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The fisherman’s take on project management

I went fishing last weekend. It was a beautiful (yet a little cold) weekend in the woods. We were on a good lake for fishing: our quota was 15 catches per person. That’s a lot of fish!

We were thinking: if the outfitter allows 15 catches per person, there’s got to be a lot of fish in this lake. And there was. As we arrived the Friday night, we could see the bass jump at flies on the surface of the lake. We were stoked for a good day of bass fishing on Saturday!

Well, it was not a good day of fishing. We caught a total of 10 fish between the three of us. This was underwhelming.

Here’s why we didn’t get the fish we were hoping for

  1. The fish was jumping at the flies, but we were bait-fishing. Wrong technique. Wrong approach. If the fish is going for flying insects, it won’t respond to bait just floating there, will it?
  2. The mayflies were swarming the lake. Mayflies look like mosquitoes, but they only live a […]
By |2009-05-25T12:15:00-04:002009-05-25|

The discipline of producing new, fresh content

Go Ahead, Manage is over one year old. I know, it’s young compared to most of the blogs out there. I’ve been writing the majority of Go Ahead, Manage’s content. After a year, I find that the greatest challenge is to have something to say.

This blog is not about my personal life, but about the life of the whole team here, the life of our product, AceProject, and the life of our field, project management.

When we began this blog, I had a lot of things to say, I even had a backlog! As time passed, I got through that backlog and now I find my inspiration a few minutes before I start typing the new post away.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about blogging is that it requires discipline to produce new, fresh content three times a week. In the last few months, with Twitter taking the world of project management by storm, there is even more content out there about project management, project managers, and managing a business. It becomes a challenge to create content […]

By |2009-05-06T13:24:00-04:002009-05-06|

Virtual teams make everything more difficult

Virtual teams are a fact of today’s projects. With outsourcing and increased mobility for the workforce, there is a higher proportion of people who either work in satellite locations, or simply work from home.

The project team becomes virtual. How can we keep up with everyone when we can’t see them?

A huge part of project management is getting a feel of how the team is doing

How can we do that without seeing the people we work with? After all, the biggest part of a person’s message is not conveyed with words. It’s transmitted via pitch and intonation of voice, the way she sits or stands, her facial expressions and hand gestures. These are all things someone can’t show in an email, a tweet or a chat window. And while video conferencing and conference calls can help getting a bit more from that team member, it’s still not the same as being right in front her.

Another issue is created by writing instead of talking. In writing, people have different personalities. When we write something, it’s not spontaneous. […]

By |2009-04-22T14:42:00-04:002009-04-22|

Canadian Project Management Week

With the Vancouver Olympics project getting a lot of attention worldwide, the Canadian chapters of the PMI have organized a Project Management Week. This is a great time for all Canadian project managers to inform and train their teams about project management today.

The Globe and Mail and the French paper Les Affaires will be running a special insert next week, and your local Canadian PMI chapter has events lined up for you to attend!

To get involved virtually: join the LinkedIn group for the Canadian Project Management Week.

By |2009-04-16T14:22:00-04:002009-04-16|

Project managers are not alone

A project should not be composed a leader on top and everybody else below. Actually, that's a very good way to fail. Your team is there for the project, and so are you. Why not work together?

You need to work together.

Be with your team. Spend time with them. Take the time to explain what's going on in the project.  Listen.

When problems arise (they always arise), your team's unique perspective may be the key to solving it. Budget problems? Maybe one of your developers knows a less-expensive tool that does the job just as well. Schedule problem? Your QA specialist may have a few tricks up her sleeve to speed up the testing phase.

Project managers are not superheroes. We can't expect to fix everything on our own. That's why there are project teams.

The project can't succeed without the team, but it can succeed despite the project manager.

By |2009-04-08T12:30:00-04:002009-04-08|

Project roles: sponsor VS manager

While working on a project, I realized the project team was not clear on the roles and responsibilities of the project sponsor VS the project manager.

Who’s the sponsor anyway?

The project sponsor is the person who pays for the project. Because he or she is paying for the project, they get to decide on the project scope, schedule and budget. They’re the ones really taking the big decisions.

Don’t confuse sponsor and client, however. The person who buys the product is not necessarily the one investing in its development. For example, we develop AceProject and then sell it to our clients. The clients get the product after the development project is completed.While their opinions are very important to the development process, they are not the ones funding the project.

When we are developing custom features for a client,  then the client is also the sponsor, because they are privately funding the project. Otherwise, the project sponsor here at Websystems is Daniel, our President.

What about the project manager, then?

The project manager makes sure things get done. The project manager […]

By |2009-03-12T13:38:00-04:002009-03-12|

Suggested reading: the first 100 days

Neal argues that when being assigned on an existing project, it can be a challenge to get up to speed and build good relationships with your project team. I completely agree with the 3 Ls of communications management: Listen, Learn, Lead.

There’s a reason why Lead is last

You can’t lead effectively if you’re ignorant. Ignorant of your project, ignorant of your team. Once you’ve built a good understanding of the project and the people, then you can choose a leadership style that fits the situation.

By |2009-02-20T20:36:00-05:002009-02-20|

Human resources management: what do you bring to the table?

I’ve been reading on HR management for my upcoming PMP exam. According to the PMI, HR management is about getting the right team for the right project, and developing that team so that the product of the project is delivered on time and on budget.

As the project manager, what do you bring to the table?

It’s is easy to know what the software developer brings to the project. It’s harder to know what the PM brings to the project. We’re usually the cat herders: we do our best to keep the project on track, the team happy, the stakeholders under control and the deliverables…delivered!

It doesn’t feel like a productive job. But without a project manager, how many projects would ever end, let alone on time?

That’s what project managers bring to the table: cohesion and coordination.

By |2009-01-26T19:24:00-05:002009-01-26|

Project management and communications

It’s easy to get swallowed by project management tools. It’s easy to feel that we can get all the information we need from a piece of software.

But it’s not true.

If you want to know how well a project is going, take your team to lunch. They will tell you more about the project than any statistic. While you’re sitting at the table with your team, take a look at their non-verbal behavior. Are they happy to be together? Are they talking to each other? Are they just sitting there, waiting for lunch to end?

How your team interacts together will show if they are getting along and where there might be personality clashes. Moreover, the general mood of the team is a good indicator of the project’s status.

By |2008-11-25T13:13:00-05:002008-11-25|

What’s your plan B?

Do you have a plan in case something goes wrong in your project?

Let’s say a key team member accepts a position at another company. Are you prepared to reallocate her tasks to someone else? Is there someone else who could take over?

Or, let’s say the 5 more people that human resources were to hire for your team take longer than expected. Will your project still be on time without them? What are you going to do: overwork the people that are there, negotiate a new deadline?

It’s not about being pessimistic, but about being prepared. About knowing where the project could be endangered and thinking about how you’re going to deal with that.

Often, we don’t want to think about those risks, because we are confident that we will succeed, and because we don’t want to “jinx” it. But not planning ahead your risk management strategy is playing with fire. With risk management, you will be able to deal with potentially disastrous issues better, because you thought of what to do beforehand, not in the heat of […]

By |2008-10-15T17:03:00-04:002008-10-15|
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