jim@millikenproject.com

jim@millikenproject.com 207-808-8878 Our book "Life is a Project: How are you managing?" is now available!


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Communicate Like a Manager


    
     Don was a substantial person, in body and in manner. He was sure and solid.
     Burt was knowledgeable and precise. He always was on time, always accurate.
     Cove was commanding and demanding. You knew he was in charge, and he brooked no disrespect.
     Dick was reliable and supportive, respectful of people’s ideas.
     If you were going to assemble a pretty good manager, you could do worse than start by combining those four guys. Putting them all together would have been impossible, of course, not least because none of them would have put up with the others for very long. Independent judgment was a common characteristic of their management style.
     Each of them had his limitations, too.
     Don didn’t communicate well. Burt couldn’t manage larger issues. Cove was thin-skinned and prickly. Dick was poor at strategic thinking.
   

Monday, November 19, 2018

Bungling the Branding

    
Bungling the Branding

  
   What you call something matters. It can matter a lot.
      “We don’t have time to help you build your monument to yourself,” they told the project manager.
     “Monument to yourself” is a brand, and not a good one. A brand establishes an identity; attitudes and assumptions gather around it. Organizations spend a lot of time, thought, money and effort to establish and maintain their brands.
     The “monument” brand is an example of what happens when you don’t make the effort. It influenced the attitude of the news staff of a small daily newspaper. Their managing editor had been tasked with managing the newsroom’s work on a special edition.
     Since the edition was his ego trip, they reasoned, why should they extend extra effort to accomplish it?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Default Fault

      On the foggy back side of the Comfort Zone, the population of defaulted projects grows by the day. Defaulted projects are the ghosts of those formerly promising intentions that slid backwards from their Project Plans into mediocrity or worse. Execution did ‘em in.
     So implementation is what matters? We should forget planning and just launch straight into action, right?
     Wrong.
     This whole issue of how to manage planning-execution is an essential matter in Project Management, and handling it successfully is a secret of project success.
     There is an apparent contradiction involved: As General Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” He endorsed the process, but was deeply suspicious of its product.
     Here’s what I think he meant: Plan as if every detail must be permanently nailed down in advance – then execute as if every element of the plan is wide open to amendment or reversal on the fly.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What Do You Mean, "Done?"


     What do you mean, “Done”?
     It’s obvious to you what “done” is. It’s also obvious to me.
     Problem One:
     Your “done” is different from mine.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Everybody's Got a Manager

     Danny Amendola just moved from a consistently winning team to an occasional also-ran, and he couldn’t be happier.
     Amendola was a star performer on a New England Patriots football team that won the league championship two years ago and made it to the Super Bowl again last year. Now he has just gone to the Miami Dolphins, winless in their three trips to the playoffs in the past decade.
      Amendola is a poster boy for the saying, “People don’t leave organizations – they leave managers.”
     This week, the Associated Press quoted him gushing about his new coach, Adam Gase:
     “It’s almost like Coach Gase is one of the guys, one of the boys and you wanna fight hard for your boys. Back in New England it’s almost like you got a principal and a principal’s office . . . you know, in a good way and in a bad way, too.”



Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Hardest Part of Project Management

     What’s the single most difficult thing about the project manager’s job?
     I know, I know: There are so many problems, especially the unpredictable ones, that it seems a worthless exercise to try isolating the single worst. Those devilish items take turns being the worst, often with head-spinning rapidity.

     The specifics can include, but most definitely are not limited to:

     Insufficient time
     Scope creep
     Fuzzy expectations
          . . . often unexpressed and/or unknown to those who have them
     Abrupt changes in organizational priorities
     Lack of assured project resources
     Team members who won’t make commitments
         . . . or won’t keep the commitments they’ve made
     Managers who block or limit team members’ participation
     Lack of insights from project end users

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Listen Up: Disengage Project Autopilot

     The guy had rehearsed his sales presentation thoroughly and was well into it when his prospect perked up and interrupted with a question.
     “Be patient,” the salesman said. “I’m only on my third point – I’ve got nine more to go.”
     Can you think of a better way to kill off a sale?
     A radically different example comes out of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
     It was in 1983, when the two bitter adversaries had enormous nuclear armaments trained on each other.  A software glitch mistakenly sent an alert to the Soviet duty officer, falsely warning that the U.S. had launched five missiles. There had been no such launch.
     The Soviet officer decided any real attack would be a lot more serious, so he withheld any counterattack. Had he acted, there could have been nuclear war.
     We project managers can relate to the student sales example; not so the missile one. But one factor in both illustrates a major point for us: the judgment of the decision-maker.