Hal asks a fascinating question in Variation is an Enemy Enabler of Project Success: How can we take advantage of serendipity rather than forcing an outcome in our projects? (paraphrased)
One technique is to observe and listen to the project. When PMs observe their projects, they look at and listen to:
- How people work together. Are they talking? Peer reviewing? Pair-working? Any other technique for informal communication and information sharing? We can take more advantage of serendipity when people collect the bits of information about other areas of the project.
- How project meetings flow. Do people want to attend? If not, what would make the meeting more useful? If people feel free to discuss their obstacles, other people might have techniques for overcoming those obstacles.
- Daily progress. Are people making some form of progress every day? Even if the progress is learning about the project, not deliverables, the project team needs to make progress every day.
- Effects of multi-tasking or long hours. Multi-tasking extends the project duration (if you don't believe me, look at Frank Patrick's blog), and long hours makes people stupid.
There's more, but it's eluding me now. I'll add more when I can remember.
I take advantage of the serendipity with one-on-ones, project team meetings, MBWAL (management by walking around and listening), lunch with the project team (or others), anything that gets me out of my office to observe and listen to the project.