Episode 78 – Answers, Advice, and Anecdotes

Episode #78
Original Air Date: 03.29.2019

34 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Andy Crowe and Bill Yates

Andy and Bill dive into more of your questions in this episode of Manage This brought to you by Velociteach. Listen in for their answers to the following questions: What are ways we can get the team past the storming phase? When to hold meetings and how to conduct them? How to monitor projects closely? How do you properly close a project? And what are some future challenges for the profession?

Hear the scoop on how Velociteach started and Andy’s passion for helping PM’s. Andy and Bill also have an enlightening conversation about lessons learned from disastrous project memories.

Andy Crowe is currently enjoying his Sabbatical on his sailing vessel in the Caribbean and it is all smooth sailing in the office as Bill holds down the fort. Do you have some questions for our team? Are there PM topics you’d like to hear more about? Send your comments to our team at manage_this@velociteach.com, we always appreciate hearing from you.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

“You have to build an economy of trust with your team that they feel like they can tell you when things aren’t going well or when they are.”

- Andy Crowe

“I saw the opportunity to join a ….. growing enterprise that would really put a thumbprint on project management, be able to really influence an industry. And that was exciting to me.”

- Bill Yates

“I think that’s the best thing for me about this career is that we’ve been able to help people.”

- Andy Crowe

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Table of Contents

01:14 … Velociteach Beginnings
04:22 … Lessons Learned Stories
07:47 … “Bad news Does Not Get Better With Time”
11:59 … AI
14:49 … Getting Past the Storming Phase
18:22 … When and How to Conduct Meetings
22:50 … Monitoring Projects
27:13 … How to Properly Close Tasks
29:12 … The Future of Project Management
33:17 … Closing

BILL YATES:  But I saw the opportunity to, again, join a really – a growing enterprise that would really put a thumbprint on project management, be able to really influence an industry.  And that was exciting to me.

ANDY CROWE:  A shameless plug.  I think that’s the best thing for me about this career is that we’ve been able to help people.

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  This is the time we’ve set aside to discuss with you the subject of project management and touch on some of the issues that are important to you as a professional project manager.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are the two guys who make this podcast happen, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  And so guys, now, in a previous podcast we talked with the two of you about some of the specific questions our listeners have.  It was a great discussion, and today we want to continue in that same vein, trying to get to the heart of what our listeners are chiefly concerned about.

But before we dive into some of these questions, can I just ask each of you a little bit about your background, I’m curious, Andy, how did Velociteach come about?  I know you’re the founder of this organization.  How did this get started?

Velociteach Beginnings

ANDY CROWE:  Well, it started – our birthday is September 30th, 2002.  But how it got started was kind of fun, I was a director of projects for a publicly traded company here in Atlanta. And I was traveling nonstop, and so it was one of those things that I decided, okay, I’m going to need to – I had a young family at the time.  Children were small.  And I said, “I need a break.”

And so I left that job, and that was an insane career move because I made too much money to quit, and I left and started Velociteach shortly after that. So a lot of it was just processing with my wife, look, I love to write, I love project management, and I enjoy the classroom, and it really brought those things together that it was a good marriage of those skills. And you know we’ve talked before about Jim Collins’s Hedgehog Concept, which is – Bill, remind me.  It’s what you can make money at, what you’re passionate about…

BILL YATES:  What you can be best in the world at.

ANDY CROWE:  What you can be world class.  And so it kind of fit that, I felt like, you know what, I do have a passion about project management, it’s a profession that’s going places now.  So there were some economic opportunities, and I felt like there were things that we wanted to build a world-class organization, so that was the goal.

NICK WALKER:  Bill Yates, how did you get into this organization?  How did you become a part?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, well, you can hear it from Andy.  I mean, he’s got passion, and he’s got direction and a vision which was really compelling to me.  So, we started talking, I think in 2004, and I left my job to join Velociteach in 2005, my experience had been with utilities, tax software, tax and compliance software for utilities – gas, electric, and telcos – and had been doing that really for 18 years with different organizations. Went from a small company to one of 90,000 at EDS, then we bought our company or bought our product from EDS, so we went to a company of eight.

  So I think we were around 20 back in 2004 when I started talking with Andy.  But I saw the opportunity to, again, join a really – a growing enterprise that would really put a thumbprint on project management, be able to really influence an industry.  And that was exciting to me.

