Project Nirvana

The Secret of Mastering Your Project

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / dolgachov

I’m just going to come out with this. Here’s the secret. Ready for it? No really, ready for it?

The SECRET is that there’s NO SECRET. Sorry to disappoint. There’s just NO SECRET.

In fact, you should NEVER try to MASTER any project, EVER.

Let me repeat that.

As an Effective Project Manager (EPM), you aren’t in the business of mastering anything except helping others get to their finish line. Helping others is your product. That’s how you achieve a state of nirvana for yourself as a person.

Project Nirvana is a myth.

However, nirvana for yourself is very real. If you aren’t helping others achieve their goals, what are you doing? Please let me help you pack your bags because you’re not needed in the new world.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / paulprescott72

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / paulprescott72

As an EPM, you don’t own the finish line. You help others get to theirs. You HELP others determine what their goals are, not yours.

Here’s why.

  • Your job as an Effective Project Manager (EPM) is to guide others, you’re the coach. If you master anything, master your ability to help others get to their finish line.
  • PROJECTS END. Don’t tie yourself to a single project or a single product for your success or failure. Projects end. You need to tie yourself to your own long-term gaze for your own success. If you are made to FEEL like your success or failure as a project manager depends on one project . . . Get out and get out NOW. Visionaries have gaze. Visionaries understand that success isn’t achieved overnight. It’s achieved through long-term thinking, an open mind, and sometimes a cup of coffee. Projects end, but creating value, is forever.
  • You are 100% customer service oriented. Let me explain this point. Focusing on customer service for your project team doesn’t mean you do whatever your customer wants. It means that you need to define your own customer service levels.

Think of yourself as a company. A company of one. Your company has a customer service department. What kind of customer service scores would you receive from your project stakeholders? How would your project team score you? Here are a couple points to help drive up your customer service scores:

Figure out when to use tough love customer service vs holding hands


  • Not all stakeholders are created equal. Some need tough love.
  • Tough love customer service is necessary when accountability is lacking
    • Examples:
      • A decision needs to have an owner
      • An entire initiative needs an owner
  • The days are gone when the ivory tower comes up with all the ideas, makes all the decisions, and then carefully trickles it down to the people. What’s wrong with this? Politics is wrong with this. It hides the problem. The ivory tower can spin which initiatives to associate itself to, clearly picking the winners and staying clear from losing projects. Don’t give executives an out to blame someone else for their vision. Here’s the truth, if you’re working towards the right vision . . . There are NO LOSING PROJECTS.


  • I LOVE HOLDING HANDS WITH STAKEHOLDERS! I mean, who doesn’t? The OLD thinking is that holding hands is a bad thing. I’ve heard so many project managers say “Oh my holy expletive[be creative here], I can’t believe I’ve got to hold my customer’s hand on this project.” This statement is typically followed up with “I don’t have time for this!”
  • The truth is that HOLDING HANDS is AWESOME! The NEW thinking is that this is where you can help show others the way. Help them help themselves. You’ve got experience. You’ve been to the mountain. You know the general order of how to get things done in this business world and can be a sherpa to your customer. There is value in this. There’s also power for companies who harness this key EPM skill.
  • If you embrace this point, you are well on your way to real NIRVANA. I’m talking the real deal.
    • Go out and get you some NIRVANA!

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