Friday, December 31, 2010

KISSing Project Management

Project managers have to know a bit about a large set of different subjects, you can pick any topic from Earned Value Management to Leadership. They have to have a large set of personal skills, some of them cannot coexist peacefully together (can you easily imagine someone being a visionary and focused on results?). There are a few Project Management frameworks and methodologies available for project managers to choose from. And they have to deal with people while trying to make something unique happen for real... If this context doesn’t sound complex to you I don’t know what will...
So how can you step into this messy world of Project Management and survive? I have strongly advised on the use of common sense (check out “Mastering Motivation”, “Team Players” and “A Christmas Business Case”).
But his time I have a new tip for you: the KISS Principle.

KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid and it follows pretty close Albert Einstein’s “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler”. Doing things in a simple way is not always easy, so I have a small list of things for you to keep in mind.

1. Projects satisfy Visions
First things first, so don’t forget why your project exists. A project is always about implementing some vision (a business vision, not the hallucinating kind) so be sure to know what vision started your project and what business need it addresses. And it’s never about delivery dates or keeping the project under budget - those are important but that’s not why your project exists.

2. People make things happen
It’s not the framework you use, not the methodology or the tools. If you’re managing your project from your closed office with no phone ringing and no one walking in I’d bet something is really going wrong. So start off with a close grip on your stakeholder analysis and your communication plan. And stay as close as you can to your project team. So leave your office and be with people.

3. Roadblocks
Project managers don’t do the project work. They make it possible for the project team to deliver on time and on budget. So keep an eye on what’s preventing your team from performing at their top. Risk management plays a big part but so does knowing what your team’s expectations are.

4. Know about Best Practices and avoid them
Knowing about Best Practices allows you to save a lot of time and so you should know what tools are available for you to use without re inventing the wheel everyday. But. If you find someway to do something in a simpler way, go for it! And add it to your toolbox. And share it with others however you can: on your project’s lessons learned, on your company's intranet, on Twitter, on Facebook or whatever makes sense on your particular case - but share it.

5. Don’t go for tags
Don’t go Agile just because it’s the trend on software development. Don’t ignore Scrum just because you don’t take it seriously - I know some people using Scrum on Marketing with a huge success. When you have to make choices, go instead to what looks like it will bring the best results and forget what people call it. If you think about it, a rolling wave waterfall has more similarities with a sprint than any other thing I can think off. Strange, isn't it?

6. Simple isn’t easy
Keeping it simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. So prepare yourself to be bold and brave. Think ahead. And allow yourself some distance to thinks happening. Did you ever hear that a dog is the best project management tool you can have?

And to wrap up, I'd love to hear from you and your experience. How important do you think the KISS Principle is in Project Management? Do you make an effort to keep things simple? Would you add something to this list?

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