Project Management : Home Truths

I had the good fortune of attending a very insightful workshop on Project Management, recently… the workshop was a curious mix of practical know-how from various domains and theoretical inputs from PM methodologies, making the exercise well worth the time spent. For me, the most intriguing part of the program was the fact that the trainer’s basic premise was : Most of what we need to do to be good project managers, we already know as children!

I had the good fortune of attending a very insightful workshop on Project Management, recently.  The trainer was someone with over 25 years of experience in the field.  A civil engineer by profession, he had jumped into the field of Project Management quite by accident.  Consequently, the workshop was a curious mix of practical know-how from various domains and theoretical inputs from PM methodologies, making the exercise well worth the time spent.

For me, the most intriguing part of the program was the fact that the trainer’s basic premise was : Most of what we need to do to be good project managers, we already know as children

Here are some examples of “best practices” of Project Management :

1. Make the project scope clear

Remember, when we send a child to the grocery store to make any purchase, we make the child repeat the entire list to make sure he’s got it right?

2. Paint the BIG picture

Remember, how our parents show us an aeroplane and tell us when we grow up, if we become a pilot, we will get to fly that plane?

3. Adopt a common vocabulary

Remember, as adults, when we need to talk to a child, we talk to them in a simple language, often by squatting down to ground level?

4. Focus on the success criteria

Remember, how a child is always clear of the reward he’s going to get if he performs well in his exams?

5. Review “% completed”, not “% remaining”

Remember, how we always ask how much homework is remaining, instead of how many hours have been put-in already?

Home truths, if you please.  How inherently simple… yet profound!

So Little Time…

What would happen if I ever had to “live a year or two without all my gadgets”, so to speak?

I was completely immersed in one of the most fascinating science books I’d ever come across – A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – when my wife wanted to know if I was mindful of the fact that our “Engagement Anniversary” was coming?!

I told her that it was a few weeks away, and that I would remember in time.  Just like I’d done last year! 

While appreciating the fact that I had, in fact, remembered in time, she also wanted to take this opportunity to point out that it was merely because of all the “technology” (email reminders, personal organizers, smartphones, etc.) I used, that I was able to keep track of all that I needed to. 

She was curious to know : What would happen if I ever had to “live a year or two without all my gadgets”, so to speak?

Now, that was an interesting question, if I ever heard one.  And, I’d love to explore it in greater detail, in a dedicated post.  But, for now, it needed to be answered.  And, answer it, I did.

I told her about 43 Folders – the lo-fi hack for never forgetting to do something.  And, explained that I would still be able to track To-Do items upto one year in advance, with just paper cards and a good indexing system!

To me, Technology is not just about electronics and gadgets.  As a child, I was always fascinated with Science.  As a grown up, that love for all things Science turned into a love for “Technology”.  It was only recently that I, myself, came to realize that Technology is nothing but the application of Science in real life!

Even today, I find myself devouring almost any good book, article or television program on Science & Technology, with passion, interest and enthusiasm.  After all, the “quest” is far from over… 

In the words of Richard Feynman, “I was born not knowing, and have had only a little time to change that here and there.

Back to School

For all my openness to accepting new roles at work, and experimenting with all that Life has to offer, there are two things I would never have dreamed of doing : 1. Sign the “Form 16” (tax payables) for over 2,000 employees, as an authorized signatory of the organization, and 2. Represent the firm at the pre placement talk (PPT) at a leading Business School campus…

For all my openness to accepting new roles at work, and experimenting with all that Life has to offer, there are two things I would never have dreamed of doing :

  1. Sign the “Form 16” (tax payables) for over 2,000 employees, as an authorized signatory of the organization
  2. Represent the firm at the pre placement talk (PPT) at a leading Business School campus

Thanks to my joining the HR department, earlier this year, in my capacity as an Associate Vice President, I have now done both!

As luck would have it, the campus I was scheduled to talk at, was none other than my own business school – SIMSR.  Even though, a year or so after graduating from SIMSR, I had gone back to campus to teach a course in ‘Information Technology for Managers’, this was a whole different deal, altogether.

As any student in a b-school campus will admit, a big part of the benefit of doing an MBA is the job one lands after the degree.  And, let’s not forget that, for many of these students, the job they land after their MBA is often the first job of their life!

I am fortunate to be a part of an organization that, at the last count, is recruiting more than 1,000 people each month.  And, that meant, there were so many opportunities on offer for the eager eyes that had come to attend the PPT, all dressed in their formals. 

When my colleague introduced me as an alumnus of the institute, the auditorium roared with a round of applause!  I reckon my being there would have offered them a glimmer of hope – “If he can get where is, so can I”, they must’ve said to themselves.

The presentation went off smoothly.  The questions they asked were full of enthusiasm and interest.  I was also pleasantly surprised to note that many of them were well-informed about concepts like Six Sigma and Balanced Scorecard – They did not teach us things like that, back in my time!

I can only hope we made a good impression, and that many of them will want to join the organization I’m employed with, for a career of their choice.

On a personal note, this has got to be one of the most exciting and humbling experiences I’ve had, till date!