Sunday, November 17, 2013

Project Management (and child rearing) Rules

You want to be a better project manager, and you think are you are... but those damn customers keep changing the specifications... and they really suck at communicating with your team.  Whose fault is this?  I'll give you a hint... if you raised great kids, pat yourself on the back... you get part of the credit.  The rest is theirs!  However, if your kids are terrors... go look in the mirror, and you'll find someone that may be partly at fault... the rest of the fault is ... theirs.  Hmmm... either way, you can't take all of the credit, or all of the blame?  How is this?

Project management is like raising kids.  Stick with me as I go through this.  

  1. Plan for the unexpected:  So, you have a few little rug rats... and regardless of your plans.. they seem to have a life of their own, their own opinions, ideas, and like your projects... they don't always turn out perfect.  Maybe you shouldn't strive for YOUR vision of perfect... common ground is good.
  2. Negotiate and manage change.  Set the rules too strict, and you'll have a rebellion.  Set the rules too lose, and you won't get any respect. 
  3. Communicate, no really... communicate.  Sometimes it's as important for your kids, and your customers to understand why as it is to understand the impact.
  4. Admit when you're wrong.  You expect your kids to admit when they are wrong... .the same goes for projects... why nitpick over who is at fault, if time is better spent developing a strategy to get to the desired end state.
  5. Don't play by different rules... everone needs to do their part, communicate well, take ownership, and remain engaged.
  6. Share the ownership... It's not their project... it's a shared goal.
  7. Set limits - agree to deliverables, and if they change, then re-negotiate.
  8. Complement and praise accordingly - both across the team and within your team.  You didn't like it in school when you took the blame for someone else, or another took your credit.  Follow the same playground rules.
  9. Share ownership... develop a shared vision.... did I say how important it is to share the ownership?
  10. Don't be an ass.  Enough said... if you're confused, talk to your kids.
  11. Don't plan minute details years in advance... little bobby may not want to be a surgeon, yet if he's week in science... understand that maybe that's not his best choice for a career.
  12. Know your projects' team limits, and use them as a strength by avoiding weaknesses.
  13. Look for common ground, especially when things go south..
Successful project management is about:
  1. Knowing how to manage projects, the correct techniques and processes.
  2. Understanding there is a human element, and we are built imperfect and will make mistakes.
  3. Constantly probing to understand more about the background and implementation of the project to look for potential risks and opportunities as the project progresses.  If you can identify these and address them early, you'll be much more successful.
  4. Project management is also an art... it involves watching and listening for the subtle nuances to understand when you've encountered an opportunity, or when you need to re-adjust to accommodate a new risk or obstacle.
  5. Project management requires... listen for it... a tremendous amount of over-communications.  Why "over"... think how much you communicate, then multiply it by something... depending on your audience.  AVOID RAMBLING... it adds no value.
  6. Negotiation skills - for every scope that creeps... deliverables, resources, or funding may need to be revisited.

My wife and I have a wonderful relationship.  I'm definitely an extremely lucky man.  We've been married for 27 years and every year gets better.  We often joke that kids are really hard to screw up... as long as you pay attention.  We definitely made our fair share of mistakes... they are resilient.... and you really need to try hard... or neglect them to really screw them up!  Projects are the same way... give them the proper attention, care and feeding, and you will succeed.