Monday, January 26, 2009

Continuous Improvement

I had an article published at the end of last week through PMI's Community Post, read it here. The article is on continuous improvement in project management.

Monday, January 19, 2009

When you cook...cook!

This phrase is a Buddhist directive focusing on being in the present moment and thinking about what you are doing. I like it because I like to cook. When I cook, I really focus on what I'm doing, trying to get all the details just right. It's a way for me to unwind after a long day.

We should have the same level of focus on our projects as well. How often do you find yourself drifting off during a meeting, thinking about some other task, checking your Blackberry or email?

Well, stop it!

If you're in a meeting and not paying attention, either you don't need to be at the meeting, or you should be paying attention but your distracted. So either walk out, or take a deep breath and focus on what's going on in front of you. Put away the Blackberry. Leave the computer at your desk. Be present in the meeting. Maybe you'll hear something you need to know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Your Company Could Be Next

There was a good piece in CIO magazine that you can read here about why a lack of visibility is the biggest risk to all companies.

One of my clients really gets this. They're all about visibility. As we help them develop improved business processes, we are also tying everything together from a reporting standpoint so they can see how everything is doing. Because everything is being built on one platform, it's easy to develop a sophisticated reporting tool to monitor it all. It gives management they need to effectively run the business.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How we learn

Last night at the KC Chapter meeting for PMI, the guest speaker was Cindy Meyer of LeaderQor Associates. Cindy focuses on leadership development and her presentation looked at how we can learn and achieve new goals.

According to Cindy, we learn only 2% from either inspirational or impacting activities. Inspirational would be listening to that great motivational speaker. Impacting is some major event, such as having a heart attack. The rest of our learning comes from spaced repetition. Think about how you memorized your multiplication tables in primary school.

This is consistent with other messages I've heard. One specific statistic is that it takes 21 days of repeated behavior to change a habit or create a new one. There's that repetition again.

Cindy laid out 7 steps for goal achievement:
  1. Set up goals that are SMART (specific, measurabe, achievable, relevant, time-bound).
  2. Understand the rewards or consequences for either reaching or not reaching the goal.
  3. Understand the obstacles in your way.
  4. Develop the solution to reach your goal.
  5. Detail the action steps for the solution.
  6. Assign target dates for the action steps.
  7. Delegate tasks as appropriate (obviously this is for business goals, not personal ones).
Nothing surprising or earth shattering here. It's along the lines of Getting Things Done; break down your goals into pieces that can be executed on a day by day basis, the next action.

So what are you waiting for? Have you had that great idea that you never got around to? What can you do today to start working on that goal? It may only be 1 small task, but if you keep at it, you can reach your goal.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My New Tribe

I was re-listening to part of Seth Godin's Tribes again today. To make a tribe takes 2 things; a shared interest and a way to communicate.

So my new tribe is a community that's forming within PMI to focus on agile project management. We have a group of volunteers on the steering committee, working with PMI to launch the community. Communication is easy among us, done mostly through a Yahoo group, but also with conference calls.

The shared interest aspect is definitely there, a bunch of folks willing to put in the time to make this happen. There was an interesting comment on a call today from our PMI representative. She said some of the other groups going through this were having difficulty with some of the planning, things that we've done well at. The thought that occurred to me was how strong was that shared interest in the other groups. I'd venture to say the formation of these other tribes was being challenged because that shared interest wasn't as strong.

So is there a tribe out there waiting for you to lead? It doesn't take much to get started.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Are there times when you shouldn't follow procedures, when you should go against the rules? Probably.

In the military, we could refuse a direct order from a senior person under certain situations. It didn't happen much (as it shouldn't or military order would fall apart) but sometimes you should just say no.

I've been on projects where stakeholders were asking for features that I had to push back on. In some cases, the requests weren't in line with the vision of the project. In some cases, the time line would be effected. Sometimes they were just bad ideas. As the project manager, I had to tactfully refuse and point out to my stakeholder why I was doing so. In most cases, a compromise could be found.

On a similar note, we should know when project procedures should be modified. A good example is templates. I have a number of colleagues that think templates are a bad idea in general. When they are used, they can be used without thought. Since every project by definition is unique, we shouldn't just fill in templates without thinking about how they apply to our projects, or if they apply at all. They may be boxing us in, preventing us from being creative in our approach to the project.

So next time you're working on your project and some process, procedure, or template doesn't seem right, maybe you should just say no.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Dave Prior has a good blog post about mash-ups for project management here.

I was thinking about Dave's post in church today. Our church does what they call a
white stone ceremony on the first Sunday of each year. The idea is 2000 years old and comes from when prisoners were release; they were given a white stone to show they've been freed. There's a verse in Revelations that talks about "on the white stone is written a new name" (Rev Ch 2 V 17). So during our church ceremony we write down a word that represents our new self for the new year.

So the word I came up with today was "mashup." The reason was based on Dave's blog. It's more than pulling in different ideas at work. I want to pull the different parts of my life together. I want to take what I learn in my volunteer work with PMI and bring it to work, I want to do presentations that are based on my blog and how my philosophy can be applied to running projects. So here's to a year of mash-ups.