jim@millikenproject.com

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


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.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What Do You Mean, Communication?

 

    The sign on the back of the truck says, “Safety Is My Goal.”
     No it isn’t. Safety is not the goal – of the driver, the owner or the truck, whichever one “my” refers to.
     A goal is the ultimate outcome sought by any activity. The driver’s goal is to get paid. His employer’s goal is to make a profit. The truck has no say.
     This is an example of hyping an otherwise worthy consideration into something it’s not. It’s an effort doomed to failure.
     While every following driver could have understood what was meant by the sign on the truck, many of them might be negatively impressed.
     Couldn’t the company’s leadership, and/or its marketing people, have come up with something true and interesting, rather than an obviously insincere cliché?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

'You're Not a Manager'


     My old friend Tom was once appointed acting general manager of a division of his company. The president told him he was the only candidate for the permanent appointment, and the job was his to lose.
     He lost it.
     So Tom went back to his previous job as a department head, realizing he’d missed some important elements in the opportunity but unsure as to quite what they were.  
     He left the company a few months later when the new guy turned out to be a terrible boss – ignorant, interfering and autocratic. Most of the other department heads were gone before Tom.
     It took a while longer, but the new general manager was flat-out fired.

     You don’t get to go back, though. Tom apparently wasn’t considered again; they never contacted him, and someone else was appointed.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Devil in Project Management


           Project . . . Process . . . Problem

     How did you learn Project Management?
     More properly, how did you “learn” Project Management?
     Or look at it this way: How have you learned whatever you’ve learned so far about Project Management?
     I’m working on my own grasp of this immense and fascinating field, but it’s only been 31 years. I make no claim to  knowing it all.
     I’ve listened to people who provide very useful knowledge about specific skill sets or defined processes within Project Management – risk management, estimating, Agile. I’m appreciative of their expertise. I use it with good results.
     I’ve heard others who seem to believe – maybe even say – that they have the one true view or system. They do not.