Thursday, July 20, 2017

Police officers, the brain, and the project management professional!

Recently, the Today show had a series on the Dallas Police force's focus on one of its most important tool, the brain. The police force has many tools at its disposal but the police force's leadership does admit that the brain has been neglected as a tool. The Dallas Police force has partnered with the Center for Brain Health. The Center for Brain Health has a program called SMART. For the Dallas Police force, the SMART program is helping the police officers with blocking information that is not important to tactical decisions that need to be made under pressure and stress. SMART also assists the officers to understand their emotions that they experience while under pressure and then how to manage the emotions.

At this point, you are probably thinking what does this have to do with project, program and portfolio management? There are several similarities. While I admit that we in the project management discipline don't face personal life threatening issues on a daily basis, we do face an enormous amount of stress. I don't want to minimize those working are projects/programs that are dangerous. These individuals on the team and the leads do face harmful situations especially if safety is not observed. We also face stress with stakeholders, sponsors, leading teams, personnel issues, lack of funding, lack of resources, unreasonable time demands, and the list goes continues.

Let's face it, we are stressed. There are those that leave the discipline because of burnout. Our brains are resilient and when we learn how to focus on what is important to the task our brains process more efficiently. Our brains are designed to think sequentially which may be contrary to how project management professionals think they should perform. However, when we focus on the task resolve or do it the brain can then focus on another task. We need to understand how to block out information that is not relevant. There are several ways to do this and while it would be difficult to take the SMART for many of us (the cost) there are other ways. I advocate learning new activities. If you teach your brain to focus on a new activity for a prolonged time, your brain starts to create new pathways. Finding an area that is quiet, that means getting away from cubicle land. In a cubicle, there are many distractions which forces your brain to multi-task. Finally, your brain just like a muscle needs to rest. Take breaks every three to four hours. This helps to re-energize your brain.