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Project Management 101 (#3 in the series A Cynical Perspective on Project Management)
By Barry Otterholt

Most of us need to learn by our own mistakes, rather than heed the wisdom of others. Here then is the prescription for learning, so you can make the mistakes faster and get to the wisdom sooner.

  1. Start work. What needs to be done will be discovered if we just get going.
  2. Find the right people. Find people that can get excited about something and get along with others. They’ll gain the experience when they need it.

  3. Make sure you have a plan. People want to see that you have a plan. Find someone that knows how to make one and always have it on your shelf.

  4. Make sure you have budget. Let the decision makers feel the pain if they don’t give you the funding you need.

  5. Do good status reporting. Make sure your status reports have nice charts, and make sure you email them out on time.

  6. Maintain good morale. Do things as a team that make people like each other. Have after-work BBQs, weekend parties in the park, tell jokes. It’s good to remember the names of your staff too. That makes them feel good.

  7. Make sure you have a contractor. Otherwise you’ll have nobody to pin the blame on.

  8. Measure performance. Require people to answer how they’re doing in terms of percent done.

  9. Have an open-door policy. Always keep your door open when you’re not with somebody.

  10. Make sure you have a Plan B. In case something goes wrong, you need a fallback plan. The same guy that developed the main plan could probably do this one too. Hide it though, or people will ask about it.

  11. Attend meetings. That’s where you really learn what other people are doing, and it makes them feel like you’re part of the team.

  12. Be looking for your next project. You’ll need it earlier than you think.

Barry Otterholt, CMC, PMP

Barry Otterholt has been a project management specialist and coach for the past 30 years. He is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and a Project Management Professional (PMP). He works with both public and private sector companies in the USA, Europe and Scandinavia. Mr. Otterholt was a Director with Microsoft, a senior consultant with Deloitte Consulting, and a COO with a nationwide consumer electronics enterprise. In 1988 he founded Public Knowledge, LLC to provide independent management and operational support to the public sector. More recently, he founded Stouffer & Company, LLC to provide as-needed project management services to fill an obvious skills gap in both private and public sectors.

Mr. Otterholt is an adjunct professor teaching project management at Northwest University. His essays on project management have been published in PMI newsletters. His runs a blog, Project Management Essays, where he muses about various project management topics.

Mr. Otterholt is a member of the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) and the Project Management Institute (PMI). He has a BA in Accounting and Computer Science and an MBA in Business Administration. He lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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