Project management for Idiots: Part 1 – Some Basics


pm for idiots

Here are five thoughts about project management from my recent course at the Business School at Auckland University.

  1. All knowledge work is project work.
  2. Tidying my room is not a project.
  3. Other people are necessary.
  4. There is a budget.
  5. There is a framework.

This is part of my non-MBA, MBA. It’s the second in my mini-series of project management.

And it’s “for idiots” because I’m an idiot for not looking into this seriously before now.

1. All knowledge work is project work

 

I kinda despise the term, but these days I’m a knowledge worker. At least until I run away to sea and join a band of pirates.

My job now is more or less digital and I often work with people who are geographically dispersed.

I’m not sitting on the beach in Bali sipping cocktails. At least not yet.

It’s a far cry from the couple of thousand hours of classroom-based training that I did through the late 90s and early 00s.

But here is my recent realisation – a pithy aphorism that I’m certain that I’ve plagiarised from somewhere:

  • All knowledge work is project work.

2. Tidying my room is not a project

Tidying my room or cooking dinner is not a project.

I’m might consider it to be a project, but it’s not. At least not in the language of project management.

It’s a task.

A task is the lowest building block of a project. A task typically involves one person, it’s just little and often the timeframe is short.

In other words, it’s just me.

Tasks require time management and projects require project management.

3. Other people are necessary

Project management implies other people. Other people are a necessary evil in project management.

For proper project management methodology to make sense you really need to be working with 6 to 12 people over 6 to 12 months.

Projects contain multiple tasks and project success is often driven by the actions of others.

4. There is a budget

A project has a budget and a good project manager needs to be across the budget.

This is another blindspot for me personally. I’m OK with basic stuff, but anything that starts to sound like accounting gives me an instant headache.

This is on my list of things to fix. I don’t need to become and accountant, but I’d like to understand how it all works a bit more than I do now.

4. There is a framework

Project management has a recognised framework from a recognised body of knowledge. I didn’t realise this was the case.

It’s a new discipline relatively speaking. But it’s highly formalised. The body of knowledge is about 1000 pages long.

I haven’t read it, but here’s a summary in three lines:

  • Organise. Why and who for?
  • Plan: timeline and costing
  • Control (paperwork) and Direct (getting people to do stuff). These last two are in parallel.

Thoughts…? Let me know in the comments.

The Future of Work is Project Work


The future of work, at least for me, is project work. At least it seems that way at the moment.

So… welcome to the new work order.

But project management is really one of my blindspots.

Working in education, I have a background in training, not project management, or any kind of management really.

I’m Ok with deep domain knowledge in my obscure field, but I’ve always felt out of my depth when it comes to project management.

It’s weird because in education we are constantly surrounded by the language of project management but my impression is that no one really knows what this language means.

As part of my DIY non-MBA, MBA, I’m trying to get some new ideas but also address my blindspots.

I’m slowly working through a list of things that interest me or that I think are going to help me:

Shoe school is a little left-field, I admit but that’s gonna have to wait for another time.

Most recently, I took the two-day Project Management course.

Afterwards, I caught up with the super wonderful, Wen Goble – Programmes Advisor at the Business School’s Education Education division.

She asked me a couple of questions which we recorded for the video above. Notes and other takeaways will follow soon.

 

 

How to Build a Do-It-Yourself non-MBA, MBA


Certificate of who's got time_

Who’s got time to do an MBA. Not me… that’s for sure.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of great people out there with great skills. Some of these people even have MBAs.

I can see the need to reskill and upskill. Especially in this weird economy. However, I haven’t got time for another qualification. And I don’t want a divorce.

Google it. MBA often correlates with divorce. It’s a real thing.

What I really need though is some new ideas. And some new tools that allow me to move forward in uncertain times.

And not everyone cares as much about degrees and qualifications as they used to. 

I decided all of this at Christmas time this year. Christmas is always a great time for introspection.

And by introspection I mean the general disillusionment and existential distress that follows too much eating, drinking and time with relatives.

But what I realised is that the best way forward for me was to look at building myself my own MBA.

And not really an MBA at all. A kind of DIY non-MBA, MBA. So I put a very fuzzy plan in place earlier this year.

What I needed, I decided, was some new inputs… a combination of things that made sense to me.

