Project Management

In this context the term project management refers to the method which is well defined - how to realize a project. Depending on the environment and the nature of the project quite a few peripheral subjects can play a role: team dynamics, leadership, innovation, longterm strategy, conflict, creativity ... Many of these peripheral subjects are covered in other articles but this section focuses on the "how to run a project technically".

Note that "project management" is no rocket science at all - actually it is what we do intuitively but often not with sufficient diligence. It prompts us to:

  • get clear on what we want
  • figure out what we need to get it done
  • create a mental picture how the dynamics play out
  • calculate the basic parameters like duration and cost.

Why project management under "Achieve"? Because specialization is for insects.

The method "project management" is a basic skill today. The science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein wrote: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.".

Project management is a universal skills that everybody should have at least to some extent. It is the skill to get something substantial done, something that takes time, that includes other ressources and people. Its how we achieve something BIG.

The foundation of project management

Here is what 100% of projects need but only 50% have: an end. Most projects have a start (well, some are dropped before they are started). They have a duration. But all to often this duration is unknown, unlimited, eternal. Note to self: A project has an end. Otherwise it is not a project.

Once you planned the project it has 3 parameters you can modify - but each only at the expense of the others. Imagine a rope and 3 poles at the beach. You form a triangle and put the rope around it. If you move one pole to the outside the follow will pull the other poles as well. The three poles are:

  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Time

You can speed up a project (if possible at all) but it will either cost more or deliver lower quality. Or both.

The classic model

Here is the classic approach that scales - from your birthday party to building a house. Consult with others wherever possible!

  1. Write down what you want to achieve: host 100 people next Saturday and play a live gig
  2. Brain-dump a list of things to do: get cool set list, invite old friends, borrow chairs ...
  3. Structure the list into logical groups: music, drinks, food, before, after ...
  4. Fill in the gaps - what is missing? Create a closed Facebook group, put new strings on your guitar ...
  5. Figure out dependencies: invitations first! Now! Food to be ordered now but delivered on Saturday. First the light show, then the chairs.
  6. Plan resources, calculate cost. Who will play the drums? What can the buffet cost?
  7. Have a kickoff with the people involved - go through the plan, discuss and have a good time already :-)
  8. Execute and adjust.

This is how supertankers are built! Well, basically.

Going Agile - SCRUM

You might have heard that "we are doing our projects agile from now on". If you are lucky you will have a great experience of user centered, fast paced and fun projects! If you are less lucky documentation and QA gets dropped without substitute because with agile "we do not longer document and the user does the testing". Yeah. Seen it.

Agile has its roots in deep dissatisfaction with the classic project management, especially but not limited to software. Some people thought there must be a better way to create software than getting small (but vital) changes only months later "because it needs to be properly planned". A group of software developers came up with the agile manifesto which describes the foundation of the agile process with regards to software. It makes an excellent reading for everybody interested in processes (and collaboration). At the start it says:

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

SCRUM is an implementation of the agile process - it is a valuable alternative to "traditional" project planning, for software systems and beyond.

Blog entries for project management

[blog_in_blog category_slug='project-management' num=999]