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Monday, June 11, 2012

The 10 Hour Project Manager: Excerpt (Chapter 1)

Today I thought I'd publish a small excerpt from The 10 Hour Project Manager, my best-selling project management reference book. Take a read and then head on over to my website (or Amazon) to check it out and buy a copy.

The 10 Hour Project Manager
Strategies for managing successful projects

Amazon Top 100 seller in two categories
 during 1st week of release in April 2011!
(Please click picture)

"Clear, concise and valuable Project Management advice for the price of a beer (Two if you want the paperback)!"

1. Concepts / A brief introduction to project management

“We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday's burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.” (John Newton)

Controlling your burden. That’s the key to managing a successful project. Too many project managers try to juggle too many things at any one time and spend the whole day chasing fires and seemingly making little progress. These people go home at night exhausted, eat dinner, fret over project schedules, update ‘To Do’ lists for the following day and then try and grab a few hours sleep before they’re back at work again. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there at some time or other...

...So, what is it about project management that attracts us to it in the first place? Is it the power, the fame, the money? I don’t think so. Most project managers I have spoken to just enjoy the process; planning, coordinating and delivering something worthwhile. I know that’s true of me. Of course the money helps too! 

But underneath it all we all want to deliver something successful; something we know others would struggle with. We want to show we can juggle a million things in the air at once, reorder them all, track them all and add value to an organization. We are important after all. We are project managers! Well, let’s slay this myth once and for all; working sixty hours a week doesn’t make you any more important than the guy that works twenty-five hours and gets all their work done. Working sixty hours a week sounds like a lot of hard work to me, just for the glory of ‘delivering something successfully.’ It’s my intention during the process of this book to show you how you can reduce your workload significantly and still deliver a successful project. 

Now I’m not going to lie and say you will never have to work a sixty hour week, but what I will say is that on balance and for a lot of the project lifecycle, most of your work can be done in just ten hours a week. I’ll repeat that one last time as this is the main reason to follow the guidelines laid out in this book: Most of your work as a project manager can be done in just ten hours a week.

What is managing a project all about?

Fundamentally, managing a project is about balancing scope, timeline and cost to produce an end result. That result can be described as overall project quality (success). Understand that altering any one of the factors (scope, timeline, cost) will affect the other two and will also have an effect on overall quality. The secret to good project management is therefore keeping these three factors in balance and not letting any of them get out of step with the others. Sounds easy? If it were, then I guess we’d all be out of a job (of course many companies do think it is straightforward and don’t employ project managers to run their projects. And the world is already littered with many of these horror stories).

So let’s stop briefly here. I just said that managing a project is all about balancing scope, timeline and cost. Surely, that’s only three things to juggle? How is it then that most project managers spend their days juggling multiple items, chasing fires and generally tearing out their hair? I’m not a juggler but even I believe that juggling three items ought to be a lot easier than juggling twenty or thirty items at once. Surely, the fewer things we have to juggle, the easier it ought to be? But wait, it’s not as easy as that you say. Questions about scope come up; people aren’t delivering to their quoted times; and costs for outside vendors are going up. Then there’s the project sponsor. They want an extra feature they had previously forgotten about. Oh, and the IT department says there’s a data center move scheduled right at the same time we need to perform testing… you know how it goes. It’s just not possible to juggle only three things at once.

You’re right. It’s not possible to have only three things to juggle at once. And that is why I don’t recommend trying to juggle anything. I take a completely different approach to project management. For me it’s about playing a game of chess. Taking a fundamentally different approach to day to day project management is what this book is about. But we’ll get to that a little later...

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