Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dobson’s Laws of Project Management and Other Things (Part 5)


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 third 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. 

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If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to figure out how to get there — or know when you have.

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Literal truth can mislead. If you want people to drive 55, you need to put 45 (or better yet, 40) on the speed limit sign.
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Whether you have the right answer usually depends on whether you asked the right question—which may be the greater challenge.

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Moderation in all things. You need to leverage your assets without letting them turn you into a full-blown ass.

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People assume stakeholders are positive. Not true. Stakeholders can be positive, negative, or tangential to your objective.
  1. Positive stakeholders win when you win. Because their interests are aligned, they have an incentive to help you. 
  2. Negative stakeholders may oppose your project because they dislike the outcome or because they suffer from the process.
  3. Tangential stakeholders have a secondary interest in your project. Which way they go often depends on you.
  • People tend to have the morality and ethics they perceive they can afford.

  • There are universal professions. No matter what else you do, you are a salesperson, a negotiator, and a firefighter.

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In an imperfect world, it is useful to remember that better, even if insufficient, is still better.

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There are real problems and real obstacles between ourselves and our goals. There are also fake ones, but they can be quite convincing.

  • Always look for the thinking behind a proposed project. Sometimes you will discover that there has not been any.

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There are many reasons for hidden agendas. A common one is lack of communication.

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To discover hidden agendas, look for personal benefits that accrue to individuals. They may differ from the official goals.

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A deadline can be real but still unknown, as long as there are consequences for failing to meet it.
 
  • Your official project sponsor is not necessarily the real one: the real one is the most powerful person who wants you to succeed.

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No matter how important your current project, tomorrow is another day. Avoid spending relationship capital you may need in the future.

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Even win/win negotiation can involve hardball. Decisions and choices have consequences, and conflict cannot always be avoided.
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No project plan ever survives first contact with reality. Yours will not be an exception.

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The project manager who plans has power. The one who does not is at the mercy of events.

  • At the beginning of the project, the big picture is known and the details are often sketchy. Unfortunately, the details *are* the project.

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Requirements management is the central tool for planning quality into the project.

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Even if they fail to share the goal with you, they can still hold you accountable for failing to meet it.
  • Three ways to compress a schedule: (1) Add resources to tasks, (2) Change scope, (3) Change dependencies from sequential to parallel.

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A risk is not a problem. Problem is present tense; risk future. Every risk will eventually either turn into a problem or fail to occur.
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When risks are managed, there is still normally a level of residual risk left in the background. They are either minor or too expensive.

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For all the emphasis on cost, it is actually unusual for the cost constraint to be the driver of the project.

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Cost estimating is figuring out how much the project will cost. Cost budgeting is figuring out how to do it with what they give you.

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Project managers have far more responsibility than they have power. This is also true for managers in general.

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Operational quality is not necessarily part of the performance criteria, but can also include elements of the time and cost constraints.

  • Often, the best way to get what you want is to figure out how to give the other person what he or she wants.

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Some people are never late, over budget, or under spec — because they rebaseline the project in real time.

  • You’re not too old as long as your age is a lower number than your IQ.

  • No matter what the time horizon of your project, the time horizon of management is longer.

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Problems that aren’t solvable may still be manageable.

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Pay for work is always smaller than pay for knowledge or skill. Still higher pay comes from taking risks.

  • When I first became a supervisor, I was so naive I actually thought that meant people would do what I told them to.
  • Your staff has power, too. If they want to ruin your career and get rid of you, they always have the power to do so.

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Supervisors and managers don’t work...at least not in the same sense as workers. They get jobs done through the agency of other people.

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Sometimes the best communications strategy is to say absolutely nothing.

  • The medium is part of the message. After 6,000 years, some messages still work best when chiseled into rock.

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A leader changes focus: from ideas to people, from self to others, from short to long term, and from simple to complicated.

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If you give a performance appraisal and the person is surprised, you clearly did a rotten job of giving feedback all year long.

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In the real world, credentials often trump actual ability. Fortunately, there are usually all kinds of ways to manufacture good credentials.


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