6 Project Management Lessons from Baseball

Some of our most popular sayings (“You can’t win ‘em all,” “He really hit a home run that time,” “He was out before he reached First Base,” and “There’s no crying in baseball”) come from, well, baseball. Whether you’ve spent hours in the stands or you don’t know an RBI from HBO, baseball can offer us lessons on life and on project management:Project Management Lessons from Baseball

Lesson 1: Preparation Counts

When you watch a major league baseball game, it can seem like magic (depending on who your home team is). The music is playing, the crowds are madly cheering, the field is groomed, and the players are all in the zone. It seems impossible that they would miss a ball or not make it to the base on time to beat the throw from short.

What you don’t see is all the preparation that goes on behind the scenes. Continue reading

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

Measuring the Success of New Technology Implementations. And Power Drills.

DrillThe home page of our website includes a heading that reads “There is more to a successful project than finishing on-time and on-budget.” This resonates with many IT leaders, project managers, and project team members, but what does that really mean?

I’ve managed a lot of new technology implementations, and noticed that there is a tendency to measure project success soon after the implementation is over. While this might be an appropriate time to evaluate the implementation and/or planning efforts, typically it’s too soon to be able to gauge the success of the project as a whole.

Since their focused involvement often ends with the implementation, it’s easy to see how project managers (PMs) and vendors can be the worst culprits of this premature determination of success. 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

What the IRS Can Teach Us About End User Acceptance … and Adoption

End User AdoptionWe all accept that we have to pay taxes, and that with every paycheck, there is a gap between what we earned and what we actually take home. But do we really adopt paying taxes? Do we welcome April 15th with open arms? Nope. And therein lies the difference between end user acceptance and end user adoption.

One of the most difficult problems Information Services departments face is obtaining end user adoption of new technologies. And end user adoption of a new technology, and the new processes that go along with it, is what determines whether an investment in technology really pays off. There are 5 key steps to end user adoption.

To help ensure End User Adoption:

1) Create ownership by involving users in the project. Form a user advisory group that includes members from all affected teams and departments, and consult with them early and often. Document the decisions, comments and suggestions that come out of user advisory group meetings.

2) Obtain and communicate executive support for the project early and often, too. Staff need to know that their leadership is willing to allocate the time, money and resources necessary to ensure the project is a success.

3) Set a realistic schedule for the rollout of new technologies. Make sure that schedules take into account all of the factors that may play into end user adoption, such as previous experience with technology in general or previous history with projects that have “gone wrong” in the past.

4) Provide education to ensure that staff are comfortable with the new technology, and offer training in that meets the needs of a variety of learning styles and speeds.

5) Create a support plan involving “superusers” so that employees feel comfortable asking their peers for assistance. One of the biggest fears users have is that they will lose their jobs due to not being able to use or understand the new technology.

We can’t guarantee that following the above steps will make you dance a jig when you sign your Form 1040, but they may help your IT projects be more successful.

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

“I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news: You are not a decision maker.”

Decision MakingIt’s one of the hard truths of life and projects: We can’t all be decision makers all of the time. And, even if we are one of the decision makers, we can’t all make all of the decisions all of the time. Some decisions get made for us.

Management and leadership courses often talk about being a great leader by “empowering” staff to make decisions. It’s a wonderful concept, no doubt about it. But it can also get out of hand quickly. If you’re in a leadership or management role, do you really want everyone involved in making every decision? Maybe not. Consensus can be a great thing, but it takes a lot of time to reach and if everyone is spending their time making decisions, who is going to actually implement those decisions? Continue reading

Seven Project Management Lessons from Football

Project Management Lessons from FootballFall.  It means cool crisp nights, the changing color of the leaves, and … FOOTBALL.  Football and projects are actually quite similar when you think about it.  Plays in football are like individual tasks, and a first down, or series of plays, like a summary task in a project plan. When your team scores a touchdown, they’ve achieved a milestone task, but haven’t won the game yet.

With the start of football season upon us, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the project management lessons we can learn from football:

1. Everyone knows what the goal is.  This may be obvious, but no football player goes into a game wondering why they are there and what they are doing.  Everyone on the team knows what the goal is.  Make sure everyone on your project team knows what the project is to accomplish and why it’s important.

2. Every project needs blockers to help reduce the risk of obstacles. Continue reading

Project Management Lessons from Christmas Carols

Now that Christmas is past, but we’re still within the holiday season, it’s the perfect time to evaluate the project management lessons we can learn from our favorite Christmas Carolerscarols.

Let’s start with the positive lessons and project successes we learn from Christmas carols:

1) Deck the Halls
Quantifiable, actionable tasks are listed. “Deck the halls with boughs of Holly…Troll the ancient Yuletide Carols…Strike the harp and join the chorus …..Follow me in merry measure …” The task list is clear and succinct, and in a specific order.

2) Deck the Halls (again)
Sufficient slack time is built into each task. There are plenty of “Fa la la la las” included in the project plan to ensure adequate time in the schedule. Resources should be able to complete decking the halls before they begin trolling the carols and striking the harps.

3) Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Initial planning is thorough and documented. Just like Santa Claus, a good project manager makes his (or her) list and checks it twice prior to beginning the implementation phase (delivery of presents).

4) Jingle Bells
Project requirements are well-defined. By the time the second verse ends, we have all the information needed to scope the project. We know how many horses will be needed (one), whether the sleigh will need a cover (no – it’s an open sleigh), and where we’re headed (over the fields).

Christmas carols also can illustrate some common project management pitfalls and mistakes:

1) The Twelve Days of Christmas
Resources are overallocated. Wrapping 364 gifts in 12 days is an unrealistic expectation, and puts the already narrow project timeline at risk.

2) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Failure to assess risks and plan for contingencies. Santa should have checked the weather report well in advance of Christmas Eve. And having a reindeer with a glowing nose as your contingency plan? Who does that?!?!

3) Frosty the Snowman
Inadequate resource planning. Frosty isn’t overallocated, he just plain doesn’t exist at the beginning of the project ….. er, song. Relying on a magic hat to create the resources needed for the successful completion of your project just isn’t realistic. Additionally, the resource is, at some point, going to melt.

Happy New Year from everyone at Trillium Professional Services!

7 Essential Skills for International Project Management

International Project ManagementYou’ve been hired as a project manager for an international project. The last few weeks have been spent coordinating with the client. After multiple Skype meetings, hundreds of emails, and fifteen versions of a budget, everything seems ready. Then you step off the plane in a new country and realize everything feels different.

Project management in your own country is difficult enough. Add in a new language and a cultural divide and things can get complicated. Below is a non-exhaustive list of seven skills I have learned to be essential when managing a cross-cultural project. Continue reading