It’s not really about managing projects

I’ve got a list of what I try to focus on as a CTO and project manager. On my list I’ve got 7 items. Project management is number 5.

Project management. Some dork in a tie running around while he’s pointing at his gant chart and yelling at people to work faster. A gant chart that stopped resembling reality before it’s even printed. He has never delivered a project on time. Ever. Everyone knows projects are always late. There’s always some delay or scope creep or useless third party vendor with a product that doesn’t work. So why even bother?

But wait.. Does another breed of management exist? Living in a touchy feely world, where projects actually deliver value, on time? And if they had a list, would it look anything like this?

#1: Be there for your project team:

Care about their problems, and help them resolve them. Your role is to remove any obstacle, and for the love of God, make sure you’re not an obstacle yourself. When they’re working, stay out of their way.

#2: Quality assurance:

Most project managers (myself included) spend too little time focusing on what is actually being done. Are your project output in tune with what your customer expects, and does it create actual value? Cost. Scope. Time. There are always someone trying to make you do more for less. Tell them to stick their project triangle where the sun doesn’t shine, and replace it with Quality, Quality, Quality.

#3: Improve:

Effective projects depend on good processes. Strive to be better. Lock  into a lean mindset where you continously attempt to improve the way you and your team work, and eliminate waste.

#4: Customer service (and zero tolerance for incidents that negatively impact the customer):

You must always be available to your customer. You need make sure they know what to expect, and when they can expect it. Oh, and the last part of this rule I stole from my previous boss:

Me: “We’ve got a bug in production!” My boss: “Does it affect our customers? Forget what you’re doing and fix it!” Me: “Now?” My boss: “Are you still here?”

#5: Project management:

Is everyone and everything on track? Has important milestones been met? Do all stakeholders have the information they need? You know the drill.

#6: Sales and marketing support:

Don’t forget tomorrow. Another day, another project. Your support to the marketing division will help them make the right decisions based on your input. This ensures that the next project they’ve got cooking gets a reality check, and thereby is granted at least a moderate chance of success.

#7: Planning:

A gant chart is a great visual aid to help the customer understand when you will deliver project output. As a management aid it is more or less useless. Plan 1-2 weeks in moderate detail (not in gant chart!), 2-3 months as a rough draft to know how many resources are booked and how many (if any) will be available for additional projects. That’s it.

So, there you have it. Is this a perfect list? Far from it. Do I even follow it? Not always.

But no matter how busy my day gets, I try to keep at least #1 and #3 on my forehead. And the rest in my back pocket, for safe keeping.

How about you?



Posted on February 1, 2012, in Management and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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