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13 Rules for Surviving a Horror Movie Project (Plus, check out our awesome site redesign!)
ProjectConnections  Newsletter
Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.
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October 30, 2014 In this edition:
Horror movies follow unique and immutable laws of physics. There's never anything in the backseat unless you forget to check it. Brand new cars with the sticker still on the window will refuse to start when zombies attack. Even with a full gas tank and 35 mpg, you're going to end up with an empty tank on a deserted highway with no shelter but a creepy old haunted mansion.

Does this sound like some of the projects you've worked? We thought so too. So with our favorite creepy holiday approaching, we're reprising our 13 (naturally) favorite rules and tools for surviving a (project) horror movie. Popcorn is optional, chainsaw repellant is highly recommended.


» Check Out Our New Look!
» Wisdom, Perspective, & Advice
» 13 Rules for Surviving a Project Horror Movie
» FastRAMP™ Programs and Other Training
» Where's ProjectConnections?
» Corporate Subscriptions




Check Out Our New Look!
We've been busy behind the scenes with a truly remarkable website overhaul, and it's finally ready! We rolled this out last week before the Stanford Strategic Execution conference, and we got great compliments from everyone who was there. We think you'll love it as much as we do. We know change can be overwhelming -- especially when it's this dramatic -- so we'll happily answer any questions if you need help finding some of your old standbys on the site. Let us know what you think!

Wisdom, Perspective, and Advice from the Field
Kent McDonald The Insidious Evil of Templates
by Kent McDonald


I was working with a team recently helping them to address some challenges they were having with backlog refinement. As we discussed different tools to help them, a couple of people said, "You know, I think we do that, but it ends up being a 'check the box' activity. We do it to say we do it, but then move on, and we never really seem to put any thought into it. So we technically do it, but we don't see the benefit from doing it that we just talked about." And there, my friend, is the insidious evil of templates and checklists.

Do you have a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with your project methodology tools? Kent may know why.


Other Blogs and Articles
  • "The 2013 VersionOne State of Agile Survey indicates the top three reasons cited by practitioners for adopting agile within their organizations include accelerated time to market, the ability to more easily manage changing priorities, and to better align IT and the business, respectively... The same survey cited the primary barrier to agile adoption as being the inability to change organizational culture." Brian Irwin offers 5 Steps to Cultivating an Agile Culture. These won't get you there alone, but you certainly won't get there without them.
  • Goldplating? Ann Drinkwater encourages us to Call It What It Is -- a change request -- because only then can we treat it with the appropriate respect and manage it accordingly.
  • Check out the Project Practitioners Blog for these and lots more



Updated FastTrack for Experienced Project Managers

If you've been doing this for a while, the goal of this FastTrack is to point you right to areas, topics, and resources we think would be of special interest to you as a more experienced manager - for succeeding on the projects you're responsible for; influencing the people who impact your (probably very challenging) projects and programs; helping your organization get better at projects, resource management, etc.; and giving you insights and resources for growing your career options.


13 Rules for Surviving a Project Horror Movie
New Product Business Plan Never Do Anything on a Dare - New Product Business Plan – SPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until November 13, 2014
Any idea that's followed by the words "that would be really cool" is a good candidate for a stop, look, and think approach. Sticking your hand into dank, musty markets or spending the night in an abandoned product line in order to impress the execs is only going to work if you don't lose something important (like reputation, capital, or critical project resources). This template walks you through the entire rationale, so you can assess new ideas in a consistent, repeatable fashion that allows you to compare their benefits against each other as well as against objective reality. (Pro tip: Talking dolls are pretty much always a bad idea.)

Don't Pick Up Hitchhikers - Project Definition - Deliverables – PREMIUM
A little yes here, a little yes there, and before you know it you're careening down the road with a homicidal clown and a guy with bolts sticking out of his neck. You'll never get to that quaint little town festival in the middle of nowhere if you keep stopping to pick up strangers. This worksheet helps you keep the project goals in clear view, and makes it very obvious what is out-of-bounds. Having a common understanding of these boundaries, in a simple "is/is-not" form, reduces do-overs and makes it easier to separate the requests that make sense from the ones that should prompt you to hit the door locks and floor it.