I’m sure research would suggest that eclectic approaches lead to incoherence. However, while this might be true for groups, eclecticism works on an individual level.

In other words, my choices for my DIY non-MBA, MBA don’t need to make sense to anyone except me. And I can choose them intuitively if I want to or let one thing lead to another.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Everything around me seems to be changing anyway. And rapidly. If I know one thing is true, it’s that I need to adapt to this pace of change and change too.

I also know that the toolset that I’ve been using for the last 10 years is no longer enough. At least that’s my perception.

I mean… I’m sure that I can get by on my existing toolset. But I’m no longer sure that I want to. I’m looking forward to the change and disruption that lies ahead.

Well, kinda.

What I’ve seen though, when I gaze into my crystal ball, is a mixture of opportunities and problems that I want to understand better. But I feel like I don’t have the tools to analyse them or manage them.

So here’s what I did. I had a look at what I’m interested in personally and professionally. And then I booked myself into a series of short courses over the last six months.

Three were with the Executive Education programme at the University of Auckland’s Business School. I already had a relationship with Auckland because I’ve studied and worked there.

The three courses I’ve undertaken so far have been excellent and I’ve blogged about two of them.

One I wrote about extensively. This was Service Design Thinking.

Then a few months later I picked another one. This time it was about Critical Thinking.

The one I haven’t blogged about yet was Project Management which I’ve just completed. I’ve got a lot to say about this in future posts.

One nice thing about these two-day workshops is that they keep the disruption of my life to a minimum. Each of these has been a two-day intensive in Auckland.

This timeframe is about right for me. I love Auckland, but too long and the traffic gets to me.

I’m going to write more about this soon, but the short version, for now, is that I got a lot out of the Project Management course.

It was just an introduction. And I don’t have any real desire to become a project manager.

However, I think the future of work – for myself, anyway – is projects. I know this is true for me for the last 12 months. And it certainly looks that way for the immediate future.

And managing projects is really hard.

I struggle to manage my own time and projects, let alone projects involving others. But I feel that I’ve got a basic toolset now to make sense of my own and others’ projects.

So… watch this space for more on projects and project management.

And if you’re good at maths, you’ll realise that I’ve only accounted for three of the four short courses so far in my DIY non-MBA, MBA.

The other one feels a bit weird to write about here.  But in the interests of full disclosure, I did a weekend course on sandal making at Shoe School in Wellington.

Before you judge me, there is a connection to all the other stuff I’m interested in. But I’ll have to leave that to another day.

In the mean time, check out the sandal workshop gallery here. If you see some black ostrich leather men’s scuffs. They’re mine. I designed them, cut them out by hand, then stitched and glued them together.

So much fun.

Service Design Thinking: Thanks to the University of Auckland Business School for the shout out


exec-logo

Updated: In collaboration with the University of Auckland Business School, get 10% off the course fees for Service Design Thinking at checkout by using this code before the end of 2018: GRAEME10

I blogged recently about the Service Design Thinking course I did through the University of Auckland’s Business School and Executive Education programme.

It was a great two-day programme and I learned a lot. They’ve featured my blog on their LinkedIn Showcase page. Thanks, team…!

For easy and quick reference, here are all the links to the seven posts I’ve written so far on Service Design Thinking.

Introduction

Some Basic Service Design Tools

Got any Service Design Thinking tips or tools? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

What is Service Design Thinking…? Part 4


2018 Tu Maia Workshop IMAGES on Service Design.008.jpeg

Service Design Thinking Guidelines

Updated: In collaboration with the University of Auckland Business School, get 10% off the course fees for Service Design Thinking at checkout by using this code before the end of 2018: GRAEME10

This is part 4 of a follow up on the Service Design Thinking short course I did through the University of Auckland‘s executive education programme.

Above are some service design thinking guidelines drawn from the book I mentioned in the previous post.

I’ve put my own spin on this, but there are a couple of things that the graphic above does not show:

  • One is that the creation and concept design phase includes making mistakes. Sometimes you need the freedom to make these mistakes in order to do the learning you need in order to refine your prototype.
  • The other thing is that the process is not really linear. I’ve dropped in the icon with the circular arrows to suggest this. But I think the reality is quite messy as you flip back and forth across different phases in the design process. More like the squiggle image below.

squiggle

What is Service Design Thinking…? Part 3


What is SD doing

What’s a good book or reference on Service Design?