ANDY CROWE: Nick, just a shameless plug, I think that’s the best thing for me about this career is that we’ve been able to help people, and it’s the only job I’ve ever had where we get thank-you letters all the time from people because of some impact on their career, because maybe we helped them with a credential or helped them through a problem or whatever. And that makes it incredibly rewarding, just to be able to impact people’s lives, so there are days when you probably walk around feeling like you’ve only moved electrons around.  But I do enjoy, I do really enjoy having an impact on somebody’s life.

Lessons Learned Stories

NICK WALKER:  And we’ve been doing these podcasts now for almost two years.  So hopefully we’ve made some sort of impact on our listeners, we’ve got a lot of questions from our listeners, and by the way, listeners, thank you for submitting these questions on our Facebook page.  We want to get to some of them.  One of the things I think we do well here is that we are able to kind of tell stories and talk about, not only what to do, but what not to do, you know? And also some of the questions deal with that, lessons learned, do you have anything that comes to mind right away that you would advise people against?  Don’t do what I did?

ANDY CROWE:  Oh, my gosh, yeah, and there’s a couple of stories that there’s zero chance I’m telling.

BILL YATES:  No, we’re not recording this, really.  Go ahead.

ANDY CROWE:  Right, right, it’s okay.  You know what, Nick, the biggest mistake I ever made as a project manager was – in fact, I’ve got it engraved in stone on my desk now, and I’ve got a paperweight that says – that’s a famous quote from Ronald Reagan that I think he borrowed from the Russians, actually, – and it’s “Trust but verify.”  And I had a project go sideways one time because I was getting false data from a key member of my team, and the funny thing was this was a guy who was incredibly highly recommended.

So he came into the organization and I assigned him a very challenging technical job.  He came back about 10 days later and said:  “Shrink-wrap it, we’re done, it’s working, it’s done.”  And I don’t know what went wrong in this situation, but he had not actually started, and so it turned out to be a really painful thing., and it took a tremendous amount of resource. But, see, I’m giving that information upstream to people, that this is – we feel good about it.

NICK WALKER:  Sure.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, it’s shrink-wrapped.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s basically done, and it was not, and it wasn’t even close.  So that was an incredibly embarrassing situation, it was a very costly situation.  It was a painful situation.  So the way I’ve changed is I’ve gotten more involved, now, see, and the other painful part was I was a coder.  And at this point in my career I would have been a better coder than this guy.  Just I knew more about software.

So I should have said, “Great, let’s have a little demo, great, show me this, I want to see it, show me the script, show me how you did it.  Show me how you overcame this problem.  Let’s run an end-to-end integration test.”  And I didn’t.  And so it really did shape me, and that’s kind of a rookie mistake, but at the same time you want to trust your team members, and I just hadn’t worked with this guy before.  So it was really, really a bad memory.

BILL YATES:  That is painful, I think of times where I have represented something to the customer or the sponsor, and it ain’t so, and you find out later.  Oh, my god.  That makes my stomach clench when I – the first time you told me that story, Andy, I just – I felt sick.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, yeah.  And I could tell a version that would make our listeners ill, I mean, it was – once it came to light, you know, and it took a long time to come to light, but it jeopardized the entire project and certainly hurt my reputation for a while within that organization.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, boy.  Oh, boy.

“Bad news does not get better with time.”

BILL YATES:  Andy, a mantra that you have is “Bad news does not get better with time.”

ANDY CROWE:  That’s right.  Bad news doesn’t get better with age, yeah.

BILL YATES:  With age.  I had a nuance on that with – when I think about most embarrassing moments or worst memories, that kind of thing, or hey, here’s my scar, you guys don’t make the same mistake, I had a situation where I had bad news, and I held it back from my sponsor. But here’s my caveat, the sponsor was vice president for a large organization. So this is a multibillion dollar revenue a year organization, and she was a vice president.  In order for us to do the implementation of our product, we had to get data from her IT team.

Now, they were a separate department, they didn’t report directly to her, they reported to one of her peers.  So we had a situation where we were the – they were our client, we were a consulting company with software coming in, and we weren’t getting the data from their IT group.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.

