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This is a repost from the same day a year ago. All of these still apply.

1. It is best not to share the project plan with the project team as it leads to unnecessary and usually incredibly stupid questions.

2. Mandate that team members submit task duration estimates as precisely as possible: two decimal digits (e.g. 17.36 days) are usually sufficient but some projects may require three digits.

3. Strive to disperse project team over multiple locations: it greatly reduces the time people waste mindlessly chattering with each other.

4. In this economy, everyone ought to be able to work harder. Schedule tasks based on 10-hour days.

5. Involve the Steering Committee in day-to-day running of the project. They will tell you how much they like it.

6. When briefing the Steering Committee, it’s a good idea to declare all nearly completed tasks as completed. Ninety per cent is awfully close to 100 per cent and the Committee Members will feel encouraged.

7. Try to surprise your Project Sponsor every now and then. Rescheduling the implementation date, firing half of the team or changing the vendor half-way through should all be considered.

8. Status updates clutter mailboxes, so avoid them.

9. Get rid of those team members who disagree with you. You are in charge of a critical project and the last thing you want around is some worm questioning your decisions.

10. Don’t waste any time trying to understand the business domain. It is unimportant and is not your job.

11. A list of typical project risks can be easily obtained on the Internet. Don’t waste precious time developing it; this is merely a formality.

12. Act professionally: don’t engage in unrelated conversations with your staff and certainly avoid socializing with them. It is important to maintain a distance.

13. Information Technology is an exact, predictable field. If your programmers cannot write code without any defects, replace them.

14. To speed up negotiations with vendors, just sign their canned contracts.

15. Details are unimportant; the job of the project manager is the overall supervision.

16. Once the scope of the project is determined, ensure that it is impossible to change it.

17. A lot of people may claim to be project stakeholders. Feel free to ignore those you don’t like.

18. Encourage team members to decide for themselves what their tasks should be.

19. The best way to gauge the skill of a fellow project manager is to ask them about the largest project budget they’ve ever been responsible for.

20. Plan to release the project team on the day of implementation, to save money.

21. (Bonus) Forget that it’s April Fools’ Day and start typing an angry letter to the Editor. Remember that it’s April Fools’ Day when you’re on the third page of it!

Sounds harsh? Overblown? Too far fetched ?

I don’t think so but you be the judge. Read it here.

My article on instigating change has been turned into a video by CBS Techrepublic’s Editor-in-Chief, remarkable Jason Hiner.

Click to watch the video

This is a repost from my monthly newsletter, sent out early this week.

I may have shared with you in the past that I believe in stretch goals, objectives that challenge you, your team or your organization to venture to the brink of what’s perceived to be doable. This concept appeals to great many people but the key question that I am asked again and again is this: “It’s fine to think big and set challenging goals, but how do you make sure you reach them?”

Whether you are setting your organization’s strategy or seeking breakthrough in a tactical matter or looking for a leap in self-development, there is one particular skill that you need to master. I call it the art of walking backwards. Here is what it’s all about.

We all make plans in work and personal life. Traditional planning works reasonably well for objectives that we are reasonably familiar and comfortable with. Take, for example, new product launch, which your organization may do all the time. A product manager knows what it takes and how long the lead time is, which enables her to put together a roadmap, a project plan. Prior experience comes in very handy in this case.

Try to do the same kind of planning for stretch goals and you will find that experience becomes baggage, too heavy to allow any progress and too precious to relinquish. A consultant I know was once facilitating an executive retreat for a large residential builder. Profitability was the hot topic on the agenda and as it was discussed, it transpired that it would typically take all of 120 days to build a house. The company’s management couldn’t shrink the construction time any further and was looking for a miracle.

“What would it take to build the house in just 10 days?” asked the consultant, which prompted the audience to question his lucidity. He continued: “Well, we already know that it is impossible, so don’t say it again. If it were possible, what would have to happen to enable that?”

What happened then is this. The company did not hit the 10 day goal, but they managed 20 days, which they hadn’t seen in their wildest dreams.

And so is the key: you have to learn to walk backwards:

  1. Set the goal (e.g. own 1/3 of the East Coast market, acquire 100 new customers by 2010, reduce product development cycles by 40% and so on)
  2. Walk backwards from the desired future state and determine what needs to be in place to enable your goal.
  3. Capture all critical issues that need to be addressed: facilities created, people hired, R&D, systems deployed, etc.
  4. When you reach the present state, you should have in front of you a list of future projects. Prioritize them and run as a program.
  5. Maintain the momentum.

 This is a very powerful technique that not only helps to get over that “Impossible!” or “It will never happen!” reaction but also challenges your people to find solutions to difficult problems. If, as many other executives, you are looking to spark the spirit of innovation within your organization, this is a great way to do that.

 Sometimes, walking backwards is a sure way to get ahead.

My article on faulty beliefs in IT management has been turned into a video by CBS Techrepublic’s Editor-in-Chief Jason Hiner.

Click to watch the video

Just 8 days left to take advantage of the early bird discount!

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  • Five hourly teleconferences and webinars on the key leadership competencies. Five hours of highly valuable content which you can start applying immediately.
  • Prep work emailed to you before each session to maximize learning.
  • Follow up information and suggested reading emailed after each session.
  • Download of a session, so that if the circumstances don’t allow you to participate in the live event, you will be able to take it up at your leisure. Your investment is therefore protected.

All sessions commence at 11:30am Eastern on a second Tuesday of the month. The schedule is as follows:

September 8 – Practical Strategy. Learn how to chart your course, whether you are in charge of 2 people or 20,000, in a practical, no nonsense way that informs your decisions immediately. You will be able to transform uncertainty into clear, actionable steps and milestones, and commitment.

