Mort now understood why Ginny had wanted to meet off-site. "I'm worried," she was saying, "Dave always seems to be overloaded. Even back in March, when things were going smoothly on both our projects. So I thought I'd check with you."
"Hmm. I've been getting the same story," Mort replied. "He keeps saying that work on other projects is making him miss his dates."
Mort and Ginny then talked with Sid, the lead on Dave's third project team. Sid told them that he'd heard the same thing from Dave, too. Once all three of them — Mort, Ginny, and Sid — pooled their information, they knew they needed help from HR. That way they could possibly save all three projects, and the career of a bright but troubled employee.
By working together, and being open with each other, Mort, Ginny, and Sid combined what they knew. The information each one had wasn't enough in itself to tell any one of them what to do, but combined, they were able to choose an effective management intervention. By fusing together all they knew, they could see the real problem through the fog.
To see through the fog that hides the rocks, you sometimes need information from outside your project. Here are a few tips for seeing through the fog.To see through the
fog, you sometimes need
- Share what you know with other project managers
- Compare issues lists from several projects, looking for patterns and commonalities. Compare schedules to look ahead for contention for people or resources. Talk to other customers of suppliers or subcontractors, both within your organization and outside it if you can.
- Learn from history
- If you suspect a problem might be looming, interview past project managers who've worked with the people or subcontractor that might be at issue.
- Use cluster analysis
- Search defect reports and schedule slips to find clusters of problems. When you find a cluster around a single component, consider restarting that component from scratch, possibly with a different team. Look carefully at other components that were built the same way, possibly on other projects.
- Be uniformly skeptical
- Components that were built by people who are well regarded sometimes escape early rigorous testing because of favorable bias. Examine all test plans for bias and make sure that all components are treated equally skeptically.
Projects are usually in one of four states: not yet begun, finished, in crisis, and about to be in crisis. The only transition that happens unexpectedly is from about-to-be-in-crisis to crisis. By learning to see through the fog, you can make that transition a little more gracefully, and a lot less often. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Project Management:
- Dubious Dealings
- Negotiating contracts with outsourcing suppliers can present ethical dilemmas, even when we try to be
as fair as possible. The negotiation itself can present conflicts of interest. What are those conflicts?
- On the Risk of Undetected Issues: I
- In complex projects, things might have gone wrong long before we notice them. Noticing them as early
as possible — and addressing them — is almost always advantageous. How can we reduce the
incidence of undetected issues?
- On the Risk of Undetected Issues: II
- When things go wrong and remain undetected, trouble looms. We continue our efforts, increasing investment
on a path that possibly leads nowhere. Worse, time — that irreplaceable asset — passes.
How can we improve our ability to detect undetected issues?
- How to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
- When new problems pop up one after the other, we describe our response as "firefighting."
We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?
- The Planning Fallacy and Self-Interest
- A well-known cognitive bias, the planning fallacy, accounts for many unrealistic estimates of project
cost and schedule. Overruns are common. But another cognitive bias, and organizational politics, combine
with the planning fallacy to make a bad situation even worse.
See also Project Management for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
- And on February 5: Unrecognized Bullying: I
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 5.
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