October 10, 2013, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.
From the Editor
Do you ever feel like project management is an unplanned magic act? "Behold, the Amazing Mambo! Watch him pull success out of thin air! Who needs requirements when you have a magic hat! Hey, is that a budget behind your ear?!"
Yeah, we get it. Been there, and sometimes done that. (Confession: sometimes we just stand in the wreckage, crying pitifully.) But there really are tricks to a lot of this stuff. They just aren't the kind of effortless smoke and mirrors people seem to expect sometimes. This month, we're investigating the dark arts of project management -- how to discover your project's real needs, figure out how to meet them, and protect your own time and sanity while you're at it.
Danger! Project Horror Story Ahead! (Hardhats Recommended)
Like many people working in project teams, I'm often facing what seem to be insurmountable odds in achieving impossible goals. After two decades of experience, this usually does not faze me because I've learned that human beings -- myself included -- are notoriously bad at accurately estimating probabilities. "Impossible" usually means that our team hasn't yet figured out how to achieve our goals, and it's only a matter of time before "impossible" becomes merely "difficult," or even easy. In fact, this philosophy has shaped my consulting tagline. But quite honestly, I've become weary of projects that are clearly designed to fail. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat might be fun if the very people sending us into battle weren't the architects of those salivating fangs.
By Kimberly Wiefling
Rather than review an anthill of grievances here, I prefer to focus on only a few. The unfortunate arthropods at the focal point of my magnifying glass on this hot, sunny day are:
Find out what's got Kimberly so steamed » (If it sounds familiar, don't worry. It's not you. It's "them.")
- "Designed to Fail" Teams - Teammates that act more like inmates
in an asylum
- "Designed to Fail Collaboration" - Approaches that make quilting bees look modern
Personal Productivity and Stress Reduction - Minute Details Can Make All the Difference
When things-to-do are coming at us from all directions, and seemingly nothing is under our control, I've found there ARE some factors I can control -- and I am more productive and less stressed when I regularly manage to do so. The key for me has been knowing what disrupts my best thinking and what stresses me out, determining strategies for avoiding or mitigating those things, and then sticking to my resolve to do so. In a nutshell -- I have gotten really clear with myself about my own personal rhythms and acknowledged them as important to my emotional well-being and my productivity (as opposed to feeling like I am being a wimp if I honor them and say "no" or "not now" or "here's when I can").
Here is what I've learned about myself over time, and finally started honoring -- in how I schedule my work and how I respond to requests for pieces of my mindshare and my time. I lay out these admittedly gory details in the hopes that it might give you a bit more permission to identify and honor your own!
(One commentary before I get started with the list. I can already hear your reaction, probably about 3 bullets in: "But I don't control all this, other more powerful people set all the meetings etc. that tank my days." I understand and will offer some thoughts on that. But first, I hope you'll read my personal list with an open mind, looking for ahas like "oh yes, I hate X too, really disrupts me, never thought of trying to schedule that differently!")
Get the 13 tips Cinda uses to protect her week and workload » Would some of these work for you?
Cinda Voegtli will be at the TAMU Project Management Exchange in College Station, Texas, October 9-10. In addition to providing the closing keynote, Cinda will run a session on "Introducing Practical Project Management to Your Teams and Achieving 'Just Enough.'" You may also be able to spot Cinda at the PMI Congress in New Orleans October 27-29. (Plus, of course, she's leading our PM LightTM Fast Ramp starting November 1. We did mention that, right?)
PM LightTM Fast Ramp
Make It Work without Make-Work
Our PM LightTM Fast Ramp is designed to help you understand, adapt, and use "lightweight, just-enough" PM practices to manage and successfully complete even challenging projects. We focus on fast fundamentals, practical tools, and situational application. Two-hour virtual sessions allow you to maximize learning without living the office, and immediately turn around and apply it to your own projects! This course has been very popular with our corporate clients, and now we're making it available to the public. We can't wait!
Register early for the best price and to guarantee your seat. Plan Ahead pricing until October 15 only!
Premium How-To Course
Make My Project Disappear!
