Archive for September, 2015

Risk as Opportunity

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Though I don’t mind calling a risk planning session a ‘worry session’, I wish we could change the tone we use when talking about risk. And I wish we had more opportunities on the risk list. (For example, ‘what if 200 register for our training instead of 50?”)

Don’t we all know of the risk log opened at the beginning of a project, rarely to be glanced at again?  But since the flip side of risk is opportunity, and an occurred Risk is an Issue, and a closed Issue is a Decision – couldn’t all of this ‘stuff’ be in one place, open to the whole team, and so much more useful?

Imagine a ‘This Stuff’ list for a project. Like my inbox for my task manager – you can put anything into it, and then when you have time to process it, you can identify it as a Risk, or an Issue, or a Decision, or even a Task.  Or maybe what gets on the ‘stuff’ list is an innovative idea, or a suggested ‘kudos’ for someone on the team.

Here’s an template we use that includes a Risks Log, an Issues Log, and a ActionsDecisions Log. Next, I’m going to try changing this so that anyone on the team, even if in a hurry, can add something in a first column (called “Stuff”). Then the  leader of the project can own this one log, and process these into categories, and prioritize them, and parse out the tasks related to them. We’d all look at it more often, more people would input to it, and it would really empower us to create better plans and more successful projects.

Risk etc log – a template in Excel

Being BOTH Creative and Analytical

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

I always find it frustrating to be asked questions about myself by someone obviously trying to determine if I am a creative type. I know that the minute I admit to loving spreadsheets, and lists, I will be labeled. There seems to be a binary either/or related to the words creative and analytical.

It is no more true that a scientist must be absent-minded, or a painter unable to do math, than it is that physics is not creative, or beautiful; or that there is no logic to an artists’ process. Creativity can be learned, and so can analytical skills, and they co-exist all the time.

In project management, we are presented with many tools, and methods, and a very complete set of steps to follow. The more well-versed we are in these tools and techniques the better. Once into the fray of a project environment, the deeper our knowledge of models and past situations, the better. But it is an extremely creative and dynamic undertaking to customize what’s needed for a given project, at a given time.

The challenge is to apply the level of detail as appropriate, and the amount of method that will garner the most results with the smallest overhead.

I find the start of projects, where you are really brainstorming with people about the extent and the nature and the purpose of a project, to be an exciting time.  The use of color in the latest version of MSProject is helpful, but working out the high level gantt with other tools, like Powerpoint or mindmapping software can be more effective initially. Some plans never garner the eyes of the whole team, but the ones that use color, simple naming, and are built originally with input from the whole team, have a better chance.

Expertise Keeps Deepening and Narrowing

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Could it be only 8 years ago that a friend of mine struggled with finding an advisor for her bioinformatics PhD? She was in a space in between two departments, and neither seemed to offer much guidance. Probably that’s an interdisciplinary area that has enough authorities now to guide students. But there are always new areas of expertise emerging, and the newest areas are usually between disciplines, not strictly within one area.

It’s always been true, in IT, that it is a big field, and people come up through the ranks in different patterns, and when teams assemble they have work to do to establish common vocabulary and methodology. But it seems every other field is experiencing a similar explosion, and expertise is getting narrower and deeper all the time.

We need to access the spaces in between the silos, or the departments, or the disciplines, or the careers. It is the spaces in between that generate the new knowledge, the new ideas.

The job of translating, of being a multidisciplinarian, is a really important one . . . eliciting participation, hearing from all parts of a team. Because it is context that is paramount, everything depends on context. We need more and more eyes and participation because more interpretations and participation lead to more intelligent organizations.