Anticipatory Leadership and Time

In my last post we discussed the power of small wins in effecting significant and systemic change.  Small wins and trimtabs.  Timtabs can turn the QM2 but you have to strategically plan and have the right time to make the turn.  The point is anticipatory leadership.

Wayne Gretsky is an example of this.  Widely regarded as the best hockey player of all time, he fundamentally change the game.  He has been asked what made him as great as he was.  His response was:

“Most players skate to where the puck is.
I skate to where it is going to be.”

Leadership that can identify opportunities for small wins and take small wins to scale, in the 21st century, does so by anticipatory leadership and reading Time.  A Project Manager who leads – leads by anticipation – by understanding and anticipating Time.

Time in ancient greek had two forms:  Chronos and Kairos.  Chronos is linear, clock & calendar time.  Kairos is the fullness of time, the right time,  pregnant time.  Leaders understand Kairos, anticipating opportunities and taking small wins within Chronos to transformation in Kairos.

So the pace of small wins (timing and amount of time) is important.  So also is “reading” the time, anticipating and leading at the opportune time.

From a leadership perspective, to see a project simply within Chronos time is to miss the fullness of time.  My partners here at EPIC PM have talked about project failure.  Projects can be a failure in Chronos at any given moment but a leader who reads time (Kairos) can see small wins turn to success.  Consider several projects that at several points of Chronos time may have been considered failures but in Kairos are now seen as successes.

The American Revolution: Almost no battles were won by the colonial troops in the American Revolution.  Leaders and members of the Civil Rights Movement were jailed, beaten, denied access and killed.  In each of these cases the movements were a failure…. until they won.

The leadership of both these movements had a strategic vision and guiding set of principles that allowed them to persevere in the midst of perceived failure and in the end show that these failures were filled with small wins aligned with the vision and values of the movement and its leadership.  So having a strategic vision and clear values is important if “failures” are to be built into small wins that turn the tide.  In the case of the American Revolution this strategic vision can be seen in the casting of the Liberty Bell twenty years prior to the Declaration of Independence.

Vision and leadership of that vision are very important in managing and weaving failures and small wins together into transformative change.   And a key component of the type of leadership needed is the component of time and how that is viewed and understood by leadership.

So “reading” the time (Kairos), anticipating and leading at the opportune time to bring transformation to fruition is key to leadership and is connected to vision and values. Reading “time” and seeing ourselves in time and space is difficult and fraught with distractions.  But a lesson from Quantum physics can help.

Because all time (chronos) is related to motion, we are able to make the following statements for a “Rocket man” traveling through space:

If we send our Rocket Man out into space at 130,000m/sec and he tracks his time traveling and returns to Earth in 5 years time, 10 years will have passed Earth in relative time.
What would have been 10 years on Earth will have only been 5 years for the Rocket Man via the theory of relativity – time related to motion.

If he travels at 150,000 m/sec, 1 day for Rocket Man will be a 1000 years on Earth.

If he travels at 180,000 m/sec; the speed of light, time will stop for Rocket Man, everything will be “now.”

“Now” is the quintessentially existential moment; it is that moment that separates the past from the future and yet is not a part of time itself.  You cannot say that this second is “now” for by the time you say it, that second is no longer “now.”  You cannot say the next half-second is “now” or the next billionth of a second is “now.” You cannot even tell me what you are thinking “now”, because by the time you have a chance to reflect on it to tell me it is no longer “now.”  “Now” is the most real moment to us and yet does not exist in time.

Being in the “now” gives a leader a chance to escape the pressures of time (chronos and Kairos) and reflect.  Here is the chance for a truly free act – the ultimate small win – out of which change can be affected and to perceive failures and small wins not as random or micro but connected in a purposive way.  Out of these moments of “now” a leader can “skate to where the puck is going to be.”

A Project Manager, who is also an EPIC leader (Empowering, Preparing, Inspiring an Connecting), leads small wins, like a timtab, by operating in chronos and reading the opportune time (Kairos) through reflecting in the “now.”

Next post we will look at a framework for leading project teams by an EPIC rubric that addresses the whole person.

Projects Can Feel Like Turning the Queen Mary 2?

