Project Management For Idiots: Part 2 – The Project Management Triangle


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Prior to my recent crash course introduction to project management at the University of Auckland, I had no idea what the project management triangle was.

It seems kinda basic now.  To be honest, I feel like an idiot for not knowing this despite having worked on a number of projects where this language is used all the time.

However, it’s also possible that my experience is typical for people like me who don’t have a background in project management but end up rising to the level of their incompetence eventually.

Here’s the lowdown:

  • The triangle models the constraints of the project.
  • Sometimes this is called the triple constraints of project management.
  • The constraints are time (or schedule), cost (or budget) and scope (or deliverables).
  • These constraints are areas where changes are introduced.
  • Together they determine the quality of a project.
  • The key is to balance these constraints throughout the project.
  • It’s an iterative process as changes are going to occur throughout the project.

This is part of a series I’m writing on the basics of project management. You can read the others here:

And it’s part of my self-imposed professional development for 2018 which I’m calling the NMBAMBA – The Non-MBA, MBA.

Any comments? Nope. That’s fine.

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.

How to get started embedding vocabulary into your training by creating a word bank


Wordbank

Vocabulary rocks…!

If you’re going to focus on just one thing when it comes to embedding literacy into your trades or vocational training it has to be vocabulary.

Vocabulary runs through all of the literacy progressions and it’s probably the best bang for your buck in terms of time spent embedding anything on the literacy side of things.

If your learners have a basic vocabulary of 2,000 high frequency words, it’s likely that they can understand  roughly 80% of the words in an academic text.

But they need to know around 95% of the words in a text before they can successfully guess the meanings of unknown words and actually make sense of a text.

The best way to get started with embedding vocabulary is to develop your own Word Banks that are focused around very specific content areas that you have to teach. Here I’m particularly talking about aspects of your teaching or training programme where there are a lot of academic, specialised, or technical words.

Once you have a Word Bank for a particular chunk of teaching, there are all sorts of things you can use it for. This includes:

  • Creating mini vocabulary diagnostic assessments for pre and post testing of learner knowledge
  • Creating all kinds of fun activities to teach and practise the language.

More on that in another post still to come.

So here’s how you go about creating the Word Bank. Think in terms of the following three categories and follow the instructions below:

  • Everyday Words
  • Academic Words
  • Specialised or Technical Words

Everyday Words – Step 3 on the Vocabulary Progression

  1. List the high-use, everyday words that relate to the content you intend to teach.
  2. You can include some less common words as long as they don’t belong in the Academic or Specialised lists.
  3. You can include words from the second thousand (2K) word list.

Academic Words – Step 4/5 on the Vocabulary Progression

  1. List the academic words you need for the content you intend to teach. Think of words that describe processes or academic tasks.
  2. You can include some of the high-use specialised words you need.
  3. And you can include words from the academic word list (AWL). Highly specialised or technical words should be in the list below.

Specialised Words – Step 6 on the Vocabulary Progression

  1. List the more highly specialised and technical words you need for the content you intend to teach.
  2. Think of the jargon of your trade or content area including specialised acronyms and informal language.
  3. You can include words outside of the 1K, 2K, and AWL.

Here’s a handy worksheet you can use to do all of this. It’s the same as the image above. I suggest you print it out A3 size or as large as you can. Click the download link below: