Project Management Operational Problem Solving Implementation & Change Management Strategy & Alignment

Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog
This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

What is a Project Manager? -- From Stephen Seay's ProjectSteps blog...
"Project managers wear many hats. We are members of teams, leaders of teams, we are followers, we are stakeholders, we are fiscal planners, we are risk managers, risk takers, planners, schedulers, mentors, quality assurance reps, writers, motivators, listeners, we are empathetic, we are sympathetic, we demonstrate common sense when others don't, we demonstrate a fair and balanced approach to problems, and lots more...."
The whole piece is a passionate essay on the frustrations and joys of caring about what we do -- helping individuals and organizations answer the question, "What should I be working on?" Go read it.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

No Shortcuts -- From Seth Godin on building an email mailing list...
"...the first step was to offer something in your email newsletter that people would actually want to read. That the second step was to promise people exactly what you intended to give them. And the third step was to create content that was so remarkable that people wanted to share it. I explained that if you take your time and keep your promises, it'll build if it deserves to build."
Take out the references to newsletters and email, replace them with offers and marketing, and you can say the exact same thing about growing a business. Offer what people want/need. Promise what you intend to provide, painting a picture of exactly what you intend to do to satisfy that need. Deliver with excellence so that they can't help but talk to others about what they've accomplished or what they can do (with your help).

As Seth points out in the rest of the piece, there are no shortcuts.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Productivity Showdown, Day 1 -- Is productivity rooted in intensity and effort or in laziness and efficiency? Obviously a false dichotomy, but a potentially entertaining one. To that end, Slacker Manager has organized a "blog showdown" between proponents of each of the sides of the productivity coin.
"Welcome to Day 1 of a 3-day 'Productivity Blog Showdown.' If you're just joining us, here's the quick background of what's going on. A few days ago, I noted that I'd like to see a 'showdown' between two upcoming gurus of personal productivity, Fred Gratzon and Steve Pavlina [who I've pointed to recently in my GTD mode - FP]. Both guys agreed to do the showdown, we collected some questions from readers, and here we are."
I've got to get familiar with Grazton, since throughout my career, I've always thought that the best Industrial Engineer is a lazy Industrial Engineer, who ardently avoids unnecessary work.

Efficiency is just politically correct laziness. (Laziness is the mother of efficiency?)

And productivity comes from applying efficiency to the things that need to be done to achieve one's goals. And avoiding the things that don't need to be done. There is no honor in putting in 12 hours a day if you can get done what needs to be done in 10, or even 8.

I guess I know what side of the showdown I'm starting on. Let's see if Steve and Fred can turn the showdown into a synthesis.

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Indeed.com: CCPM and TOC Jobs -- Online friend Glen Alleman emailed me a note that in his area, Critical Chain Project Management is "now mentioned in nearly every local aerospace planner job...under desired skills." Not surprising, since Raytheon, an early adopter of CCPM, is in both his geographical and industry region. Got me thinking to check out job posting aggregator Indeed.com for what they say about job postings that mention either Critical Chain or Theory of Constraints. A promising list, that includes firms like Raytheon, Seagate, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, and BearingPoint on the first page.

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McLuhan's Wake -- Just finished what I decided will be just a first watching of McLuhan's Wake, a documentary portrait of 20th century communications thinker. If your cable provider sends you the Sundance Channel, I strongly recommend you check it out when it repeats next week.

I was unaware of the basis of McLuhan's book, Laws of Media: The New Science, around which the film revolved. These four questions...
- What does the artifact enhance or intensify or make possible or accelerate?

- If some aspect of a situation is enlarged or enhanced, simultaneously the old condition or unenhanced situation is displaced thereby. What is pushed aside or obsolesced by the new "organ"?

- What recurrence or retrieval of earlier actions and services is brought into play simultaneously by the new form? What older, previously obsolesced ground is brought back and inheres in the new form?

