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PITAs and projects

PITA is for pain in the a**. People who are PITAs really put a dent in any

How can you detect a PITA?

He/She focuses only on the negative aspects of the projects. What's going
wrong, what's late, what hasn't been done correctly, etc. However, the PITA is
not interested in solving those problems. All the PITA is interested in is to
whine about the problem, and possibly blame somebody or something.

A PITA also tries to get attention like children do: by throwing tantrums,
bullying and manipulating others around him or her.

When you habe a PITA in your team, it can be a weight on everybody's
shoulders. It can significantly impair the project's progress.

How do you deal with the PITAs in your project team?

You must remember that PITAs are trying to get energy from you. Their
screaming and crises and drama and blaming are all about getting people to feel
sorry for them or agree with them or follow them in their blaming mission. As
long as you're playing along, you're encouraging this behavior from your PITA.

Now, if the PITA is the project manager, […]

By |2008-05-09T13:23:00-04:002008-05-09|

Are you proactive AND reactive?

When working on a project, do you try to think about what could go wrong or do you wait for the problem to manifest itself before fixing it?

When looking back on your career, did you try to see or create opportunities for yourself and yor organization, or did you trust life to send you the right challenges?

When managing a product, do you try to anticipate where your users will have issues, or do you fix those issues as they are reported?

Does it have to be either/or?  

Think ahead: be proactive 

There are numerous benefits to being proactive. It avoid problems down the road. It minimizes the damages a problem could cause. It makes you, your team and your business look good. It's very trendy to be proactive. After all, it makes sense to solve the cause of potential problems before they spawn actual problems.

However, sometimes being proactive makes you spend too much energy on a potential problem which may not have the estimated impact. Sometimes, by trying to look so hard into the future, you […]

By |2008-05-07T13:15:00-04:002008-05-07|

Harness your team’s disgruntledness

Often disgruntled teams are seen as a negative thing: people are unhappy, their productivity is low and they won't be willing to go the extra mile for their project.

A nice bag a lemons, don't you think?

How about turning those lemons into lemonade, then?

Disgruntled workers are great agents of change. They are unhappy about they way things are now in the project. This means they will be more open to new ways of working.

Maybe they are unhappy because they feel isolated and not informed about the rest of the project. A project management tool where everyone can contribute and know what's happening can be presented to the team as a way to get the information they so crave. 

Maybe the team feels overworked and thinks management is insensitive to their needs. With a project management tool's time tracking features, they will be able to prove how much they are working on their projects. They can even track how accurate time estimates are to complete their tasks.

On the one hand, you have a team working […]

By |2008-05-05T13:00:00-04:002008-05-05|

Make meetings shorter

Most of us have been in meetings that drag on forever: it seems nothing useful is said, and instead people are just repeating information everyone knows already. It seems like a waste of time.

Everybody dreams of having meetings that focus on the important stuff, what requires attention and decisions that need to be made. Especially in time-sensitive projects (aren't they all?), no one has time to waste in meetings.

Harness the power of reports

Instead of listing everything that needs to be done on the project, why don't you simply focus on what needs to be discussed? Late tasks and tasks that have been worked on in the last week, for example.

On order to do this without forgetting a task, simply 2 reports in AceProject: tasks with a due date in the past, and tasks with a last update in the same week.

With those two reports, you'll be able to only see the tasks that need attention. You can export these reports to Excel, print them or simply display AceProject on the conference room's projector screen. […]

By |2008-05-02T13:32:00-04:002008-05-02|

It’s not about the mistake, it’s about how you fix it

In life like in project management, stuff happens. People make mistakes.
While some mistakes are stellar and go down in history, what most people
remember about a mistake is how it was fixed.

You screwed up: admit it

In the end, the sooner you and your team can admit to screwing up, the
faster you will get back on your feet. With a good strategy to correct the
mistake and a plan to prevent it happening again, you are ready to get over the
problem and move on.

and get on with your life

When a problem occurs, one should react quickly and take control of the
situation. One way to achieve this is to answer the questions below:

  • What exactly happened?
    You should understand the sequence of events. If people are arguing over
    what happened, you need to come to an agreement before you can get to the
    next step.
  • Why did it happen? This
    is not about blaming someone of something. It's […]
By |2008-04-30T13:00:00-04:002008-04-30|

How do you stand out in a sea?

