April 18, 2014

More evidence of performance does not mean there is more performance

3D Pie Chart
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I have been on troubled teams who are often commanded to produce reams of data and documentation for their every move to date, forecast every move going forward, and track every movement against that plan in leghty detail. Once all this documentation is in place, the project appears to be much more organized and coordianted, however, overall performance rarely improves.

The moral: Documentation isn’t the solution to a performance problem. [Read more]

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Stump the chump and the art of accountability

business relationships teams friends
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This past Thursday night I delivered a presentation on understanding the 7 Wastes of Lean and how they are manifested in project management. It was the largest gathering I’ve spoken to yet, and presented some interesting audience dynamics that were far different from when I presented the same topic to about 50-60 people at the New Hampshire chapter. Overall, the presentation was fairly well received, however, and I think I delivered my point. It was good speaking experience and gives me some time to reflect on how to work a larger room. At the end of the presentation, a question was asked of me by an audience member: “How do you make people accountable?”

I won’t bore people with the usual rhetoric: Approach the sponsor for additional support, lay out ground rules for the project team, establish tasks and task owners. Those things are fairly simple and rely on utilizing tools rather than getting down into core people-centered concepts. My best advice, then, is this:

Make friends. [Read more]

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Project problems can’t be solved with an operational focus

loves_distance__by_peggyopal-d41wf2f
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Very often, projects are assessed by using metrics that are not about identifying unique & temproary activities. Rather, persistent, on-going measures such as average weekly costs or hours worked or material dollars spent are used to determine if a project is running as it should.

Unfortunately, these sort of measurements are more attuned to understanding operations because they establish linear costs over time. Project have peaks and valleys, spikes and low points, periods of tremendous activity and periods when they have very little at all.
[Read more]

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Dad tells a story of inefficient communication, and truly wasteful meeting management

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On a recent trip home for the Holidays, I was railing about such-and-wuch workplace goings on, when my father shared a story from his days managing projects in the construction industry.

as the “steel guy,” most of his work was done fairly early in the life cycle. The steel was cut, fabricated, delivered, erected, corrected, charged back, and his end of the project entirely signed off. Nonetheless, he was bound to attend these hours-long meetings at times, just to hear how the electrical inspection and finished carpentry was progressing. His activity on the overall project was long since done and over with, nonetheless, in the name of communication, he was required to attend. The fact that the meeting would never include any information he needed to hear was entirely lost on the meeting’s organizer. [Read more]

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Stranded by the tide, and the return of the water

Stranded by the tide
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Those of you who follow this blog regularly…yes, both of you….are well aware that I haven’t done much with the blog for a while. In fact, I haven’t done anything in over two months. Let’s just say, life’s been busy. We very often don’t know where we’re going, or even how we got where we are, and when we hit these low times it tends to feel as if we’re going to be stuck there forever. [Read more]

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Why your PMP prep doesn’t feel like reality (and why it shouldn’t)

A Break in Reality
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I feel lucky to have the benefit of my time spent trying to understand the Lean paradigm because it is offering so much insight into what the PMI framework is trying to do. It is establishing a standard. It is offering a methodology for managing projects against which all other management styles, and outcomes, can be measured. In a way, it depicts the ideal – if all projects, everywhere, operated in the way the PMI describes, then all projects would deliver on time, within budget, and with inputs from all stakeholders at every level of the organization – including customers.

Is that reality? No. Of course not. [Read more]

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What to do when you don’t know the way to go

plot a course for home
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My 3-year-old is following in his 7-year-old brother’s footsteps and taking an intense interest in Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer. After a couple years of not having to listen to the theme song ad nauseum, we’re back into the thick of things.

For those who are not familiar with the show, Dora frequently goes on adventures and isn’t certain which way to go. In those situation, she calls upon her trusty map, which shows her the way.

If only we were all so well prepared. [Read more]

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Tips for Making the Most Out of Your Project Management Resources

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In order to maintain consistent project management success, it is important to learn and understand how to make the most of your resources. Making the most out of the leader, the team and the way the project is organized will help ensure a smooth process and flawless execution of your project’s goals.

– Make the most out of your project manager
– Make the most out of your team
– Make the most out of your organization style [Read more]

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Weekend yard work shows: If the plan is solid, stick to it

white picket fence
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Whether at home or at work, we find ourselves with plans that are obsolete the moment they are created. We abandon them when something we hadn’t accounted for pops up, which we somehow believe means the plan is invalid. Odds are, it is not. It might need to adjust a bit to establish flow, but it shouldn’t be thrown out entirely. Also, unless the unexpected thing is a catastrophic failure for your entire plan – ignore it. If it’s important, it will become a critical interruption soon enough. If it is not important, it will resolve itself or just go away entirely.

Simple rules for productivity apply everywhere. If you are working at home or working hard for someone else – the rules don’t change. When you run to the store for a wrench – go in, get the wrench, and leave. Don’t browse the power tools, pick up a pack of widgets because they are on sale, wonder what it would cost to replace the whatever – just take care of whatever it is that helps you accomplish your plan. The rest is just noise, and it can get deafening. [Read more]

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Project Management & Measurement gamed

Measurement
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Project management tends to be all about outcome metrics. Tracking costs vs. plan, Earned Value, Cost and Schedule Performance Indices, consumed slack – all are about what happened. Granted, there’s an effort inherent to those practices that says the future can be predicted by understanding the past, however, that approach also seems to indicate that errors are acceptable. Especially if we read a bunch of charts and graphs and variance analyses to tell us that we had a problem some number of days, or weeks, ago.

Somehow, that doesn’t seem good enough. [Read more]

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