Get Your BUT Out of the Way!

b-but.jpgHow can you stay positive in your approach to project management work when you need to spend so much of your time on what has gone wrong, is going wrong or might go wrong?   The PMBOK®, for example, has 11 Monitoring and Control processes, as well as the whole Risk Management Knowledge Area to keep you thinking about the dark side.

This quote from Jack Lemmon helps me to prevent control paralysis – “Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure.”   The way we approach accountability for project outcomes affects the way we manage all aspects of the project.

A few truths from Appreciative Inquiry can shed some light on this question: 1) what we focus on becomes the reality we create, and 2) the language we use creates our reality.  Positive thinking encourages expansiveness… have you ever included the risks of success in a risk assessment?

b-and.jpgIf you said to a team member “this is a good status report, but you forgot the data for three divisions”, I’d bet that the but you forgot would make a more lasting impression than the fact that it was a good report.  The word BUT, said to stand for Big Underlying Truth because of what usually follows it, often introduces negativity and confusion about true intention.

Experiment: for clearer and more positive communication, try using AND instead of BUT for a couple of days.  It may feel awkward or strange, and be prepared for a concerted effort.

Think about this – how much of your time and energy spent on control is reasonable and how much is cover-your BUT?


1 thought on “Get Your BUT Out of the Way!”

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    I find the use of and in these examples to be a bit confusing and it causes loss of impact in the message to be conveyed. The word and should be used to join words, concepts, or ideas of a common rank or type. If I were to state that this is a good status report and it is missing data for three divisions, the implied meaning is that missing data for three divisions is a good thing. Assuming that the intent of this communication is to gather the missing data for the status report, that should be stated first. Then the use of the word but does not introduce negative communication: Your status report is missing data for three divisions, but the rest of it very well done. Admittedly, an alternative wording might be more positive: Your status report is very well done and I would like you to use the same style to include data for Divisions X, Y, and Z. This conveys less importance on providing the missing data, but it is the proper use of the and conjunction.

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