Startups are About Learning: Projects, People, Creation and Change

A few things I’ve learned so far…

  1. Managing Projects is HARD

It’s true. Basic PM (Project Management) Principles focus on the rigorous execution of routine tasks. You communicate timelines and clarify deliverables to all stakeholders. You define milestones and manage progress. You oversee the parallel execution of tasks along a ‘Critical Path’. You can’t let a single task, email, or deadline fall through the cracks. Doing all these things successfully is difficult. You need to be hyper-organized; mentally in-tune with multiple moving parts. You need to be hyper-communicative; communicating more often than less. You need to feel like a grand-schemer; carefully making strategic moves to successfully achieve a final goal.

 

  1. Managing People is EVEN HARDER

If managing projects weren’t difficult enough, managing people is a much more difficult task. People aren’t cold and calculated like machines or plans. They have thoughts and feelings; fears and ambitions. The challenges of managing people are different from managing projects. Managing people successfully is really about leadership. You need to empathize with your team and understand their ambitions, in order to motivate them. You need to align people to a common goal; managing the emotional peaks and valleys along the way. You need to deal with poor performance and energize the troops when things get tough. And once the final goal has been achieved, you need to recognize and reward  those who contributed to the project’s success.

 

  1. Create > Manage

It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day. We drown in routine or support tasks. We send follow up emails.  We participate in discussions and meetings. We review and ‘cleanup’ code. These tasks are great for managing projects; but they don’t create much value. It’s important to make time to perform tasks related to creating value. You can separate time for unstructured thinking. You can participate in brainstorms and other creative tasks. Creating things keeps your mind at its best; connecting ideas and capitalizing on new opportunities.

 

  1. Change is the M.O.

Human beings are wired to avoid change. We build habits and routines. We get used to things and keep them the way they are. Society’s mechanisms are in place to achieve stability and order. But at a startup things are different. Change is the “Method of Operation”. At a startup, it’s all about seizing and embracing change. The processes and culture in place need to allow for this. They need to incentivize this type of thought and behavior. And most importantly, people need to be comfortable taking risks, exploring the unknown, and dealing with uncertainty.


That’s it for this set, I hope these lessons help you tackle the challenges faced in your startup adventures!

Cheers till next time!

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