Posted by: kerrywills | February 5, 2016

Mike Tyson and Planning

Mike Tyson once said that “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” I bet you didn’t realize that he was such a savant in managing projects. Based on my experience, I actually do not think that everyone really has a plan but we can assume that part for this thread. The key point is that although a plan may exist it doesn’t always come to fruition exactly how it was expected to.


The key is to figure out how best to react to these unplanned items and there are several ways to do this…

  • Diligent management and transparency – better planning means more transparency into upcoming risks. Maybe this means you will see the punch coming earlier and can react a little quicker
  • Risk management – look to avoid or mitigate the risk. This could be to block, duck or figure out the best way to “take” the punch
  • Contingency plan – assuming a risk will happen a plan should be documented. Maybe buy insurance for a broken nose before the fight

So we should learn from Mike….well regarding Project Management as I am not suggesting facial tribal tattoos although that sure would make meetings more interesting.

Posted by: kerrywills | January 29, 2016

Team basketball

My ten year old son plays travel basketball and they are about 25 games into the season and had only won one game. Despite the losses he loves to play and had a six game scoring streak going into this last weekend. His team was up by three points with a few minutes left and he had the ball and was driving it towards the basket. He got close enough to put up a good shot but instead, as the defense collapsed in on him, made a great pass to an open player who was able to make an easy shot which put them up enough to earn their second win. After the game he told me that he would rather win the game than extend his scoring streak.


This is exactly the mindset that we should have with our project teams. Similar to team basketball, a project team has multiple people working on their positions trying to achieve milestones (baskets). It is not about any one individual excelling if the rest of the team fails and they all lose the game. So as Project Managers we need to understand all of the players, their jobs and do what we can to make the team successful. This means sometimes we have to trust our team members to be there for us, sometimes we have to pass it to the open player and sometimes we have to take the ball in ourselves to score (yes that means doing some work). The point is that managing projects, like basketball, is a team game that requires cooperation, trust and partnership.

Posted by: kerrywills | January 22, 2016

Finding Waldo

When I was growing up there used to be a game called “Where’s Waldo” where you would have to look in a picture to find “Waldo” the guy in the red shirt with glasses and usually he would be hiding among all sorts of other distractions. While this is a fun game, I do not like playing it at work. By this I am referring to people who send extremely long e-mails with paragraphs of text where you have to read through all of it to find the important content (Waldo).

Where is he?

Where is he?

So, when writing messages I would suggest a few things….

  • Keep the messages succinct
  • Use formatting to call out key points (bold, underline, color)
  • If you have to use a lot of text then put a summary or key points first so the reader can see that and then chose to get the details
  • Have a conversation instead of an e-mail

We are so busy in our jobs that to play “Where’s Waldo” with the 200-300 messages that we get a day just isn’t fun or productive.

Posted by: kerrywills | January 15, 2016

Seeing Star Wars

Well like everyone else in this country, I went with my family to seethe new  Star Wars movie over the holiday week at the Imax theater. The movie is 2:30 long and at 2:20 during the final battle scene the theater stopped the movie and turned on the lights. They then proceeded to tell us that the bathroom had flooded and we all had to exit immediately. Needless to say children were crying and many adults were yelling.  We actually had to look up online how the movie ended when we got back home.


I guess the lesson here is that, similar to our programs, there will always be unplanned risks and issues that arise that we need to react to. In this case, the bathroom flooding was out of our control and we just had to deal with it. Not sure what we could have done, but on our programs we can do several things to better prepare for unplanned issues…

  • Have a well organized plan with dependencies so when risks or issues do arise the team can quickly understand the impact on timelines
  • Have good tracking and reporting so that early indicators of risks or trends can be found which allows for more time to take action
  • Have documented contingency plans so that the team has thought through what actions would be taken in specific scenarios

So the lesson is that there will always be surprises but we can plan for ways to better react when they arise. Note that after several messages we did get free movie passes from the company so they did attempt to remediate the problem. Now I just need another excuse to wear my Chewbacca outfit….

Posted by: kerrywills | January 8, 2016

You are always selling

People are drawn to the Project Management profession who are organized and drivers of work. What PMs should also realize is that there is a “selling” aspect to their roles. Think about it – we are always selling something…

  • Confidence in delivery
  • Reasons to use standards, processes, or tools
  • Options and recommendations to senior management
  • Motivating team members as to how and why to meet commitments
  • The benefits of the program to stakeholders

“I got project plans, risk logs, presentations…whatever you need”

It is not enough to just manage the project plan and trust that things will work out. Also in the age of matrixed organizations we can’t just tell people to “just do it.” We need to influence others around key aspects of our programs and this requires selling skills. So we need to always put ourselves in a ‘selling mindset’ and realize that part of our jobs is to sell stakeholders.

Now if only I could sell more copies of my books…then I wouldn’t have to work all day long….

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