Presented by Cinda Voegtli
The team is dragging into the office daily, with less and less enthusiasm every day. The project is untouchable, but the product may be unbuildable. Can you save this project? Should you even try? In this mini-course, Cinda Voegtli helps you spot the signs indicating whether a project should be scrapped or salvaged, and plan to handle it gracefully once the choice is made. 1 PDU
Learn more »
The Dark Arts of Project Management
Just Make It Work – Software Integration Checklist – PREMIUM
If only it were that simple. Integration isn't magic, it only looks like that to the customer. That's because there's a lot of coordination and cooperation between vendors and coders on the back end. Use this checklist to unravel the mysteries of integration planning for your project.
What Do You See in Our Future? – Negotiating with My Sponsor
Ever walked into a sponsor meeting feeling like a fortune teller? That level of project negotiation is liable to provide about the same level of accuracy. There's a lot more to that conversation on both sides, though. In this brief post, Randy Englund plumbs the mysterious depths of what your project sponsor is saying, and what the sponsor is actually thinking.
We Need Three Great Ideas in 3
Brainstorming Meeting Techniques – SPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until October 24, 2013
Most people understand that you aren't supposed to come up with all the brilliant ideas alone. But a surprising number of people don't know how to get productive brainstorming out of a group. Who do you invite? How do you keep one person from doing all the talking? How do you get anyone to talk at all? Use these guidelines to select types of brainstorming, structure the meeting, and avoid common pitfalls.
These Are Not the Vendors You Are Looking For
Recommendation Template – PREMIUM
What's the secret to redirecting management when you're sure the project is headed in the wrong direction? Hypnosis might do it, but it's risky. You're better off building a strong case. This template helps you craft an organized, well documented recommendation to proceed with a given business solution or alternative. It includes all of the key components needed to make an informed decision about whether or not to endorse or approve the recommendation, allowing you to make your case without Jedi mind tricks.
Keep Your Eye on the Shell – Small Project Tracking File – MEMBER
Tracking smaller projects can feel like a carnival game. Blink, and it's over. Keep your thumb on it, and nothing moves at all. Striking the right balance is an art. This sample document shows one way to track a small, short, straightforward project without going overboard on detail.
What Number Am I Thinking Of? – Requirements Workshop Planning Guide – PREMIUM
If building your project plan feels like a guessing game, you don't have enough information about the requirements. But how do you pry them out of customers who think their description is obvious, or engineers who are convinced they already have the solution, or stakeholders who don't even realize they have something to contribute? One way is a group workshop – get everyone in a room, and get them talking. This guideline provides detailed tips and a step-by-step guide to planning a requirements workshop so you can figure out what your stakeholders really want. A sample agenda, meeting facilitation tips, and post-meeting follow-up are all covered.
You haven't seen a scary platform until you see the one in Morley Selver's latest sunshine and rainbows story. No, really, it's an actual, literal platform. You've got to see this. It's a perfect example of the need to get our heads out of the details and look at the larger human impact of our designs.
Morley Selver is running his three-day "Fundamentals of Project Management" workshop in Houston on October 23-25 and in Calgary on November 20-22. He'll also be offering 2-day workshops in 2014. For information & enrollment please go to www.peice.com.
Carl Pritchard will be at PMI SeminarsWorld in New Orleans October 30-31, leading a two-day workshop on "How Project and Portfolio Managers Can Dramatically Improve Communications." Carl is also planning ahead for his April 2014 PDU cruise (PDF). Remember, to sell the boss, start in Omaha. (It's probably a good pitch for the Agile conference in Las Vegas and the PMI Congress in New Orleans, too.)
Not to be left out (as if they ever could be), Randy Englund and Alfonso Bucero will both be presenting papers for the PMI Global Congress in New Orleans on October 28. Randy will speak on "Influencing Others: Negotiating and Achieving Desired Results with Stakeholders," and Alfonso will coach attendees on "Developing Your Humor Skills for Project Success." Both papers are based on their work about The Complete Project Manager. Randy goes on the following week to present at PMI chapters in Washington, DC, and Las Vegas.
Kent McDonald will be at Building Business Capability in Las Vegas November 14. His session will cover "Analysis in Agile: There's More to it than User Stories."
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