image by Mike Pettigano, flickr artist
you hear the phrase a lot in football. coaches always want their players to run “north-to-south” when they get the ball in their hands. the ultimate goal, for any team, is putting the ball in the endzone â€” and running the most direct route that you can is going to get you there the fastest. the same can be said for running a project.
every project has an ultimate goal (at least they should); in order to get to that ultimate goal, there’s a critical path of key tasks you must complete in order to get to that goal. your project can be completed no shorter than the time it takes to complete this critical path. you’ll do yourself a lot of favors by considering this path to be your ‘north-to-south’.
there will be defenders along the way â€” difficult clients who want to add to the scope of your project, changes in leadership and vision, new features you develop that can be added â€” defenders that want to get you moving east-to-west.
this really is consulting 101 stuff here, but it’s also important to point out since it’s the new year and people are undoubtedly going to make resolutions that they end up giving up on in the end. Â listen up, because this is important…
when you set goals, you want to make them SMART:
example of a really bad goal: “lose weight this year.” first of all, losing weight is a stupid goal to begin with. Â most people don’t realize that muscle weighs more than fat does, and working out might cause you to actually gain weight. Â you should be looking for a better resolution.
example of a really good goal: “run in four 5k events for charity this year.” it’s specific, not just a random notion of weight loss. Â it’s measurable because you can mark off events as the days pass through the year; Â make it one run each quarter. Â it’s certainly attainable. Â asking yourself to run 4 marathons might not be, but a 5k is much more manageable and takes less time to train to. Â it’s not an ‘always on’ kind of goal and allows yourself some wiggle room. Â it’s relevant because your overall mission is to be healthier. Â your soul will feel better too because you’re doing it all for charity. Â and that asterisk i placed above is the most important for making goals… although i don’t necessarily see it in the same way as the textbooks do. Â instead of time-bound i say to make that T in SMART stand forÂ ‘tell everybody you know’. Â telling other people puts that goal up-front and center. Â you can’t hide from it because you just might have someone say to you in june, “hey, i thought you were running those 5k things. Â what happened to that?”
so when it comes down to business, are you making SMART goals for your organization? Â for yourself? Â for your career?
it’s a new year, and there are no excuses. Â come up with smart goals, write them down, and make sure you’re taking steps towards getting them every day. Â start with something specific, measure your progress, make sure it’s feasible, ensure that it’s in keeping with your overall mission, and tell everybody about it. Â you haven’t failed in the past because you weren’t good enough; it’s because you weren’t reaching for the right goals.
image by clagnut, flickr artist
project management can be described succinctly in two words: “be prepared to stop.” Â [looks skyward...]
i’ve talked before about adding wiggle-room into your project schedules in order to handle setbacks, changes in scope, changes in requirements, and more.. this, however, is not that post.
no, this post talks about what to do when you run out of wiggle room.
image by elvez40, flickr artist
… they say you have to know where you’ve been.
i say, to get where you’re going â€” you have to know where you’re going.
stupid, right? Â or is it?
whenever you start some sort of new venture, you have to know what the end state is. you have to set some sort of goal. otherwise, when do you know that you’ve gotten to where you want to be? when do you call it quits and move on to the next challenge?
image by Matheus Van Lobatos, flickr artist
as i see it (that sounds familiar [looks at blog title] oh yeah!…), there’s one rule of management which trumps them all. it’s what i like to call “the frank sinatra rule.” it’s very simple. Â it says: “if you’re going to delegate, be sure that you delegate all the way.” many managers struggle with this key capability. people in power want to have all the power, but share the responsibility.
quite frank-ly (see what i did there?) â€” that situation is hardly ever going to work.
when you delegate, there has got to also be a delegation of authority as well as responsibility. if you don’t empower those folks underneath of you to make their own decisions, then you’ve only come half-way. not to mention, from a strictly business and financial perspective, you’re paying someone many thousands of dollars to be a “deputy project manager” or “functional lead” when you could have saved that money and gotten yourself an administrative professional or intern at a far lesser cost to handle things like scheduling meetings and organizing status reports.
photo by stress-relief, via flickr
in my experience, setting priorities doesn’t work.
why? for one simple reason: 98% of the time, the priority is set arbitrarily. “we need you to take care of this. karen says it’s urgent.” so should you stop what you’re doing and take care of what karen asked? it depends.
“is this task on the critical path?” â€” whether yes or no, this answer should be the primary metric for driving your efforts. often times a manager, or the client, or someone else who may not be involved in the finer aspects of a project will ask for you to do something that doesn’t reflect the core goals of the project. just because someone “wants” something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for them. the critical path is a map of current tasks and their interdependencies. if one task on the critical path slips, you’re now looking down the barrel of a loaded gun called schedule creep.
more after the jump.
photo by mike_lockie, flickr artist
it’s going to happen. Â no matter how much you plan ahead, or how much you think you might know â€” how comfortable you are in your abilities… you’re going to lose sight of your overall vision.
scope creep happens, and unfortunately it happens often. we all want to create amazing things, and we all want to deliver the very best we can to our clients. many times it’s the client who makes the changes! but either way, changes happen. instead of doing x, we do x and add on y because it makes x better in some way.
one of the most difficult things to do is telling ‘no’ to people who say, “you know what would be good?…” but there are times when it’s absolutely necessary. why? well no matter what you’re doing, you always have a main mission; every step you take along the way should be made to help you reach that end state. simply put, anything else is ancillary. so why do we always lose sight of where we’re going?! Continue reading
photo by Balakov, flickr artist
i heard an interesting quote from a co-worker just recently. he said, “what gets measured gets done.” what’s more he said, “i learned that from a timeÂ managementÂ course that i showed up late for.” and he’s right! as they also say – “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
it’s nice to think that you can trust people to do what you expect them to do, but it’s hard for people to stay motivated when they know they’re not being watched. if a professor or teacher says they’re not going to grade homework, chances are that students won’t do it (or at least do it well).
it would be great if you could count on people without leaning on them, wouldn’t it? Â now, let me ask you this question: how many people thought this post was about other people? now how many people thought this post was directed at YOU? Continue reading
photo by Mr. Mark, flickr artist
human beings are predators. Â that’s why our eyes are on the same plane facing forward. Â it maximizes the area of overlap for the field of vision each of our eyes has. Â this overlap allows us toÂ perceiveÂ depth, and if you’ve ever worn an eye-patch for medical reasons (or you just happen to fully celebrate talk like a pirate day) â€” you have no doubt noticed how difficult it is to keep from bumping into things.
interesting information, but what does this have to do with business? Â plain and simply put â€” you can only see what you can see.
some companies have project management offices (PMOs), others have processes, and many of the rest don’t have any. Â so what do you use? basecamp? activCollab? Â ms project? … none of the above? Â the previous collection of tools all cost an additional fee for the full software package. because of that, you may be tempted to track your projects status in a word document, or a task list developed in ms excel.
image by tiago â€¢ ribeiro, flickr artist
when it comes to management, there’s a very simple principle that i feel makes a good leader a great leader: Â for all the knowledge you might have â€” for all the skills and abilities you might have â€” it means very little if your team never sees you.
by definition, a leader is in front. Â a leader doesn’t stay behind the scenes and control from afar. Â that’s why when leading â€” a project, a team, an entire department â€” you have to be more than “the boss.” Â it’s important to have the people who you rely on to get the work done see you. Â it’s important to set aside face time to connect with your teammates and your colleagues. Â it helps to show that you care about them and that their work doesn’t go unrecognized. Continue reading