Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dobson’s Laws of Project Management and Other Things (Part 3)


I’ve been writing and publishing daily management tweets since August 2009. In March 2010, I published a collection of the ones I’d written to that date. Here is the first of three more installments, covering Dobson’s Laws from the beginning of April 2010 through the end of December 2010. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Dobson under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license. 


  • Two metrics for ethical decisions: Will anyone suffer a negative outcome? Would you like it if other people did the same thing?
  • Work is like an iceberg. 90% of it is below the surface and not readily apparent to bosses or customers.
  • If you don’t change your mind from time to time, you’re probably not thinking.

  • 
If your project has enemies, your underperformance in any area is their target of opportunity. Be prepared to counter-spin the story.

  • 
For Earth Day, take a green approach to dead projects. Recycle processes, lessons learned, resources, and incidental byproducts.

  • 
The amount of emphasis placed on a performance element doesn’t necessarily correlate with its actual importance.

  • 
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow. By then, it may be overtaken by events.

  • 
Identify bad projects early. You may not always be able to dodge them, but if you’re in charge of a sinking ship, you need to know when to bail.
  • You’re not there to do what the customer says, but what the customer wants. 

  • 
Failure at a project or phase level doesn’t necessarily mean failure of the overall objective — or vice versa.
  • 
If there’s more than one reason why a project should be done, some stakeholder wants it done for *that* reason and no other.
  • 
No one in the world needs a power drill. What people *need* are holes. Don’t confuse means with ends.
  • In a finite environment, someone else can always make use of your resources. Don’t think this hasn’t occurred to them already.
  • There’s always some picture in the mind of the boss or customer. Whether it’s right or wrong, you still have to manage it.

  • A constraint is only a constraint if it blocks a route to your objective.

  • 
A deadline is the latest you can get it done, the budget is the most you can spend, and the scope is the least you can do.

  • 
People and politics are responsible for most project risk. Project risk plans, in contrast, focus primarily on technical risks.

  • The difference between what you can do without extraordinary effort and what’s desired is the measure of project difficulty.

  • 
If you can’t figure out how you *can* solve the problem, try asking why you *can’t* solve it. Sometimes that yields new insights.

  • 
Change creates loss. It makes things worse in the short term. Payoffs aren’t ever guaranteed. Don’t trivialize change resistance.

  • 
Finishing the work isn’t the same thing as finishing the project. But most project plans ignore the closeout stage altogether.

  • 
How are you going to transition the project to its next stage? If you don’t have a plan, the project sticks to you like flypaper.
  • 
Sometimes a project really needs to die, and the project manager has to reenact the final scene from Ol’ Yeller.

  • 
The best way for you to kill a project is to help the key stakeholders and decision-makers reach the conclusion on their own.
  • 
Operationally, a project is impossible if you can’t do what you need to do in the available time or with available resources.

  • 
If your assumptions turn out to be even slightly different than you expect, what would be the net effect, both good and bad?

  • 
One trick of structured creativity is learning to look first in the places most likely to contain useful insights and opportunities.

  • 
When you know why the customer objects, you learn what’s important, and often learn what you can do to overcome the objections.



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