jim@millikenproject.com

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


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Assumptions, Risks & Selective Routine

   
     You can’t leave the house without assuming that your neighbors won’t attack you, that your car will start without blowing up and that you can safely travel across town.
     Those are pretty safe assumptions for most of us in the United States and around the world, but not so everywhere. There are places where you can’t assume safety, and where deadly risk is ever-present.
     Conclusion: Assumptions and risks are situational.
     We can apply that to life: We assume the car will start . . . and then one day it doesn’t. We can assume the front steps are safe, until the day an invisible sheet of ice makes them life-changingly not. Maybe the usual is in place. Maybe not. It’s situational.
     When we’re project managers, we herd uncertainty for a living. We can pay a high price for mismanaging the job.
     The devilish thing about project management is its lurking unpredictability. There’s the nine-times-out-of-ten factor. So much of any project is composed of procedures we have tried and found to be true countless times. We can’t justify meticulously examining each of them each time we employ it.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Love That Failure

 
 Most information we see about project success and failure falls into one of two major topic areas.
     Numerous studies have revealed the bad decisions that led to famous historical disasters such as Robert Scott’s 1911 expedition, in which everybody died after reaching the South Pole (while Roald Amundsen had led a flawless round trip to the Pole a few weeks prior).
     And we’ve read about the project management mistakes that sank the mighty Titanic of the White Star Line in 1912. And why the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (“Galloping Gertie”) destroyed itself in 1940.
     Big-time and big-budget, all of them.
     And then there are statistics that tell us what percentage of present-day projects actually make their numbers on cost, schedule and requirements. Results vary, but not many are outstandingly good. 
     In either category, there isn’t much of use to us small-timers with nontechnical challenges in unsophisticated environments. So innumerable project managers wrestle alone with issues of limited resources, demanding sponsors, resistant stakeholders, shaky budgets, distracted team members -- often with utter lack of precedent.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

When All Else Fails, Read the Directions


     “When all else fails, read the directions.”
     The landlord was a rough-hewn sort, a small-town developer and semi-retired owner of a construction business, constantly battling with the authorities over his penchant for doing things his own way, regardless.
     His wry counsel about the directions, though, was spot on. In the midst of some routine difficulty, he made that remark as he went back to Square One.
     After a quick chuckle, we stop to appreciate the implications of such a crack. It reminds us how often we entangle ourselves in ever-widening, totally unnecessary complexity.
     Until comes the revelation: Oh! It wasn’t plugged in. No wonder it didn’t work. Why didn’t we check that to start with?