Project Management: Eating an Elephant

elephant pm

Here’s how to plan and deliver your project without a project management certification: just imagine that you have to eat an elephant, and follow these steps.

  1. If the elephant is really big, find the way to have only one elephant dropped on your plate.
  2. Make sure that the elephant is … well, does not move. This step may turn brutal but it is mandatory if you want to stay alive and well yourself (in case this is really an elephant and not just a dead horse).
  3. Take all measurements, including length of tusks and body weight. Plan the cuts (if this is your first time, use a beef chart for initial planning). Never try to eat it yourself. Just having to taste the elephant cuts here and there, you will get full, regardless, I can bet any money, so not a bite.
  4. Plan to keep the tusks though: they look good on your CV.
  5. Calculate how many meals it will make and what kind of meals; based on the findings, figure out how many eaters you will need on your team. When negotiating eaters’ availability with their line managers, make sure the eaters have the guts that are appropriate for the meal.
    Note: Be cautious with diversity and inclusivity. Your team will be naturally effective AND diverse if you select players who are excited to eat an elephant. If their values are aligned, nothing else matters; disregard their racial, religious, sexual or political orientation. However, whatever they tell you, it will probably make no sense to have vegans and Hindus on this particular team.
  6. Depending on the climate, you may need to have the elephant eaten as soon as possible; otherwise it is going to rot, and nobody will want to eat your elephant unless you pay extra. And mind you, the smell will then follow you for quite a while…
  7. You may then decide to optimize your eating plan. Get your newly formed team involved in the process: a properly orchestrated brainstorming session boosts motivation and increases appetite. You must go out of the room with an updated Elephant Cuts Chart and a clear common understanding of who eats what and when. Some toddlers may need to be reminded that a mouthful of half-chewed meat does not count as eaten.
  8. When all the above has been taken care of, eating the elephant goes like a song. Seriously, make it fun. When work is turned into play, your team will be intrinsically motivated and therefore efficient throughout the entire meal.
  9. Do not forget to praise your best eaters when the meal is over. Celebrate their success. Serve them something really special, serve them yourself, each and everyone, and be genuinely grateful because they had the elephant eaten for you.

If you do all the above correctly, the team will be ready to eat an elephant for you again and again, while cheerfully chasing all predators away from you and stomping out office snakes and lizards on the way.
And the fellow tribesmen watching you from the distance will whisper with awe: That’s a really good project manager

If Zuck Were Project Manager, He’d Learn More ‘Tricks’

Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) once praised her boss for “trying to make meetings as productive as possible.” According to her, Mark Zuckerberg “asks people to send materials in advance so we can use the time for discussion” and “we try to be clear about our goal when we sit down for a meeting–are we in the room to make a decision or to have a discussion?”

At first, I thought Ms. Sandberg was being sarcastic: Can you really call those “efficiency tricks”? But then I had to admit that outside a limited ‘club’ of a few strong managers I have worked with, almost none of the business meetings that I have audited could be considered efficient.

Now the good news. The ‘tricks’ that make your meetings productive are not new or hard to learn, you can easily get ahead of Zuck (although he may be getting some extensive coaching right now); it is just a matter of self-discipline. Well, almost.

Just think about your next meeting as if it’s a project.  

Continue reading “If Zuck Were Project Manager, He’d Learn More ‘Tricks’”

Advanced Project Management Secret: Shared Values

Values PM 2.0

 

Requirements can make or break your projects. Depending on your personal level of PM maturity, you will make sure that you have clarified them on one, two, or three levels. Here’s what can further improve your chances to deliver the project successfully: shared values of the team.

The secret is in the proper composition of your team. Assembling the right team is highlighted in a recent McKinsey report as one of the key practices that define the “art” of project leadership.

Granted, you will not always have the luxury to hand pick the team members. In the worst case, you are parachuted into a failing project and have to make do with what you have. Even in this worst-case scenario, what I suggest here will help – if you take personal values of your team members into consideration.

In short, personal values are needs, and they refer to desirable goals that motivate action. Thus above all, you need to make sure that at least your core team members’ values are aligned with the Goal of the project.

Continue reading “Advanced Project Management Secret: Shared Values”

The Recipe for Project Success: 3 Requirements + 10 Values

success values

The three key reasons why some projects fail are:

  1. Requirements
  2. Requirements
  3. Requirements

There is but a grain of joke in this PM joke: requirements are key. In real life, three different sets of requirements could and should be identified during the project initiation.

Requirements-1: The Spec.

First requirements that come to mind are the “standard” ones: what exactly we have to deliver. If the “what” is not defined properly, different interpretations of the requirements will lead to reworks, conflicts, delays etc.

Although requirements definition and requirements management is an important part of the PM’s job, it is important to go one level higher and make sure that we understand the business context.

Requirements-2: The Constraints Triangle.

If you’ve read this far, you are probably not new to the project management. Hence you know that the triple constraints – Scope, Time, Cost – are part of PM life, and that another PM not-exactly-a-joke insists that you can pick only two. Continue reading “The Recipe for Project Success: 3 Requirements + 10 Values”

What are the identifiers of a bad project?

bad project

To answer this question (asked on Quora), we need to define the meaning of “bad” in “bad project.”  As an old project management bit of wisdom goes, there are three main reasons why projects fail (and thus may be identified as “bad projects”):

  1. Requirements
  2. Requirements
  3. Requirements

Continue reading “What are the identifiers of a bad project?”

How to Sell Your Team on Project Management in 7 Minutes

If you are a professional project manager, you have been through this many times. You get a project to run, receive a list of specialists assigned to the project, start making your calls – and see that the team that you will have to spend a better part of your life with in the coming months is not really sharing your excitement about the project. Continue reading “How to Sell Your Team on Project Management in 7 Minutes”

What Do You Do as Project Manager?

“What is the purpose of your visit to the United States of America?”

The US Custom and Border Protection officer was a big guy. He asked the usual questions in a deep and hoarse voice and was sitting on a rather tall chair behind his counter, which made him look somewhat dominating if not menacing. But that was part of his job. Continue reading “What Do You Do as Project Manager?”

How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions Using Project Management

If you are like 50% of Americans, you must have made your New Year’s resolutions recently. And if you are one of those “new-year-resolute” folks, then you could use some help right now: over 40% of new year’s resolutions do not survive past one month. Continue reading “How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions Using Project Management”

Project Management Master Class: the Fifth Project of Heracles

Storytelling is an effective coaching technique, but it is rarely used in project management. Fortunately, the history of mankind is replete with wonderful examples of projects delivered by individuals who lived long before project management as we know it was born, so we can learn from their mistakes. Continue reading “Project Management Master Class: the Fifth Project of Heracles”

PMP Certification: Facts and Thoughts

A couple of weeks ago, I asked fellow PMs in three LinkedIn groups to share basic data on their academic background. I received 280 responses, out of which 268 contained meaningful data. As promised, I am sharing some results with you. Continue reading “PMP Certification: Facts and Thoughts”