Off-script | How going off-script can help project managers adapt to change

by Christopher Cook

How can project managers adapt to change better? Consider going off-script. Lately, in jiu-jitsu, I have noticed my game starting to resemble my professor’s game. Because he teaches a curriculum, I can regurgitate that material well but find myself not pushing those boundaries. off-script, It is similar to a child starting to learn a language. He or she uses adult words with no concept of their meanings but uses context clues to make sense of it.

Online sources are frowned upon as they show fancy techniques that do not necessarily translate appropriately. I tend to stick to the material that I find I can perform well, but I get frustrated in my lack of creativity.

I only know what I see, and that limitation has its positives and negatives. The positives are I know it works, otherwise, it would not be a part of the curriculum, and the repetition of it engrains the material in my mind. Knowing material that works and is repeatable is a strong suit.

However, when movements are outside of what I am aware of, I become lost. I do not have the acumen to adjust on the fly. A new movement means someone is not following the script. Therefore, I am lost because the script is all I know. This refined focus helps my foundation but makes growth difficult.

Going off-script brings that rapid growth as anything performed outside the lines is brand new and knowledge is gained immediately. There are many light bulb moments when off-script movements and actions take place.

How project managers adapt to change


Here is how project managers can go off script more often:

Perform your routine differently

I am a creature of habit. Same breakfast. Same route to work. The same routine once I am working. It limits the decisions I have to make on an hourly basis.

However, that routine can be performed differently. Instead of orange juice, banana, and coffee, I could have coffee first, eat my banana on the road, and sip some orange juice during the drive. The results are the same but performed differently.

This rework of the routine may include additions or subtractions. You may always check your email first when arriving at the office. You find this starts the day appropriately and gets tasks done quickly. However, this automatic checking of your inbox may be distracting you from tasks that need your attention most.

Is there a conflict amongst team members that you continue to put off because you have a checklist to complete first? That checklist is never-ending because emails and phone calls continue to pour in throughout the day. Your routine of checking your inbox before everything else may be hindering your ultimate growth.

Take your time

Adapting to change means making sure you weigh your options, then make a decision. Take the time to think it out and see where each one takes you. Reacting may be comfortable for you. This breath of air makes you uncomfortable but can lead to a better decision.

The immediacy that email and texting provides is dangerous. You may have sent an email, and come to find out, a team member, who deals with the issue, has already taken care of it. Your reactionary email makes you look uninformed and undermines the performance of the team member who actually did the work.

Opening your inbox first thing creates anxiety and starts your day off with a feeling of stress. You see all of the issues on your screen and negativity starts to creep in your mind. Instead, perform a debriefing with your team. Ask questions to find out where things are and how they could be done differently. With a few quick questions, your issues become less, and emails can get deleted.

Your involvement upfront with your team can make that inbox seem less daunting.

Hurry up

Sometimes, adapting to change requires that you just need to start. No more thinking. No more planning. Just doing.

This approach contradicts the previous note about taking your time, but sometimes, time is not necessary. Action is required, and you have to pull the trigger to find out what happens. You may be someone who thinks they always need more time before making a decision. Hurrying up is something off-script for you.

Let your instincts kick into gear. In jiu-jitsu, reactions to movements are required to perform moves successfully. There is no time to sit and think about what is next. You must react in the moment for ultimate success.

Project management is no different. Your experience and knowledge need to take over sometimes. The information is collected. The data is entered. It is time to make a decision. The problem is not going to solve itself.


Going off script and pushing our comfort zone is where the tremendous growth lies. A mundane routine makes every day Groundhog’s Day. You cannot remember if it is Monday or Friday. The days blend together because they are all the same.

Mix it up and see what happens. Maybe you find a new coffee shop on your way to work that brightens your day. Maybe that conversation with your team before you read emails and listen to voicemails takes care of most of the problems you thought you had.

In jiu-jitsu, how do you know half guard is not your game unless you play it? Same in project management. You do not know if something works until you try it. This willingness to attempt new things is contagious. Your team will recognize it and not be afraid to sample new ideas.

Your continuation of pushing your boundaries makes others follow suit. Make going off-script your new script to follow.

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