  • What is strategy, sans buzzwords
  • How to assess your present position objectively
  • How to create common vision, goals and milestones, which are endorsed (“bought into”) by all concerned
  • How to execute a successful strategy.

October 13 – Financial Skills for non-Financial Managers. The essense of financial management delivered in an intensive format. You will learn to talk to CFOs in the language they will understand.

  • Practical primer in financial accounting
  • How to read financial statements
  • Understanding financing, investing and operating decisions

November 10 – Cost-Benefit Analysis. Learn the state of the art methods of financial analysis in just one hour. Plus, a comprehensive review of non-economic factors that often get forgotten. You will learn how to make or recommend sound investment and operating decisions, and validate proposals and other documents from vendors and consultants.

  • Tools and inputs needed for analysis
  • Typical weaknesses – learn why 9 out of 10 analyses can be questioned.
  • Contemporary methods, their strengths and weaknesses: payback, IRR, NPV, and Real Options.

December 8 – Business Cases and Decision Making. Advocate and make winning decisions, blending the knowledge of strategy, finance, behavioral economics and psychology.

  • How to use a proven framework, key success factors and typical mistakes
  • How to use what you know about the audience: attention to detail, agenda, priorities, preferences, style, etc
  • How to use principles of behavioral economics to your advantage, whether you are on the giving or the receiving end.

January 12 – Practical Change Management. This content is well beyond the usual project management curriculum. We will talk about the key success factors in change management, why 2/3 of all change efforts fail and how to ensure yours is a clear win.

  • How to ensure broad support
  • How to make others do what you want them to do
  • How to measure progress and refine the approach.

Click here to book

A week ago, I spoke at a Project Management Institute event in Toronto, in front of a room full of project management professionals. The talk was about the key success factors in communicating with executives, a topic that has proven highly popular. I shared the top management perspective gathered during my consulting work.

It is because of the strong response I have received that I am going to outline the key points from the speech here. Whether or not you are a project manager, I believe you will find them useful.

Twelve suggestions that will make your communication with senior executives successful.

1. Speak your audience’s language. Minimize the use of professional jargon. Describe impact, benefits, ramifications, costs, etc in business terms. Don’t confuse this with “dumbing down”, which is unacceptable.

2. Prepare for the opportunity which will come as one of the following three types of scenarios .

  • You bump into them in the elevator or on the floor – 30 seconds
  • They want to know a little bit more – 5 minutes
  • They want a full blown conversation – 30 minutes

On your way to work every day, think of what you could say if the scenario were to materialize. Come up with a message that is pithy, assertive and upbeat. The full blown conversation rarely comes as a surprise, so you will probably have the time to prepare, but it is not the case for the first two scenarios.

3. Understand the priorities, pressure points, and political landscape. Do not confuse what is said with what is thought.

4. Communicate confidently and establish a partner relationship. Your counterparty is not omnipotent and you don’t want to appear as an obsequious supplicant but as a confident, knowledgeable and reliable partner.

5. Do not let them tell you how to do your job.

6. There are several types of power that an individual can hold within the organization, such as legitimate, reward, coercive, referent and expert. The last two are most potent. Know a lot about your project – be on top of things, know everything there is to know about your project. If you don’t, people will go around you.

7. Don’t merely bring up issues. Suggest solutions, give options but imply freedom to choose. Be a solution, not a problem.

8. Geert Hofstede developed a framework for assessment of world’s cultures. Among the five dimensions comprising it is the Power Distance Index (PDI), which denotes how the less powerful members of organizations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. In Australia, a low PDI country, subordinates view their superiors as equals. In Malaysia, a high PDI country, the superior is looked at as an authority not to be argued with. While it is dangerous to stereotype, understanding the prevailing beliefs within a given culture allows you to communicate with executives with different backgrounds more effectively.

9. Always get an agreement on next steps, responsibilities and timing. You will not be able to be in control unless these are set.

10. Know when to escalate. Too early and you may be talking about something which should have been addressed at your level; too late and the opportunity to rectify the problem may be forever gone.

11. Decide on the communication medium based on the executive’s personality, preferences, proximity, as well as the time constraints.

12. Choose the right level of detail in your message given the professional realm and the preferences of your counterparty. A CFO is likely to pay close attention to numbers, while a CEO may prefer to stay at a high level (but remember not to stereotype). It is always safe to start at 30,000 feet being prepared to quickly descend into the nitty-gritty. Have the numbers and other detailed info ready in your back pocket.

Here is a good example of leadership found today in a professional organization.

Lakeshore Chapter of the Project Management Institute, held its annual symposium on June 6, 2009. Despite the perceived economic hardship, persistent marketing efforts ensured turnout of some 300 participants. The event was held at a brand new facility with all amenities one would expect. Takeouts for participants and speakers were of high quality and so was the catering. It was the way a professional development event should be: high quality, a lot of value for the members, and memorable. My congratulations to those who made it happed.

I spoke there on successful communication with executives as the first session following the keynote. The room became packed quickly and there were people sitting on the floor and standing in the back (do I have a following?). It was a success and, as some later suggested, a highlight of the day. For me, such opportunities are always an uplifting experience. It feels good to share, educate and empower, to give back to the profession.

Editor in Chief of Techrepublic, Jason Hiner, recorded a video based on my earlier article on the subject.

It is an interesting experience to hear your ideas vocalized by somebody else. Jason does a superb job of it.

Watch the video

My latest article, the first in a new series on leadership, has  been published by CBS Techrepublic.

Read about the five key factors in a successful change management process:

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