Author: adam

How can we protect the value in our projects?

the end result of a project is not the technical components created by a bunch of technologists, it is the value created by the end customer who puts that capability to use.  It’s so easy for that to get lost along the way, as the exigencies of real-world project delivery strike the project.  But if the value is not recognised and maintained all the way through. The secret is simple: discipline and focus

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What is the Single Most Important Skill for a Project Manager?

“What is the most important skill that a Project Manager needs to be successful?” This question is asked endlessly in articles, blog posts, discussion groups and polls. The usual answers are skills such as: “Leadership”, “Communication”, “Team-building”, “Honesty”, and “Technical Knowledge”. The problem with these answers is that they are too generic: noble intent but general and therefore open to many interpretations in the real world.  “Communicate what?” is the first question that comes to my mind. But there is a skill that not only differentiates great PM’s from others, but also speaks to why Project Management is different to other forms of management activity. That most important skill for PM’s is the ability to obtain an outcome. In other words, a project the aggregate of all the outcomes that have been achieved throughout its life. If a project is the result of all its outcomes, then the job of the project manager is to obtain those outcomes, step-by-step, one-by-one until project completion. It may be for the PM to directly obtain those outcomes, or it may be that s/he facilitates the outcomes in the way the project is set up, or even just by establishing the need for outcomes as the central core of the project. Therefore the one skill that a successful project manager cannot lack is the ability to obtain an outcome.  More importantly, the ability...

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What are the Project Action Principles?

The “Project Action Principles” (PAPs) most likely were triggered by the #noestimates dialog on Twitter a couple of years ago.  The proposition behind #noestimates was that in modern agile software development, estimates were not only not required, but were counter to the idea of agility.  I don’t necessarily agree 100% but I see the point behind the proposition.  It got me thinking to a project that I was running about a year earlier, in which I consciously decided that producing a project schedule was counter-productive.  I won’t go into details here but I felt that not only did I not need one, but that having one would have hurt more than it helped.  I have also written on the issues with how Risk Management is run in many projects and again, how this process is essentially a waste of time, in which case we’d be better off ignoring it. So the question came to me a year or so ago: “what is the minimum framework we need to successfully run a project?”.  If estimates are not mandatory, and schedules are not mandatory and risk management is not mandatory, then what is mandatory?   what elements of project management are there that we cannot take away and still function? (always of course dependent on circumstances). this seemed to me to be a task worthy of some brainpower, and so, after about 6-9 months,...

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What is the Project Management “Paradigm Trap”?

The Paradigm Trap A “paradigm trap” is a situation in which people, teams or organisations can’t think outside a particular paradigm that they have been using.  This “trap” therefore actively prevents them finding alternative solutions to their problems.  It could also be called the “Paradigm Black Hole” in reference to how light is “trapped” by the gravitational force of the star at its centre. In the world of Project Management, the “paradigm” is the particular methodology that is used to orchestrate planning and execution,  e.g. plan-based methodologies based on PMBOK, or a derived internal equivalent.  Or the paradigm could be an Agile approach to software development, for example: Scrum. This situation is well understood across many domains of experience and professional practise: it is also known as the “law of the instrument” or “déformation professionnelle”. This situation is classically illustrated by Maslow’s quote: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail” – Abraham H. Maslow (1962), Toward a Psychology of Being  If you are building a house, you won’t succeed by following the directions in the user manuals for your power drill, angle grinder and electric plane.  You need to follow a higher-order house design and a set of guidelines in how to approach building the house.  The house design is informed by human...

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