Posts Tagged With: project decision making

Project documents or online repositories (Part One)?

When designing project delivery methodologies, we are faced with the decision of whether information should be housed in standalone documents or in online repositories. While there are those who view this as a binary choice, I would advocate a hybrid approach. Assuming we have or can procure or build underlying tooling support we can then choose to host some information centrally and utilize standalone documents for the rest.

Before proceeding too far with any of these options, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each so that we can pick the right approach for each need.

Benefits of a document-centric approach include:

  • Low cost of implementation and limited training requirements – whether it’s MS Office or a competing suite, most organizations have already deployed the basic desktop applications needed to support creation of project documents and the staff who will be working on projects are usually sufficiently competent with the use of these applications.
  • External stakeholder access – as vendors and other external stakeholders are quite likely to have the desktop applications used to create the project documents, there is little difficulty in sharing these documents.
  • Ease of providing guidance and examples – project document templates can be created with structure and guidance to facilitate appropriate usage and examples of properly populated instances can be easily shared.
  • Approvals and versioning can be implemented easily – it is not challenging to conduct reviews and get approval using standalone documents, and taking a snapshot or baseline of a document is fairly simple.

However, there are some drawbacks when using documents to house project information:

  • Collaboration is challenging – while documents can be easily shared, the desktop applications used to create them don’t lend themselves well to having multiple contributors collaborate to create a document. Attempting to do so in a distributed manner often leads to document corruption or overwritten changes so invariably one person holds the pen or a game of hot potato gets played.
  • Documents proliferate like roaches – because of the relative ease of adding a new document to the methodology, without constant vigilance and refactoring it is easy to end up with too many document templates along with their supporting entourage of job aids and examples.
  • Redundant or conflicting information – documents supporting project delivery are moderately interdependent. Standalone documents usually replicate common information elements such as tombstone data and when a change gets made to one document template, the effort required to ensure consistency and alignment with all dependant document templates can be prohibitive.
  • They encourage an obsession on generating comprehensive documentation over delivering business value

But before jettisoning your documents in favor of a centralized tool, read next week’s article in which I’ll assess the pros and cons of that approach!





Categories: Project Management | Tags: , | 1 Comment

While collocation is nice-to-have, meeting in person should be mandatory!

Colocation is often considered an enabler if not a critical success factor for successful project delivery.

While this makes sense for small teams, as we take on larger scale products and projects, it is not always practical to have everyone in the same room. Communication channels increase non-linearly as the size of a team grows and at some point it will be impossible from either a real estate or an effectiveness perspective.

As the size of an initiative grows, breaking down scope along component or feature lines can enable the distribution of contained work to smaller teams whose members might be collocated with a reduced need for constant communication. Having such teams distributed geographically should not be an issue so long as there is still the opportunity to conduct ceremonies such as a Scrum of Scrums to manage interdependencies, maintain alignment in release cadence and to raise shared impediments to the right level of resolution.

With such a distributed approach it is often tempting to use a purely virtual work model, especially on large initiatives where there could be a heavy cost to bringing everyone together once in a while. While this makes short term economic sense, Simon Sinek’s warning from Leaders Eat Last should not be ignored: “The more abstract people become, the more capable we are of doing them harm.

Sinek references Milgram’s experiments in the early 1960’s where test subjects were given the opportunity to do harm to someone else. While only 30% of these volunteers were capable of proceeding substantially through the experiment when they had to witness the (simulated) pain they caused, 65% were capable of doing so when they never saw who they were hurting.

Our very current problem of cyberbullying is another shining example of this. While we are still biologically social animals, the anonymity and separation created by the Internet and social media platforms reduces personal impacts of inflicting pain.

Trust is also hard to cultivate when we haven’t met those we are working with. While we hope that our co-workers will treat us as they would like to be treated, it is hard to feel psychologically safe with them if they are just an e-mail address or instant messaging avatar to us. As Sinek puts it “Trust is like lubrication. It reduces friction and creates conditions much more conducive to performance.

We may have differences of opinion at work, but if we have met and had the occasion to socialize outside of the office, it is much easier to see and treat one another as human beings.

Economize as necessary, but don’t eliminate opportunities for teams to meet in person.




Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

What abilities can project managers learn from the X-Men?

x-men-logoThis is the opening weekend of Logan, the last X-Men film featuring Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart in their respective roles as Wolverine and Professor Xavier. In honor of their farewell performances which skills might we wish to adopt from the mutants?

We’d want Wolverine’s adamantium-like strength and rapid healing abilities to bounce back from the issues and unexpected challenges which emerge on our projects. And yes, there are times when having the ability to extend razor-sharp metal claws could be helpful in cutting through organizational politics. But Logan brings more than just strength, resilience and tenacity to the table – he also possesses a good sense of humor which is a valuable skill when building our teams or dealing with stakeholders.

Professor Xavier can read minds, control people’s actions and, with the help of Cerebro, identify and locate individuals he is interested in across the world. While there are certainly times when we’d all like to take direct control of decision makers to realize positive outcomes, the ability to identify all relevant stakeholders, understand their position on key issues and subtly guide them might work better in the long run. Professor X also teaches us that we can rise above our limitations – while he remains confined to a wheelchair he never lets that get in his way of leading the X-Men or being a formidable opponent.

Storm is able to fly and can control weather to attack her enemies and there are definitely times when we’d love to be able to escape difficult situations on our projects! But Storm also remains very much in touch with nature which teaches us the importance of incorporating sustainability within the scope of our projects.

Jean Grey has telepathic and telekinetic capabilities. One of the greatest services a project manager can provide to their team members is to remove hurdles from their path to enable them to be as productive as possible. Telekinesis would be a very useful skill to move mountains!

Mystique is able to take on the appearance, mannerisms and speech of anyone she wishes to mimic. While we might all enjoy possessing chameleon-like abilities to take on the guise of a key stakeholder to have decisions made in our favor, what Raven teaches us is the skill of situational leadership. Taking on the right persona based on the context of a given project situation is a superior approach to one size fits all.

A good project manager should reflect capabilities from many of the X-Men so perhaps like Rogue, we should learn to absorb positive abilities from our peers and mentors!


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