Posts Tagged managing projects

Top Professional Services Management Challenges – Part 1

We discussed this topic in a meeting I had with a few senior people from various high tech companies. It was good to exchanges notes and see that many mid-sized high tech/software companies have experienced similar challenges with their service teams.

Please share your experiences with the management of your professional services teams. I will collect your feedback and report back to everyone with some comments and recomemndations in a part 2 of this post.

You can read the entire article at this PSVillage link.

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The Laws of Simplicity

In these prior blog posts:

Applying Occam’s Razor Principle to Product Design – Lessons learned from our Project Management Software design experiences

Occam’s Principle Applied to IT Investments

I outlined how Occam’s Razor principle could apply to product design and IT investments. I recently stumbled on to the writings of John Maeda who has authored a book on the laws of simplicity. A summary of the laws can be found here:

http://lawsofsimplicity.com/category/keys?order=ASC

A review of the laws is a good refresher for anyone in charge of project management, new product development and software design. The last law states: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful. This is actually Occam’s principle which I described and provided some examples for in the above mentioned posts. In fact as John Maeda mentions in his book and on his website Occam’s principle is really an encapsulation of the first nine laws.

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The Importance of Taking Breaks

Here is an interesting article on the importance of taking breaks:

http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/break-through-by-taking-breaks-matthew-e-may

Some excerpts (although reading the entire article is definitely highly recommended):

Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?

When you look deeper into these ingeniously elegant solutions and brilliant flashes of insight you can see that they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away seems to have played a part.

Most “creatives”—artists, musicians, writers, etc.—instinctively know that idea incubation involves seemingly unproductive times, but that those downtimes and timeouts are important ingredients of immensely productive and creative periods. But until fairly recently the how, when, and why of being kissed by the muse was something of a myth and mystery, explained only by serendipity.

New studies show that creative revelations tend to come when the mind is engaged in an activity unrelated to the issue at hand; pressure is not conducive to recombining knowledge in new and different ways, the defining mark of creativity.

While no one yet knows the exact process, there’s an important implication for all of us: putting pressure on ourselves to try and make our brains work harder, more intensely, or more quickly, may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights. In other words, if you’re looking to engineer a breakthrough, it may only come through a break. Your brain needs the calm before its storm.

As one example, one of the best decisions we made at Tenrox was to shut the company down between Christmas and New Year’s. We do not schedule any internal or external project work, customer calls, visits or implementations during this time. Our professional services and support team is also asked to provide nothing more than essential services by a handful of people who are on call. We have done this for the last two years and it has been an incredible success. Our team returns to work well rested, creative, and fully reenergized. We very much encourage our team to take breaks and all their vacation time on a regular basis. Working hard without sufficient breaks and “off the grid” time leads to an unproductive uninspired team.

Would be great to hear your perspective and suggestions for taking breaks and how you apply this to your project teams.

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Obama project management

Reporters and people alike have come to admire these distinct qualities in Obama: his generally calm and friendly demeanor, his message of respectful disagreement and yet cooperation, … trying to find common goals and rivals coming together to achieve these goals. Of course, all of this is quite a radical shift from the type of message we have seen from both sides of the political spectrum. So much of what Obama stands for (and hopefully will stand for throughout his presidency) can be applied to how we run our businesses, and projects.

Just like many of you, throughout my career, I have had my differences with some people. Whenever, I or any of my rivals chose to firmly disagree, argue, stand our ground or take a dogmatic position on an issue we all ended up losing somehow. This is specially true in any type of partnership. Hard ideological positions create nothing but obstruction, or worse destruction.

As an example, take the senator that single-handedly blocked the confirmation of Hillary Clinton on January 20th, knowing full well that she would be easily confirmed the next day whether he likes it or not. What is the point of obstructing and delaying what is an inevitable outcome? Instead, he could have simply stated his objections, understand that he has to work with this new team and get on with doing his job. Possibly spending some of that time and energy on the credit crisis instead. These are the politics of the future. As a friend of mine said, chances are when he runs for reelection he will be replaced by voters with someone who gets that this mindset change must occur.

So all of this got me thinking. How would Obama manage projects? I look forward to reading your thoughts on situations such as below and how you think an Obama type character would handle them.

- Dealing with a difficult customer: A customer that refuses to pay any invoices due because the project is late. The customer has changed project scope several times but does not think the scope changes are the root cause of the delays in achieving the milestones. He does not agree that the customer's team bares any responsibility whatsoever for the project's issues. The customer is absolutely convinced that his internal resources are doing a fine job and all the blame lies with your team.

Internal Politics: Your team and your projects are doing fine. So the "boss" and other project managers constantly raid your team for emergencies and try to take your resources away to fight fires. When you confront them they explain how urgent their issues are and how they absolutely have to "borrow" these resources. You know, of course, that it is only a matter of when not if that your projects will start to be yellow and red flagged as a result of these workforce planning (or lack there of)  issues.

How would an Obama-type leader handle these project management challenges?

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