Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The 3 'I's of Effective Project Management


Courtesy of Geek and Poke

In the age of social, information has become a commodity.

With millions of blogs, websites and forums providing a gazillion bytes of data, almost anything you want to find can be obtained for free. Just fire up Google and start searching with the most relevant keywords. Often, you can find white papers, sample plans, slide presentations, and wikis on any subject matter.

Unfortunately, while a prodigious amount of information is freely available, the true value lies in interpreting and implementing them appropriately. Combined together, these form what I call the 3 'I's of Project Management - Information, Interpretation and Implementation.

This can be depicted as a cycle as highlighted below:

 

Let us examine how these three 'I's are related to each other.

Information

For a start, glean knowledge from multiple online and offline sources. These can be as distinct as corridor conversations, meetings, blogs, wikis, historical records, customer complaints/compliments, survey reports and commissioned studies. The wider and more diversified your sources of information, the better.

Once you've harvested the data, find a way to seive the wheat from the chaff. Consider what is truly meaningful and relevant to the task at hand. Prune mercilessly.

Ask yourself the following:

1) Is this information relevant and timely to what I'm doing?

2) Can the data be used in a meaningful way?

3) Will we be able to incorporate this information into our activities?

4) Do we have the capabilities, resources and networks to implement what is being proposed?

Interpretation

After the above is done, weave the various threads of information into your action plan. Tie down what you know with what you've got.

Ask yourself the Whos, Whats, Whys, Whens, Wheres and Hows. Make sure that you're able to see the full picture of implementation.

Remember that the devil is in the details!

If you can, try to let your plan simmer for a while. Go back to it a couple of days later when your mind is refreshed, and see if any part needs to be further polished. Erase the ambiguities and strengthen your checklist of activities.

When you've got a semblance of a plan, it is vital to tap the collective wisdom of others within your organisation. Grow a thick skin and welcome criticisms - the harsher the better. If possible, seek feedback from diverse individuals of varying seniority and years of experience. Listen first and talk later.

Remind yourself that it is not you that they're disembowelling but your plan. It is better to have an honest and frank discussion a priori rather than a posteriori.

Note however that this process must be controlled and limited - you do not want your work to suffer a degenerative death by committee!

Implementation

Once you've done that, it is time to test the project and put it to practice. Should time or budget permit, do a pilot and gauge the effectiveness of your plan. If the experiment fails, find out why and recalibrate accordingly before going full steam ahead.

As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Learn as much as possible out in the battlefield. Adapt, modify and enhance as you go along. Where possible, find a way to capture these learnings on the fly.

When the project is completed, do a quick post mortem and document what went right and what went wrong. Do whatever you can to short-cut the learning process. Keep your knowledge stored where it can be easily retrieved by your successors. These lessons will then feed into the next cycle of future projects.

Naturally, the framework above is highly simplified. You will need to modify and augment it for your own purposes. However, it provides the basic ingredients of how a project can be more successfully managed, regardless of its size and scope.
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