Saturday, December 02, 2006

Project-Management Tips - for entrepreneurs and astronauts

Project management is one of those skills that successful entrepreneurs seem to be born with - and the rest of us have to learn. I’m sure some managers believe studying the top online MBA programs will give them a stellar skill set. In reality, that's not true at all.

Here's a quick course in project management: 100 Rules for Project Managers, as developed by Jerry Madden, Associate Director of the Flight Projects Directorate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Within 10 years, NASA went from shooting dogs into space (one-way) to sending three men to the moon and bringing them safely back home again. So obviously they learned a thing or two about building effective teams, creating consensus and getting things done.

Here are some of my favourite maxims as collected by Jerry Madden. (You can view and download the whole list here.)

Rule #1: A project manager should visit everyone who is building anything for his project at least once, should know all the managers on his project (both government and contractor), and know the integration team members. People like to know that the project manager is interested in their work, and the best proof is for the manager to visit them and see first hand what they are doing.

Rule #5: Vicious, despicable, or thoroughly disliked persons, gentlemen, and ladies can be project managers. Lost souls, procrastinators, and wishy-washies cannot.

Rule #6: A comfortable project manager is one waiting for his next assignment or one on the verge of failure. Security is not normal to project management.

Rule #10: Not all successful managers are competent and not all failed managers are incompetent. Luck still plays a part in success or failure, but luck favors the competent, hard-working manager.

Rule #15: The seeds of problems are laid down early. Initial planning is the most vital part of a project. The review of most failed projects or project problems indicate the disasters were well planned to happen from the start.

Rule #24: Pay close attention to workaholics—if they get going in the wrong direction, they can do a lot of damage in a short time.

Rule #28: People who monitor work and don't help get it done never seem to know exactly what is going on. (Being involved is the key to excellence.)

Rule #55: Over-engineering is common. Engineers like puzzles and mazes. Try to make them keep their designs simple.

Rule #68: Remember the boss has the right to make decisions. Even if you think they are wrong, tell the boss what you think but if he still wants it done his way; do it his way and do your best to make sure the outcome is successful.

And my favourite:
Rule #83: Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. It is also occasionally the best help you can give. Just listening is all that is needed on many occasions. You may be the boss, but if you constantly have to solve someone's problems, you are working for him.

Check out the whole list here.

1 comment:

Theo said...

Excellent post...some of these points ring some very loud bells. Although, I wouldn't say that every successful entrepreneur is a born project manager. I think even the successful ones sometimes start out by muddling through, and can become skilled managers through 'trial by fire'. Or they at least realize the need to surround themselves with good managers.
Thanks again for these...they'll make one huge motivational wall poster!