Bob Lewis, president of IT Catalysts and author of Bare Bones Project Management: What you can’t not do and Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do was part of a discussion with me on project and change management. An excerpt from the discussion is below.
Joe: People think that to manage a project that they can go to the cloud, or they can use software, and if they follow the procedure, that’s managing a project. Does your book, “Bare Bones” help me out somewhat with that?
Bob: Actually, that’s a great question. Two things: Years and years ago, when I was actually employed and had to work for a living, I was invited to attend a meeting where we were presented with the company’s new project management standard. I listened to the whole thing, and it wasn’t that it was bad. It’s that it wasn’t project management; it was project administration. It was all about the tools for keeping track, and it kept track just as well as the project was on?track, or if it was off the rails. The standard worked just fine for administering.
Well, if you’re managing a project day-to-day, one of the reasons you have weekly status meetings, instead of weekly status updates, is in a meeting, anybody had who didn’t get their task done has to face the rest of the team and say, “I didn’t get the job done this week.” That creates peer pressure, because that’s an awful thing to have to say in public, so people will work really hard to not have that experience twice.
The other thing you asked about doing it in the cloud, I guess I’ll do a little plug for some friends of mine. I got a call not long after “Bare Bones” came out from a company called Team Dynamics. That’s what Team Dynamics does, project management solutions in the cloud. They had a client that was interested in their solution, but only if they could encapsulate the “Bare Bones” technique in their software.
So they contacted me, “Would that be OK?” I’m thinking, “Would that be OK? Very nice people, by the way, but they’ll be the first ones to tell you; they provide a solution for keeping track, having a great project plan, being able to update it, showing Gantt charts and all the rest of it. That’s very nice, but project management is an intensely human activity.
All of the keeping track in the world won’t get you beyond the team member who’s not performing. It wouldn’t get you beyond two team members who could perform separately, but they just can’t work together. It won’t get you past this point in the emotional development of a project team that I call “the pit of ultimate despair,” when you’ve been working hard, and you see no progress, and everybody is completely losing motivation and momentum.
None of that is going to be helped by the software. There’re baby-sittings involved here.
Joe: One of the things you point out is that project management is very little about the project; it’s more relationship management.
Bob: A lot of it is. Inside the team, between team members, between the team and everybody outside, that’s a big, big piece of it. Let me tell you, two of the other biggest pieces, I figure, if you’re writing a project everybody understands what it’s for, very important, everybody knows what they’re supposed to be working on every day and when it’s due, something really basic like that. If a project manager knows how to handle the situation when somebody doesn’t get their task done. Which isn’t saying, “Oh, that’s OK, we’ll extend the schedule,” but sometimes it is, because sometimes the reason they didn’t get their task done is quite legitimate. You can’t just ask them to work harder, and more hours, and pick it up. It is knowing what to do each time based on the specifics of that situation.
If you can do those basic things, your projects will get done, probably. Well, there’s one missing piece, which is knowing how to say, “We’re done now.”