- When pushed to the limits of its potential the new form will tend to reverse what had been its original characteristics. What is the reversal potential of the new form?
...are applied in the film to "tools" and "media," but are also key questions to ask about any proposed change or innovation.

Perhaps it appeals to me because it seems that the Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes, when used as a problem solving method for complex situation, combined with TOC's Five Focusing Steps, provides a structure for addressing some of these issues. The "desired effects" of the a Future Reality Tree relate to the enhancements. Subordination to the strategy to address a system's constraint (Focusing Step 3) requires one to determine and/or be aware of what is now obsolete in the desired system. And the conscious solicitation of concerns -- Negative Branch Reservations -- is one way of trying to foresee reversals. Not sure, however, about a similar direct link to "retrieval," without being tempted to identify the retrieval as a desired effect of the change, which is probably pushing the limits of prescience.

Admittedly, my quick and dirty application of McLuhan's questions is a bit more future-directed and prediction-related than his use of them to assess the present in terms of past, but useful nonetheless.

Food for thought.

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Great T-Shirt -- Can't think of anything to add. Just a smile.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Mass Delusion -- via Jeff Jarvis...
"There are no masses, there are only ways of seeing people as masses."
    -- Raymond Williams, sociologist and critic
Mass markets aren't.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Swiss Army Knife for Project Management -- From Jim McGee, writing for Enterprise Systems, one deliverable, two tools, and three rules -- "project management for poets." I like the symmetry of the deliverable (based on the fact that "the end is where to begin") and one of the rules ("First things first"). Poetic, indeed.

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Design Thinking Books -- The 800-CEO-READ Blog suggests a reading list for design students. It actually looks like a great list for anyone to consider. Check it out.

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Phriday Phun With Philosophy: Squashed Philosophers -- To maintain your level of personal productivity, it helps to find faster ways of doing things, like zapping through not only commercials with your Tivo or DVR, but also through the interminable lab prep scenes in the CSI series. (What's the plural of "series"?)

To help you do this with heavier thinking, here's a set of condensed Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Hume, Marx, Freud, Copernicus, Hobbes, Sartre, Ayer, Sade, Wittgenstein, Einstein, and more.
"The books which defined the way The West thinks now, condensed and abridged to keep the substance, the style and the quotes, but ditching all that irritating verbiage"
Longest reading time: 12% of Plato's The Republic in 61 minutes. Shortest: 23% of Sartre's Existentialism is Humanism in 10. Squashed, indeed.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Sound of Vision - On Project Management -- With my 45-minutes-to-an-hour commute, I've recently been using my iPod for more than just Van Morrison, Manhattan Transfer, Mahler, Mozart, and Modest Mouse. The self publishing of weblogs has developed an audio counterpart in the form of Podcasts. (Think in terms of mp3s of talk instead of music.)

I used to think that public radio needed a business-oriented show, not on the news or finance side or for personal finance advice, but on aspects of the practice of management. It used to be a fantasy of mine to put such a show together. Now it's not only possible, but it's being done by Effern over at The Vision Thing with his Sound of Vision series. (I like that name.)

After an insightful introduction by Effern on objectives and assumptions, this particular show features coversations with folks that should be familiar to Focused Performance readers -- Hal, Clarke, and Johanna. If you'd like to put some voices to the names, check it out.

(File under and Podcast)

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Multi-thinking -- In Innovation Tools, Jeffrey Baumgartner offers good advice for those who feel compelled to multi-task...
"...it is inevitable that your mind occasionally turns to one task while you are working on another. A multi-tasker would be inclined to switch tasks at this point. I recommend you stick to the task at hand, but keep a notebook or at least some paper nearby when performing any tasks. (I recommend having a notebook with you all the time). When the mind turns from the task at hand to another task, simply note down your thoughts in the notebook. Then return to the task at hand."
He goes on to suggest that a good time and place to woolgather/brainstorm/multi-thnk ideas and issues for different responsibilities is while in "long, crowded meetings." I've got concerns about consciously doing that, from a missed information perspective as well as from a civil politeness point of view, but I do like the general idea.

