|Articles To help Project Leaders
Issue # 32 January 2011
|Pow'Rful Presentations Newsletter|
January 2011 -
Planning to Fail
Pow'Rful Presentations is a relatively monthly investigation of ideas,
strategies and techniques to assist readers be more present in life, better
project managers and make effective presentations (in all senses of the
Disclaimer - depending on your background, and my South African origins,
you may find some of my spelling and grammar to be "imaginative".
© Wayne Botha 2011
|What do you do when your plan
As a great project manager and project leader you know that the key
to successful project management is an up to date project plan. Without a
realistic and up to date project plan, you don't know where you are on the
project or where you are headed.
We also know that a project plan is never set in stone. No sooner
have you updated your plan and communicated it out, than something changes and
your plan needs to be updated again.
In this article, your will
learn what to do when a simple project plan update and replan is not sufficient,
especially on a personal project. What do you do when your project plan is not
working. Totally, not working. Let's use a simple example to illustrate the
Let's say that you want to
write a book, and are using project management skills to accomplish your
personal goal. For simple math, your book is about 50,000 words long in ten
chapters, giving you about 5,000 words per chapter. Assuming that you write
1,000 words per day, you can write your book in fifty work days. Assuming that
you choose to write every day, then on day one you will write 1,000 words, and
after day two you will have written ,000 words. Continuing with the simple
math, after day 10 you expect to have written 10,000 words.
Now, what if you plan is
not working? What if you find that at the end of day five you have written zero
words? Use these tips below to help you move forward.
Have a realistic plan.
You cannot measure progress or get a picture of the project without a
realistic plan. Your current plan may not be realistic. You won't know until you
layout the plan and then try to execute it. Therefore, go ahead and create a
draft project plan for your personal project titled "Write my book." As you
measure actual progress against planned progress reconsider if your plan is
realistic or not. If it is not realistic for you, then swallow your pride and
create a new plan that is realistic (with the benefit of your experience from
the failed plan.)
Tip#2 - Honestly, evaluate why you are not making
Use the 20 answers technique to honestly find out why you are not making
progress. To do this, take a sheet of paper (or a new document in your word
processor) and title it "Question: What can I do differently to make progress on
writing my book?" Then write down at least 20 answers to this question. Don't
stop until you have at least twenty, because the good answers come from the
answers that are hardest to think out. If you don't have the time to write, then
how can you make the time? Do you need to give up an activity that takes up your
time? Do you need a better writing environment to motivate you, such as a public
library? Are you stuck on a chapter or topic with writer's block? Who can you
find, or where can you look to find ways to deal with writer's block? (There are
resources online and published books to overcome writer's
Tip#3 - What to do if you don't know why you are not
In the case that you can't identify your lack of progress, start keeping a
log to observe your behavior. When you sit down to write, what goes through your
mind that prevents you from getting started? If you are getting started, what
keeps you from sticking to it? Once you write it down you have a starting point
to look for a solution. For example, if you have an inner critic that sneers at
your attempts to string words together, then I recommend reading the book
"Taming Your Gremlin." If you find that you don't know how to type or use your
word processing program, then look for training. Also, consider working with a
professional coach to start taking action again. Don't allow your lack of
progress to prevent you from moving forward, indefinitely.
- Put in a lot more effort.
If you are not making progress, it could be that you are motivated and
committed, but have underestimated the amount of effort required to write your
book. This is nothing to be ashamed of. An estimate is just an estimate. Try to
put in a lot more effort for a few days to see if this gets you moving on
writing your book. Instead of planning to write for one hour, block out two
hours on your calendar, put off the TV and sit in front of your PC to write.
Commit to sitting there, and writing, even if you are convinced that your work
will result in a rough draft that will need editing afterwards. After you put in
a lot more effort you have better data points to re-estimate and replan.
Tip#5 - Consider giving up the project.
