Avoiding Headaches for Projects?


I found this cartoon had a clever and funny way to depict the stages of a project.  In thinking back to our class activities and assignments, including this past week (Project Network with Post-Its, Identifying Critical Path with Rock ‘N Bands), it is proven that there is more than one way to think about the same project. Can we take the questions from the cartoon and relate them to the class so far?

Will it work?  For the sake of discussion, let’s assume “it” is a project itself.  Asking a question about whether a project will work or not begins with knowing what the project is and defining how you know it worked.  This sounds similar to the Request for Idea and Implementation Plan assignments.  In class, we learned it is important to know what the measures of success are in order to understand if the plan was completed accordingly, and to consider project scope at all times.

What if it doesn’t?  When the project does not go as planned, is there something to do?  After the Implementation Plan is set, the next step we learned is to consider what happens when something does not go as planned.  The question begins with “What if,” which is a perfect way to think about risks in a project.  There can be a long list of “What if” statements, but identifying these risks was part of the assignment of the Risk Analysis.  It was also important to discuss the contingency plans for when “it doesn’t” work.

Who can we blame?  This particular question seems harsh at first, but consider more of the class assignments and the reason for them.  We have heard a few times that “if ‘team’ is assigned to a task, then no one will do it.”  The Work Breakdown Structure was completed for the purpose of knowing which team member would work on a task, and subsequently, who to follow-up with.  It would be inappropriate per the cartoon to blame one team member or other source for the entire success of a project, but it should not be taken lightly either the impact one member can have on the rest of the group.

Can you keep a secret?  Following the preceding question, the cartoon wants to suggest to keep any failures of the project a secret.  This question may have been better phrased as “do you want to keep a secret?”  The intent of the projects in class is to learn about project management through our successes and provide insight on what we can improve upon.  It is important to provide a focused summary of how the project was completed, so by omission there may be some “secrets” on the blog.  Overall, it is best to share with the class about what worked and what did not.

What do these questions mean to you?  Did you find a different way to relate them to our class assignments or activities?


Are you an unofficial project manager?

I have just the blog for you! The article I found includes six project management skills taught by FranklinCovey (“7 Habits of Highly Effective People”).  The article is dated, but hopefully you will find the skills still very relevant. I have provided the six skills (paraphrased) and included my thoughts.

1. Implement foundational behaviors to master informal authority. Respect all stakeholders that may affect the outcome of the project, and you will receive the best work. Showing you value the stakeholders helps you inspire following, without formally establishing authority.

  • Thoughts:  One easy way to develop this skill is to lead a meeting.  This informal leadership is accomplished through organizing the discussion, seeking feedback, and keeping the meeting focused. If there is someone else who wants to lead, you always have the final say to end with a summary and a list of next steps.

2. Initiate. Identify and interview a project’s stakeholders. It is best to avoid the question “Why didn’t you check with me?” when verifying stakeholders. Planning ahead ensures you do not make the wrong assumptions about key people, and helps to set expectations and results.

  • Thoughts:  This skill takes time because you have to learn who to seek for information. From my experience, you may not know a key stakeholder at the beginning of a project. Based on issues raised, you may have to reach out to someone you had not previously worked with. It has been effective to include that person in the middle of the project, and explain that a new issue may require their feedback.

3. Plan. Identify risks, and create a plan to manage them. It is strong wording, but the article mentions failure if you do not have a schedule, in writing.  Also, what is your number one risk?

  • Thoughts: I found this one to be the most straightforward. A great practice of risk is to ask “if I do nothing, will it get worse?”

4. Execute. Holding people accountable is the article’s main focus. The leader should not embarass anyone, but ensure support is given to complete a task.

  • Thoughts: This may prove most challenging to a project manager. What has worked for me is to ask questions like “what can I do to help?” and “where do you see the bottleneck?”

5. Monitor and control. The most important thing here is managing changes in scope. The Project Manager has to have that conversation if change occurs, and discuss results of a change in scope in dollar value or other measure.

  • Thoughts: I read about team projects from the blog and listened to 2 students in class as they shared what can happen with “project creep.”  Project creep is costly in time or resources, so it’s advantageous to stay focused.

6. Close. Review lessons, and recognize accomplishments.

  • Thoughts:  There is a sense of excitement to completion!  Celebration is necessary and also creates an environment to do it again!

I most identified with skill numbers 1, 3, and 5. What skills do you most identify with?



Free webinar: