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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Look to the Past

Have you heard the quote by George Santayana that states, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".  In project management, we need to remember that historical data from old projects is our best source of data when planning new projects.  This data can help you to reduce negative risk and increases your odds for project success.
When planning new projects:

Review your companies past project files for information regarding past resource estimates, lessons learned, budget data, risks, assumptions, etc...

Conduct interviews with select project team members from past projects to understand what went right and what went wrong.

Interview customers and other project managers for lessons learned from their past projects.

Do searches on the Internet about similar projects to gather information which might assist in planning your project.

Most importantly, use risk management during the planning cycle to identify issues that could cost you later on.

Finally, do not fall victim to the project manager's curse of not learning from the past.  Remember the old saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Project Management Rules (revisited, reworked, repost)

Remove people from your team that don’t ask questions, don’t talk with other team members, won’t provide documentation, or won’t do analysis

Only people that aren’t competent won’t show off their work

Question authority or live with the result

A sense of humor can help get teams through tough times

A working meeting should have no more than five people. Meetings with more than five should be reserved for providing updates or relaying information

Project failure is planned at the beginning of the project

Project initiation is the most important project phase

Be honest in all your dealings

Project managers are expected to offer their opinions, but be accountable for their words

When it comes to project scope, what is not in writing has not been said

Have verifiable milestones

End of project surveys must be completed and the results distributed to the team

Bad conclusions lead to more bad conclusions

Documented assumptions are believed to be true for planning purposes

The best lessons learned come from failures

Without data you only have an opinion

Data doesn’t tell the whole story

Bad data leads to bad decisions

Senior management is usually clueless when it comes to what your project is all about

A bad project team will never deliver good project results

If your project sponsor isn’t responsive you should put your project on-hold until such time they can become involved

The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle

A project manager’s main job is to keep the customer happy

At the end of a project if you have met all scope, quality, budget, and schedule objectives, but the customer isn’t satisfied your project is a failure

Documentation doesn’t replace knowledge

Most people want to do good work. Many times they don’t have the tools or information they need to perform well, or they aren’t managed properly

Project managers aren’t successful if their team members aren’t successful

Not all successful project managers are competent and not all unsuccessful project managers are incompetent. Sometimes you just have to be lucky

Good project managers are insecure by nature

An introvert can’t be a (successful) project manager

A project manager with lots of enemies won’t be able to be successful over the long run

You must be a relationship guru and be ready to fall on the sword sometimes

A project manager must be a motivator

If you don’t listen, you can’t plan

Project managers deal with change. You must be the change agent for your project. Your project sponsor is the change salesman

Another Wisdom Equation

In project management (sometimes in life)...

Knowledge + Experience + Meaningful Relationships + Passion + Integrity = Wisdom

...should also equal Success!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rewards and Punishment

The quotes below are from Tom Peters.  They are relevant, important and meaninful to all project managers.  Check out his website for lots of free content, and for information about ordering his books. 
In any public-sector business, you must become an avid student of "the politics," the incentives and constraints, mostly non-economic, facing all of the players. Politicians are usually incredibly logical if you (deeply!) understand the matrix in which they exist.

Risk Assessment & Risk Management is more about stories than advanced math i.e., brilliant scenario construction.

Don't waste your time on jerks, it'll rarely work out in the mid to long-term.

Under promise (i.e., don't over-promise; i.e., cut yourself a little slack) even if it costs you business; winning is a long-term affair. Over-promising is Sign #1 of a lack of integrity. You will pay the piper.

There is such a thing as a "good loss", if you have tested something new and developed good relationships. A half-dozen honorable, ingenious losses over a two-year period can pave the way for a Big Victory in a New Space in year 3.

Keep it simple! (Damn it!) No matter how "sophisticated" the product. If you can't explain it in a phrase, a page, or to your 14-year-old ... you haven't got it right yet.

Don't hold grudges. (It is the ultimate in small mindedness, and incredibly wasteful and ineffective. There is always tomorrow.)

Little People often have Big Friends!

Work hard beats work smart. (Mostly)

Phones beat email

Obsess on ROIR (Return On Investment In Relationships).

Scoring off other people is stupid. Winners are always in the business of creating the maximum # of winners among adversaries at least as much as among partners.

