Posted by: kerrywills | August 29, 2014

The 5 Sources of Truth

Over the last twenty years I have used many tools to manage my work and programs and have evolved to the point where I only use five documents to manage my programs. I treat these as ‘living’ documents that are always up on my computer and constantly being updated…

  • Scope/Release – This is the master view of all scope items in the program aligned to projects and release dates
  • Critical Path – This is my program-level view of milestones and tracking towards them. This is informed by a more detailed plan
  • Financial – The aggregate view of financials (actuals and forecast) by project and cost type
  • Issues/Risks – My running list of worry items, risks and issues with the audit trail of progress and specific actions with dates to close
  • Notes – I process all e-mails and documents through OneNote which allows me to organize all program information in one place
The 5 Pillars of Managing Program Info

The 5 Pillars of Managing Program Info

I find that by using these five items I always have everything that I need in front of me as opposed to trying to hunt down meeting minutes, documents or content. Obviously there are many documents that support these but I find this the most efficient way to manage program information. I know that every PM has a different style so I am curious what tools others use to manage their programs.

Posted by: kerrywills | August 22, 2014

The Evolution of “Reply to All”

Well as is always the case every six months, we had the classic “reply to all” evolution this week at work. It happened in the same way that it always happens and followed the predictable evolution path…

1. Person sends message to entire company (in this case 40,000 people)

2. Other people think they were on the wrong distribution list and ask to be removed by replying to all

3. Then people tell other people not to reply to all by replying to all

4. Then some people realize this and send recalls to all people

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In this case it actually sent millions of messages and brought down our mail servers for several hours. Now, I can’t figure out which is worse, the person who selected every single distribution list or the people replying to all on purpose. And not sure why ten people had to say not to do it, thus contributing to the problem. One day people will learn about BCC which is the cure to the reply to all problem.

Posted by: kerrywills | August 15, 2014

Proper Landscaping

I run my lawn the same way that I run my programs; with structure, attention and monitoring. There are so many comparisons that I could make as to the similarities in approach. Here are just a few that I can think of…

  • Diligence – Make sure that the grass gets the proper amount of mowing, water, sun and fertilizer. Too much of these can harm the lawn and too little can also cause damage
  • Attention to problems – It is good to get weeds when they are small before grow big as well as take care of bugs. On your lawn (as well as your projects) if you don’t take care of these early, they will ultimately cause you big problems
  • Pace yourself – lawns take a long time to mature and grow healthy so you need to pace yourself for the long haul
  • Proper tracking – like any project, tracking the lawn progress is important to measure success. This can be the color of the grass, how full it is or the lack of weeds

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Keeping the right amount of diligence, attention to problems, pace and tracking are the keys to a successful lawn and a successful program. Maybe I should start hiring PMs based on the quality of their lawns because I would be able to see firsthand how they manage projects….

Posted by: kerrywills | August 8, 2014

Use the Picture on the Box

I am a big believer in setting context. This is very important during projects because there are usually so many activities, risks, issues and decisions in flight that a Project Manager needs to ensure that the proper context is set. For example…

  • During an issue, explain what the issue is in relation to and what would happen if not addressed – as opposed to just focusing on the issue
  • When providing status make sure to explain what the items under discussion relate to within the scope of the program
  • When asking for a decision to be made, explain what it relates to and why it needs to be made
Much easier with the picture

Much easier with the picture

I see many examples where context is not provided and I think of this like working on a puzzle. If you dump out all of the pieces and start working on it without using the picture on the box, it becomes very difficult to sort it all out. So lets make sure that we use the picture on the box to set the context for our activity, otherwise we may have all of the pieces but they will not come together easily.

Posted by: kerrywills | August 1, 2014

Finding Balance

I truly believe that work has gotten exponentially harder over the last twenty years for several reasons…

  • Business models and organizations are becoming more complex
  • Technology is more complex
  • Consumers are more demanding so solutions need to be more personalized (which adds complexity)
  • Companies are taking bigger bets and programs are getting bigger
  • Companies are trying to reduce costs and therefore do more with less

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For all of these reasons the work day is longer and harder than ever before. But we need to figure out how to not spend 24 hours per day in the office. I have a family and interests outside of work (let alone the need for mowing the grass, paying bills, attending kid activities and sleeping every now and then). When I am at work I worry about the items at home piling up and when I am home I worry about the work items piling up. So the key to staying on top of work and keeping sane is having a good balance between them all. Here are some techniques that I use for (trying to) maintain balance…

  • Wake up early to catch up on work before I go into the office – I do this when the family is sleeping so it doesnt cut into their time
  • Take calls in the car to optimize travel time
  • Work from home in the late afternoons or occasional Friday to be there with the family and maybe even get some errands done between meetings
  • Prioritize family time and block off for no meetings
  • Ensure that I get some mental breaks with my hobbies – this usually entails taking off time to go hiking – but still keeping my Blackberry so I stay on top of work

I am sure there are other techniques that people use but the key is to figure out how to be successful at work and life and not let work take over everything…but still meet our commitments.

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