Project Management 101

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Project management on Thursday with Gunner & Gilda

   1. Needs
       a. How to keep long term projects from hitting the floor while pursuing short-term needs
       b. Remove blockers for a team; help accelerate progress
       c. Speeding discovery and post-mortem phases
       d. What software programs best allow coordination across organizations
   2. Philosophy / principles
       a. Gilda: What is a project? Anything with a
           i. Defined term: Beginning & end
           ii. Defineable elements
               1. Product
               2. Goal: a deliverable (not merely an update)
                   a. Manageable pieces: sub-projects
                   b. Something that can hold shared work / vs a solo task
           iii. The time required to support the project management process should not eclipse or antagonize the execution
               1. Software presenting the system’s needs…
               2. …vs. a user’s needs
       b. Gunner: Project management = community organizing; mobilizing stakeholders 
           i. Overview
               1. Focus on narrative
               2. Clarity on process
               3. “Pragmatic pessimism”; now that people will let you down, and plan for it
           ii. Not car washing or closet cleaning
   3. Diving in
       a. Focus on narrative
           i. Good project managers are communicators able to build consensus
       b. Clarity on process
           i. Transparency: who’s doing what + status
               1. Unify understanding of the project
                   a. Why are we doing this?
                   b. What are we doing?
                   c. What language are we using? 
                       i. Language ambiguity is often a locus of failure (eg “we need to build a website,” or “lunch needs to be spicy”)
               2. Discipline about language used can unify sense of purpose
           ii. Accountability
               1. It’s helpful for a tool that changes colors or yells at you when a deadline gets missed; when something is overdue
               2. Eg Excel isn’t automated vs. Basecamp turns red when a deadline is missed
           iii. “Pragmatic pessimism”; now that people will let you down, and plan for it
               1. When someone gives you a time estimate for a deliverable; pad it
               2. Presume that gaps will emerge in whatever you plan
           iv. Ensuring adequate resources
               1. If adding projects & time to someone’s workload, it can be helpful to take others off
                   a. Gunner: conceptualize a table full of canned vegetables. Adding anything to the table will force something else off
                   b. Federated: give people control over their projects 
               2. Dynamic deadlines; adjusting expectations to account for hiccups
               3. Gantt charts: a standard tool which is more or less useless
                   a. it doesn’t allow for dynamism / slipped deadlines
                   b. They collapse quickly and are tough to rebuild
               4. Time & prioritization pairing
                   a. Put each week’s priority at the top; focus on that
                   b. Allow lower priority issues to attain a lower priority
                   c. People generally can’t estimate how much time something will take
                   d. Ideally, move priorities over to next week; it allows more flex in the joints
                   e. Don’t call fire drills unless it’s actually critical; flex in the joints enables greater sustainability
                   f. “Play the long game”
           v. “Humility to the learning”
               1. Good project management embeds learning along the way
               2. Recognize it as learning, rather than as inefficiency
               3. It’s easy to burn people out
                   a. Crisis in the macrosphere is not a reason to place pressure across the project. 
                   b. “Emotional firewall”: don’t let your sense of crisis infect the rest of the team; rational thinking is critical
                   c. Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head while all those about you are losing their’s and blaming you, then you will be an adult.”
                   d. Win at project management by not losing control
           vi. Core skill: negotiation (eg of deadlines, budget, resources, etc.)
       c. Tools
           i. Minimal consumption: Don’t use all the tools
               1. The more you use, the more time consuming
               2. In Basecamp, Aspiration uses only the calendar + the to do list + file upload
               3. Don’t succumb to “Feature underutilization guilt” 
               4. But also be willing to adopt the features that can be actually helpful in your context
           ii. Software is designed to addict users
               1. Eg phones addict users due to collective expectations
               2. Eg project 
           iii. Share affirmation, recognition
           iv. Channel
               1. Pain: catch gaps and 
               2. Passion
               3. Fame: recognize progress and the people who enable it
               4. Fun: “this week we have only 6 overdue items, down from 10 last week!”
           v. Tools can be low tech
               1. Eg sticky notes on a calendar 
               2. Key: everyone needs to use it; it must fit their workflow
                   a. Gunner re “passive-aggressive non-adoption”; users often resist innovations
                   b. The more complicated the tool, the tougher the adoption barrier
       d. Hosted software tools sometimes get bought or 
           i. Hollywood marriage relationship: assume divorce as a given
               1. Vendors lie
               2. Consider future acquisition
           ii. If you can’t get your data out, might not make sense to put your data in
               1. Check the export function
               2. Interoperability: Test it to make sure that the export is in a useful format
                   a. Try importing it to other platforms
                   b. Major platforms export into an csv, which can be re-imported into a spreadsheet
           iii. To shift to a new project management platform
               1. Finish old projects on the old project management tool
                   a. Migrating project management data might not make sense; a lot of project data expires quickly
                   b. Time to migrate is often unnecessary 
               2. Launch the new tool with new projects
       e. What is your information model?
           i. What is the scope of the information you’re managing
           ii. How might it be organized?
           iii. Tools are transient…but processes should transcend the moment
           iv. Model at the outset how you would extract / export and use your data on  new platform
               1. Engage all your stakeholders in the dialog
       f. Don’t use free online tools: they have problems
           i. Free stuff will let you down
           ii. Free stuff is designed to spy on you
               1. “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
           iii. If you need something, pay for it
               1. Costs may be justified only in terms of data resiliency. Compare the cost against the cost of needing to recover all your project management tools
               2. If a free account loses data, you won’t likely get help from customer support
               3. This happens all the time. For-profit companies don’t care about you
           iv. Threat modeling
               1. Watching a kid who just learned to walk forces parents and caretakers to do threat modeling in real-time
               2. Putting strategy docs online allows gov transparency
               3. Greenpeace used Google for its data…and it’s classified as an eco-terrorist org…so Google is presumably leaking everything the org has to the gov