Recording mental interruptions to a physical "in-box" (collection of notes) to be processed and addressed later, frees up the mind for attention to "the task at hand."

(Via Jack Vinson; File under , Getting Things Done and Productivity)

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Monday, March 07, 2005

Fortune Cookie Wisdom -- A real fortune cookie message I got last week...
"You use your creative talents to transform a business environment."
Spookily specific.

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Overloaded Systems - The Technological Solution? -- A couple days ago, I asked about the impact of overloaded systems. Here's Question 2 in what has turned into a 2-part series...

What is the effect of solutions based on the application of newer technology on systems that are overloaded?



(File under )

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

These Folks Have Answers -- Gotta question?

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Overcoming Procrastination -- In my recent exploration into personal productivity as a component of organizational productivity, I've come across Steve Pavlina's Blog and site in the GTD community. He offers a paper on Overcoming Procrastination, which offers up five strategies for getting around to it...
- Replace "Have To" With "Want To"
- Replace "Finish It" With "Begin It"
- Replace Perfectionism With Permission To Be Human
- Replace Deprivation With Guaranteed Fun
- Use Timeboxing
I was surprised that the second item resonated with me, since my abhorrence of multi-tasking might suggest that once you start something, you should finish it. To the extent that you can work through a project straight through, you certainly should, but setting that up as a prerequisite for getting it started could turn it into the situation of facing a daunting effort that leads you to avoid even starting. We're not talking here about the formality of project tasks, but about all the other "stuff" that needs to get done as well. Getting started can simply mean chipping away at the big boulder bit by bit until you've got a pile of completed gravel.

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Overloaded Systems -- Question 1: What kind of speed and agility should you expect when your project delivery system is overloaded with promised work?


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New Expanded Blogroll -- In my cross-platform life of the last year, I've been using a lot of tools from today's major platform -- the web. I've shifted a lot of my email from Entourage (the Mac's Microsoft near-equivalent to Outlook) to Google's Gmail. Same for to-dos and Ta-Da Lists. And instead of the venerable NetNewsWire for blog feed reading, it's Bloglines.

That last one also offers the ability to share what I'm reading via exporting to a blogroll. Assuming you're not reading this via feed yourself, if you look over to the right, and down a ways, past all the funding sources and my old "best of" list o' links, you'll find my new expanded and categorized blogroll, a la my Bloglines feeds. The list contains a lot of the old-time favorites for link fodder around here, especially in the "Project(s and) Management" category, but it also highlights a whole pile of newer (to me) voices, and even a category for those I'm just "Checking Out" before they get assigned to one of the other categories or to the trashcan.

Go check out the new list yourself, click on a couple to see what they're about.

(And if you're on the list and noticed the new link to you, and you're reading this for the first time, thanks for what you've been writing, and welcome to a little part of my world.)

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

PM - Getting Things Done -- I've got to start just posting. While I'm in the process of collecting and incubating on a range of links on a range of subjects, Jack Vinson has recently been beating me to the posting punch on those topics. (One of my favorite unknown Paul Simon songs is "Maybe I Think Too Much.")

Jack references my current obsession (personal productivity through David Allen's Getting Thing Done) in his post, Why do project management...
"...people like Getting Things Done because it gives you a set of activities to reorient your work and make active progress. To me this seems like a lot of what good project management should do: orient people to what needs to be done and help them make progress.

This leads to my second connection: Project management isn't about creating Gantt and Pert charts. It is about getting things done."
Yup...that's what it's about. It's about getting rid of obstacles (and avoiding setting up obstacles) to performing the necessary and sufficient actions associated with your promises.

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It Ain't the Tools

Lessons Learned, Revisited

Predicting Uncertain Futures

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Ten Top Sources of Project Failure (The Executive Version)

The Meaning of "Schedule"
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