What would it feel like to just give up the project? Just to live the rest
of your life without it, altogether? If the project is worth pursuing, then who
can you get to support you? Sometimes the way to determine the value of a
project to you is to imagine what it would be like to give up the project. Then,
with the contrast of "my life with this book written" versus "I gave up on
writing a book", you gain a different perspective on your personal
Tip#6 - Who has done what you are trying to do?
Who has already written a book? Who do you know that has written fifteen
books? Can you call him and ask him how he did it? Does he offer training
courses or workshops that can help you to learn to write? Is there a writing
group in your area that you can join? In other words - find someone in your
circle of friends who knows how to reach the goal that you are trying to reach
and ask them for advice. If you don't know anyone who has written a book ask
your friends if they know anyone who has written a book. You never know who your
friends may know that can connect you. Also, never take advice from someone who
has not done it themselves. Hearsay will hinder you more than help
In summary, when your project plan to accomplish a personal goal is
not working, consider it a failed plan and not a failed project. Knowing that a
plan failed gives you more information and experience to create a more realistic
plan in the next iteration. I speak from experience here. I used to try and make
a plan work no matter how unrealistic it was. Now, I learn from the lack of
progress, realize that my plans will be imperfect and sometimes fail. Then
I simply incorporate the experience into my next iteration of project plan.
There you have it. Now, you also know what to do when your plan fails
with these six tips in your project management tool kit.
|Managing your professional
How will you grow in 2011? What skills will you proactively
acquire? Now is the best time to lay out a simple plan for your professional
growth at the end of each month in 2011. Using the article above, track your
progress. Before you know it 2011 will be a memory. When you reflect back on
2011, will you be satisfied with your professional development in 2011, or be
regretful and wish that you had done more and experienced more? Don't leave your
professional development to chance. Plan it and manage it, because no one else
will. Subsequently your value will decrease along with your real income while
inflation erodes the value of your salary.
|New Year's Resolutions for the unorthodox
project manager who wants to stand out from the crowd in 2011.
Why settle for the same old, same old resolutions "Lose twenty
pounds, save more money, work harder" that every other project manager on the
planet has. Instead, resolve to reach these goals in 2011, and be
1. Work every lunchtime, hold lunchtime meetings,
eat at your desk, never exercise and gain at least 30 pounds. Divert attention
from your weight gain by using guilt on your team members with "Are you take a
lunch break, again?"
2. Develop a new hobby, such as brewing hand
crafted beers at home which provides potential for extreme calorie
intake. Consume large quantities of hand crafted beers, to support resolution
#1. Then, attribute your weight gain to working every lunchtime to show your
dedication to your projects. Use this opportunity to place additional guilt on
team members with the words "You are so slim because you have time to exercise
and don't work through lunches like I do."
3. Never respond to an email the first time you
receive it. Wait until you receive at least one follow up email reminding you,
and then respond with a curt answer. This educates stakeholders to appreciate
your time and to never expect a speedy response from you, which makes you stand
out from the crowd.
4. Develop a new set of project management
superstitions and share them liberally with your stakeholders. For example, "Did
you know that research shows that projects kicking off on a Wednesday have 95%
failure rate? I suggest you wait until next week and we have the kick off
meeting in Bora Bora for the highest chance of project success."
5. Begin every project management status meeting
with a list of complaints. Encourage team members and stakeholders to complain
about everything that is wrong with the project. You are sure to stand out as
"the walking disaster manager."
6. Purposely include errors in meeting minutes
when you are the designated note taker for staff meetings. Do it often enough,
and you will be taken out of the rotation pool.
There you have it. If you follow these tips then your new year's
resolutions will make you stand out. However, I recommend that you apply some
common sense and realize that what you are reading is for your viewing pleasure
and not to be taken literally.
Do you need a speaker for your Rotary club meeting or Project Management
association chapter meeting? Contact me and lets see if we can work together for
a win/win/win outcome.
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address them in a future newsletter.
More next time!