“If you’re in [project] management and find yourself frustrated by a talented employee who is undermined by seemingly inexplicable but persistent behavioral issues, it’s possible there’s a specific reason for it. He or she may have ADD/ADHD.” (Victor Lipman, Forbes Online, 10/02/2012 and 9/3/2014)
How do you deal with ADHD in project management situations? I would like to hear back from people with this experience, as I better formulate my approach to helping people in bio-medical technology companies improve their project successes.
Have you had a project team member with ADHD? As either a project manager or team member, what helped you to help them focus better? Are you a project manager with ADHD? How has your ADHD been an asset, a strength you can build on? What techniques have most successfully enabled you to overcome obstacles that ADHD might otherwise drop in your path?
Ten years ago it was estimated that about 4% of the adult population has ADHD; that they are 18 times more likely to be disciplined and 2 – 4 times more likely to be terminated. A 2012 study estimated that 83% of the costs of ADHD were incurred by adults.
Our society, our economic world is clearly diagnosable as having ADHD. No sooner is one task thrown at someone, than a new one slides down the chute. (Changed, but hopefully consistent, metaphors.) “Multi-tasking” is expected, but entails constant distraction and usually comes with a continually changing, uncertain and inconsistent set of priorities.
Noise and clutter are everywhere.
Successful project management requires a healthy tension between following structure and having the flexibility to respond to uncertainty; between, on the one hand, being a “good team member” and following directions and, on the other hand, being creative at solving new problems.
We know that the foundation for good project management is a thoughtful preparation to fall back on when the inevitable problems of time, design, resources and compatibility crop up.
Goals must be kept specific and realistic. Project managers and team members need systems, discipline and focus to manage the workload.
Project managers have to decide when the result is “good enough” – often (usually?) not perfect by theoretical standards, but meeting something like 80% of the original expectations, with a clear understanding of the costs and benefits of the tradeoffs that have been made.
Someone with ADHD lives with the often uncomfortable marriage of a strong individual task focus + distractability; has to learn to systematically chunk larger goals into smaller goals and declutter their agenda; to steadily problem solve their way through uncertain, unclear situations.
Someone with ADHD may find it difficult to juggle the management of diverse (and always ambiguous) personalities with managing the team’s task list, all while upper management and stakeholders may be trying to change both project scope and overall priorities. Project management may challenge someone with ADHD to be very politic in what they share, when and with whom. They may need to find ways to develop charisma and good, attentive listening skills to win over team members and stakeholders; to develop partnerships; and to create enough space for the team to succeed.
It seems to me that the things an adult with ADHD has to get good at are precisely the things that make for successful project management.
But I don’t know. I would like to hear from you about your experience.
A few additional references:
www.marlacummins.com, “Over 60 Tools For Focused Action”
www.additudemag.com, “10 Ways To Boost Productivity At Work”
www.ADHDAwarenessMonth.org, “7 Facts You Need To Know About ADHD”
Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publications, “Mental health problems in the workplace,” 2/1/2010
Attention Deficit Disorder Association, “Workplace Committee,” 2015
www.help4adhd.org, “Succeeding in the Workplace”
www.marciahoeck.com, “5 Power Shifts You Can’t Succeed In Business Without,” 2015
www.marlacummins.com, “Six Common Planning Mistakes Adults with ADHD Make: (and how to fix them),” 2010