BILL YATES:  And it was, I mean, what it boiled down to was they could not extract – they couldn’t run an interface, and I made the mistake of letting – our schedule started slipping, and it was because of incompetency on the part of the IT lead on that.  But I didn’t want to call it out to the sponsor because they all worked for the same customer.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  So this bad data, this bad information, the bad news got worse and worse and worse, and I just was sitting there going, oh, man, I should have told this weeks ago. And it all came to a boiling point, and I can still close my eyes and see that conference room at the customer’s site where finally there were four of us in the room, me and a coworker and that IT person and the VP, really the sponsor for the project. It’s all come to a head, we’re totally blowing our schedule, and we’re finally having to point the finger at her own team member. And expletives, I mean, she went off, I had never been in a situation like that professionally where I just saw a customer completely come unglued.

ANDY CROWE:  Lose it.

BILL YATES:  Totally lost it.  So here’s the second level of this story, my coworker, sitting next to me, gets amused by the situation and loses it himself.  He starts giggling.  So now, yeah, it’s like, what is going on here? It was an out-of-body experience.  And so there were so many lessons learned for me in that, I think part of it for him was he was happy that it wasn’t us, and the truth had finally come out. And I think really he was seeing a side to the sponsor he had never, could not even imagine existed, but she had completely lost it.

So not only am I trying to help the customer and think about a solution and kicking myself for not bringing it up earlier, I’m also thinking, what the heck is going on with my coworker here?  Do not laugh out loud, please, in this situation.  So that was one of those, you know, I think it boils down to, Andy, I should have, again, bad news does not get better with age.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, and the corollary with this is that all IT projects take longer than they should, and it’s almost always the interfaces.  And it’s funny, you know, I used to code years ago, and Microsoft came out with Dynamic Data Exchange, which was supposed to cure all of our interface problems.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And it didn’t.  And then XML becomes popular as a way to exchange data, and it’s supposed to fix all of our interface problems, and it doesn’t.  And so it’s still to this one of the biggest challenges is to get systems to talk to each other, they don’t want to.  They don’t want to cooperate.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  And the stakes are higher, so you look at AI, Artificial Intelligence, all the data scientists that are out there. They still need good data, so there’s still the interfaces that are being built, the data that’s coming in,I hear it over and over in the industry.  It’s a common issue, even today, just as it was back then.

ANDY CROWE:  And so back in the ‘50s they came up with the acronym GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.  And it’s exactly…

BILL YATES:  It’s still true.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  You feed a computer bad data, then it’ll come up with bad idea, but AI’s going to fix all this, right?

AI

NICK WALKER:  Oh, yeah.  Where are we with AI right now?

ANDY CROWE:  Show me the money, Nick.  Okay.  I see – no, no.  Because we see some cool things, we see some interesting technologies of how it’s being implemented in the medical field and some of that, with project management, AI has this promise, and it’s this carrot dangling out there that it’s going to be able to predict things.

And so I’ll tell you, you know what, Siri creeped me out this morning because she knew, my phone knew where I was going, and I was going to go get coffee here, and then I would be at Velociteach in four minutes.  And, you know, it predicts this stuff that sometimes gives me the heebie-jeebies.  Maybe we will take some steps toward being able to predict things with project management.  But right now AI is – there’s so much unrealized promise, and I’m not convinced that it’s right around the corner.  Maybe.  Show me.

BILL YATES:  So I had a funny experience yesterday, as well, with AI, and I was using the app Waze, and it was early in the morning, and I had a particular location I needed to go to.  Waze pops up and says, oh, okay, this is Bill and it’s this time of day, so I bet you’re going here, I’m going to go ahead and route it.  I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, that’s not where I’m headed.  Change of plans.  Hello.  So, yeah, it is weird.

Now, are there promises with AI for me, a project manager?  Absolutely, I would love to have a little widget hanging off my shoulder, looking at estimates and going, “Hey, Bill, I don’t think that estimate is accurate.”

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.  But I don’t think we’re right around the corner from that, either, what I do think would be useful for PMs is there’s been so much, Nick, there’s been a big focus in the past few years on collaboration tools, collaboration servers.  And so my ability to assign tasks to people, their ability to report and track and communicate on those tasks, and, you know, things like Slack having channels that you can communicate on, you know, in real-time with your team, wherever they are in the world.

