you will be contributing to their capability… continuous improvement and lessons learned will be invaluable to this organization in creating overall project and program success.”

Once there, I knew that preparation would be the key to overcoming any remaining fear.  I surveyed the training facilities carefully and I was committed to make the training times as compatible with the participants’ normal workdays as possible.  Since everyone agreed the 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM were their normal working hours, we adopted that timeframe.

I disciplined myself to be ready to fire on all cylinders at 7:30 AM each morning, to have a working lunch prepared for the lunch break, and to be ready to answer the participants’ questions and to rephrase any concepts necessary to make sure they understood.

As the class days advanced, my confidence was building–I was very assured that my Project Closeout Framework was sound.  Our group discussions yielded some great insights.

In my experience during this training session, I gained a great deal of insight into my strengths.  My best times for action are between 6 AM and Noon.  So, it is best for me to capitalize on that timeframe for my most significant work of the day.   I also learned that I have a tremendous network of willing colleagues in the project community who can be counted on at a moment’s notice.  I also learned that my Framework applies equally well to contract closeout and to project closeout.  I learned that a simple feedback diagram showing “Process,” “Result,” “Lessons Learned,” and the feedback to continuous improvement of the “Process” can apply generically to just about any process an organization wants to pursue.  What a grand revelation and one that would not have been recognized without the assistance of a flip chart and an attentive class that demanded the very best of my efforts.

So what is my next great challenge?  Writing my book on Project Closeout and Lessons Learned.  The Framework, which once graced a few napkins on a lunch table, will now be immortalized for everyone to use.  The application of this Framework will be a leverage tool for project groups and PMOs to succeed and to produce significant results in their work.  This book will also complement BOT International’s new Advisory Services for Project Closeout and Lessons Learned Consulting.  As Practice Head for this new Advisory Services area, I will be responsible for assisting companies in instilling a new Project Lessons Learned culture that will enable project practitioners to “master” lessons learned as a continuous process improvement discipline.

So Mr. PMO–when you are faced with your next challenge, take heed to John C. Maxwell’s words on conquering great challenges.  Not only will you prepare yourself to willingly take on those challenges, you will also add tremendous value to your PMO in your ability to tackle ventures and projects that Management dictates.  It will also build “resilience”–a leadership trait that is highly valuable in this risky economic and political climate.

Step up to the plate–you have the ability to innovate, to meet any Challenge, to conquer any language barrier, to overcome any cultural conflicts…if you will only focus on the task, and keep a positive attitude in the face of any setbacks.

Let me know what great project challenges you are tackling.


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