Project Alternatives Tradeoff Table Don't Fool Around with Recombinant DNA Technology Unless You Know What You're Doing - Project Alternatives Tradeoff Table – PREMIUM
Before you decide to throw in a little frog DNA just to round out the edges, make sure you've really thought it through. This table format provides a concise way to document, analyze, and communicate the scope and feature alternatives for your project. Consider and capture the critical factors, and compare the impact of various combinations on cost, schedule, resources, risk, and potential staff loss to rampaging carnivorous reptiles.

Product and Project Risk Assessment and Mitigation Tables If You Expect Zombies, Wear Running Shoes - Product and Project Risk Assessment and Mitigation Tables – PREMIUM
Those shambling zombies are a LOT faster than they look; high heels and oxfords aren't going to cut it. You need to have a plan and an escape route, and you need to know when to use them both. This collection of tables and guidelines helps you develop a comprehensive risk plan covering both technical and non-technical areas, and analyze them against factors like potential impact, probability, and how hard it is to spot them on a dark night or in a thick fog. It covers risk ownership too, so you can be sure someone is actually watching for the zombies instead of waiting for them to sneak up on you.

It's Probably Deserted for a Reason - Rescuing and Revitalizing the Problem Project – MEMBER
If the locals say it's haunted or cursed, listen to them. They've been around a lot longer than you have. They can probably tell you exactly what the problem is, or at least where, if only someone asked. This paper outlines how to get everyone to put down the shotguns, step out of the bunkers, and develop a new plan of attack so you can get your product out the door.

Shotguns Won't Work Without Bullets - Tools and Equipment List – MEMBER
Why does it always come as such a surprise when they pull the trigger and nothing happens? This template provides a simple table for documenting the equipment and tools that will be needed during a project, before the project. Your list should include the things you'll need (decoy hockey mask, working flashlights, chainsaw repellent), as well as vital information like need dates and owners (before the city-sponsored graveyard relocation, any character that has lines in the second half of the script) to ensure that equipment is available on schedule.

Turn On the Lights - Project Status Reports – PREMIUM
Something's gone bump in the night, so you fumble around for a bit, see something scampering around out of the corner of your eye, and announce with a relieved sigh that "it was just the cat." Wouldn't it be a lot easier and less stressful if you just flipped on the light switch? This template includes several different one-page document formats for getting a true picture of a project or portfolio at a glance, and a presentation format for talking to management -- everything you need to make sure that no one (including you) is stumbling around in the dark.

P.S.: It Wasn't Just the Cat - Executive Summary of Project Status/Risks – MEMBER
That little scamper you saw out of the corner of your eye? It was actually the cat trying to get the heck away from the giant axe-wielding maniac wreaking havoc on the other side of the room. (This is why turning on the lights is so important.) Sure would be nice if you had a high-level view of everything that's going on right now. This easily scanned form was designed to keep executives -- who never read more than a page no matter what's chasing them -- up to date on project progress, by showcasing all the major project parameters. A compact form like this is a great overview for everyone; it doesn't leave axe-wielding maniacs anywhere to hide.

Making Coffee Will Not Stall the Monsters - Brainstorming Meeting Techniques – PREMIUM
Brainstorming Meeting Techniques You'd better believe that the bad guys aren't popping off for a quick cappuccino while they discuss how to get around the hastily-rigged trap you just installed on the back porch. You need a better plan, and fast. By all means continue with the coffee maker, as long as it hasn't spoken a dead language or sucked anyone into a vortex yet. But while it's brewing, you might want to try some of these brainstorming techniques for getting a group focused on finding and fixing the problem, once and for all. Pound for pound, problem solving beats hitting the panic button (or the double-non-fat-whipped-mocha-lattes).