All of this, this is certainly paying off some dividends, being able to aggregate data into big visible charts, that’s paying dividends, that’s real stuff.  I just – I’m wondering what it’s going to look like with AI, and is it going to help?  I don’t want some bot nagging me about an estimate or planting seeds of doubt in my brain about whether or not I’m going to hit it; you know?

BILL YATES:  Andy, on the last project of this size, you had 25 risks in the high category, you only have two. 

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  You only wrote 72 lines of code today, last time you wrote 78, you know, it’s like, I don’t know.

BILL YATES:  Right.  Get out of my face, AI.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, yeah.

Getting Past the Storming Phase

NICK WALKER:  Well, let’s get a little bit more human here; okay?  Let’s talk about teams.  So we have a question about working with teams, specifically, this listener says, “What are ways we can get the team past the storming phase?”  What is the storming phase?

BILL YATES:  That’s great.

ANDY CROWE:  This is Tuckman’s ladder.

BILL YATES:  Yes, yes.  So Tuckman came out with this concept of when teams get together, they go through five levels of progression through the life of the team, there’s the forming, the storming that this question’s about, and then norming, then performing, and then finally adjourning, and there’s levels of maturity all the way there, right?

ANDY CROWE:  And you know what, one of our instructors studied under Tuckman.

BILL YATES:  Yes.

ANDY CROWE:  Dr. Greg Stevens…

BILL YATES:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE…did some work.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.  So this idea of storming is the second in that five-stage process in that ladder, so your team has formed, you put your team together, and it could be a new team, these could be people that don’t know each other.  They’re working together for the first time.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  So now you have this storming stage where people are kind of fighting, they’re battling for territory.

ANDY CROWE:  We all watched “Mulan.”  We get it.  You know, you get the little team together, and now they all have to go through the progression with a Disney song while they – and they come out a team the other side.

NICK WALKER:  They absolutely do.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, they save the world.

ANDY CROWE:  Go back and watch that.  That’ll answer your question.

BILL YATES:  So, you know, we’re like kids.  We have our little – we’ve got our sandbox, and if I’m early in a project, maybe I think my sandbox is bigger than it really is.  And so there’s this storming phase where I’m figuring out, okay, what is my responsibility?  What do I have authority over?  What does Andy have authority over? And what does Nick have authority over?  And so it’s called “storming” because it’s kind of stormy times; right, people are fighting through things. So how do you help a team get past that?

ANDY CROWE:  I have two key pieces of advice.

BILL YATES:  Pizza and beer?

ANDY CROWE:  That I have implemented.  Not in that order, but I have two key pieces of advice that I’ve implemented recently on that, and one is it is up to the project manager, the coach, the leader in whatever way to set a vision.  And so you have to keep people, if they’re focused on each other or jockeying for position or whatever, you’ve got to keep the focus on the mission and the vision.

But the second thing is I have less patience today for toxicity within a team than I ever have,, and I just try and core it out quickly. And so, you know, that may mean confronting someone, and people go through rough times, and I’m not talking about somebody who’s had a bad day or a bad week.

BILL YATES:  You’re gone.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, no, no, no.  But you deal with it, and if they cannot move past that, then you need to help transition them to an environment where they can contribute more positively.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.  I really appreciate the one on one early, and I’m with you, the older I get, the more I think, okay, talk about use of the word “proactive,” so this is an area where the leader needs to be proactive.  As soon as you see those behaviors that are going to have a bad impact on the team, then you address it.

And again, ideally, thinking about emotional intelligence here, it’s usually best to do that one on one.  There may be things the whole group needs to hear.  But if you see bad behavior, deal with that person one on one and, again, try to listen, try to understand why is it that you feel like this is something that you should own on this project.

When and How to Conduct Meetings

NICK WALKER:  We have a question about meetings.  Everyone loves meetings, of course, and this question really deals with conducting different types of meetings.  I mean, how do you know when to have a meeting?  How do you know what to have the meeting about?  Status?  Information?  Decision-making?  When do you do this, and how do you conduct it?

ANDY CROWE:  I am an outlier on this, Nick.  I do not like meetings, so I guess I’m getting to be a crotchety old man, aren’t I, and I think that’s what we’re taking away here.  But we have an anti-meeting culture at Velociteach, we have very few meetings.  We encourage very few meetings. And that is the complete opposite of my entire career leading up to Velociteach because people like to meet.

One of the things, one of the reasons I believe that that’s common, and if you’ve listened to this podcast you’ve probably heard me get on this soapbox before, is that people aren’t empowered, and so they’re not empowered to make decisions, and they’re definitely not empowered to make mistakes.  So they become scared of doing anything wrong, and they feel that they have to have everybody’s buy-in, and communicate, communicate, communicate. To me, that’s a dangerous culture to create because you create organizations where people don’t have the freedom to operate, to do things, to get it wrong, and we’re human beings, we’re going to.

And now there is so much buzz about collaboration that people don’t want to do anything on their own, they don’t want to write a document, they have to have five pairs of eyes. And so we lose this efficiency. That said, the real question was, you know, how do we do them?  How do we make them effective?  Well, when we do meetings, we try and keep them crisp, hopefully we have a very clear agenda, hopefully we stick to that agenda.

BILL YATES:  We have a hard start and a hard stop.  You know, there are some basics, one of the cores for me, or one of the keys to me with a meeting is back to Andy’s point of I don’t like meetings either because I’ve seen them done inefficiently so many times.  So I don’t want to be invited to a meeting, and if I’m leading it, I don’t want to invite people to the meeting unless they really, really need to be there.  It’s either information they need to hear or information they need to provide.

ANDY CROWE:  I want to tell you the worst meeting I ever had to sit through.  It was every Friday, and it was when I was responsible for an IT system that had become mission critical within a telco, and it interfaced with another, bigger system.  So the other bigger system would call a meeting from 8:00 a.m. until noon every Friday, and they would go through this list of changes that they were implementing to the system, and they would read the change, and then everybody in the room was supposed to evaluate whether or not that change impacted their system.

But I’ve got to tell you I went through all five stages of grief in that meeting, it was the most mind-numbingly, tediously boring meeting you can comprehend. And so maybe that shaped us today, that we have a lot of standup meetings, we try and keep it light and keep people empowered to make decisions, and that’s one of the most common things. When somebody emails me and says, “What’s your opinion on this – what do you think – should we do A or B?” I typically will say something to the effect of, you know what, you’re empowered.  Go make a good decision.  You’re smart.

BILL YATES:  Right, we look at meetings as another form of communication.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  So it’s one that you look at and say, based on the audience, based on the message, is this the right communication method to use, because again, I’ve already kind of shown my cards here? I have a tendency to say, that’s going to be expensive, so why would I tie up that many resources in this meeting?  Does it really justify it?

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  So it’s just another means of communication, we have to look and see is this something that really needs to be expressed face to face?  Is this something that we do need to collaborate on, that we do need to talk about?

ANDY CROWE:  And we do have meetings; right?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah, sure.

ANDY CROWE:  Of course we do.

BILL YATES:  Absolutely.  So looking at it as not a necessity, as just another type of communication, is it the appropriate one, I think is the right thing to ask.

NICK WALKER:  So trying to keep meetings at a minimum, another question deals with…

ANDY CROWE:  Small, nimble, and on point, yeah.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

Monitoring Projects

NICK WALKER:  This question deals with monitoring projects.  How do we continue to monitor projects more closely, make sure that we’re really on top of things?

ANDY CROWE:  And so my great story of not doing that leading to my most embarrassing project management failure, you know what, Nick, the great gift of the Agile community that they’ve given to project management has been this idea of big, visible charts.  So it’s this idea that you don’t hide even bad news, it’s all transparent, transparency is encouraged, and visibility is encouraged.

So now, on Agile projects, it’s out there for everybody to see, it’s very visible. It’s posted in a common, highly visible, hopefully highly trafficked area, and so the days of the PM bearing bad news, you know, under page 12 of a report is hopefully over. But so how do we monitor, what kinds of things, Bill, are you most interested in, in terms of the kinds of data you collect on projects?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, there’s basic data, like how are we doing on the budget?  How are we doing on the schedule?  What does my risk register look like?  What’s happened?  What changes have we had since the last time we monitored this?  But I think it’s interesting, too, I think back to Wednesdays, it’s funny you were talking about Friday mornings, I think about Wednesdays.

