jim@millikenproject.com

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


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Problem Solver

Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!, ecc.
Ahimè, che furia!
Ahimè, che folla!
Uno alla volta, per carità!
Ehi, Figaro! Son qua.
Figaro qua, Figaro là,
Figaro su, Figaro giù.

     That’s Figaro, the hero of Rossini’s comic opera, “The Barber of Seville,” telling the audience – in Italian – how people are always after him.
     The translation:

Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!, etc.
Dear me, what frenzy!
Dear me, what a crowd!
One at a time, for pity's sake!
Hey, Figaro! I'm here.
Figaro here, Figaro there,
Figaro up, Figaro down.

     What’s the big attraction?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Relentless Manager

 
 “News is what I say it is.”
     That was my editor friend Brad, demonstrating the plain-talk part of his straight-up style of management.
     It was a while ago, when the news industry was in one of its periodic fits of self-examination, ignited by public outcry over some now-forgotten issue of what’s news and what isn’t.
     Uncertainty about that definition troubled Brad not at all. He devoted no time to such matters.
     The point of this reminiscence is to introduce Brad as  a model of leadership clarity. You didn’t always agree with Brad or like his way of doing business, but you always  knew where he stood.
     “This is going to be the worst three months of your life,” he’d tell a newly hired staff member. “But if you make it, you’ll know the job.” That was intended to tell you to take the 90-day probation period seriously – as Brad himself surely did.

Friday, December 22, 2017

How to Choose Failure

 
   When is failure a choice?
     Quite often, as a matter of fact. It’s a major default option when success is not consciously chosen. Take a good look at projects of your experience.
     We choose success when we specify a clear outcome, make it a firm intention, talk about what it means – then support it with practical planning and execution.
     Choosing failure is an easy slide in the other direction. We may not realize we are guaranteeing some measure of failure when we decide or agree to accomplish something . . . and then don’t immediately press the “Start” button.

     When we really mean it, we act in two stages right after we decide:

First, establishing the project outcome and basic agreements with key                     
     stakeholders

Then, executing with solid organization and relationship building,

     You start with the finish, invoking the second of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People:

“Begin with the end in mind.”

         Regarding execution, management guru Peter Drucker said:
b
“Unless a decision has degenerated into work, it is not a decision; it   
       is at best a good intention.”

Monday, November 27, 2017

Failure Is Quick & Easy


      If it wasn’t the fastest-ever project failure, it had to rank right up there. The project manager appointed two people to get started on the design of a software program, then immediately left on vacation.
     Needless to say, there wasn’t much progress while the project manager was away.     The designers spent a lot of time fixing problems that were interesting and in the neighborhood, without really getting much done on the software design itself.
     The IT people were grateful for the extra help, but the project mostly wandered aimlessly away from the original short-term intent..
     After the project manager returned, the carelessness of the launch was reflected in a continuing lack of focus. The project wasn’t very large, but the eventual cost and finish date were way out of line.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Walk, Talk, Sit, Meet . . . Matter






Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
   I'm afraid. . .
                           -- Anna (from The King and I)
    
      I set out one evening at a brisk pace, warming up for a jog. I didn’t get far before my next-door neighbor called out from her front porch, where she was sitting with her husband.
     “What are you going to do?” she asked.
     “I’m going for a run,” I answered. She laughed, so I went over to see what this was about.
     “We thought you were going over there to calm things down,” she told me.
     I listened for a moment, and realized what she was talking about. A couple down the street was having a loud argument, well-peppered with vulgarities, and was sharing it via the open windows.

     This was a private neighborhood and I was the association president. There was reason for my neighbor’s curiosity – she thought I was out to exercise whatever authority I might have to restore peace, or at least quiet.
     That had not been my intent before I knew of the disruption, nor was it after she clued me in.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shoot for the Moon

Project Management the Right (Hard) Way



     On May 25, 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of putting a man on the moon within the decade. How the hell were we going to do that? Neither Kennedy nor anyone else could really answer that question.
     For Kennedy, the how-to was not as important as the why. The Soviet Union was showing us up in the space race – and therefore in the struggle for military supremacy. We all saw it as an issue of national survival, beyond the obvious matter of national pride.
     This unprecedented monster of a project was driven by that very pressing need. We would find a way. Actually, we would find countless new ways to accomplish things never before attempted, or even seriously considered.
     Eight years and 56 days later – on July 20, 1969 – Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar module onto that dusty lunar surface. Between the two events, there was an immense expenditure of funds and effort, fueled by relentless inventions to do what had never been done before.
     The commitment never wavered, although Kennedy himself was assassinated two years after his announcement.

Monday, September 4, 2017

There ARE No "Soft" Skills


     Have you ever fired someone?
     How did it go? Looking forward to doing it again soon?
     Well, it’s a “soft” skill. Must be easy, right?
      I never found it so. However much the person deserved to be terminated, it was a painful thing to do.
     In some cases, I felt I had a tougher time with it than the dismissee did. That was when the news came unexpectedly to that person (Oh, you thought I didn’t mean all that corrective counseling? All those warnings?).
      The person could rise self-righteously on a gusher of anger and defensiveness, at least temporarily. You can bet that pretty much all his/her associates would tut-tut sympathetically, including those who had been hounding the boss for months to do the deed.

     Not the same situation for the manager. If you were doing your job right, you had been patient and tolerant, but firm. You made sure the requirements were clear. You responded appropriately to variances and transgressions.