jim@millikenproject.com

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


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.

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.