Thursday, 26 September 2013

Workflow for baby MK2

In a few days, I'm due to become a father for the second time.

I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of the learning from last time, so I read my original "Can you Project Manage a baby?"

If you've not seen this and are a new parent or are thinking about becoming one, have a look here:

The key message that I would like to convey to new parents, is that parenting shouldn't scare you, after all people have been doing it for years!  You will undoubtedly be worried that you're going to kill the child accidentally, but it is really unlikely that this will happen.  Having said this, if you don't want to die of tiredness yourself, there are some basic things that you do need to pick up quickly.

For us, one of the most difficult things was that we couldn't figure out what exactly made the baby cry at any particular time.  It took a while for us to figure this out, but that was stressful and I thought that it would be easier to publish something quite simple to assist new parents.

In my professional life, I'm also messing around (learning) BPMN2.0 for some of the more 'Internal consultant-y' work that I do, and this was a great opportunity to get some hands-on experience using the process tool.

The idea was to do something that was tongue in cheek, rather than something overly serious.  Trust me though, this flowchart does actually work!!

So what is this all about?  Babies are primarily interested in sleeping, but they get really grumpy if they're wet/dirty, hungry or have wind.  So you just need to run though a simple process to sort things out - essentially a workflow.  When you're winding, 'more is more' because babies seem to find a little wind really nasty, but they also seem to release loads of it in tiny parcels.

That's the sort of thing that you need to be stencilled on the fridge door when it's 3am, you've not slept for 9 days, and you're contemplating if it's actually possible to die from tiredness.

If you're reading this and thinking "that guy doesn't take thing seriously enough and probably makes a really bad dad and husband", you'd be wrong.  I'm really committed to the role, but I was so uptight before I became a parent and I want people who are just becoming parents to realise that you're probably going to have to go with the flow a bit more.  You can't really control a baby - just like in life, control is an illusion!!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What does Project Management mean to me - #pmflashblog

I am writing this article for #pmflashblog , which is a collection of Project Managers around the world, writing on a single topic at a specific time (or reasonably specific time anyway)

The topic of this first #pmflashblog is “What does Project Management mean to me?”

Well, for me being a PM is pretty much about professionalism.  Everything else falls out of that.


A professional seeks to be at the top of his/her game.  They keep up to date with the industry, actually follow best practice (may take some time to get right) and they generally do the right thing in the right way.

I’m not suggesting that a professional gets it right all the time, because I’ve made some absolute howlers.  Neither am I suggesting that their personality is perfect, because I don’t know anyone who fits that bill.  What I’m suggesting that they actively try and do things better each time.

I’ve been walking this path for some time now.  It leads to a lot of thinking, some real breakthroughs and a whole lot of pain - but it is worthwhile to keep putting the effort in because it does pay off in the long run.

So what PM skills do you need to develop in order to make this happen?

Control the main project killers, Pareto style:

As a PM, you need to know that a few things are project killers.  There is a list as long as your arm (or leg) of things that can cause issues, but the key things are these:

1)  Top Management Support
2)  Undefined Success Criteria
3)  Project Stakeholders/Clients have not been interviewed for Project Requirements
4)  Lack of Resources/availability of personnel
5)  PM cannot communicate effectively with clients

These sound really basic.  The simple truth is: yes, they are simple, but they’re the most common project killers and if you keep controlling those, you’re going to be on a better track than those who don’t.

You’re always going to get stuck at some point in a project, but if you control those things then you’ve got a far better chance of success.

Manage the benefits and everything else will come:

Most project managers think in terms of time, cost and performance but the truly enlightened know that a project is all about delivering benefits.  Trust me that no-one will care that you came in under budget if the house has no roof because you de-scoped it in a bid to bring everything in under budget and on time.

Be a servant leader:

Be there to clear blockages for your teams.  It sounds simple, but the only reason that you’re there is to make things easier for them - otherwise you’re chaff.  Be a servant leader, and seek to make things better and easier for the team and they’ll not just support you as the Project Manager, but they’ll make you their God.

Work for the best of the organisation, not yourself:

If you work in the best interests of the organisation, then that will be noticed.  People will try to do you over from time to time (think daily) but if you’re working in the best interests of the organisation, then they’ll be seen for what they are.  Be clear that’s what you’re doing because people need to know that.  It’s about setting a good example, and doing the right thing.  It will seem thankless at first, but you will be noticed in time.  Play the long game.

Don’t take yourself too seriously:

Seriously, don’t.  If you can’t find some time to have a laugh and a joke even when things are getting really bonkers, then go and work in a supermarket or anywhere but here.  Life is too short to be too serious and people don’t really like folk who aren’t approachable.  Many people think that Project Management is about being serious.  Well it is a serious job, but don’t let it get you glum, chum.

Anyhow, hopefully that’s given you an idea about what PM is to me.  Some days are great and others aren’t.  You’ve got to remember that you’re the Rock Star and the Tea Boy, so get in there and make a cuppa.  Mine’s a tea, milk no sugar!!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Why use a Business Analyst?

In my quest to become a better Project Manager, I've ended up learning the basics of Business Analysis (BA).

BA is something that fascinates me, probably more than being a Project Manager. The BA has to understand the business and the reason for change. They need to understand the structure and culture of the business and how healthy the business is. They also need to understand the needs of the management and the users.

Essentially we're talking here about doing the 'right thing' when we're changing things. Making the projects deliver the right thing in the right way.

In order to do this, the BA needs to look at three key areas:

1) How things are at the moment (as is).
2) How things will become (to be).
3) The gap between the two (gap analysis).

The 'as is' and 'to be' won't necessarily be done as 1 then 2. You may need to start with how things need to be and work backwards, or start with how things are and streamline things. The former is more likely to be 'big bang' and the latter is more likely to be gentle and iterative. There is no right or wrong way to do this, because it depends on who is driving the change - whether it's strategic or emergent needs.

There are many tools to ensure that this is all done 'correctly', but essentially it's about trying to do change in the best way possible.

See you 'on the ground'
Dave (@juggingsand).