Habits of Successful Project Managers – Is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store

Habits of Successful Project Manager is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store.

Written in a conversational style, this book presents easy to implement habits that can help any project manager improve their work performance. These habits have direct application to the daily work life of anyone works in a project manager role.


Coming Soon – New Book, “Habits of a mostly successful project manager”

Originally it was going to be 7 habits of a highly successful project manager and then I thought that I did not want to deal with Franklin Covey coming after me to change the name.  Also, I thought it would be a bit pretentious to call myself highly successful.  I am sure one can find a few witnesses to projects of mine that have been less than 100% successful without putting in too much effort. I figured the best approach here was to under promise and over deliver.  (Here’s a sneak preview: being humble is one of the habits.)

Here is a tease:

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Managers can’t be afraid of the broom

An easy way to spot a good restaurant manager is to watch when something goes wrong.  If the restaurant is understaffed or something goes wrong, where is the manager?  If they are busing tables and wiping up spills you have a good manager.  If they are in their office as customers grow increasing frustrated watching as things go from bad to worse, you may have a bad restaurant manager.
No matter what field a manager works in they should know every job and task that is done by the people who work for them.  That does not mean managers have to be the best at the ask your staff performs, but they should at least be competent.
  • A technical manager should know how to code.  They need to know how network protocols work. They need to understand operating systems and hardware.
  • A restaurant manager should know how to cook everything on the menu.  They should know how to clean the entire restaurant and should know how the waitstaff and hosts perform their jobs.
  • A transportation manager should know how to drive, load and maintain their fleet.
  • etc…
There are some notable exceptions where union shops require other rules that prevent management from doing some jobs, but for most places there is nothing in the way of a manager who needs to step in.
Managers, should not fear working.  If you are constantly doing the jobs of your direct reports that is a whole different problem that needs to be addressed.  When needed you have to step out of the office and get to work.

Dear uncreative IT professionals, saying “no” is not a business process

We have all encountered the IT professional the quotes company policy to you when you come to them with a problem.  Be it the desk side support person telling someone they need to log a ticket when someone stops them in the hall with a problem.  These are the infamous “Hall Grabs” IT service managers who manage by metrics spend their waking hours and sleepless nights trying to prevent.  Another is the person the quotes a server change request you have asked for is not allowed by process.

I don’t think that these are immediately bad things, but they are bad when they become the norm.  No is easy to say if you have a document that supports you.  Many ITIL and or ITSM shops seem to make no the safest response.  If you are ITIL and or ITSM certified and are currently fuming because you think I don’t fully understand how to use problem management and therefore do not know what I am talking about, I say find me a properly staffed and properly used problem management group.  Those groups are the first to have their staff cut when budgets get cut.  Who wants to pay a bunch of people lots of money to think when you can pay people less to just do from a chart.

Some people think why say yes?  Yes only gets you in trouble.  Breaking from the mold and doing something like fixing and Operating System is difficult.  Just wiping the server and “repaving” it with an new OS is so much faster.  It may be faster if you have team of people that don’t know what they are doing.  If you have an experienced team of professionals that have solved the problem you are facing in the past by using diagnostic techniques and problem solving skills it might take seconds to resolve an issue that you are about to spend a days of downtime working on.

I am constantly shocked and uncreative IT people following a script laid out by people who will often admit to knowing little to nothing about the technology their staffs manage.  If you choose to simply follow the well worn process flow chart in the “3-ring binder” on yours desk, I am speaking to you.  That is a fine path if you have no idea what you are doing.  Why do you not know what you are doing?  Go learn.  Try something.  Risk failure.  If you fail, you will learn.  I guarantee it.

If you want to do your job like a robot, let me assure you, it will be done by a robot soon.  Just saying no and following the script is a recipe for career failure.

Failing Faster v1.1 the eBook is now available

Failing Faster v1.1 is not available in eBook form from NoiseTrade.com.

Everyone is a problem solver, technical professionals live problem solving every day.Failing Faster is an action oriented problem solving methodology to improve technical problem solving that puts an emphasis on action rather than analysis. In this brief eBook the author explains the methodology and gives real world examples.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Wunderlist – How we track complex desktop deployments

Legal IT has some unique challenges.  One of the largest is the most obvious when you think of lawyers and staff, they are not technical and should not have to be.  Lawyers, paralegals and support staff are specialists.  They focus on their work product.  Successful Legal IT involves helping the department/firm produce work product without getting in the way.  We use the term, “white glove” treatment at Turner for executives and other specialist that due to their job don’t have time and would not be expected to do their own computer updates.   Consider that you do not want the company treasurer or head of programming to be sitting and her desk worrying why a prerequisite for an install gave an error.  We face the same thing but on a larger scale.  If a member of the legal department is delayed or has their time “wasted”  it is most likely delaying something that either makes money for the company or saves money for the company.

A common requirement for my team is to perform an update of all legal systems software on computer.  Fortunately all computers are standardized.  Unfortunately, the desktop software has some finicky installation requirements.  We automated what we could with 6000 lines of combined Powershell and batch file code.  That said, we still face approximately 2 hours of work for each machine:

  • Uninstall all legal software
  • Uninstall MS Office (This is not fast, and requires a reboot)
  • Install New version of MS Office (This is just not fast)
  • Patch Operating System (This is the unknown time sink)
  • Install Legal Software
  • Verify configuration (There are some steps that the automated procedures just hiccup on about 10% of the time.)

How in the world do you manage to keep all of that straight with a limited time frame, 15 offices spread around he globe and only a handful of employees and few local resources?

Answer: A great checklist.

We have great checklists and instructions, but it is easy to lose track of who is where and who is doing what at what time.  We use Wunderlist and a shared list.  My lead support analyst has gotten quite adept and maintaining and update the lists despite the lack of an import feature.

With Wunderlist installed on our phones, desktops and accessible via the web, as a manager I know exactly where we are in the upgrade process and where I can redirect resources to help.  Sometimes that resource is me, sometimes it is other teammates that have completed their work and are now available to assist.

The high level of up time, low cost ($0) and versatile ways to access make Wunderlist a key tool in our Legal IT toolbox.

How many hats do you wear at work?

I have a hat rack in my office, I am a People Manager, Technical Manager, Project Manger, Business Analyst, Programmer, Database Administrator, Data Modeler, System Administrator, System’s Architect, and occasional furniture mover.  I am sure I have forgotten a hat or two, they are probably stuck under another hat.

How do I wear all of those hats?  One at a time and very carefully.  I am very lucky to be in a job that allows me to be a “hybrid” IT professional.  I have had jobs that were only one hat, Programmer, or Database Administrator.  I found those to be restrictive.  I am not sure that I could go back to just having one job to do each day.  I am never bored, and I have a to do list that my successors will still be working to clear, regardless of when I retire.

How do you handle the hat juggle?