jim@millikenproject.com

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


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Roots of Project Failure

Paying more attention than usual (even) to how Project Managers think: I'm preparing a presentation called "Right On/Way Off: Good Decisions and Bad Decisions in Managing Projects."

I've been on this subject for years, and I'm still short of definitive results in tracking the thought patterns of these fevered souls we call Project Managers. I can tell you this, though: You can't find a hall large enough to accommodate enough of them to get consensus on much of anything. Oh, other than a strong sense of the perfidy of the various stakeholders collectively known as "they."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

In Search of the Obvious

It was a blinding flash of the obvious.
A project manager was talking the other day about a big problem in her organization. The business side had run out of data storage space, and adding more capacity was not in the cards. The potential workload demands posed by this problem, and the potential cost of solving it, kept it well down the IT priority list.
For the business people, though, it was very serious and pressing. They were boxed in.
But this project manager had recently come across the concept of looking for opportunity in potential project situations, as a way of broadening support among stakeholders not attracted by the idea of just solving the problem.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Mediocre Media Muddle . . . and the Critics Who Should Know Better

“The media” are a mushy, messy mélange.
It is distressing that, while our news media, infotainment industry and the mindless megaphones of cableworld devote their considerable energy to messing with our world view, they get so much help from people who think they’re being critical.
A late-breaking example, the one that triggered this rant, came in Sunday’s New York Times. Frank Rich, normally a well-informed and thoughtful commentator, found reason to spread the blame beyond the Balloon Boy Dad, Richard Heene. Heene is the guy who conducted the Colorado hoax involving the false report that 6-year-old (note the name) Falcon Heene was aboard a runaway aerial balloon.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Words that Can't

Words cannot portray
what wisdom never created.

You can't write your way
out of a factual problem.

You can't talk your way
around a lapse in integrity.

You can't walk the talk
if it's just talk.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Second-Hardest Thing You'll Ever Attempt

The second-hardest thing you'll ever attempt to do is change the culture of an organization.

The hardest thing of all is to change your own behavior.

When you stop and think about it, (How often do we actually stop and think about anything at all?) this issue of deliberate change is at the root of every improvement effort. That covers Project Management, Change Management, process improvement, skills development, problem solving and all the rest.

If all of us would build in this perception as we "plan," we'd be more solidly based no matter what we might be seeking to accomplish. The implications are immense.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Good, the Bad & the Must-Have

I've joined the Project Manager Networking Group, and discovered some interesting thoughts on the discussion board.

One Project Manager started this discussion, and it's interesting that along the way the comment exchange got a little heated . . . sort of like a few moments in your typical Project.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why Projects Fail

Every time I do any group training for Project Management, I give the participants the opportunity to brainstorm what actions or omissions can damage a Project, and what actions best ensure success. In hundreds of instances, it has almost never failed that PLANNING comes out a runaway winner -- poor planning in the failures, good planning in the winners.
Then we talk about people's actual experiences in Projects. It also very unusual if most of the group doesn't report that planning, when it occurs at all, is slipshod. Any plan that results is dismissed or ignored.

Whelmed Over

I am so
overwhelmed
with my feelings of being
overwhelmed
that I have become . . .
overwhelmed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Good Management Is Project Management

One of the vital things they never told me when I became a manager was how to think. So, among the many truths that took decades to crystallize for me was the concept of "the managerial attitude." Matter of fact, I'm still working on it.

In recent years, I've discovered that an obsession with Project Management is very helpful in clarifying this matter. The Project Manager enters a situation of uncertainty, ambiguity and risk -- and convinces skeptical (frequently negative) people to act with specific vigor to make tough things happen.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mis-sending Mixed Messages

Today, everybody from governments to parents is "sending messages." You don't just say something or do something, you send a message.

The idea is that your real meaning -- a warning, say, or a bad example -- will come across loud and clear to some key person or group without regard to what you THINK you're saying or doing. Or maybe what you PRETEND to think you're saying or doing.

It's great fun to accuse someone of "sending the wrong message," because this matter can be entirely subjective. That being so, the original sender can argue in response that the accuser is misinterpreting the message, maybe on purpose. This counterclaim detects a message of veiled but evil intent.

There's no real way of determining who's right . . . unless, of course, someone actually asks the purported recipient (a kid, a voter, an adversary) of the suspect message. And what kind of a message would THAT send?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Managing People Who Resist Process

This is about what really goes on in effective management.

Very few managers actually have a process devoid of people. A process is a defined set of sequentially dependent steps that produce a predictable outcome. Process improvement is making the steps clearer and more efficient, thereby making the result more predictable with less input of time, effort and resources.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Building Alliances

Every "transaction" with another human being either improves or reduces the productivity of your relationship with that person.

You build by investing attention. You graciously comply with requests. You listen carefully, and respond respectfully. You cheerfully help find solutions rather than dwelling on mistakes.

So people LIKE working with you, being around you. And they feel obligated, in a pleasant sort of way, to go out of their way to help you. When you truly are too busy, they understand and feel not the slightest irritation with you. They waste less of your time.

RIP

Maine PMI's Project of the Year competition died a quiet, unattended death on Thursday, April 30, 2009 at the age of 7. There were no survivors, no mourners and no entries. May it rest in peace.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mind Your Behavior


You act or you don't.
If you act, the action accomplishes something or it doesn't. The result either meets your expectations or not.

That is a simple, behaviorist description of personal productivity. Forget about all the syllables (eight of 'em: Per son al Pro duc tiv it y) -- this is about getting things done. The right things. The right way. Quickly
You don't have to be an efficiency expert to understand personal productivity. Anyone can grasp it, but it's amazing how little attention we pay. This is a fundamental factor in human life.
On the matter of paying attention: Even the most minimal amount of it a person pays to his/her own behavior can save that person hours a week, or even hours a day.

Think about it. You need to run errands, say. One of the errands involves an annoying person or thing.
Because your focus is blurred by a minor negative emotion, you don't realize until you're well on your way that you forgot to bring along the items you need to properly carry out the two or three other matters you could handle while you’re downtown.
So, you're going to waste some time, and you have to do some more thinking. Do you turn around and go back? Do you reprioritize your activities? Do you get madder, further messing up your productivity?

Most importantly, do you take a moment to imprint the lesson learned, and leverage some motivation from it to improve your management of the rest of your day?
Personal productivity comprises anticipation, evaluation, prioritization, scheduling, efficiency, problem solving, negotiation and persuasion -- and probably a few other good habits.
But it starts with stopping to think. Do that a few minutes twice a day, and reap some amazing rewards.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stakes & Chickens

The objects of projects are clear
To all of the holders of stakes.
The chickens come roosting, my dear,
When the stakeholders learn what it takes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Brand-New World . . . Same Old Challenges

Few of us alive today have seen this. Huge old corporations crashing down over a single weekend. Seemingly endless reports of unprecedented layoffs and business failures. Our world is changing drastically. What can we, individuals and managers, do?

It's a time of threat and uncertainty, and the perfectly natural reaction is to hunker down. The world has changed and what you've been doing isn't working. What you know doesn't give you the new answers you need. So now what?