According to me, me, me

 

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Hello All, I’m back with some Happy Project Management thoughts, again, my usual disclaimer, I’m not a bitter guy, I just notice a lot of stuff, specially things we should avoid if we want to be Happy Project Managers, which I think, it’s a target for us all.

 

“According to me”, well, the phrase speaks for itself, there’s plenty of people around whose stubbornness will do nothing but drag them down, or worse, drag you down with them, or worst, drag yourself down alone. Who is stupid enough to act as their own advocate, or even worse, their own judge? How many times have you realized people loves the sound of their voice, so much that , “according to them” things should be always be happening in different way (their way). And there’s when you must make a decision. Will you spend your energy trying to help and hence, fighting this person, will you submit to this person or will you get the hell out of there?

These people will often deprecate, distrust, diminish and even negate or ignore well established practices, tools, ways of working, methodologies, or certifications.

I’m sure you all will agree with me, there’s no universal way of managing projects, Agile is pretty much in vogue these days and you will see many memes around, I will post on Agile later, that’s a whole hilarious buzzword these days.

“I speak enough English, I don’t need the TOEFL, people should make an effort to understand me” instead of “Honestly, I should take further lessons, study and pass the TOEFL”

“I really hate MS project, it sucks” instead of “Honestly, I don’t know how to use it”

“I don’t see any value on getting the PMP, CISSP, etc certification” instead of “Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be able to pass the test”

“I think we all should be Agile” instead of “Honestly, I really don’t know nor have the slightest idea of what Agile means, we should pursue training and a certification”

Sounds familiar? I realize how often people deprecate things with these kind of phrases with just the intention of proving that they way is better, just because they are lazy, stubborn or even ignorant.

Well, don’t be like that, you’re not as cool as you think, you are not as smart as you think. According to me, you need to get someone to validate how cool and smart you are, get a third party, a formal institution or company to prove it. Get the proper training, certifications or credentials. Well, that’s only according to me anyways. TTYL.

Just do as you’re told

14f0591a327bee47978df4c3f00cdfa4I’ll start this blog with a disclaimer: I’m really not a bitter guy (Blink). Maybe I am, but just enough to have some balance in my life so I can become a Happy Project Manager, bad vibes are good sometimes. Venting off is good also, as long as you don’t do it in an email. You can vent off in a blog that maybe nobody will read (Blink again). Your PM life won’t ever be perfect or as you thought it would be when you started thinking about being a PM.

I had a manager once, he said “I want thinking people, not lemmings”. Then I recalled that sweet PC game of the 90s, but that’s another story.

I totally agreed with this guy, I like to assume I’m working with intelligent, proactive, creative and inventive people in the team; and I like to think as myself as one of them. But then again, are you supposed to have good ideas or execute them? Maybe you’re just supposed to execute ideas, either they are good or not. Bummer, that will be most of the cases. Unless you are a creative Director of some sorts like Don Draper, which in that case, what the hell are you doing reading this blog?

Bad news, PMs are not supposed to be creative, that’s someone else’s job. You have to execute and make sure others execute regardless of how good the idea is. Maybe sometimes I have very good ideas, but then I realized good ideas are like jokes, there will be people that will simply won’t get them. Why? Well, there’s no such formula to create a good joke, there are many variables at stake. You could have a great joke, but your audience might be a total let down. Then you can have a terrible joke, but your drunk audience will cheer up and laugh out loud. You might be just a really funny guy, and you create jokes on the fly and people will laugh for hours. Maybe you´re trying too much to be funny and you’re not. Maybe you are not funny, you have a terrible joke, but you are the boss and people will laugh loudly, for sure. Do you know any funny PM’s? I don’t.

-Make a proposal, share your ideas, how do you want to do this?

-Yes Sir, I have a very good idea, we could …

-Yes, it’s good, but not that good. In fact, it sucks. Just do as you’re told

You see?  Looks like your joke was not that good, because it really did not satisfy the ultimate purpose, which was to make your sponsor/boss/customer/spouse laugh. I know,  you were very sure it was good and made sense to you, you even told the joke to other people before and some of them even laughed. I’m sure you were laughing to yourself like an idiot and eager to tell the joke, thinking “this is a good joke”. But no, it was not funny. Just do as you’re told.

TTYL

Something’s Always Wrong

256-256-4c515d45f6a8c4fe16e448a692a9370dYou may think I’m a bitter guy when visiting my blog, ironically, this is not true. Even when this site is called “Happy Project Management”; most of the blog titles carry a negative connotation. On the contrary, I am not bitter guy, I am simply utterly realistic. Today’s blog is about the perfect project, which of course does not exist, maybe in your imagination or in your dreams. And, sadly, and against your happier wishes won’t ever exist. Why?

The answer is simple, perfection does not exist in project management. I think it does not exist anywhere. If anyone says their projects are perfect, please challenge them immediately. Something’s Always Wrong. Projects, as you may know, have to be successful, not perfect. Project Success has many dimensions, and of course not just time, cost and scope. Let me grab a few samples. How many dimensions do you want to measure besides the usual ones?

I’ll start with the biggest offender, documentation. I’m sure you are shivering right now praying that nobody goes back and asks you for a specific document, minute, agreement, issue or plan adjustment. Good luck with that. Heck!,  there’s the infamous Grade vs. Quality issue, most customers confuse them and demand you one when they are expecting the other or vice versa. How about “exceeding customer expectations” ? Let’s say you invested additional time making your project more visually appealing, that’s good, but you spent more money and of course; more time. What happens with those customers that will never call you back even after successful projects, sometimes because of budget constraints, corporate mandate, technology migration, or worst; administrative reasons. Or, because they simply DIDN’T like working with you. Bummer.

Are you pursuing a target of 0 complaints from the customer? Forget it, be pretty sure you will receive complaints just a justification to establish a negotiation point. Are you part of a project that MUST be executed? such as a migration, upgrade, end of life, moving to a new building/office? Those projects will bring tons of unhappy users, no matter if your did it on time and saved money. Did you receive a prize, recognition, award or something similar? Yeah, I’m sure nobody remembers it anymore, but you. (Remember my last blog?) Your team spent extra hours? Good luck trying to charge anybody for them. Do you think your outsourcing is going smoothly, because well, it’s an outsourcing and you don’t manage it directly? Hell no, be prepared to be blamed for poor project management.

Well, as you can see, the list goes on and on and on. Something’s Always Wrong, it will be very hard to achieve success, and it will be impossible to achieve perfection. What can we do?

Be sure to know how are you going to measure your project success and always use goals that can be measured. Motivate yourself to evolve towards different success dimensions, one step at a time. Once you have in-time in-scope in-cost projects, take a look at your rebuy rate, or go back and audit yourself and be sure you have all documentation, go back with your QA team and review your project, show the lessons learned to other PMs, measure how much support time your project has required after its closure, and so on.

Something’s Always Wrong, just be sure that those little things that are wrong, are the things you can’t control.

Don’t brag about your accomplishments

Captura2Hey there, just getting back to this blogging stuff. Looks like I had an inspirational crisis, then I took a look at the stats on my blog and realized I had plenty of visits last month. So, I want to go back and share some funny experiences about Happy Project Management. This time I will talk about bragging about the things you’ve done.

Recently, our project team was publicly recognized for a great accomplishment in a project that made a huge difference for one of our biggest customers. This publication brought joy and happiness to all. This accomplishment was published and it followed a series of happy events during the current year, but I’ll talk about all those later, since I don’t like bragging.

Let me tell you; this project was really painful, it burned a couple of guys down, from both our team and the customer’s team. But eventually, we were able to save it not once, but twice. And it looks like we’ll be around for some time. Cheers!

I thanked the team, we congratulated each other and enjoyed these milliseconds of joy. Well, at least the few of us that were still standing and were still part of the project, we lost some soldiers along the battle. At the end, this moment was bittersweet. Why? Because most of the people have issues enjoying accomplishments, moments of happiness, and even closing deals. We are not used to success, we feel uncomfortable and awkward when this happens, our mind is prepared to deal with failure, but not with success. Specially when managing projects, we tend to remember those awry projects more often than the good ones. Take a look at these conversations I’m sure you have often:

-Hey, do you remember the eagle project?

-I hated that project, it was really bad

-Hey, do you remember the gray project? We finished on time, very few problems…

-Not really… what was it about?

People enjoy being bitter, believe me, they do. Always. They like to know things are going bad so they can blame on somebody, so they can steal the thunder of your milliseconds of Joy, so they can remind you later how bad your other projects are. Well, the bad news is that you won’t be able to change this mindset, you rarely will get warmth words, so, don’t expect them. Just be sure to take some time (two milliseconds) and enjoy your accomplishments, just don’t brag about them. And be prepared for everybody to forget about it.

Don’t brag about your accomplishments, just be sure everybody knows about them.

TTYL, Leave your comments, follow me on twitter @luishectordiaz to read short thoughts and #PMPhrases

Don’t go to work

dontgotoworkDo you wake up every morning and go to work? Well, I don’t. And I can tell you that I haven’t for the last 18 years. Except for a few times, and I’m not talking about vacation and sick days.

People have serious problems enjoying their jobs, most people complain about their jobs, their managers, partners, customers, schedules, workloads, benefits, salary, traveling, issues, hate mails, hate calls… See the pattern? I can tell those guys: “Don’t go to Work”

I won’t tell you I haven’t complained ever, in fact, I complain A LOT, all day, everyday. When I was preparing myself to write this blog I made a retrospective about all the Jobs I had. And I can tell you I have enjoyed every single one of them and met great people along the way. Every single project I managed was great (not all of them successful, I reckon). I enjoyed them all. Sometime ago, I moved to a new position, I was talking to a former co-worker

“Hey, I’m sure you don’t miss us at all, it was crazy back then huh?” She said

“Well, I DO miss you guys, I DO miss that job, and I definitely miss the crazy times, long hours and challenges and even the stress” I replied

She did not believe and looked at me as if I was high. But then again, of course you will find challenges, otherwise, what is your day going to be about? Wouldn’t you rather be in a customer call, getting yelled at, taking notes of dozens of issues and then forced to give a deadline, than sitting in your desk watching your self-indulgent friends brag about their travelling and adopting puppies in Facebook?

A common misunderstanding is that people at work will guarantee that nothing will go wrong. When in fact, Project Manager’s job is to be able to foresee that something might go wrong and if he’s really good, there will be a plan on how to handle it, this doesn’t happen very often, I reckon. But in most cases, anyone at their jobs will manage to solve the situation. We come everyday to eventually enjoy solving a problem. We don’t come to sit and expect no problems will raise.

I had a project sometime ago, the customer (a huge company in Buenos Aires) located us in an abandoned floor of an 19th century building with one of those manually operated elevators, and it was stuck very often. Our “office” was equipped with cool monochromatic Unix terminals, couple of ashtrays, and a trash can. It sucked. We were auditing a system built by one of those visionary guys breaking every normalization rule, which in the 90s, was unacceptable. Eventually, we spent 5 months writing our audit report with tons of recommendations after going after tons of code lines and being yelled by the system “inventor”, by the customer, and to each other. For those months, I never woke up and went to work. Instead, I woke up every morning, walked a couple of blocks through beautiful Buenos Aires downtown in the middle of cold July winter, had a cool conversation with the shoe shiner guy, had a hyper-caloric breakfast, read the paper while in the train, enjoyed the 19th century architecture, had fun with the elevator, had a hyper-caloric meal and spent 12 hours with 2 pretty Argentinian girls, who were debugging the code.

Don’t go to work everyday, go and enjoy what you do everyday.

Unmute your friends

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I struggle sometimes with newer generation tropes, such as the use of social networks, I’m sure nobody knows what is the proper etiquette to post, if any. Constant communication is the core activity if you want to be a Happy Project Manager, there’s no such thing as too much communication. I’m sure we all belong to multiple WhatsApp groups and mute them very often, same with our Facebook friends. How about those pompous,  or extremely and unnecessarily long positions everybody display on LinkedIn? Senior Master Specialists. I bet muting/unfollow/ignoring is the most used feature in our phones and computers, because our friends bore us, send useless information, unoriginal jokes stolen from the internet, memes and pictures of their breakfast.

The bad news is that we exercise this ignoring feature too much and then at some point we start ignoring people in real life. Sadly, this may affect our relation with our project team members, partners, bosses, and even customers. That will not make you a Happy Project Manager.

Why do we start ignoring certain people?

After lots of years, I realized that we get tired of the “One-Note” “One Dimensional” characters. In Movies, we can see these guys: The Big Bad, the super good hero, the sidekick, the romantic, the jerkass, the red shirts, the racist tokens etc. They are predictable and they exist only as plot devices. You know every single time how they are going to behave. Now, in Project Management we also have these kind of “One Note” characters and every time they send you an email, call you or talk to you, you will know the outcome. We have the “No-can-do” guy, that keeps telling you things can’t be done, will always come to you with a problem that has no solution. The “Yes-man” will get you in trouble and create scope creep. The “All-is-bad” will give you lukewarm answers all the time. The “I-Told-You” knew what was going to happen, but never raised the issue. The “All-is-Good” guy will never face any problems, you will. The “Mysterious/Alien/Bad Luck” guy will blame everything but him; will blame his computer, the weather, hidden bugs, aliens, the previous guy or the customer.

How can we avoid being ignored? How can you be a Happy Project Manager and listen carefully and be listened?

1. Be sure that every time you communicate, you are sending valuable information. Otherwise people will ignore you.

2. Don’t be a One-Note character, exercise judgement and an objective point of view, if things are bad, find a way to solve them, communicate and learn from the experience. If things are going fine, be cautious.

3. Unmute your friends.

TTYL

Don’t trust anybody

CapturaI’m a movie enthusiast. I’m sure most of the movies I see end up being bad ones. But I still think we can gather experiences for Happy Project Management. It’s 1989, Lock Up, a Sylvester Stallone vehicle about him trying to purge the last few months of his conviction. Eventually he leads a small group of misfits and starts working on a couple of “projects” together, one of them was rebuilding a ’65 Mustang owned by the prison and the other one was the actual prison break.

One of the project team members told Stallone that there’s only one rule: DTA, “Don’t trust anybody”. Another project member was so committed to the Mustang project, that at some point he started thinking that the he would own the Mustang instead of just delivering it. Let me tell you, (spoilers ahead) that both projects failed. The prison break was frustrated by the DTA guy himself. The Mustang project was delivered on time but was destroyed by the prison guards, the Mustang guy died.

Our PM (Stallone) failed. He did not listen to the DTA guy, he should have kept a closer eye on him, and everyone else. The PM also failed telling the Mustang guy he was NOT the customer. Our PM failed on understanding the customer needs, the prison guards did not want the Mustang to be rebuilt. Bummer.

We all have DTA guys in our teams, in our projects, everywhere. And they exercise everyday, they don’t trust you or any of the project team members. They will be questioning you and finding ways to sabotage the project. And they will do backstabbing at every chance and listen to other DTA guys, they detect each other. I’m also sure we all have seen Mustang guys in our teams, thinking they own the project, that they know what the customer wants and that their needs are more important than the customers’. They even think they are the customer. They are also telling you everyday that your project sucks because they are not happy.

Well, at the end, they are all wrong, do you want to be a Happy Project Manager?

-Trust your team mates, but keep a close eye on them, make them feel confident and they will deliver, be confident yourself that they will deliver. And if they won’t, make sure you’ll know ahead and that they come clean about delays.

-If you are not the customer, be sure that you don’t put your needs over the customers’, and make sure none of your team mates do.

About the DTA and Mustang guys, you will never get rid of them. Bummer.

TTYL