jim@millikenproject.com

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


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Everybody's Got a Manager

     Danny Amendola just moved from a consistently winning team to an occasional also-ran, and he couldn’t be happier.
     Amendola was a star performer on a New England Patriots football team that won the league championship two years ago and made it to the Super Bowl again last year. Now he has just gone to the Miami Dolphins, winless in their three trips to the playoffs in the past decade.
      Amendola is a poster boy for the saying, “People don’t leave organizations – they leave managers.”
     This week, the Associated Press quoted him gushing about his new coach, Adam Gase:
     “It’s almost like Coach Gase is one of the guys, one of the boys and you wanna fight hard for your boys. Back in New England it’s almost like you got a principal and a principal’s office . . . you know, in a good way and in a bad way, too.”



Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Hardest Part of Project Management

     What’s the single most difficult thing about the project manager’s job?
     I know, I know: There are so many problems, especially the unpredictable ones, that it seems a worthless exercise to try isolating the single worst. Those devilish items take turns being the worst, often with head-spinning rapidity.

     The specifics can include, but most definitely are not limited to:

     Insufficient time
     Scope creep
     Fuzzy expectations
          . . . often unexpressed and/or unknown to those who have them
     Abrupt changes in organizational priorities
     Lack of assured project resources
     Team members who won’t make commitments
         . . . or won’t keep the commitments they’ve made
     Managers who block or limit team members’ participation
     Lack of insights from project end users

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Listen Up: Disengage Project Autopilot

     The guy had rehearsed his sales presentation thoroughly and was well into it when his prospect perked up and interrupted with a question.
     “Be patient,” the salesman said. “I’m only on my third point – I’ve got nine more to go.”
     Can you think of a better way to kill off a sale?
     A radically different example comes out of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
     It was in 1983, when the two bitter adversaries had enormous nuclear armaments trained on each other.  A software glitch mistakenly sent an alert to the Soviet duty officer, falsely warning that the U.S. had launched five missiles. There had been no such launch.
     The Soviet officer decided any real attack would be a lot more serious, so he withheld any counterattack. Had he acted, there could have been nuclear war.
     We project managers can relate to the student sales example; not so the missile one. But one factor in both illustrates a major point for us: the judgment of the decision-maker.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Ego, Confidence & the Manager

     The boss was a good-sized man, good-looking in a fleshy sort of way. Had an assertive way of looking at people around him, commanding his surroundings. A man to be paid attention to.

     But that manner exuded ego, not confidence. Here is a case in point:



Saturday, April 14, 2018

Management Power, Management Behavior

      
“You can’t run this place by committee.”
     That was the corporate president, responding to the manager of a division of the company.
     The manager, one month into his first job at this level, had just described how he had directed the department heads to prepare for him “blue sky” budget proposals. The idea was to include in early budget planning a look to the future – what the department manager envisioned as investments for growth over the succeeding few years.
     The president was not persuaded by the idea. The new division manager lost the job a few months later, returned to his previous position as a supervisor and soon left the company.
     A successor, more in the authoritative mold of the president, lasted a year before being flat-out fired. His peremptory style had resulted in unionization of every unit in the division.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Patience, Tolerance & Management

     Promotion to management can be tough – on everybody, but particularly on the person honored by the elevation.
     Exceptions are when the new manager had had actual management training before moving up, or has benefited from the gift of competent mentorship. If the mentoring continues after the promotion, the value is multiplied.
     The great majority of entrants into management aren’t so lucky. They arrive unprepared in this strange new place, and some of them never really recover. Look around you. How many of the managers you encounter actually perform the work well?

     In case your ability to evaluate managers has been dulled by years of exposure to the general run of the practice, let’s step back and freshen our perspective.
     To clarify: in most situations, the manager is NOT supposed to be the most accomplished worker bee in the place. Your widget-making days are over now.
     The responsibilities of managers vary limitlessly, so we’ll start with the universal basics: What is a manager supposed to do?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Risk


     “Do you believe you can support your family if this doesn’t work out?” she asked.
     “Of course!” he responded.
     So he left his secure job and moved his family hundreds of miles. His five-member group was preparing to launch a new business that they hoped would provide professional success and a good living for them all.
     A second member of the group also moved. The two of them were going to do the spadework for  the start-up.
    Within weeks, the whole project collapsed.
   

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?