Some time back I was in a meeting with a project manager who presented the status on his troubled project to the project sponsor and other executive stakeholders. This project was of high interest to the sponsor and stakeholders as they were depending on its successful completion to make some major changes in their respective organizations. The project sponsor asked the project manager a very straightforward question:
Why is the project slipping?
The project manager went into a long, meandering monologue. The sponsor interrupted and asked the question again. More meandering from the project manager. Seeing the sponsor and other stakeholders’ growing frustration, the project manager’s boss stepped in and said they needed to do more homework and would come back the next day better prepared. The next day, the project manager’s boss presented the status and answered questions--along with a new project manager.
In a recent phone call I told the CEO of my insurance brokerage that after being a loyal customer for 15 years I had moved all my business to other providers. Given our long-standing relationship, I felt I owed him an explanation; not because I wanted to see someone fired, but because I wanted him to know my reasons for leaving so he could put any lessons learned to use.
It started about seven years ago when the person assigned to my business insurance seemed to lose interest in me. He wasn’t on top of my renewals, made me do work that he could have done for me, and didn’t competitively bid my insurance. I moved all of my business insurance to another agency. A similar issue happened in the past year with my personal insurance; I simply didn’t feel that I was important to my agent. The final nail in the coffin came when my bank notified me that my homeowners’ insurance had lapsed two months earlier without any notification from my insurance agent. I then reached out to another agency, who quickly bound coverage for me at 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening.
In 2004, my wife Patty and I decided to team homeschool our autistic son because we knew he would need more help as he entered middle school. I had spent 20 years in corporate America, working for both Accenture and Microsoft, but in the Fall of 2004, I became his part-time math and science teacher, spending the remainder of my time doing business consulting and writing books.
Up to that time I always had either a client or office to go to. With the change to homeschool teacher/author/consultant, I now had no place to go each day. My office was either our playroom where we homeschooled, our home office, or local coffee shops. It was definitely an adjustment and I learned a lot about how to be effective without going to a workplace. Now I can’t imagine it any other way.
A pretty nifty feature in Microsoft Project is the ability to define a project through the use of the project guide. The project guide is a cool little wizard that walks you through setting up a project, assigning resources to the project, tracking progress, and reporting on progress. What I like about this wizard is not only the help it gives newbie project managers, but also is a great reminder of the cool MS Project capabilities for more seasoned MS Project project managers.
To get started with this cool project management software tool do the following:
Talk about your character-building experience...
I was a young hot-shot project manager on an engagement that I had sold to a client. I had it all planned out and had delusions of completely delighting my client with an issue-free project. It all seemed so simple, then the project started...and never finished.
I'll spare you the gory details of my harrowing experience but what I can tell you is that I put more focus on selling and planning the project than I did on its execution. I took a naive attitude of the project being able to pretty much run itself with some junior analysts running the day-to-day aspects of the work. It blew up in my face and I got booted from the client never to return again. It was my inaugural visit to the project management guillotine.
Several years back a colleague of mine (I'll call the colleague "Nellie") was managing a very high-visibility project. This project was high on the radar of key executives all the way up to the CEO of the company and any major mis-steps would send fireworks up the chain faster than lightning. This was one of those "thrill-seeker" projects; definitely high risk but also of high reward if the project was successful. Nellie was up to the challenge and willingly accepted the assignment.
So we've all been to the doctor. We know the feeling of getting marched into a sterile examination room, given a gown that only covers the front half of your body, aked to step on a scale, prodded with a thermometer, asked to pee in a cup. Then there's what seems like an eternity of sitting on an examination table with your hind quarters hanging out waiting for the doctor to come in the room. Then after what seems like an eternity the door bursts open and the doctor pronounces, "Hello, I'm Dr. Goofleblat..."
Some time back I was responsible for a portfolio of projects being done within the finance organization of my company. One of the projects was outsourced to a large consulting firm who supplied the project management, analysis, and development resources to the project. I would hold weekly meetings with the project manager who consistently gave me a "thumbs up" on the project up to the first key milestone being hit. When the week of the first milestone approached, he announced that the milestone was going to have to slip by a week to ensure successful delivery. The next week came along and again the project slipped a week. This went on for two more weeks with the promise of "we'll for sure nail it next week." I decided to do some crawling around the project to assess where the project was really at. Turns out we were at least a month away from delivering to the milestone which was already a month late.
I love baseball. I love watching the strategies, the big plays, the colossal errors (anyone remember poor Bill Buckner?) and the dramatic finishes. The Tampa Bay Rays, who in nine of their first ten years of existence finished dead last in their division (In 2004 they managed to beat out one team and finished fourth in their division), surprised everyone in 2008 by beating out such teams as the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees and made it to the World Series only to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though they lost the World Series, they were heroes in the eyes of millions who rooted for them and their storybook season.
One strategy that I particularly enjoy is the use of specialty players, of which the most prevalent is the "closer". The closer is a pitcher who is brought in for just a very short period of the game (typically the last inning of a game) to shut down opponent hitters and either secure a win for their team or allow a team who is behind to catch up in their last at-bat.
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