I recently attended a PMI event on the age old question of what makes a project more successful than another. The discussion started by stating the obvious need to focus on the 5 W’s, but also the importance of ‘how’ things are done. The discussion was primarily philosophical, asking us to each think of the differentiators.

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to success, and while checklists and “best practices” are helpful, I believe it’s the team’s application and foresight that goes into the application of a tool or method that determines success. Sure, guidance from other sources is helpful, but the ability to apply experience and intellect is what makes it all come together.

They say you need 10,000 hours experience in an area to become an “expert” and the more experience and diversity in your background, the more scenarios you have encountered. Armed with our own experiences, we must be magnets for knowledge from others. Knowing how to learn, identifying areas needing growth and knowledge in ourselves and knowing where to go for the answers is very important. I think formal education helps in this area and helps build resourcefulness. It is impossible to always know all the answers. The ability to find the answers and make timely decisions based on the information available is what really matters. Awareness of a better way and for continuous improvement in all we do is what sets apart those with stellar results compared with those with mediocre and just satisfactory results.

Below are some tips I recommend for setting yourself, and your projects apart from your peers:

  • Develop an Inquisitive Nature – Search for a better way to do everything.
  • Experiment & Grow – The more we do, the more we learn.
  • Self-Reflect – Take the time to analyze events as they occur.
  • Identify a “Watch-List” of High Performers – Find a group of people that you deem as successful and respect and observe the behaviors and attributes of this group.
  • Research High Performing Organizations – Research successful organizations and the factors leading to their success.

Knowledge work requires us to always be anticipating events, bettering ourselves through continuous learning and applying our lessons learned to all we do. The more projects we have under our belt, the more situations we have seen. This exposure allows us to identify and anticipate events those with less experience may not have yet encountered.