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

“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

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

“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

Five Rules of Engagement for Working with a Project Management Consulting Firm

If you’ve hired a consulting organization to provide project management services, it’s likely because your internal staff:

A. May not have the experience you want or need for the project to be successful
B. May not have the skills to manage the project
C. May not have the bandwidth for the project(s) you have in your portfolio
D. A little of all of the above

Rules of Engagement for working with IT Project Management FirmSince projects are often one-time occurrences, you might want a resource who has previous experience on one or more projects of a similar nature, and many times that means hiring a consultant. Or, perhaps you have the best team of technical resources around, but need the project management oversight to ensure the project stays on track and that communications and status are flowing through the appropriate channels. None of these reasons for hiring a consulting firm are bad ones. They are just the simple truths of business.

When you hire a consultant (whether us or another firm), there are a few basic, universal guidelines that we both need to honor: 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