Project Management made easy

How to simplify the black art of project management

Project management

A simple concept. Which over time has been made to look far harder than it is.

Over time that has made project management a real black art. One which most people have grown to hate.

Here’s the thing though, project management is:

A set of processes which let us break up a complex task into many small and simple parts

For example, if you want to build a house. Chances are if you guestimate what you need. It will be a mess and you will spend much more than you thought.

Project managing the planning and building of the same house. Let’s it get done the right way first time and on budget. At least that’s what we hope.

That’s what project management boils down to. A set of tools and processes to help us plan, de-risk, and complete complex tasks.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Here are some tips I can pass on, to help you navigate the often complex waters of project management in action:

  • Join the Project management institute (PMI). You can join as an affiliate member for free. There you get to see their resources. You also get a feel for the project management professional or PMP qualification. And the theory behind it. Plus some links to free resources etc. There are also the prince and ISO project management systems, but they all do the same thing. They also all started from PMI so stick with that.
  • You don’t need to use all the tools you’re given. Just as you wouldn’t use all the tools in a 500 piece tool kit to change a wheel. You don’t need to use all the project management tools all the time. Tools like pert estimation, for example, have their place. But if your project doesn’t need them, don’t use them.
  • Project management should support the process. Not consume time and resources. As above, if you’re having to spend time, money, and resources. Managing the project management process, then it’s not working for you. Revise accordingly.
  • KISS: A project that’s getting 4 people from the USA to India is not the same as building a rocket to the moon. You don’t need to use all the project tools for that, and you don’t need to make it complicated.

In this case, for example, your project charter can be 4 lines in an email. Giving the project manager authority, describing the scope, the timeline, and the budget.

The rocket’s project charter will be a multi-page detailed document with many sign-offs. Breakdown of the project teams and reporting lines, steering committee, sponsors, etc.

Keep it simple stupid as they say. And appropriate to the complexity of the project.

  • Tone down the language. Most projects have many documents for you to read. Starting with the project charter, then the management plan, execution plan, etc..

The list goes on. Making those documents easy to read is a win-win. They are easier for us to write, and if they are an easy read. You have a better chance of people reading them.

The project management plan that’s a 500-page masterpiece written like a Shakespeare play?

Most of the time it’s going in the trash. People don’t have the time to digest the language.

Also bear in mind not everyone will be native English readers. A good tool like Hemmingway can help you with the writing. It coaches you to write short lines with simple words.

The simpler it is, the more people will absorb it. The more they do that, the higher the chances of project success.

That’s it when you strip it back to the essentials. Project management is a tool. One that should make life easier. All too often though that’s not the case.

My advice always, and I have been running projects for several years. Is treat the project outcome as the deliverable. The management tools you use to meet that?

Keep them simple, easily explainable, highly readable, and only use what you need.

That’s the secret. It’s not a black art or a complicated science. It should be making your life easier.

If the project management approach used isn’t doing that. Ask yourself why and then act accordingly.

Decision Trees

A more efficient tool for problem solving?

Ok you got me, this isn’t going to be the most exciting topic…

But decision tree’s are a fantastic tool to use to get troubleshooting information to the people who need it most.

In my background in engineering and operations, often when things go wrong, the go to is a massive manual which often is laid out terribly and written in the most odd and old fashioned ways possible. (Seriously why can’t technical literature be written for the 21st century instead of the 19th???)

The end result is that we either ignore the damn thing and rely on experiance to tell what we think happened and what we think will solve the issue, or we keep going with the manual.

In either case lots of time will be wasted head scratching, and most likely even more time will be wasted messing around trying often aimlessly to solve the issue.

What if there was a better go to tool we could use in those situations?

The decision tree

The good news is there is a better tool for those situations, its called a decision tree, and many people have seen them, hidden in the back of a manual.

Normally in these cases they refer you page x or procedure 9.3d, which again just wastes time. Its a classic case of a brilliant tool being used incorrectly and then ignored by the masses because it appears to be useless.

Used correctly this is the most powerful tool for problem solving that operational teams can use, its simple, easy and effective.

Like any other visual tool it lays the information out in an easy to read way and gives clear instructions to move onto the next step.

This saves, time, money and confusion which can lead to more expensive mistakes.

How does it work?

The decision tree when used correctly, gives various options or decisions which are automatically made for you as you go through the questions being asked, in the example below its simplified for effect:

Simple visual and easy to follow, the decision tree can be adapted to anything from starting a car to starting a space shuttle, all it needs is the key questions on it and decisions people can easily follow as they work through the potential solutions.

They can be elaborate and created in fancy software, they can be made easily in power point or word, and I have even had the faxed to me hand drawn on the back of a beer mat.

What are the Benefits?

The benefits of the decision tree, are the ease of use and the time saving, versus dragging though documents or worse relying on experiance.

They can also greatly speed up the learning process for new starts, or someone new to your operations.

No guess work, eliminates other mistakes which can be made trying to solve a problem using a complicated manual or just experiance blindly.

Laid out as a visual guide so very easy to read.

Final Thoughts

These are a go to tool for myself and my teams nowadays, and have revolutionized the way I work.

Especially for those times where you are tired or under alot of pressure, having this to hand can be a god send.

If you have never used a decision tree before, give it a go, it might just revolutionize the way your work.

Using Vision Boards How to set visual guides to achieve your goals

Image by Canva

What is a Vision Board?

Its a collection of images, pictures and sometimes motivational quotes and aspirations, which are typically glued onto a simple board and set up somewhere in your home where you can see them.

The images and pictures should be things that are linked to your goals. For example they could be:

  • Images that make you feel good, and reinforce the way you want to feel.
  • Images of the way you want to your health to be
  • Images of the home you want
  • Images of a goal you want to achieve like writing your own book
  • Images of a vacation spot you want to visit
  • Images of an educational goal
  • Images of an event you would like to attend

Really anything linked to any of your life goals can go on the visual board.

The quotes and aspirations can be either linked to you goals or can be motivational to help keep you going towards those goals, there are no rules here.

Whats the purpose?

Did you know that visualisation is one of the most powerful mind exercises that you can do?

Essentially the vison board, is a prompt to help achieve your goals through visualization of them.

Because the board is set up somewhere that you can see it often maybe in the bedroom or living room for example, you eye see it often which means that subconsciously your visualizing your goals often. Your also experiencing the feeling of accomplishment or realization of those goals.

This is turn triggers your thoughts towards your goals and sets up powerful connections between your goals and the thoughts and action of success in the brain.

Athletes have been using these techniques for decades to help them improve their performance.

Studies have shown that a weightlifter for example using this technique has the same brain patterns when lifting weights as they do when visualizing lifting the weights.

If we have no mental barriers to sucess and accomplishment in life, it means the physical barriers are much easier to overcome.

Again there are no rules here, whatever works for you is best.

Final thoughts

There are lots of tools and techniques out there to help us with our goals, whatever those goals may be in life.

Vision boards are certainly one of the tools that we can use to build success and have the following advantages:

  • Easy to set up
  • Utilize the power of the brain and its association with visual guides
  • Take very little time to maintain, since the brain sees the goals often and goes through the mind exercise of visualization subconsciously

Im not suggesting that the vision board is the one and only solution you ever need to help achieve whatever goals you may have in life, however it is a low mainteance high impact tool which can help along the way.

This week I’ll be sharing some more on the other tools I use to help set me up for success in life, however what I will say on the Vision Board is that I use it daily and it definitely helps me keep going especially when I’m in need of some motivation.