In the project management business, our market is the world. However, so is our competition. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of project management software products on the market.  Every week, I find a new competitor.

Project management software had become a sea of products. There are desktop software products, web-based products, open-source products, free products, very expensive products and everything in between. Ruby on RAILS was even invented to develop a project collaboration software. There are so many project management systems available it becomes overwhelming for those people who are tasked with the mission of choosing a system to manage their projects.

So, how can AceProject stand out against its competition? What makes AceProject remarkable, as Seth Godin writes it?

  • Us. What makes AceProject remarkable is the people behind it. We believe in giving great customer service, before and after the customer has given us money. We believe we should make a product that people what to use. And we eat our own dog food: AceProject is also our project and […]
By |2008-04-28T17:18:00-04:002008-04-28|

Training: the best usability test

Today I'm going to give a training session at an insurance company. I always enjoy giving training, because it shows me, in real time, how easy it is to learn to use AceProject. I like to see how new user navigate AceProject, where they click, how they make sense of the system. 

Here's why I like to give training: 

  • It's great to be able to observe how our users really interact with AceProject.
  • It's inspiring to see which questions the trainees ask.
  • It's eye-opening when they can't fingure out something we thought was simple. 

When I get back to the development team, I can share this experience with them and we can focus what needs improvement, at the interface level and at the usability level. 

After all, we're making a tool for people to use. Giving training is a great source of user input. 

By |2008-04-23T13:00:00-04:002008-04-23|

It’s a tool, not a magician’s hat

Tools are only as good as those who wield them. What good it the project management software if no one is willing to use it?

What does it take to convince a team to change its ways?


It takes a while to change a team's habits, and I have yet to see a team who is not at first put off by having to report to a system.


However, patience has its limits. If using the project management
software is not enforced, it will be difficult for the team to change. 

If a new system is put in place to manage projects, one should make it clear that the data has to be up-to-date and the reports produced from the system.  

Support from above 

If management is truly supporting the project management software (and using it themselves), chances are better that the new method will take hold. Again, requesting that reports be produced within the system will get the project team to use the system, and learn to like it.

A good tool

Any tool has to bring benefits […]

By |2008-04-21T12:02:00-04:002008-04-21|

When the project is too big, break it down

I remember that first term paper I had to write when I was in school. It seemed so long! How could I ever have 20 pages to say about any subject? I felt overwhelmed by the size of the task. I think the teacher saw the same look of discouragement on all our faces, so she gave us a hint: make your table of contents first.

When I sat down to make my paper's table of contents, I realized I wasn't going to write 20 pages on the same subject: I was going to write 4 4-page sections on different aspects of the same subject. This was much easier to deal with, in terms of planning my work and feeling more in control of the paper.

The same happens when I have a huge project to work with. For example, with the release of AceProject 4.5, which is almost ready, we had to plan for documentation, promotional material, web site updates, email blasts, etc. Taken together without any structure, I felt like there was too […]

By |2008-04-18T12:00:00-04:002008-04-18|

The importance of clear deliverables

Vague deliverables make everyone unhappy. They create misunderstandings and
unfulfilled expectations. They tarnish reputations. 

Projects should always have clear deliverables. Too often, the project's deliverables
are so vague that no one can agree that the project is complete.

Take software development for example. If the project's deliverable is the
new version of that software, the project manager should be able to spell out
exactly what constitutes the new version. Is it the Beta version? The Release
Candidate? The Gold Master? The first client installation?

Moreover, it should be clear who accepts the deliverables. Should the
development team decide when they're done? Should QA sign off on the new version?
Should management, sales or customer service have a say in it?

Without a clear deliverable, there's the inevitable gap between what the
project team thinks they should deliver, and what the project's client

But how can one get a clear deliverable from the project client? Often, the
project's client, be it management, the market or an actual client, has a hard
time expressing what they want precisely.  It's up to the project manager
to provide a clear deliverables list on which both […]

By |2008-04-16T13:00:00-04:002008-04-16|
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