The 9 Step Project Plan to Becoming an Independent Consultant | PMI Washington DC

Interesting read. I’m not ready yet, but worth considering down the road.

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iSudokugames.com

A Sudoku “ah-ha newb” moment!

While playing my favorite online time-kill game, Sudoku, I realized something very significant: solving a problem quickly and effectively is largely dependent on how the information is organized and presented to you.

I enjoy flying, and one of my favorite things to do on a flight is to relax, unwind, and try to solve the Sudoku puzzles in the in-flight magazines. I’m usually pretty good, but recently a few of them have stumped me – maybe I’m a bit rusty? But on a flight, working on a glossy magazine, a bulky pen,  in a dark space, I was struggling. When I try to solve a Sudoku puzzle by hand, I have to generally keep information in my head: which numbers can or cannot go in that space while keeping an eye on the bigger picture (remind you of project management?). Considering all of these miniature obstacles, Sudoku presents a great mind challenge. Unfortunately, I only finished the easiest of the 4 puzzles, the rest were too difficult for my consumption.

Sudoku_6highlightA few days later, I found myself online looking for an online Sudoku game to go with my morning coffee and toast. That’s when I ran into iSudokugames.com. The game allows you to hover around the numbers on the left side and will highlight the numbers on the board. This gives you an idea of the whole board and very clearly (and visually) shows you where the specific number you are concentrating on can go. Furthermore, a note bubble pops up when you click on any box to allow you to specify what numbers could possibly go in that box or what numbers cannot. This is a great feature that helps when you need to come back to that box at a later time. With these tools in hand, I was racing through the puzzles, and even attempting the hard ones with relative success!

Sudoku_notes

At this point some people are thinking: all these tools kind of defeat the purpose of Sudoku; you need to use your own mind and train your mind to juggle all of the possibilities on the board! Maybe that’s true, but there are two things that help anyone improve their skills: a little assistance from time-to-time and a little success. The iSudokugames tools help guide you and present the information in a visually appealing way – that makes a world of difference for some people. Once I started seeing the patterns from the visual clues that the online game presented me, it got easier for me in future puzzles and I stopped using the clues altogether! In business, there is no cheating (well, of course, unless you are unethical), but PMs should be encouraged to use tools and techniques that shortcut their jobs. So try to find ways to use graphics and interactive tools to help manage your projects. I think most of us have a few in mind: flowcharts, critical path schedules, priority matrices, etc. But like this Sudoku game, we should try to surround ourselves with the right tools to find ways to highlight the most pertinent information to solve the problems at hand, while also keeping an overall view of the project.

Escalation—How to Do it Right!

a PMI.org Community Post.

Excellent article for the newbie!

 

 

Check out the Goodreads link to the right to find my reviews of various books, especially those that relate to project management.

 

Thanks! 

Some time ago, I was searching the internet trying to find unique metrics to use on projects and stumbled upon an article at eWeek that brought up a very important question: why do projects fail? According to the article, some “of the causes of project failure include budgeting too little time or too little money, inadequate planning, constantly changing goals, lack of software knowledge, insufficient knowledge of advanced technology, and inadequate communications.” The article goes on to point out that projects often fail because we do “not spot warning signs”. These are all great points and it made me think a little bit as to why we allow these things to happen. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these points from the A&E project management perspective:

  • Budgeting too little time – projects are temporary creatures – they live a pre-defined lifespan. Completing a project on time is one of the factors in judging if a project has been successful or not. We are all faced with demanding clients and bosses, unanticipated issues, and other time factors. To ensure a successful project, enough time has to be allotted to realistically finish and deliver the product, even if it means displeasing you client.
  • Budgeting too little money – like having enough time, we are faced with monetary restrictions – sometimes placed on the projects ourselves. We want to please our clients and make sure we maintain their happiness so we undervalue the cost of doing business. Sometimes we overvalue our skills, not understanding that every project is a learning experience, and learning costs time and money. Either way, not having adequate funding not only limits the PM’s ability to manage a project, but a sure fire way of knowing your project is going to fail.
  • Inadequate planning – planning a project is about asking the right questions to deliver the right scope; and it takes experience to know what questions to ask. Researching historical data, talking to other project managers, staff and clients, and taking a look at your own lessons learned can all contribute to better planning.
  • Constantly changing goals (or scope) – changing the scope is not a project killer, but not communicating and sufficiently adjusting funding or the schedule to meet the new scope can be.
  • Inadequate communication – from my experience, there are two times when most of the project communication happens: the beginning and the end. This couldn’t be worse for a project! I spend a lot of time communicating with my project team and our clients often because we don’t always have full control over the schedule, scope, or budget, but are expected to be the best communicators in the office.
  • Spotting warning signs – this is my favorite because it takes a little bit from all of the points above and more. Warning signs are all around us, but they are typically missed and only realized in retrospect when a project is too late to be saved. I’m going to make a bigger effort in spotting the signs the article calls out such as such as “…employees working overtime, …people being pulled off the project to work on another project…milestones are not being met, and …project scope changes.”

 

 

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I’ve finally started my Project Management blog! After two years of envisioning and six months of procrastinating, it’s finally here! I have a bunch of posts lined up and I hope people find this site informative, though-provoking, and useful. Most importantly I’m looking for feedback: what are your experiences with the topic? Where do you go to find solutions on your projects? What could I do differently? And please let me know the things you deal with on your projects.

The projects I manage are in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, so the topics I bring up will tend to be skewed toward that direction. If you are looking for IT-related project management, you will only find generalities here. As a note, I’m going to talk about my projects I deal with in my career. These are real situations and problems, but I have changed the names, dates, and places to protect those involved.

Remember, we are all “newbs” at something…

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