For a while I had two projects going on with Verizon and with Pepsi Bottling Group, and if we weren’t onsite with one of those customers, then we were in the office working on both.  And Wednesday morning was when we had our regularly scheduled status meeting with them.  So a very practical tool, we use this in our fundamentals class here at Velociteach, we talk about using an issue log. So we’re just tracking changes, we’re using an issue log, it’s something that’s transparent.

But on Wednesday morning, I think it was 8:30 for Verizon, 10:00 o’clock for Pepsi Bottling Group, we’d have a call, and we’re literally in a room like this with the team that needed to be in there, and we’re pulling up a spreadsheet that tracks the issues, and that way there’s transparency with the customer and with us.

ANDY CROWE:  You know what’s funny?  I’ve been advocating for years that the PMBOK Guide doesn’t really have a lot to say about issue management.  It is very light, their treatment of it.

BILL YATES:  True.

ANDY CROWE:  Always has been, historically, it used to not even be mentioned.  I guess the idea, if you followed their processes, you wouldn’t have any issues maybe.  But, you know, one of my favorite times in my career I had a job with Cambridge Technology Partners, and they were such a great organization to work with. So this was back in the ‘90s, and Cambridge had a project management office that would come in and monitor our projects.  So they would sit down and ask me questions and the first time it happened, four people came in, they were all partners, it intimidated me to no end.

BILL YATES:  Wow, four on one.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, it was four on one.  And it was worse than that because you’re sitting in sort of a crescent-shaped table, and you’re like the focal point.

BILL YATES:  Did they have to swear you in and take an oath?

ANDY CROWE:  So I was so daunted, these people flew in to sit here and ask me questions,I wasn’t the only one, but it was one at a time.  So they’re asking me all these questions very quickly, what I found was, every one of those people wanted to help me. And so it changed, m posture relaxed after just one of those meetings when the partners came back and said, “Hey, you’re struggling with a particular task, there’s another guy who’s done this, and he’s in Oklahoma City, and we’re going to put you in touch.”  And “You’re doing this document, well, you know what, here’s a great example from a previous project that’s been very successful.”

And so suddenly I found, oh, you know, I can get in here and talk about the trouble I’m having, and they’re actually wanting to help and not wanting to scold me, et cetera.  So one of the things with that is – (and how do you monitor a project?) – you have to build an economy of trust with your team that they feel like they can tell you when things aren’t going well or when they are, and you have good, accurate data.  That’s a huge part of it.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that is good.

NICK WALKER:  We talked earlier about the storming phase of a project.  Let’s talk about the end phase here.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah and that’s really of a team, as well, not just a project, but the storming phase of a team development.

How to Properly Close Tasks

NICK WALKER:  Okay.  So the question is how do you close tasks properly?

BILL YATES:  Oh, boy.  That’s the easiest part; right?

ANDY CROWE:  That’s my favorite part.

BILL YATES:  I’m still 90 percent done.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  The old joke is that the first 80 percent of the project takes 80 percent of the time, and the last 20 percent of the project takes the other 80 percent of the time.

BILL YATES:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  Gosh.

ANDY CROWE:  It is key when you’re looking at this.  The best way, Nick, and this is advice that I think all of us could probably – it’s advice that’s easy to hand out and not necessarily easy to follow.  But you begin with the end in mind, you talk about the acceptance criteria before you actually start creating some of this stuff. And so the transition should be fairly easy, that’s the whole problem, it’s easy to show quick results, but then getting it finished can be really challenging.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  I like the concept of knowing what my target is, a very clear understanding of how do I know when I’m done?  So let’s define “done”, many project teams struggle with that, and I remember – again I’m thinking about the columns in that issue log, whether it’s a spreadsheet like we were using or software. One of the beauties with an issue log is somebody’s got to own it.  There’s an owner.  These tasks, people have to own them.  Then I’ve got a responsibility to my team, you know, I’m in this with them.  So I feel that sense of, okay, I’ve got to finish this.  I can’t be stuck on 90 percent.

ANDY CROWE:  I have thought for years about creating a course on how to properly delegate because it’s one of those things that people struggle with, it’s a very common thing. People struggle with delegating things.  They struggle with how that goes about, and there are some key steps with it, but that gets back to what you were just saying, this definition of “done,” being able to hand something off, let people know what their authority is to complete it, and the expectation.

