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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

#021 - Lather, Rinse, Repeat - Why We Need to Re-Plan Projects

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

You will find these instructions (or some variation) on most shampoo bottles. Why include these instructions in the first place? Does it mean that the shampoo is actually not that good and you need a double dose? Or, could it possibly be they think you are extra dirty and need the extra round of cleaning (which might be kind of insulting)?

Actually, it is neither of those reasons.

The shampoo is not necessarily faulty, nor are you likely that gamey. The reason they put those instructions on the bottle is that they know the secret of doing a job effectively. The first round cleans most of the pollution, grease and dirt out of your hair - the next round does a final pass to make sure your hair is actually clean, and not just "less dirty".

Other two-part solutions abound - floss before you brush your teeth; your teeth will be healthier if you loosen up the stuff that is stuck between your teeth and then brush and rinse it away.

Painting a room? Don't ever believe the "one coat" label on the can or the brush. Every good painter (DIY or professional) knows that you need (at least) two coats for a good finish. One time round is simply not enough, unless you are freshening up the room with the same exact colour within a couple years. But if you change colours, you will need two coats, and possibly a primer/sealer before that to help hide the old colour. And the bigger the colour change between old and new, the more coats you are likely to need to cover it.

Not surprisingly, the same approach applies to Project Planning, however we are not limited to just a second pass; depending on the length of your project you may end up doing multiple rounds of re-planning to make sure that things are going to get done effectively.

Because - as every Project Manager knows, your project plan becomes obsolete the moment you save it or print it out.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog

Sunday, July 15, 2012

#020 - Decisions, Decisions...A Theory on the Origin of Writing

Decisions, decisions.

We each make thousands of decisions every day. Some studies have indicated that the number is at least 5,000, and possibly up to 35,000 decisions every day. Most of these are small decisions, done subconsciously, or on auto-pilot.

The conscious decisions we make every day are far fewer - but still easily in the high hundreds. The important decisions are fewer again, depending on the day. Some decisions may not even seem important until later on. But decisions we make, in the thousands, every single day of our lives. Even when you say that you can't make a decision - that is a decision to leave things as they are.

Theory on the Origin of Written Language

Babylonian legal tablet in stone envelope (Source: Wikipedia)

I have a theory about the origin of written language. There are many in-depth philosophical, scientific and scholarly theories and analyses on the origin and stages of writing in its various forms, from proto-writing through the various scripts, hieroglyphs and alphabets.

My theory is not about the how or when of when the various forms of written language were developed as proposed by those theorists. My theory is about why written language was developed in the first place - at any place in the world you like, regardless of the time period, style, method or medium.

So here is my theory, developed over the course of an afternoon, including a short nap:

Written language was developed because of all of the decisions we make.

More specifically, the important decisions.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog.

Monday, July 2, 2012

#019 - Once Upon a Time: Your Project is a Story

On July 1, 2012, my teenage son and I went to a book signing. My son's first time going to one - and it was for one of his all-time favourite authors. The author was in Hamilton, NZ for the last stop, and last "show" on his tour for the final book in the series. The next day, he was flying home.

Dragons, Magic, Dwarves, Elves, Wizards, dark forests - the core elements of every good fantasy novel are in his books.

The author spoke with the crowd for nearly an hour, telling of his journey of writing. It was quite an interesting story, and he was a dynamic speaker. At the end, during Q&A one of the members of the audience asked "how do you go about writing a book"?

The answer was insightful. His answer was that it was in exactly the same way as every other author he had met started to write their stories. The authors all started with Questions. "What if...?", "How about if the character did this...?", "Why can't we just...?" and so on.

That got me to thinking about Projects. Doesn't every project start the same way - with a lot of Questions?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

#018 - Other People's Money: Managing Project Budgets Effectively

Other People's Money. 

(Image source: Wikipedia)

When you mention these words, some people might think of stock markets, mutual funds, and the 1991 movie by the same name starring Danny DeVito, in which he played a ruthless corporate raider, leading hostile takeovers of other companies using everyone's money but his own. You might then think about recent history and failed banks, brokerage firms and the millions of affected people when their retirement investments shrank or fell to near zero and countless people lost their homes.

Scary, scary stuff.

Well, let's step back from the big scary picture out there. Back to the reality of your project, where you are "in charge". All of that scary stuff does not really apply to you, does it?

Well, unless you have zero control over your project (and you are just watching from the sidelines and not doing your job), it does apply to you. Unless you are Richard Branson or Bill Gates, you are probably not bankrolling this project from your own pocket.

Your entire project is funded by Other People's Money. This may be customer money, corporate internal project money, or the collected money from the bake sale last month.

The Bad News? You are the steward and caretaker of Other People's Money, entrusted to deliver the project outcomes successfully - within scope, on time, and of course - on or under budget.

The Good News? You are the steward and caretaker of Other People's Money, entrusted to deliver the project outcomes successfully - within scope, on time, and of course - on or under budget.