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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

PMI 2004 World Congress

I'm in Anaheim, California this week for the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Annual World Congress. This year's event has been well organized, and I have gained a lot of new knowledge that I can use on my projects. Stay tuned for more information.

The Keynote Speaker for this years event was Tim Sanders. Tim authored the book "Love is the Killer App" and gave a great keynote presentation. I have purchased his book (you can also by clicking the link on this page) and when I finish reading it I will write my thoughts here. Suffice it to say that Tim left a big impression on me and I'm sure all the other attendees that listened to his presentation. Tim is a smart man that has some great insights that all project managers can use when working with members of their team. Check out his website by clicking here.

I will provide new links, hints, and tips in the coming weeks that I acquired while attending this years conference. Check back in the next few days.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Communications and Listening

How well do you listen? When speaking with others, most people want to make a point and fail to remember that communicating is always two-way. When we are e-mailing, talking on the phone, or creating presentations we must remember that there is a communications feedback loop. That feedback loop helps to ensure the communication was received and understood. If people misunderstand your message, you failed to communicate.

What do you do when you realize that you aren't being understood? You listen carefully! Listening attentively lets the communicator know you are supportive and paying attention. When involved in a conversation, don't interrupt; let the speaker know you are listening by using reinforcing body language and verbal cues.

When planning your communications, use the words of Stephen Covey, "Seek first to understand, and then be understood".

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Project Failure

If you are an "experienced" project manager and haven't had a few project failures, in my mind, you aren't a very good project manager. Project managers must constantly push their team members towards exceeding their comfort levels, take (calculated) risks, be decisive, make firm commitments, and be aggressive when base-lining and managing the triple constraints (Time, Cost, Quality). Just like a successful NASCAR driver, a project manager must learn to live close to the edge of disaster, but while doing so, he or she must aggressively manage their project’s Risks.

In my opinion, too many project managers are unwilling to set firm expectations with their team for fear of being unpopular. There are going to be times when your project team doesn't really care if a milestone is missed or a promise isn't kept. The problem is your project isn't always your team’s top concern. Don’t forget that. You live with and for your project and at the same time some of your team members might loathe your project. Many team members have other responsibilities outside of your project and your project may be preventing them from doing their regular job.

Project Tip - If you find that you have members on your project team that aren't 100% committed to achieving the goals of your project, you need to start thinking about replacing them.

Based upon my experience, - at least on IT projects - most project problems that are encountered in the Project Execution phases are the fault of the project manager. Proper Risk Management will help the project manager foresee and mitigate many problems that will arise during project execution. If you have lots of problems and issues on your project you did a poor job of Risk Management in the planning phase.

Some things to keep in mind to avoid failure when planning your project:

Be crystal clear when communicating with your team. All important communications should be in writing.

Don't allow project committees or executive oversight groups to dictate how you plan your project.

Communicate quickly to your team and senior management if you believe that your project is out of control.

Don't assume that suppliers or vendors will be honest with you. Make sure you continually follow-up and get commitments in writing (preferably in the contract).

Split your project into manageable phases.

Ensure that your end users are involved every step of the way.

Communicate Status as often as is needed. Include bad news, problems, issues, and concerns in your status report and be sure to include how you plan to overcome them.

Don't let your project fail because you aren't communicating or your team isn't functioning properly.

Believe in the statement that “Project failure is always the Project Manager's fault”!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Surround Them, Margnalize Them, Forget Them!

Tom Peters a highly regarded speaker and writer said it best in his book The Project 50, “as project managers we should not try to convert our project enemies by overcoming their objections” and I would add through appeasement. Tom states “we should set out to surround and marginalize them; additionally, the most effective change agents ignore the barbs and darts, their time is spent on allies and likely allies”.

It seems to be in our nature to take on those that oppose us, particularly if they have been attacking us behind our backs. This taking on of the opposition is a waste of valuable project time and detracts the project manager from the task at hand. All projects will have detractors, whiners, and complainers. Don’t waste your time trying to convince them of the error of their ways. Let your project’s results answer your critics!

As project managers we need to spend our time working with our advocates and supporters, not answering our critics. If you say you don’t have critics on your project than I say you probably aren’t a very good project manager. The project manager that has friends everywhere on his projects is usually trying to satisfy everyone, and many times at the end of their project – if it ever ends – there will be low overall satisfaction due to all of the tradeoffs that were made between all of the competing interests.

When you push people, demand excellence, set deadlines, push for quality, hold individuals accountable, and are firm on agreed upon commitments you are going to ruffle some feathers. Get over it, and realize no matter what you do on your project there will always be detractors. Just don’t let the detractors sway you from implementing your project on time, on budget, within requirements, and most importantly with a satisfied customer as your biggest fan.

Monday, October 04, 2004

People are the Problem?

The employees within your company either help it to prosper or impede its effectiveness. Because employees at all levels of the organization make decisions that could effect your project, we as project managers need to be aware if these workers are motivated, properly placed, supported by senior management, and well trained.

A good question to ponder before starting work on that new project is: will your project team be staffed with the right people, having the right set of skills, doing the right things, at the right time, in the right place?

Also, are your project team members motivated and committed to doing a good job, and are they supportive of the company's goals, mission, and values? Do they have the support of their management? Is there a senior management representative assigned to your project that will act as Project Sponsor and be held responsible for the success of the project?


Refuse to work on or manage a project that doesn't have motivated, skilled, properly trained team members. Better to kill a project (or recommend one to be killed) than to be the one that hears the words "You're Fired" when the project fails.