Consider the Queen Mary 2: an ocean liner so vast (QM2 is 147 feet longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall (984 ft.), so heavy (Approximately 151,400 gross tons) and so imposing (QM2’s whistle is audible for 10 miles) that it is difficult to see how it could ever be turned.

New initiatives and change at the company level, a department level, a project level and often even at a personal level can  feel like the QM2 – immovable, vast, heavy and imposing. But just as with the QM2 it takes but a small rudder – a trimtab to – move the entire vessel in a new direction. A trimtab is a small movable piece on the main rudder of a ship. When this trimtab is moved it creates such a countervailing force that the very size and weight of the structure itself is used to make the turn.

In the same way a small but significant trimtab action, or idea or process ( a Small Win) can turn an entire culture where its very weight can be transformed into momentum for change.

The key is to identify the trimtab (Small Win) and move it. To focus attention and effort on this smallish point and thereby move what was immovable.

Size does matter and its small that makes a difference in moving and leading large scale change.

Consider these small wins and the trimtab effect:

  1. A discussion of blogging and the value of wordpress happens one afternoon between two colleagues

—a pilot of its use is set up with a couple of managers to use with members of their departments

—-The CEO begins to blog

——-a company-wide implementation through intranet install is launched

———-multiple uses of blogging are beginning around company as means of information and process sharing

2.  A new LMS (learning management system) is used as a proof of concept for its effectiveness by a PM in developing the project team

—-Two other PMs to begin using the LMS with their teams

——These PMs begin discussing the use of the LMS with their Functional Managers

——–A Functional Manager agrees to try the LMS for the department

———–the success is seen by others

————–Word spreads from one Functional Manager to another

——————A VP begins using the platform with the Executive Team

——————–Company-wide implementation is initiated

Trimtabs are often small wins. Karl E. Weick speaks about the charatieristcs of a small win.

“A small win is a concrete, complete, implemented outcome of moderate importance. By itself, one small win may seem unimportant. A series of wins at small but significant tasks, however, reveals a pattern that may attract allies, deter opponents, and lower resistance to subsequent proposals. Small wins are controllable opportunities that produce visible results.

Small wins often originate as solutions that single out and define as problems those specific, limited conditions for which they can serve as the complete remedy. I emphasize the importance of limits for both the solution and the problem to distinguish the solutions of small wins from the larger, more open-ended solutions that define problems more diffusely (e.g., “burn the system down”).

Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win. When a solution is put in place, the next solvable problem often becomes more visible. This occurs because new allies bring new solutions with them and old opponents change their habits. Additional resources also flow toward winners, which means that slightly larger wins can be attempted.” (Weick, 1984)

As a Project Manager moving a project or process within a project can feel daunting.  Especially in cases where you may be working in a week matrix or functional organization. Remembering the trimtab effect of small wins can give strategic advantage and allow you to lead by Empowering, Preparing, Inspiring and Connecting in small ways that produce a great effect.. Leading in this way,  we can see the wake of the course change that these small trimtab wins have effected.

Trimtab leadership is Anticipatory Leadership that understands the difference between chronos and kairos time.  More on Anticipatory Leadership and Time in my next post.

Building an E.P.I.C.entre for Leadership

epic: adj – to go beyond the ordinary or usual

How do you take a project – “beyond the ordinary and usual?”  Leadership is the quientessential element.

Consider a brief case for the overarching need of leadership and then  how the processes of project management supports the exercise of leadership. Let us look then at a cultural shift on the order of the Reformation/Renaissance/Enlightenment.

Consider the conditions extant at the time of the Reformation/Renaissance/Enlightenment as shown in the chart below:


Specific Change Event
Communication Printing Press
Worldview Copernican Revolution(topples medieval model of the universe)
Epistemology Galileo, Newton(questioning epistemology and give rise to modern science)
Transportation Sailing Ships(make long voyages/connections possible)
Economics Capitalism(replaces Feudalism)
Military Technology Guns(lead to Nation-States)
Attack on “Authorities” Protestant Reformation(challenges the authority of the Catholic Church)

By looking at several broad categories within most societies we can evaluate the level of change that may be present.  Clearly at the time of the Reformation/Renaissance/Enlightenment many significant change events were occurring and the result of these events changed the culture and required new leadership, processes and personal skills.   Several key roots of leadership developed from this change. The roots and values that these shifts in society produced are: rational, individualistic, systematic, propositional, local and religious.

