Optimal Performance Program

A Program:
Sustaining Optimal Performance in Challenging Times:
Applying Open-minded Mindfulness

Project managers want to bring projects to healthy, successful conclusions. Across multiple projects we want to improve project performance or sustain it at a chosen level. This series begins with a foundation session followed by sessions on five critical factors that contribute greatly to success: project performance improvement, managing expectations, managing conflict, managing change and managing communications in teams. If we get these five right, we will refine the other aspects of the process as needed. 

Essential Ingredients for high performance:

Open-minded (able to see the big picture, questioning everything) Mindfulness (focused, consciously aware) is a foundation for these critical factors in achieving optimal performance. 

While each of the sessions stands alone, they build on one another.  The commitment to the full program helps to reinforce the application of skills and concepts in the “real world”.  The foundation principles and techniques are applied as a thread through the other sessions where they are combined with applicable models, tools and techniques.  We reinforce that the individual factors operate in a complex interactive system; in the “real world” they never stand alone.

The series is led by George Pitagorsky, a well respected author and thought leader in project, process and knowledge management.  George’s perspective is influenced by an extensive career in process management, product development, learning and development, engagement management and project management and by decades of experience in meditation and its application in daily life.

Topics and Abstracts

Sustaining Optimal Performance in Challenging Times:
Applying Open-minded Mindfulness and Zen Thinking

This opening session provides a foundation for optimal performance in the basic principles and core models of open-minded mindfulness - the ability to see the big picture and questioning everything while being focused and consciously aware.  We define what optimal performance is, what gets in the way of achieving it and the critical success factors that enable it.  Critical factors like well managed expectations, directed change and performance improvement are influenced by emotional intelligence, moment to moment mindfulness, concentration capacity and a systems and process oriented approach that recognizes the need to break free of unskillful mental models. 

Improving Project Management and Project Performance

This session addresses the justification for managing projects with the right degree of formality and how to create a sustainable process that adds value.  We begin with the context of enterprise PM and then focus on the ways projects are managed - Lean, Agile, Waterfall, etc.  The aspects of knowledge management, process quality and competency are put into context.  The importance of the right mix of behavioral and concrete hard skills is explored.  The importance of and ability to be objective even about oneself and one’s own process is discussed and related to sustained performance improvement.  Participants will be able to apply a systems view to their process.

Thriving in Challenging Times: Managing Change with Zen Open-minded Mindfulness

We live in challenging times.  This session combines a systems and process oriented view with principles of Zen and open-minded mindfulness to give participants the edge they need to excel.  As project managers and business analysts we often implement and manage change.  In these challenging times we also manage our own changes and challenges, like having to do more work with fewer people, operate in the midst of work force reductions and personal and organizational uncertainties.  No matter what is happening around us, we want to bring projects to healthy, successful conclusions.  Across multiple projects we want to sustain, if not improve project performance.   In this session we explore how to use a Zen-like approach to apply Open-minded Mindfulness (able to see the big picture and questioning everything while being focused and consciously aware) as a foundation for going beyond just managing to survive to actually thriving in the midst of change and the uncertainty it brings.  You will come away with a technique for increasing your ability to concentrate and continuously remain alert and aware under any circumstances and a model for how to adapt it to your change situation.

Managing Expectations with Mindful Planning

In the end, the sign of a successful project is client and sponsor satisfaction.  Satisfaction leads to acceptance.  Satisfaction is achieved when expectations are met.  Expectations can be managed.  This session discusses the essentials of baseline planning and how to manage expectations to ensure satisfaction.  We discuss the issues of uncertainty, the need for push back and the right degree of formality and granularity.  We explore the drivers of cost and schedule and discuss how an open minded negotiation, based on reality leads to higher probability of success.  Participants will learn to apply simple negotiation methods in the context of planning.

Managing Conflict

Managing conflict means avoiding unnecessary conflict and resolving the remainder in a productive, win-win way.  We will distinguish relationship and content conflicts.   The seven steps in decision making and their use in conflict resolution will be described along with interpersonal issues that may get in the way of using conflict as an opportunity to improve things; to find better answers.  Mindfulness practice and the open-mindedness to question everything are applied to keep content conflicts from becoming relationship conflicts.

Communication in Teams

Teams are the molecules that get work done in our organizations.  The atoms are of course people and tools operating in a system or process.  Communication acts as a thread that keeps the atoms together and contributing to the team’s objectives. We will explore the levels of communication and how a formal approach that promotes openness enables team performance.  Mindfulness practice and a mind open to the needs of others are applied to address typical team communication issues.