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


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.



Beat the coming post-industrial education dystopia…

Binary2FeaturedAlt8I’m trying to beat this dystopian view of the post-industrial educational future that’s creeping into my nightmares:

It is the not-so-distant future. Most countries outsource most of their education to other countries. It’s online and mostly free for most of the people most of the time.

A few lucky and dynamic education super-specialists dominate massive online content delivery in each field. Education is a global commodity and these specialists are media superstars with millions of edu-tained students.

Advertising pays for the free platform for the masses, while those who can, subscribe to premium personalised content. It’s still automated… it’s just ad free.

The online platforms are owned by the technology companies who also own the information. Universities survive in this landscape as competing brands used under licence by the technology companies who own and control the information.

Outrageous…? Possibly. Perhaps I should just write a novel. However, here’s what you can do to fight the system (at least until the robots take over):

  1. Get technologically literate. You won’t survive if you can’t use the tools. Hint: they’re all online and they’re cheap. Spend time there.
  2. Make stuff and share it with the world. So you’re not going to become a super-rich education media star. But you might get someone’s attention. Or help them learn something.
  3. Do an online course. In anything. It doesn’t matter what. The point is that most online courses and online education as a rule is pretty horrible. You need to make it better.
  4. Record video. Your voice sounds funny and you look kinda stupid. That’s what everyone thinks. Now record your stuff and share it somewhere somehow online.
  5. Seek feedback. Your potential audience is wider than just the learners you might have in front of you right now. Expand. Spread your gospel. Train your learners to be your evangelists.
  6. Be prepared. Not for anything in particular. I’ve given up really trying to set goals. However, I want to be prepared for opportunities when they arise.
  7. Watch kids. Kids know. Because Minecraft.
  8. Look outside the system. The system wants to be low risk. Actually, the system wants a sure thing which means zero risk. This means innovation has to happen outside of the system.
  9. Become a hacker. I don’t mean one of those nerdy criminals who steals credit card details from NASA. I mean hack your own stuff. Hack and crack your content. If you don’t someone else will.
  10. Become a masher. By this I mean mash stuff up. Take something normal from your field, and find something else that wouldn’t normally go together with that thing. Then mash them together and see what you get. Chances are it’ll be pretty cool and give you ideas on interesting content.

Let’s get started…