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 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.

Becoming a blogger today, sharing happy (or unhappy?) Project Management

gantToday, I have decided to become a blogger. After 18 years of professional life, 17 of them as an IT Project Manager, I started wondering if there’s such thing as Happy Project Management. Well, I don’t know, and that’s the reason why I become a blogger. I don’t have any problems remembering successful projects, I do have problems trying to forget unsuccessful projects (I am sure we all do). But In retrospective, how many of us remember managing happy projects? I will share some of the experiences I gathered in the past years and I hope we can solve this riddle together.

Can you be a happy Project Manager? Can you manage successful, but also happy projects? Well, as a starting point, we need to separate happiness from successfulness. Successful projects have many ways to be measured; Scope, Cost, Time, Quality, Customer Satisfaction, buyback, you name it. But at the end, it’s that final feeling, that final warm words that all PMs are looking for, did your sponsor(s) come back to you and said to you “this was a great project, thank you”? I am pretty sure this happened to you many times, even if the project was not. How many times did your sponsor(s) come back to you and said to you “I was very happy during this project” and how many times you felt happy during, or after a project?

Sometime ago, I was part of a very complicated and stressing project (one of many), it burned down a previous PM and I was gracefully asked to take over. Well, I did. The whole team was stressed, working overtime, on weekends, getting calls, crazy daily 2 hour meetings, we were being called incompetent almost on a daily basis , a couple of guys from our team left, and finally; after a year, we went live and things settled down. This project made me and my fellow team members bitter. Nobody came back to the team and thanked them, nobody wanted to talk about the project or the lessons we learned, if any. We all were focused on moving on. Eventually, our customer decided to invite us to participate in a second phase and also in many more projects for an additional couple of years. It was one of the best and warmest unspoken thank-yous I have ever received. At the end, I was very happy, the team was grateful and happy and eager to participate in the following phases. You tell me, was this a happy project, was this a successful project, or both, or neither? TTYL HD