Since my IT career began, I’ve been involved in hundreds of IT projects in different companies and different domains. When I think back over this work, a few highlights stand out that I thought you might find interesting or useful.
Turbo Project Management
Turbo Projektmanagement: mit einfachen Mitteln schneller zum Projekterfolg is a fabulous 197-page book written by Patrick Schmid that can be read in one afternoon. It lists seven “eternal problems” and it gives a clear and simple solution for each of them.
- Eternal Problem One: Unclear Goals. The customer provides unclear statements about what she wants, or changes the goals in the middle of the project.
- Eternal Problem Two: Lacking Support. There is no support for the project from the affected departments. Or, there is hidden resistance to the project.
- Eternal Problem Three: Hidden Problems Develop. During the course of the project, problems develop that nobody could have predicted.
- Eternal Problem Four: Too Many Questions. In planning the project, more questions are raised than the planning can answer.
- Eternal Problem Five: Leading Without Authority. How can you motivate and lead people despite having no official authority to do so?
- Eternal Problem Six: Dealing with Deviations that Develop. How do you best keep the project on track?
- Eternal Problem Seven: Repeating past mistakes. How can you avoid making exactly the same mistakes in the next project?
I’ve been involved with robust project management methodologies such as PMI, and in some very complex areas with compliance topics such as FDA validation – but sometimes having such powerful tools means you overlook the basics. The core theme of Patrick’s book is that with common-sense, a large dose of social skills, and Microsoft Excel, you bring many complicated projects to successful conclusions.
I am a huge fan of the CMMI framework. No, I don’t believe it should be implemented everywhere – and especially not at the golden Level 5. (At Hewlett-Packard in India we operated at this level, but – much to the dismay of a few Indian senior managers – I often dialed back the processes in my teams to 2-4, because profit and time-to-market were key.)
But to me this framework serves exactly the same purpose in IT as something like classical mechanics serves in physics: it gives you a set of tools and a framework for dissecting and then understanding any complicated processes or environments you might encounter – or for doing what I did: adjusting the maturity of your approach on an almost tactical basis, to accomplish your goals in the most ideal way. I highly recommend to anyone in IT who hasn’t learned about CMMI to buy a book and learn the basics.
I worked closely with Mario Neumann for many years while he was a trainer at HP, but he’s long since left to pursue his passion: running his own training and personal development company, particular in the field of project management. There is a good reason that Mario consistently wins awards as the best trainer and speaker in Germany, and if you ever take a class or training from Mario, you will know why: it is a mind-blowing experience.
Mario publishes an incredible blog and podcast series Projekt-Safari that I highly, highly recommend.