Updated: In collaboration with the University of Auckland Business School, get 10% off the course fees for Service Design Thinking at checkout by using this code before the end of 2018: GRAEME10

This is part 3 of a follow up on the Service Design Thinking short course I did through the University of Auckland‘s executive education programme recently.

As I’ve read a bit more about Service Design and bought a bunch of books, there are a couple that really stand out. This is one of above. You can order through the website but also they have a massive PDF file of practical stuff that they are giving away for free. You have to submit your email to get this.

Here are my notes from the first part of this book looking at some basic principles for service design thinking. And here’s a question to consider, if you’re reading:

  • How do these principles and values align with your own personal, organisational or other kaupapa?

Service Design should be…

  1. Human-centred.
    • Consider the experience of all the people affected by the service. This requires empathy, listening, and relationship.
    • And we need to agree on a common language… it’s the language of the service user.
  2. Collaborative.
    • Stakeholders of various backgrounds and functions should be actively engaged in the service design process.
    • Who are the customer groups, service providers, stakeholders?
    • Who are the customers in education? How do we even define “customer”?
    • A customer is someone who pays. But in service design, a customer is someone who is transformed by the service.
  3. Iterative.
    • Service design is an exploratory, adaptive, and experimental approach, iterating toward implementation.
  4. Sequential.
    • A service should be visualised and orchestrated as a sequence of interrelated actions. The best way to do this is to imagine the service as a movie. It takes place over time and has a rhythm. Some parts are slow. Others are fast. Too slow = bored. Too fast = stressed.
    • Storyboarding can help with this.
    • Consider: Pre-service, service, post service.
  5. Real.
    • Needs should be researched in reality, ideas prototyped in reality, and intangible values evidenced  as physical or digital reality.
    • This includes how to make the intangible tangible. E.g Hotel backstage services.
  6. Holistic.
    • Services should sustainable and address the needs of all stakeholders through the entire service and across the business.
    • Cf Te Whare Tapawha for an example of holistic model from Te Ao Māori.
    • Services are intangible, but they take place in a physical environment, using physical artefacts and [usually] generate some form of physical outcome.
    • Also consider alternative customer journeys, touchpoints, approaches.

Any thoughts…?

What is service design thinking…? Part 2


Why do we need service design thinking?

Updated: In collaboration with the University of Auckland Business School, get 10% off the course fees for Service Design Thinking at checkout by using this code before the end of 2018: GRAEME10

This is part 2 of a follow up on the Service Design Thinking short course I did through the University of Auckland‘s executive education programme.

In Part 1 I talked about what service design is and how a service is different to a product. Here I want to outline some of the reasons why we might need service design thinking.

What’s a good definition for service design?

First, though, I want to look at a definition. There are academic definitions, but here’s a non-academic definition that I prefer.

When you have two coffee shops right next to each other, and each sells the exact same coffee at the exact same price, service design is what makes you walk into one and not the other. (31 Volts Service Design, 2008).

Now substitute swap out coffee shops for education providers. And allow for the fact that “right next to each other” in an internet economy includes online and blended education opportunities.

You get the idea… But see the short video above if you need some further elaboration.

How can service design thinking help me?

Drawing from my workshop notes again, here are some of the reasons why I need to embrace service design methods, tools and techniques. I’m not saying everyone needs to, but here are some of the reasons that stand out for me personally.

Service design thinking tools and methods could help me by:

  1. Giving me the tools I need to increase productivity. This includes my own and others that I work with. Actually, we need to increase our national productivity if we want to compete internationally.
  2. Giving me a competitive edge in a world characterised by increasing change. This applies personally as well as in terms of my organisation.
  3. Allowing me to embrace the increasing rate of change in the worlds of education and business and actually gain some leverage off this in my own work. If you’re about the status quo and business as usual then service design thinking is not for you.
  4. Helping me deal with the negative aspects of an educational culture characterised by “she’ll be right” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
  5. Helping me learn how to recover effectively and quickly from adverse circumstances. This is a tricky one. No one wants to fail. But it has to be a given that in a world characterised by increasing change that we’ll all fail more frequently.