Look Behind You - Lessons Learned Meeting Agenda – MEMBER
How much carnage would be averted if people would just look over their shoulder once in a while? Reviewing the lessons learned from previous projects gives you a front-row view of the bogeymen that stalked them. If you don't have these invaluable records from the previous team(s), consider calling the meeting yourself. This sample agenda shows you how to capture a wealth of information, with time left over to brainstorm better approaches. Even if the project was months ago, people have an amazing capacity to remember disastrous results and near misses, and will probably be able to tell you right where the bogeymen are hiding.

Don't Split Up - Getting Aligned and Staying In Sync – MEMBER
"Let's split up" is almost always a terrible idea. (But go with it if you're pretty sure the other guy is one of the pod people.) So if you're pulling in an outside team, make sure they're really on the team, with a clear understanding of your goals, objectives, and timelines. This paper draws on QRPD principles to provide real world examples and specific recommendations for keeping everyone from running off in different directions.

Just Call the Cops Already! - Project Escalation Process Guidelines – MEMBER
Self-sufficiency is admirable, but certain situations call for an authority figure with a really big gun and access to SWAT gear. An escalation process can help your team deal with high-level issues like threats to staffing (stealth reassignments, mysterious portals in appliances), unmet group dependencies (recalcitrant science teams who would rather "study it" than work on the antidote), scope disagreements (like whether to quarantine the neighborhood or the entire town), and issues with functionality (has anyone made sure the brand-new getaway car still starts?). This guideline will help you establish an escalation process appropriate to your situation.

Project Cancellation Guidelines No, It's Not Dead Yet - Project Cancellation Guidelines – PREMIUM
Everyone knows that monsters have more lives than cats from suspicious cemeteries. If you need to send your monster project to its just rewards, you don't want it to pop up again (and again and again) where you least expected it. This detailed guideline helps you plan a strategy for closing it down once and for all, without leaving a nasty mess behind in the process.
FastRAMP Programs and Other Training
FastRAMP to Managing Without Authority
FastRAMP to Managing Without Authority November 5 and November 7
Two 90-minute sessions
3 Category A PDUs

Whose help, effort, or commitment do you need? And how do you get it when you have no authority? The answers lie in how you lead your team and orchestrate critical interactions at different project stages, coupled with how you leverage your personal credibility, business-savvy insights, and communication skills.

PM Light™ FastRAMP for Smaller Projects
PM Light FastRAMP for Smaller Projects Starts November 12
Four 90-minute sessions
6 Category A PDUs

Your small and/or short projects are important too, and deserve enough "management" to ensure that they successfully accomplish their goals -- without, of course, going too far. This focused, specialty FastRAMP provides a set of lightweight, less formal techniques specifically for smaller and/or shorter projects. It's a "just enough" approach that will make sense to everyone, even if they think this project is too small to need project management.
Where's ProjectConnections?
Kent McDonald is speaking on Analysis in Agile at Building Business Capability 2014 in Ft. Lauderdale on November 4, and at the Phoenix IIBA Chapter on November 11.

J. LeRoy Ward is presenting a keynote address on International Project Management Day on November 6, 2014, titled 6 Steps in Developing a Governance Model for Strategic Portfolio Management. Visit the IPMDAY registration page to learn how you can attend for free.

Carl Pritchard will teach Risk Management Essentials at PMI Baltimore on November 6. And if you're prepping for the PMP® certification exam, check out his prep course at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville (Maryland) November 20-21 (PDF info here).

Alfonso Bucero will be in UAE on November 16 for a one-day workshop (7 PDUs) on The Influential Project Manager. For more information download the PDF brochure or call +971 4 311 6150.
Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing
Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »

Not sure if corporate terms apply to you? Check out our licensing terms at the top of our Terms of Service page, in refreshingly ordinary, everyday English.


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