Tuesday, October 30, 2007

If Lao Tzu were a project manager - part 2

"Everything must have its roots, and the tendrils work quietly underground." - Tao Te Ching, Chapter 16.

Plants can't survive without roots. Likewise, a project can't survive without a plan. There may be varying levels of planning, but without a plan the project will wither up and die.

So what is the right level of planning? It is really based on the project. If you are working in a stable environment and have a good idea of what your requirements are, you can put together a pretty detailed plan. If you have a lot of uncertainty, you are better off starting with a high level plan and working out the details through an iterative approach.

Regardless of the approach, you should still plan out how long the project is going to take. Timeboxing works well in uncertain conditions. You determine when you're going to finish and you get as much done in that amount of time. If you prioritize the work, you know you'll get the important stuff done.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If Lao Tzu were a project manager - part 1

I did a presentation a while back with a colleague where we compared the leadership styles of Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu. I was thinking about that presentation recently and came up with the idea of doing a series on what Lao Tzu would do if he were a project manager. So here’s the first of the series, starting with project initiation and the project vision.

“If the sage governs with vision then his people will not go wrong.” – Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3

During my recent presentation at the PMI Conference, I talked about how important the vision was in agile projects. In reality, it is important for all projects. A good vision will help the project manager and team make good decisions down the road. The vision should be developed during initiation and captured in the project charter.

Is the project manager responsible for the vision? To some degree, yes. Ideally, the project owner should be the one with the vision. However, the project manager should challenge the project owner to ensure the vision is good.

So what is a good vision? It should give the project team a picture of the end state. It should provide motivation. It should come to their rescue during project conflict.

I recall one project I managed where the vision was good. We were building a computer-based product catalog (before the days of the web). The owner gave us the general features he wanted but he also had a vision of a product that would “wow” the customer when they installed it, something that would look really cool. That vision shaped the project. The team got excited to show off new ideas. When we were at decision points, we thought about which choice better supported the vision. Having a good vision drove us to a successful project.

So what’s the vision of your project? Does the team know it? Is it working to guide your project? If not, maybe you need to talk to your project owner.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Blog Carnival

Today I decided to share some of the blogs that I read. If you have other blogs that you like, or even write yourself, let me know.

Leading Answers is written by Mike Griffiths. I saw him speak on Agile PM at the PMI Global Congress this year. His blog contains practical advice for any PM.

I like keeping up on what's happening in technology. I have turned to ars technica as a good source of info. Along similar lines, but more focused on hardware (i.e., playtoys) is Engadget.

I remember reading Fast Company about 10 years ago when the idea of the personal brand first came out. If you want to work on improving your personal brand, then I suggest a visit to the Personal Branding Blog.

And to wrap things up, John Dvorak's blog. I listen to John as part of the crew of the TWIT podcast.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - The Environment

Today is Blog Action Day, an attempt to get bloggers from around the world to write on a single topic. The topic today is the environment.

I thought I would share some of the things I have been doing to do my part in helping the environment and reduce my carbon footprint.

I use an electric lawnmower instead of a gas one. Mine uses a power cord, which is a little bit of a hassle to deal with, but better then using a gas mower. I also use a push broom and rake rather then powered accessories to clean up the yard.

I drive a Honda civic, pretty good on the gas mileage. I make sure the tires have enough air and keep it maintained properly. I have also tried to make the effort to ride my bike when I have to make a short trip to the grocery or liquor store. A computer backpack with a padded pocket works well for wine bottles.

Of course there's other stuff like watching the thermostat at home, turning off lights etc. Is there more you can be doing to help the environment?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another PMI Conference

I have just got back for the 2007 PMI North America Congress in Atlanta. As usual, it was an excellent event (and I don’t just say that because I was part of the planning committee).

I also presented a paper that compared traditional and agile project management methodologies. Let me know if you'd like a copy (AND-provide your email so I can send it to you.)

I met George Pitagorsky, PMP, the author of the book “The Zen Approach to Project Management” You can find the book here. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but based on the first chapter, it looks pretty good.

As usual, it was a chance to re-connect with old friends and meet new friends. During the course of events I was reminded that it is a small world. On an escalator ride, I met a gentleman from Bangalore, one of my recent trips. At the airport, I met someone on their first trip to India.

The thought I had is that we should always treat people well, because we never know when we’ll cross paths with them again.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is the World Really Flat?

The book "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman is a pretty popular business title. I even gave it to my board of directors for the PMI component I was running. I recently heard an interview on a Harvard Business Review podcast where the author of another book, Pankaj Ghemawat, argues the world isn't all that flat (his book is "Redefining Global Strategy: Crossing Borders in a World Where Differences Still Matter"). Read more here.

Having traveled to Central America, Europe, India, and Japan in the past year, I have to agree that there are still differences and anyone doing business on a global scale has to take into account the differences in each country they are working in.

I am currently working with a client that is moving towards a more global approach to how they run projects. One area they are not losing sight of is the local culture of the different countries they are working with and how that can impact the project.