Some project management techniques arrive early in life and never leave you. One of my favorite project management techniques originated in grade school.

Project Management Techniques for a Lifetime

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There was a new boy in class with a Southern accent who arrived after our fourth grade school year started. We discovered his dad worked in the oil fields; their family moved around a lot based on where his dad was working. One result was Dominic wound up in several schools every year, disappearing at some point in as unannounced a fashion as he had appeared perhaps a month before.

One result of continually being in and out of schools was Dominic couldn't read much, if at all, and was unable to even write his own name.

During the time Dominic was at our school, our class was preparing a couple of plays to stage for the rest of the school. Our teacher stressed that everyone in the class actively participate in the play.

When it came to Dominic, that was a challenge.

We fashioned a part in the play "Stone Soup” with only one speaking line. Even though he couldn’t write his name, Dominic could memorize one line of dialogue. When it came time for the play, he delivered his single line perfectly, and Dominic was an actor!

Simply making the effort to tailor a part that recognized his talents and limitations, Dominic could perform successfully.

Creating Success for an Untalented Team Member

I always recall the Dominic story whenever a team member presents more challenges than beneficial talents to accomplish the task at hand. The project management opportunity is to create perhaps a very non-traditional role offsetting an individual’s limited or non-existent talents to allow him or her to perform at a disproportionately useful level, with greater impact than you might otherwise imagine.

This involves the strategic and creative thinking (and subsequent planning) to determine how to successfully feature a person no one expects to contribute productively.

Having done this on many occasions, more often than not, the person you are trying to help realizes what is happening, tries very hard to make it work, and rewards your efforts with a greater degree of appreciation and loyalty than if you'd have ignored them or let them off the hook by not participating.

Do your thinking and planning, and see how you can find a way to showcase even a challenged person with a role that lets him or her create meaningful value. Mike Brown


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