Project Management

Sussing Out Project Success

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague recently about how to represent project success, and to do so simply. He’s an accountant, and a municipal one, so he’s interested in money and politics are an inherent part of the equation. They are two ingredients that make the interpretation of success messy. It doesn’t have to be.

What Should I Avoid?

How should I build my skills? What should I focus on? What are the things I should avoid doing to be successful? Those are easy questions to ask, but astonishingly difficult to answer. Especially without context, background or any detailed understanding of who you are responding to. But they were questions that showed up in my inbox last week. So I took a stab at answering them anyway.

Dreams & Reality

“Why are we doing that?” It sounds like a simple question. It often has a very complex answer. Getting to the essence of why is important for project success, but how we usually think about projects often gets in the way. Reframing the questions to get the answers that we need.

Process Can’t Compensate For Culture

Process is appealing. It provides structure and guidance and rules and boundaries. The challenge is that organizations are messy and complex. Projects are difficult. They require work and adaptation. You can’t just take process from one place, apply it to another, and expect it to work properly. You need to do something else.

Best Practices Usually Aren’t

There are few terms that have the same unbridled acceptance in business as “best practices.” Except that, for many organizations, best practices fail to deliver on the theoretical promise implied by the term. Best implies one superior way of working, where in reality there are many practices dependent upon many different things.

Deadlines Are Not Our Friends

Deadlines are the organizational tool of choice in assigning work. And for some of us, they are a necessary motivator of getting work done. At the same time, they are often tools of petty tyranny that keep us from doing our best work.

Pragmatic Practices—Not ‘Best’ Practices

I have long abhorred the term ‘best practice.’ What are labelled as ‘best practices’ often aren’t, or are only particularly useful and relevant in specific circumstances. The phrase is often used as a not-so-thinly-veiled effort at micromanagement, imposing the way someone wants something done through insinuating that not doing it that way would be in…
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De-emphasizing The Past; Emphasizing The Future

It’s not the tools we use that are bad, so much as how we use them. We spend too much time explaining the past, and not enough time contemplating the future. Even when we do, we consider the future far too certain and predictable.

Project Manager Wanted…

I have long believed that project management is a generalist skill more than it is a specialist one. In other words, project management is a way of thinking and doing that is applicable broadly, and it is expertise in the process—rather than the subject of the project—that is most important.

Acknowledging The Planned, Embracing The Emergent

For some years now, the work I have done as a consultant has consciously tried to help customers recognize the difference between ‘planned’ and ’emergent’ in the work that they do, and particularly in the projects that they undertake. While the ideas have resonance, and people quickly appreciate the differences, gaining acceptance that they require…
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