We are at another point of change now and the effects on our craft (project  management) and individuals in society are profound and the needs of people  we serve going forward are qualitatively different.

If we take the same categories and analysis and consider the year 2000 we see a very striking and similar pattern. Consider this chart:

Category Renaissance Change Event 21st Century Change Event
Communication Printing Press Radio/TV/Computer/Internet
Worldview Copernican Revolution(topples medieval model of the universe) Quantum Theories(interdeterminancy, the expanding universe, emergency, chaos all challenge the mechanistic modern science)
Epistemology Galileo, Newton(challenges existing conceptions and give rise to modern science) Deconstructivism(challenges existing conceptions and epistemologies)
Transportation Sailing Ships(make long voyages/connections possible) Air/Space Travel(no boarders)
Economics Capitalism(replaces Feudalism) Global E-Commerce(both communism and capitalism evolve)
Military Technology Guns(lead to Nation-States) Nukes/Terrorism/Cyber Crime(revolutionize the roles of governments)
Attack on “Authorities” Protestant Reformation(challenges the authority of the Catholic Church) Secularism/Materialism/Urbanism(decline of institutional religion- rise in fundamentalism is response)

The new realities of 21st century have been brought about through a seismic change in culture.  Stewart Brand of the Global Business Network points out that in engineering terms: a tenfold quantitative change yields a qualitative change. Hans Moravec believes a fourfold change in the scientific world results in qualitative change. Quantitative changes fueled by technology (advancing at almost geometric rates) have produced a qualitative change in society that is a difference in “kind” not merely degree.  There is a new landscape where “waves of creative destruction” (economist Joseph Schumpeter) are rushing through modern cultures, sweeping away old constructions and drowning those who cannot swim.

The world has changed.  If you were born before 1962 you are now an immigrant.  Those born after 1962 are natives of the 21st century in their thinking, learning and working.

Part of the nature of this new reality is the constant, churning and rapid flow of change.  It is like “whitewater” and to navigate this, a person must possess internal leadership and follow an internal compass where through aligning with the correct “degrees” they may guide the way.  Such a compass would have the following degrees to which a leader aligns:

  1. 360˚ – Able to see the “Big Picture”
  2. 6˚ – As in six-degrees of separation where everything is connected – Able to see the connections.
  3. 40˚ – Denver sits close to the 40th Parallel – it is the location of our community – Able to identify and participate in community.
  4. 90˚ – A “right” angle – Able to do the right things and do things right.
  5. 180˚ – turning around-change – Able to change and to manage change
  6. 212˚ – The boiling point –passion – Able to dive-in and to make commitments – to stay the course.

Given this, EPIC PM  works with clients to  build capacity in leadership through competence in the following leadership profile:

A leader of the 21st century is…

Empowered (360˚ Big Picture)

Prepared (90˚ 180˚ Doing right & the right things in a changing environment)

Inspired (212˚ Passion)

Connected (6˚ & 40˚ Community-based)

In other words EPIC PM helps build capacity in leadership through competence by helping our students develop an E.P.I.C. profile. The chart below shows how this profile and 21st century values relates to PMI processes and together build  an E.P.I.C.entre for leadership.

21st Century Values Degrees of Leadership PMI Processes
Empowered Global 360˚ Big Picture IntegrationInitiating ProcessPlanning ProcessScope Management
Prepared Experiential, Narrative/Story-based 90˚ 180˚Doing right & the right things in a changing environment Controlling ProcessExecuting ProcessTime ManagementCost ManagementProcurement Mgt
Inspired Mystical, Beauty 212˚ Passion-Stay the course Quality ManagementRisk Management
Connected Communal 6˚ & 40˚ Community-based connections Closing ProcessHuman Resource MgtCommunications Mgt

Project Managers  face a very different, rapidly changing world in need of leadership.  Developing and E.P.I.C. profile allows a project manageer to lead in ways beyond the ordinary and usual and EPIC PM is here to help you develop this leadershp profile.