jim@millikenproject.com

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


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Management Power, Management Behavior

      
“You can’t run this place by committee.”
     That was the corporate president, responding to the manager of a division of the company.
     The manager, one month into his first job at this level, had just described how he had directed the department heads to prepare for him “blue sky” budget proposals. The idea was to include in early budget planning a look to the future – what the department manager envisioned as investments for growth over the succeeding few years.
     The president was not persuaded by the idea. The new division manager lost the job a few months later, returned to his previous position as a supervisor and soon left the company.
     A successor, more in the authoritative mold of the president, lasted a year before being flat-out fired. His peremptory style had resulted in unionization of every unit in the division.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Patience, Tolerance & Management

     Promotion to management can be tough – on everybody, but particularly on the person honored by the elevation.
     Exceptions are when the new manager had had actual management training before moving up, or has benefited from the gift of competent mentorship. If the mentoring continues after the promotion, the value is multiplied.
     The great majority of entrants into management aren’t so lucky. They arrive unprepared in this strange new place, and some of them never really recover. Look around you. How many of the managers you encounter actually perform the work well?

     In case your ability to evaluate managers has been dulled by years of exposure to the general run of the practice, let’s step back and freshen our perspective.
     To clarify: in most situations, the manager is NOT supposed to be the most accomplished worker bee in the place. Your widget-making days are over now.
     The responsibilities of managers vary limitlessly, so we’ll start with the universal basics: What is a manager supposed to do?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Risk


     “Do you believe you can support your family if this doesn’t work out?” she asked.
     “Of course!” he responded.
     So he left his secure job and moved his family hundreds of miles. His five-member group was preparing to launch a new business that they hoped would provide professional success and a good living for them all.
     A second member of the group also moved. The two of them were going to do the spadework for  the start-up.
    Within weeks, the whole project collapsed.
   

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Measuring & Managing

 
   In our never-ending quest for assurance, we jump on anything that sounds simple and can pass for realistic. Here’s one such thing, a commandment for managers:
     “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
     True or False?
     You could almost say the famous statement is both. It’s true and it’s false. (Sort of like the good ol’ boys of The Great White North who liked to “both eat in and take out.”)
     It’s true that managers must have ways to determine the effectiveness of their efforts. They’re investing to make things happen, and they need to know how it’s going. Managers build processes, then tend and adjust them to achieve maximum benefit.
     They have to keep track along the way.
     But it’s not always mathematical. With the really important things, assessment of progress usually is too subtle for quantification alone. There may be evidence of progress or slippage. There may appear to be both.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Project: Risky Business

     Question during a Project Management workshop:
     “Will this course make me less risk-averse?”
     Answer: “It could. The workshop doesn’t make risk go away – It gives you tools to manage it.”

     Well, the workshop didn’t work.
     Same person, two days later:
     “Thank you very much for this course. Now I know I never want to get anywhere near Project Management.”

     That risk-averse person was unusual only in his candor. Most of us avoid risk, and even walk around or away from the possibility of facing it. Why endure pain if you can escape it?
     The very mention of risk often is enough to kill an idea or initiative:
     “That’s pretty risky, isn’t it?”
     “Yeah. I guess so. Let’s just forget it.”
     No, don’t forget it. Evaluate it. What is the likely payoff if it works? How does that match up vs. the potential damage if it doesn’t? And what’s the opportunity cost of not  trying?

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.