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

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.

Monday, July 3, 2017

You, Your Multiple Tasks & the Rest of Your Life

This project requires climbing the mountain of my own resistance.
     “I’m very sorry,” the man said. “I just didn’t have time to do it.”
    Not so. He had time to accomplish whatever it was. He just did something else with the time, something quite likely less important than the thing he didn’t get done. He’s probably not really sorry, either – that’s just the customary formula we use when we’ve slipped yet another expectation.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Good Finish Needs Strong Start

House built on a rock foundation,
                                                 It will stand, O yes!
                                                                                        Hosanna – Harry Belafonte

     Married 60 years? Wow! What’s the secret?
     “We agreed at the very beginning,” the husband said. “I’ll make all the major decisions  and she’ll make all the minor decisions. And, so far, nothing major has come up.” In 60 years.
     See? It’s all a matter of definition.
     You can visualize a marriage in which the parties have such a gentle, pleasant way of describing how they manage their relationship. It might not make sense for you or me, but it works for them. That description results from the decades-long negotiations that built and maintained the marriage. They can call it anything they want.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Art of Little Decisions

I understand about indecision
But I don’t care if I get behind . . .
All I want is to have my peace of mind.

                                                         --Peace of Mind, Boston

         The song by the group Boston is devoted to cool-it advice for folks clawing their way up the corporate ladder. For me, though, the lines about indecision never fail to trigger a personal rerun of emotional horror.     
     It’s about my introduction to the news editor job on a newspaper many decades ago. I got behind every day, and I cared a lot. I nearly died of indecision.
     The daily workload would escalate over three or four hours from an utterly empty beginning and nothing to work with . . . to an onslaught of stuff from the wire, the local area and the region. Demands would pile up, alarmingly, every day.
     Managing the rush called for detailed, rapid and overlapping decisions about editing, content, placement, priorities, and who knows what else. I wanted to make good decisions, but I didn’t know how. I would keep setting items aside, hoping for some moment at which all would become clear.
     It never did, of course.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

How to Get Taken Seriously

     Warren G. Harding looked like a leader. He was handsome and dignified, never hard to get along with. He moved with little effort through the ranks of Ohio politics, became a compromise candidate for president.
     He was elected in a landslide on his promise to return the country to normalcy after the hardships of World War I. He died in office after three mediocre years and often is classed among the worst presidents in history.
     Numerous scandals erupted because of Harding’s inability to evaluate his appointees.
     Stephen Hawking is an entirely different story. He looks like a very sick man, which he is – severely limited physically by ALS, able to communicate only by computerized means.
     And Stephen Hawking is deep into the most fundamental questions of our physical world. He is a cosmologist, and yet has the celebrity of a rock star. He works brilliantly in studying and writing about the universe – gravity, black holes, why the theory of General Relativity must be unified with Quantum Theory.
     And people hang on his every word.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Too Much of a Good Thing . . . Not a Good Thing

     I have revered my long-ago friend Dick as the best salesman of my experience, and he was. Dick never lost his enthusiasm and he never gave up.
     But Dick had a serious flaw: He never gave up . . . when he should have.
     My most illustrative Dick story is about a string of fatally over-optimistic decisions he once made.
     He had bought a house, mortgaging it through a bank that was persuaded by some flexible assertions related to current vs. potential income. When the inevitable came about, Dick and his wife were out of a home, but still had some ready cash.
     Dick immediately started up two sales-oriented businesses with the money. Then he met a guy who was running a no-hope race in a presidential primary. Dick leaped on this “opportunity” and became the full-time campaign manager for the “candidate.”
     The two infant businesses dried up and blew away. As did the candidacy. And the boodle of money.