Are you an optimist or a pessimist? \u00a0When negatively accused of either in a challenging project setting, do you respond like most people, \u201cNo, I am merely realistic\u201d? \u00a0Most people believe they have a grip on reality, but I sometimes wonder if we project management types really grasp and respond to the reality within and around our projects.\n\n\nAs a program or project manager, how do you know you are REALLY realistic?\u00a0 Consider the following three strong indicators of a solid grip on reality, which foster project success.\n\n\n1. Positive\n\n\nI\u2019m not trying to secretly advocate for the optimists in the crowd.\u00a0 GIVEN the good, bad and ugly within the project, what are the possible and best solutions to get (or keep) this project moving in the right direction? \u00a0A mindset that affirms that I AM RESPONSIBLE for the project and as such I WILL CONTINUE to advocate and work for a positive outcome, tends to live in reality.\n\n\nWhereas someone overly optimistic might believe everything is OK within a project when it isn\u2019t, a realistic project manager understands the real challenges and sees them as obstacles to diligently overcome. \u00a0Your energy focuses on moving forward, not on wishful thinking or resigned endurance. \u00a0You never give up and you never live in fairyland.\n\n\n2. Proactive\n\n\nProjects bring change. \u00a0Projects get changed. \u00a0Projects happen in a world of change. \u00a0 Too often project managers get caught up in the day-to-day \u2018reality\u2019 of controlling change and become highly reactive. \u00a0We busily put out fires all day long. \u00a0Though addressing issues as they come is certainly part of the job, to merely react to what is happening in your project as it unfolds is like driving down the highway at 70 MPH wearing blinders focused only on the road 10 feet in front of you.\u00a0 Wishful thinking will not avoid the nasty collision waiting to happen! \u00a0\n\n\nTo truly be realistic, a project manager must be able to look beyond what is merely urgent in front of him. He must proactively assess what lies ahead down the road, and actively assess the surrounding environment to anticipate potential impacts to the project. \u00a0\n\n\n3. Practical\n\n\nWith this broad and clear picture of reality, a project manager can then devise and execute work that best aligns with the real needs of the project. \u00a0I.e., Commitment to pursuing what is best with eyes wide open poises you to CHOOSE tasks and approaches that actually benefit the project as a whole.\u00a0 This may be obvious, but the words of Zig Ziglar come to mind,\u00a0\u201cIf you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.\u201d\n\n\nFor a solution or task to be realistically practical, it must have the end in mind. \u00a0\u201cWe\u2019ll fix\/stabilize\/document it later; just get it done\u201d is a typical kind of \u201cpractical" answer when deadlines stare us in the face. \u00a0It feels practical, but often only kicks problems down the road a few feet, or worse, sabotages project goals. \u00a0The truly practical generates near term action that fosters the long-term success of the project.\u00a0\n\n\nReal world example\n\n\nAn ugly reality faced me when handed a large, failing enterprise implementation program a few years ago. \u00a0 Saving the program started with a brutally honest assessment within AND around the project. Assertive, creative, and sometimes even odd changes to project tasking, resourcing, communication, tracking, and governance followed.\u00a0 The changes assumed we COULD succeed, and fit the corporate culture and its pressures, the program staff and resources, and my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. \u00a0Reality! \u00a0This, along with highly proactive risk mitigation, cleared the path for getting the program back on track. \u00a0\n\n\nThe result? \u00a0The program SLOWLY began to gain traction. \u00a0I avoided trying to make everything happen at once. \u00a0It would have only bred more frustration and reactiveness. \u00a0It took a few months to go from RED to YELLOW. \u00a0The project finally turned GREEN two months before go live. \u00a0What looked impossible a year earlier ended up being a highly successful program that launched on time!\n\n\nOver the years, people have accused me of being overly optimistic or pessimistic -- often by different people in the same project! \u00a0I now consider that a compliment. It probably means I\u2019m doing a decent job of living in the real world.\n\n\nAre you REALLY living in reality with your projects? \u00a0What lures you out of reality? \u00a0Fear of failure? \u00a0Financial pressures? Toxic work relationships\/cultures? Blind adherence to inadequate processes? \u00a0 Hmmm\u2026sounds like fodder for a future post.