Never Assume



Oh my dear, every now and again (here is one on my other blog and here’s another) a silly joke arrives in my mailbox that teaches us a powerful Project Management Life Lesson. Here is today’s cutie:

Never Assume.

A young software engineer was leaving the office at 4:30 pm when he found the Manager standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

“Listen,” said the Manager, “this is a very sensitive and important document, and my secretary is not here. Can you make this thing work?”

“Certainly,” said the young engineer. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the Start Button.

“Excellent, excellent!” said the Manager as his paper disappeared inside the machine, “I just need one copy.”

Lesson Learned? Never, ever assume that your boss knows what he’s doing.

The Souks are Calling again

Dubai Souks

Dubai Souks

Lucky me! I’ve been writing about escaping the cold southern hemisphere winters to the warmer northern parts and this year summer is coming twice!

Soon I’ll be fastening my seat belt in my favourite airline (in case you didn’t know, Emirates) and I’ll wing it to Dubai for a few days to lead the Effective Project Coordinator conference. I just find it an incredibly rewarding destination. It is relatively safe (coming from South Africa) and the people are friendly. Shopping and cost-of-living might be a little expensive.

But my view of Dubai might not be the same as yours. Why don’t you comment and tell me what you think of Dubai?

Now it is four



And so the time has come that a project manager has to juggle 4 things.

It just doesn’t seem possible. Two dimensions we can handle easily. Three dimensions are within the grasp of the more experienced guys and gals. But four!

I’m not alone here. More than a hundred years ago (in 1827) Möbius already started imagining four dimensions and developing theories on how to deal with them.

Even in my very short (30 years) work experience I’ve learn’t that you can keep your focus on one or two things, but the more things you are watching the more likely you are to forget what you are watching … or put differently, you will ignore critical warning signs from one of those dimensions, possible causing problems in your project.

The modern project managers dilemma is often quoted as balancing the three dimensions of Scope, Time and Cost as I commented here before or my favourite PM handbook by Rory Burke here. For a while we were comfortable that we understood the environment. But that is about to change.

So what are those four dimensions? Today’s politically charged environment is a tough environment to play in. It is not what you do (my late mother’s favourite saying) it is what other people think you are doing. Outcomes are no longer sufficiently defined by concrete deliverables. And the newly added dimension is all about politics.

While reading about Felix Baumgartner’s latest attempt to break the human sound barrier (read all about it here) I saw doctor Jonathan Clark pick up the new trend. He says modern projects face four basic challenges: politics, economics, technical risk, and schedule risk. He so wisely continues that schedule risk is the risk that comes with being pressured to move too fast. Wow that sounds familiar.

As a short digression: A blinding glimpse of the obvious. Competitive pressures often times force us to deliver too fast.

How do we handle this? How do we cope! What can we do to squeeze the impossible four dimensions into a recognisable manageable two or three dimensions and survive? According to the educators it is possible to create views in 2D or 3D that represent 4D. It is not really what you see, but you know what it means.

So I guess the future trends will definitely be to appoint project managers who are not only technically competent, but also have political awareness. This is going to demand a rewrite of CV’s, most likely the addition of list of stakeholders you engaged with.

How does that make you feel? You are welcome to comment by clicking on the link near the top of this post.

Can you feel it?



Remember the slogan during the recent FIFA SCW? Can you Feel it! It’s here!

Well today, as I drove past some obsolete billboards I thought: Can you feel it? It’s gone!

A lot of people seem to feel like the morning after the night before.

Even News24 had a short article on post world cup blues which talks about people feeling rather let down now that all the fun and games are over. Children are back to school, there are bills to pay, jobs to finish, projects to finish.

Aahh! Projects. Do you think the SWC was a project? If so, do you think it was a successful project?

If projects are unique, and this one repeats every 4 years, can it be a project? Or can we treat this particular event (or series of events) as a single project? Who would be the project sponsor that is asking for the benefits? What are those benefits? Are there more than one beneficiary? Who were the stakeholders? Could one imagine each of the 64 matches to be a unique sub-project? What did the project actually deliver?

Or what about the process they followed. Did they follow a particular methodology? Did they measure progress in a particular way? Do they use some software of some kind? Do they have sub-area-managers to look after particular sub-sections? How is all of this coordinated? And documented? Do they retain lessons learned?

Moving right along to the lessons we can learn from this. Remember in project work, by definition it is a temporary endeavour, so when the project is completed and it has delivered the expected benefits the human resources are released from their duties towards this project. They must find other work. How does that make you feel? Redundant or excited? Up or down?

The message I’m trying to create is a very simple one: Any large project is going to come to an end, and when it does people will feel blue. People will feel they have climaxed and there is nothing to motivate them and urge them on. This is a serious issue, and there is a big need to handle this properly. BeerGrin over at metafilter asked the same question and answers varied from managing energy levels to smell the roses.

Lots of Freeway Improvement projects and other large infrastructure projects, also Gautrain, will be coming to an end soon. How do you suggest we handle the post project blues? You can comment by clicking the link near the top of this article.