Friday, April 20, 2012

Thoughts on Effective Project Management

Effective project management and execution has many components. To name a few that comes to mind:
  • Planning
  • Communication
  • Cooperation
Projects don't always go smoothly though and so we compensate with:
  • Process
  • Documentation
  • Incentives (or bribery)
Don't get me wrong, process, documentation, and incentives are not bad things but they're not guarantees for great projects. Just because you have process doesn't mean your project will be executed well. Just because you have documentation doesn't mean the project will be universally perfectly understood. Just because you have incentives does not mean your team will be motivated.

When the project struggles, don't panic and don't think that there's going to be a miracle cure. So what should you do? Breathe. Relax. Rather than jumping to a change in the model, figure out first if the model is being effectively executed. Sometimes all it takes is some individual coaching or team training.

Think for a second about treating a medical ailment:
Symptoms: Excruciating pain, being unable to walk or stand
Solution: Prescribe heavy medications, such as Oxycodone. If you can't feel the pain, then what does it matter right? But if you only treat the symptoms and don't fix the problem, the symptoms will reoccur as soon as the drugs wear off.

Problem: The leg is broken
Solution: Set the let and/or perform surgery to bolt the bone back together. YES! We are out of pain and we're mobile again. But if you only fix the problem and don't eliminate the cause, then someone is sure to come along and break their leg--OR WORSE!

Cause: The rug is bunched up
Solution: Smooth out the rug. If the rug is prone to bunching, tack it down or figure out what causes it to get bunched up. Perhaps it's to close to a door that opens frequently. If tacking is not an option or it can't be moved further from the door, replace the rug with one that has a non-slip back or that is shorter.

I contend that most issues in project management and execution are like this. Simple causes that, when ignored, cause expensive problems and exhibit symptoms disconnected with the cause itself. Fixing the rug is a simple fix. It's not a change to the model, it's just taking the existing model and working the kinks out.

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