Your colleagues' successes are your successes. Period.

Lend a helping hand, especially when you don't have the time.

Don't get too hung up on "systems integration", first & foremost, the individual bits have got to work.

For Gods sake don't over promise on systems integration it's nigh on impossible to deliver.

It's Relationships, Stupid; Deep and from multiple functions.

Don't over-schedule. Running late is inexcusable at any level of seniority; it is the ultimate mark of self-importance mixed with contempt.

"Preparing the soil" is the first 98 percent. (Or more.)

Be kind. It works.

Opportunism (with a little forethought) mostly wins.

Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.

Integrity. Credibility. Humanity. Grace.

Strategic planning is the last refuge of scoundrels

Focus groups are counter-productive

All information making it to the top is filtered to the point of danger and hilarity

Success stories are the illusions of egomaniacs (and "gurus")

If you believe the "cause & effect" memoirs of CEOs, you should be institutionalized

Top teams" are "Dittoheads"

"Expert" prediction is rarely better than rolling the dice

Statistically, CEOs have little effect on performance

Success kills

Saturday, May 14, 2011

All Projects Are Unique

All Projects are unique.  Because they are unique, the risks are often great and failure to deliver "on time" is always an option.  Minimize the risks by informing your sponsor that until you are finished with your initial project planning activities you may not be able to provide realistic budget and time estimates.  Once you have completed your initial project planning activities, (project planning is continuous) provide your sponsor with an estimated budget and time range, and remind him or her that as planning progresses these ranges may be adjusted to closer reflect reality.

Doubt and the Door

‎"Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door.". Benjamin Jowett

What are you denying?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Estimating Laws

Found over at the very good Project Connections website

1. Everything takes longer than you think (sometimes a lot longer)

2. Thinking about everything takes longer than you think

3. Project Managing and leading a project team is a FULL TIME job, and then some

4. Software Engineers are always optimistic (generally REALLY optimistic)

5. Schedules are (almost) always wrong

6. If you under-estimated an early task when you wrote the WBS (schedule), you probably under-estimated middle and later tasks. Revisit the later phases of the schedule as early as possible when you discover early phase schedule (estimate) errors

7. Business types (upper management) REALLY do use your estimates for planning. For example, head count, money, customer deliverables, shipping dates, ordering materials, scheduling manufacturing lines, advertising timing, etc. Be able to express your level of confidence on various estimates when you provide them to others

8. Initially, a good schedule estimate is 80% confidence for near term deliverables, 60-80% for long-term deliverables. Revisit the schedule and revise your estimates after the Initiation Phase (Kickoff) and again after the Design Phase to improve on these early confidence levels

9. Don’t let yourself be bullied into committing to something you cannot achieve

10. Don’t bully someone else into committing to something they cannot achieve

11. Notify “Need To Know” people AS SOON AS POSSIBLE if there is a significant problem or potential problem in meeting the schedule. Remember that there was a certain degree of optimism in the schedule originally. Note: It's an art to not over-do this

12. Let team members know that you, the project manager, expect early notification of schedule problems as a courtesy. You decide on the severity or risk of the problem and its impact to the schedule, what actions to take, and what contingencies are appropriate

13. Most people’s estimating skills improve with experience; some don’t

14. Learn your own estimating flaws and compensate for them. Then learn the flaws in your new estimations and compensate for them. Repeat continuously while employed as a project manager

15. Learn others' estimating flaws and learn to compensate for them. Mentor them on improving their flaws and then compensate for their improvements. Repeat continuously while they are on your project team

16. In some environments, some people are hedging their estimates, some people are expecting them to hedge the estimates and some people are doing neither. It’s an interesting problem to get all of them to stop this behavior and have people give honest, best-effort estimates. Laws 14 and 15 are useful for dealing with this variability while you are working to get your team members to be more honest with you. Laws 13-16 are part of the "people aspects" of the project management job - like it or not, we have to deal with these "real world effects" on the projects we manage

17. Be wary of anyone who wants 100% confidence in an estimate. 90% confidence is an exceptional human achievement for any complex task, even with extremely good data

18. Look up the word “estimate” in the dictionary. You may find it useful in a meeting