The Stage Four Project-Segment Seven – Implementation

A Project Manager’s Game Plan for Dealing with Incurable Cancer

The Introduction and first six segments to this multi-segment blog/e-book can be found at the links at the bottom of this article. 

Segment Seven – Implementation

What matters?  As any endeavor gets underway, that’s a critical question that needs to be answered.  What matters?  Originally (and from every conversation I ever had with a cancer survivor), it was getting back to their lives.  Amen to that!  But…

What’s my life?

Sitting at the cancer center the other day after meeting with my oncologist, I watched as others in treatment found their way into the room.  One gentleman seemed energized about his latest visit. Why? They had just put in a new port!  (For those of you who don’t know what a “port” is, it’s an access to a vein, your stomach or some other area of your body that can be left in place for future feeding or dosing or whatever).  This guy was jazzed! 

They finally got the port in, and it looks like it’s there to stay! he offered.

Wow.  We’re there.  Most people would not understand his celebratory attitude.  I did.  I understood why he pulled up his t-shirt to show off his prize.  Having a port in your body properly precludes any variety of challenges in the future.  And depending upon where it’s going, it’s critical to effective treatment. 

We all live in a world where the mundane is under-appreciated.  You scooped the kitty litter!  You got the oil changed.  You tidied your office.  ZZZzzzzz….  No, you won’t go viral with those accomplishments.  You won’t get 500 “likes”.  But one of the beauties of implementing the day-to-day…the quotidian…is that when it’s done, you get to mark it as done and have a personal celebratory moment. 

I’m typing this part of the article with one hand.  The other arm has an IV bag dripping into it.  It’s what you do as part of the project.  No cheering…just drip, drip, drip.  But that’s OK.  In a little over an hour, I’ll be driving home, relishing one more small accomplishment. 

That is why breaking your life, your work, and your projects into small manageable chunks is so important. It encourages zeal!  In implementation, you need accomplishment.

Lesson Learned: Today is a great day to laud achievement.  Just a few words about climbing and surmounting Mount Boring is all it takes.  Recognize the mundane.  Applaud the sticktoittiveness it takes to get past the ennui and on to work that feels more meaningful.

Today was a little bit of radiation and a PET scan.  Tomorrow is a little bit of chemo and grocery shopping.  And in the interim, I’ll get suggestions.


On any project, you get suggestions. 

You know you could speed this up if you…  You know you’ll get a better result when you…   Have you tried XYZ?  I’ve heard about nothing but good outcomes. 

One thing you don’t need is constant redirection. 

Early in this project (as mentioned in the first segments), I followed a prescribed, planned path.  It was not a good path.  I decided not to follow it.  As both the project manager and the end user, I had that option.  I could redirect. 

Since that time, at least a dozen well-meaning stakeholders have suggested redirection.  More Chemo!  More Radiation!  No Chemo!  No Radiation!  Acupuncture!  Whole grains!  Ginger and Lemon!  Meditation!  Medication!  Right now, it’s been a blend of meds, chemo, radiation and prayer.  And with that combo, the project is moving forward well. 

Anyone in a more traditional project has felt the same pressures.  Add resources!  Fire Ted! Suck up to the customer more!  Be more demanding of the customer!  Medication!  Agile!  Waterfall!

People genuinely mean well when they try to redirect.  In some cases, it’s possible to incorporate their suggestions with no harm or foul.  In others, it becomes a time-sucking vortex from which there is no escape.  Be sure to distinguish between the two.

Lesson Learned: If the current approach is working to get you toward your desired objective, be prepared to defend it.  It may be as boring as scooping kitty litter, but if it’s getting the job done, don’t waver.  Don’t confuse the dramatic with accomplishment.

 Carl?  I get the sense you’re not a fan of scooping kitty litter.

I’m not.  They are Nancy’s cats.  But I REALLY appreciate the fact that she keeps up with it.  It’s a task that needs to be done.

Positive implementation

The other thing to remember is that some work is truly its own reward.  As taxing as it can be, I love to write—even the technical stuff.  I am no fan of the editorial process, but I love to write.  When I get an hour to just sit at the keyboard and pound this content out, it’s therapy.  It’s a big plus.  And for the first time in about a decade, I’m not afraid of some of my favorite things.

Not Favorites:  Radiation, Chemo and the Holistic Menu

Favorites:  Hostess Cupcakes, Dunkin’ Donuts and Hershey’s

I bake.  A lot.  Every other day, we have homemade bread in our oven.  When I was worried about gaining weight, I would go months without baking.  Now, you can’t stop me. 

Every goal has a downside.  But every goal properly implemented has an upside.  For the whole cancer experience, it’s been the opportunity to eat.  Covid may have stolen 9/10s of my olfactory (smell) function, but I still have just enough left to appreciate a well-baked fish stick and some macaroni and cheese.  (Yes, I love to eat like a 12-year-old). 

Before the cancer (and Covid), I used to put in over 100 days a year on the road, sharing the good news of project management.  The upside of cancer?  I haven’t had to do battle in an airport for two years!  I actually have time to reconnect with the most amazing woman I’ve ever known—my wife.  I’ve been able to take on home projects that I want to do, rather than those I have to do. Plus.  Plus.  Plus.

All too many times, we sit in meetings (or across the kitchen counter) and assert our concerns about the day or days gone by.  The challenges we face in implementation are much like the risks.  We need to look for the good news. 

Lesson learned: I know I mentioned it in the risk segment, but every time you catch yourself focused on the negatives, be sure to identify the potential good news associated with them.  A friend of mine outside East Palestine, OH, made the comment the other day that while his farmette seems unaffected by the Norfolk-Southern derailment, he and his family have discovered bottled water.  He doubts they’ll ever go back to tap water. 

Implementation is about putting a positive face on the work that we do, the objectives we’ll achieve and the hard work it will take to get there.  Theodore Roosevelt said Nothing worth having comes easy.  And what might seem like an opposite statement is actually a corollary.  That related phrase?  It’s as easy as pie.  That phrase is about 100 years old, and originated in Australia.  Pie was originally the Maori pai, which translates to good.  The phrase meant that when you’re truly adept at something, it comes easily. 

As we speak of accomplishments and implementation, let’s collectively remember that the reason we do what we do is because we’re truly good at it.  We have skills.  We have talents.  And so do the people we interact with every day.  Want implementation to move along smoothly?  Let your peers know that they are accomplishing great things.  It’s as easy as pie.

In the next segment, we’ll look at preparing for transition for the Cancer Project.

If you wanted to read the lead-ins to this segment, they can be found at: