What Can Golf Teach Us About Project Management?

Project Management Lessons from GolfGolf has been described in many ways, from “a good walk spoiled” (Mark Twain), to “the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off” (Chi Chi Rodriguez, one of golf’s great legends). Regardless of how you feel about golf, or how much knowledge you have of the game, the basic principles of the game are clear: You take a club and try to hit a small, white ball into a hole some distance away in as few strokes as possible. Along the way, you’ll probably need to avoid hazards like sand traps, trees, and ponds, but eventually you’ll sink the ball and move on to the next hole.

The basic principles of project management can seem similarly straightforward: You take some people (preferably smart) and complete the project. There’s a general assumption that you will need some time to complete the tasks, some meetings with your project team, and a budget to purchase what you need, but ultimately you will “get it done.”

While both may look fairly simple from the outside, any golfer or project manager will likely agree that the devil is in the details – and those details can make or break the success of your game or project. Continue reading

Project Management Lessons from ‘Argo’: 5 Tips When The Only Options Are Bad Ones

Project Management Decision Making TipsDid you see the movie ‘Argo’?  Remember the scene where Ben Affleck’s character, Tony Mendez, is attempting to convince the administration to approve the idea to try to rescue six US diplomats hiding in the Canadian Embassy by having them pose as a movie crew?  Although the movie takes some fictional license with the historical events, the dialog below applies perfectly to many project management situations.

Tony Mendez: There are only bad options, it’s about finding the best one. Government Official: You don’t have a better bad idea than this? Jack O’Donnell: This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far.

Just like in the movie Argo, sometimes there are no good options for a key decision in a project. You, along with your project team and subject matter experts, have to make the best bad decision you can. Continue reading

IT and Informatics Cooperation: A Lesson from Dr. Seuss’ “The Sneetches”

IT Informatics CooperationDo you remember the Dr. Seuss story “The Sneetches”? It starts with a four simple lines:

“Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.”

But the stars did matter — to the Sneetches, at least. The story describes a cultural rift that emerged between the star-belly Sneetches and the plain belly Sneetches, and the arrival of a man with magical machines that could add or remove stars as needed, for a fee of course. The story is a parable for how damaging (and costly) it can be to a community when there are divisions between two groups of people – and how difficult it can be to mend those divisions.

So what, you ask, do Sneetches have to do with EMR implementations and healthcare Information Technology departments? Continue reading

5 Key Steps to Identifying User Requirements: A Lesson from Rosie the Dog

One of our recent Project Management Quotes of the Week was: “This is meant to fix a problem we don’t have.”  While in this case an application analyst was referring to a patch that needed to be applied to a server, IT projects are sometimes implemented without fully identifying user requirements.  In other words, they try to fix problems the users don’t have or, even worse, don’t fix problems the users do have.

Identifying User Requirements in IT ProjectsWe experienced this when we bought our dog, Rosie, a new dog bed.  She always hung her head off of her other one, and we assumed it was because the bed was too small.  But apparently hanging her head off the bed was an unknown user requirement. We tried to fix a problem she didn’t have.

How do you make sure that you’ve gathered the user requirements and help ensure that your IT project will be a success by meeting those requirements? Start by following these steps: Continue reading

9 Hi-tech Sites for the Low-tech Project Manager

When it comes to new technologies, it is nearly impossible to keep up. There are always new methodologies and software we should know about in order to stay relevant. It can get overwhelming. Luckily, there are several websites out there that can keep you in the loop. Here are 9 hi-tech sites with a wide variety of resources for the low-tech project manager:

1. Google alerts

This might be obvious for some, but Google alerts are a simple and effective way to keep you up to date on just about anything. If you wanted to know when new Project Management software comes out, Google alerts will send you an email allowing you to be among the first to know. This is an under-utilized feature of Google and will help you keep up with anything related to Project Management.

2. TechCrunch

According to their website, TechCrunch “is a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news.” In other words, they know what’s happening in the tech world and really want to share their info. If you enter “project management” into the search bar in the top right corner, you will find the latest startups, software, and news relating to project management. Continue reading

“I Can’t be Overdrawn. I Still Have Checks Left”: Project Portfolio Management and Checkbooks

Project Portfolio Management“I can’t be overdrawn. I still have checks left.” We have all heard this before, or at least know the intended meaning. It’s a reference to overspending and not being careful with your finances. After all, if you have checks left to use, then there must be funds to back them up, right?

Wrong! Not knowing how much money is left in the checking account leads to overdrafts. So why do some people avoid looking at the balance of their bank account? Because they don’t want any bad news, which they know is waiting for them when they finally do look.

How does this apply to project portfolio management and further to a Project Management Office (PMO)? Continue reading

How to Keep Your Project Charter from Gathering Pixel Dust

Updating Your Project Charter“Exactly how do you plan to get down from there?” asked my husband.

During the summer, I was out picking blackberries (the real ones, not the smartphones) and saw a wonderful patch of delicious-looking wild mountain blackberries. They were perfectly ripe and ready for pies and jam.

The patch, though, was growing over a large, rotting tree stump. As I climbed up the stump and through the vines to reach the berries, I used parts of the uneven stump as footholds. About half-way up the stump, part of it crumbled away just as I lifted my foot to move a little farther.

I was so focused on the goal – get the blackberries – that I forgot to pause, take stock of the situation and reassess my current status. I had encountered an issue, and I wasn’t even aware of it. In other words, my husband was right. I was rather stuck.

During any project, it’s easy to focus on moving forward toward the end goal. Each week, we update our status reports, add in the accomplishments since the previous report, maybe update a few of the issues, and change the percentage complete (ideally increasing it). Then, we submit the status report and hope it might merit a quick glance by someone in the PMO or, if we are really lucky, maybe even by one of our project stakeholders.

But as project managers, we often become so engrossed with managing the details of our projects that we forget to step back, take a look a where we’ve been, and evaluate our current situation.

Part way through your project, take an hour or so to evaluate your project from a 10,000 foot view. Continue reading