"When was the last time you described a project as being full of life?"
Questions like this challenge our perspective on projects and teams, perhaps even the very nature of work. It's from that perspective that Right-Brain Project Management encourages us to review and revise our approach to work, collaboration, and project leadership, beginning with the deliberately provocative opening chapter "What's Wrong with Project Management?"
The answer proposed -– a need for maturity, social skills, and passion -– is what Right-Brain Project Management aims to provide. The book is rich with statistics, research, and case studies, which will help even the most "left-brained" absorb the concepts and ideas. This is good, because the concepts embraced and endorsed in this book will make some people uncomfortable. We've been trained for too long to think of our team members as "resources," to deny the human aspect of our work and wall ourselves up behind charts, graphs, and work breakdowns. People are unpredictable and messy, and in project management we crave order and predictability. So Dr. Aucoin has his work cut out for him when he challenges us to embrace these more diverse, unpredictable – dare I say "warm and fuzzy" – people-oriented modes of thought.
Right-Brain Project Management addresses everything from motivation to leadership and change management. The writing is scholarly, but encouraging, and always approachable. His goal is for us not to just do projects, but to win at them -– to create an environment in which everyone involved in the project walks away not relieved, but delighted.
It's an ambitious goal, so he arms readers with practical advice and "right-brain toolkits" throughout: techniques for forcing our unconscious Blink-style processing into the foreground (p. 100), methods of stimulating creativity (p.228), ingredients for helping your team "hit the zone" (p. 265), and ways to evoke your project's real "get out of bed" purpose and actually use it to inspire your team (p. 178). Right-Brain Project Management covers the theoretical aspects, but it never settles for them. For me, one of the most appealing aspects of the book is the huge variety of examples and case studies presented. There's something for everyone to relate to here, from pop culture tropes to obscure and fascinating references. (If you're looking for an inspiring analogy for your next issues meeting, this is a great place to start.)
If you're backing away from the whole "right-brained thing," don't. Aucoin freely admits that early research into this area was "overly simplistic" and reality is far more complex. Even so, the right-brain/left-brain construct remains useful for describing the different processing styles we all use -– or should. Right-Brain Project Management does a good job of reassuring left-brainers like me that it is possible to integrate these different types of intelligence into our work, and of convincing me that it's important to try. The 7 Principles of Right-Brain Project Management, while described in emotive terms, are entirely practical, and to my mind, utterly necessary to success in project management, or business in general (or in life, for that matter).
If you haven't read Right-Brain Project Management, you owe it to your projects, your teams, your customers, and yourself. When your projects are full of life, amazing things can happen, and everyone wins.