It is not something we like to hear. Moreover, we actively deny it and we usually have strong justifications. The truth is, we, project managers, procrastinate in our comfort zone.
I know there is a lot of buzz on the Internet about comfort zones. About stepping outside and improving, etc. In general, I don’t like the concept. However, it explains what happens to you from time to time quite well.
“Why does that guy says that I need a Project Charter or WBS? I did just fine without them. That is something from textbook theory. It does not apply to my real project.”
Does this sound familiar? What about this one?
“I know I should do risk management properly. But I need to finally finish reading the chapter about it. OK, the next time I will do it all in a right way.”
Or something more aggressive.
“Why should I do anything if it works just fine now?”
That is procrastination in the comfort zone.
I understand that it might seem contradictory. From one side you need to finish a project successfully within constraints. On the other hand, you need to spend time improving your project management skills. You need to try new approaches, new tools, and techniques. And you do not know if they will even work for you.
But get me right. I’m trying to say that some basic skills and knowledge are outside of your comfort zone. Something that is mandatory.
If you are reading this blog, it means that you are trying to step out of your comfort zone. At least a bit. But at some point, you will fulfill your interest and hopefully, you will broaden the zone. Though, sooner or later, you will crawl back into your comfort zone again. And it is OK to have a rest and reflect on your new knowledge and experience.
However, there are symptoms of procrastination that you should be aware of. Once you notice that your behavior is changing it is time to take action. Here are three primary symptoms:
You do not take responsibility
In the comfort zone, you are not proactive. You monitor the problematic areas that you are aware of but you do not spend the time to investigate and analyze. The disaster comes from the area you expect the least. And, more often than not, you say that there was no way to predict or mitigate the problem.
Therefore, you never admit that it was really your fault. Your project management approach worked just fine for last several months (maybe a year), so the problems are force majors, something really unpredictable.
You are always defensive
Once in a while, someone will give you a piece of advice. Your boss might want some changes from you. Maybe your colleague will share a useful piece of information. In most cases, you will try to keep the things as they were. Doing nothing.
I can spend tremendous efforts just to frame the negative perception of something outside of my comfort zone. Just to avoid changes! These efforts should be spent more productively. But in most cases is it hard to define whether you actually make unbiased decisions.
Once settled you do not want anyone to tell you that something is wrong or could be better. Therefore, you also do not look for mentors. However, they are the most valuable source of feedback for you.
You do not share your knowledge
If you think sharing knowledge is not essential, just open PMBOK Guide and search for “lessons learned” and “organizational process assets”. Key processes use knowledge of previous projects as one of the primary inputs.
There are two stages. On the first stage, you don’t share knowledge because you do not apply it. You are afraid of simple questions that may follow. “Did you try that? How does it work for you?”. But your answers will be defensive. Remember? You just found an interesting piece of information. You did not spend the effort to analyze it, try it out or even delegate. Why worry?
On the second stage, you do not share because you have nothing to share. You are so much behind your environment that you have nothing to contribute. Even colleagues with less experience bring more value to the organization. Merely because they are more curious.
While it may seem like a personal issue, the problem of knowledge management goes much deeper. Quite ofter you need a trigger, usually, a bad event, to happen in order to find out that you lack some knowledge. I recommend you to read Knowledge Management: More Than Simply Learning Lessons article. It describes how knowledge circulates within an organisation.
Now you are aware of the dangers of the comfort zone. That means that you can now identify the symptoms. Though whether you do something or not is up to you. I can’t guess where you procrastinate. But you can. That is easy. Just be aware of your thoughts and excuses. Double check that they are indeed valid and not far-fetched.