The Future of Project Management

NICK WALKER:  Additionally, we have a lot of questions about the future, people want to know what is going to happen with project management here in the years to come, new challenges, future challenges for the profession?  Can you speak to that at all?

ANDY CROWE:  I think we touched a little bit earlier on the rise of collaboration tools. I think that is hitting a really good time for the PM, that now you have tools, and, you know, I’m managing a project that we’re using Trello, and we’re using that particular tool.  It is a great tool.

BILL YATES:  I love Trello.

ANDY CROWE:  I wish I had had this 20 years ago; you know?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  I’m looking at that.  I use Asana for task management a lot.  And neither of these are particularly cutting edge, but they’re just solid, robust tools to help get this done, that’s going to continue, so I love the fact that there’s a lot more thought coming in, people are putting a lot more energy into scheduling software.  And so for a long time it was just a couple, you had Harvard Project Management and maybe Primavera and Microsoft Project were the big three for a little while. Now there are a lot of upstarts coming in and applying some interesting ideas to this problem, so that’s fun to see, too.

I’ll tell you, my take on it, Nick, is Agile is going to continue to be Agile, and Waterfall is going to continue to be Waterfall.  The two don’t always mix super well, and I’m not even sure that they necessarily should,so I’m not sure that a blended approach is always such a great thing. Maybe.  Maybe.  You know, Einstein went to his grave, in his deathbed he was working on this unified theory to try and make Einsteinian work with quantum mechanics, and they still, to this day, nobody’s been able to explain how both of them can be true.

I think Agile and Waterfall have some of that, too.  It’s really hard, but they don’t always cooperate well. We haven’t come up with a unified theory that I’ve seen deployed convincingly yet, so I think it’s all about collaboration, I think it’s tools, and I think the methodologies are going to continue to mature.

BILL YATES:  Right.  We had a podcast, and we’ll put it in the transcript or the notes for this cast, with Steve Kraus [Episode 66].
https://www.velociteach.com/2018/10/episode-66-agile-right/   And I think the title was something like, “Is Agile Right for Me?” and it was a personal look at Agile versus traditional and Waterfall, as a practitioner.  Is it right for me to force myself into Agile?  Is it really a good fit or not? And there are some great statistics in there about how many organizations are adopting or using Agile methods now.  But you’re right, I mean, they’re both there.  There’s just going to be…

ANDY CROWE:  Well, they both are a great answer to a problem.

BILL YATES:  Absolutely.

ANDY CROWE:  They both, I think – which one should you use?  You know, well, that depends on the type of project and your organization.

BILL YATES:  Your leader.

ANDY CROWE:  But it’s not – you’ll never hear me say Waterfall’s better than Agile or Agile’s better than Waterfall, that’s absurd.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, it’s not a binary.  It’s not a yes/no with those.  So the other thing that I like that you touched on is the tools, especially in the area of collaboration, they continue to get more and more robust, the cost continues to go down.  There’s, you know, there are so many mobile devices that we’re using now, even on the jobsite that they’re tapping into, that’s awesome, the threading, the ability to go back and look and see.

But you’ve got everything from the heavy – you mentioned the big heavy ones, the Primavera, the Microsoft Project, you’ve got the basic stuff like Basecamp. There’s a full spectrum, so regardless of the tools, the job of a project manager remains the same, you have to lead, you have these goals that you have to obtain, right?  You need to add value.  You need to drive that project’s success.

ANDY CROWE:  Thus, overcome resistance, be creative, solve problems on the periphery, drive tasks to completion, organize things.  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  Get your team out of the storming phase.

ANDY CROWE:  Identify risk.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  Communicate effectively.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Know when to share bad news, there are so many things that are key.

Closing

NICK WALKER:  Well so, I’ve got to share some bad news right now, we are completely out of time.  But we want to thank you, listeners, for your questions, thank you so much for spurring this conversation, and guys Andy and Bill, thanks for your insight.

Also we want to remind our listeners about collecting your free PDUs, Professional Development Units, toward your recertifications, you just earned them by listening to this podcast, and to claim them, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page, click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps.

That’s it for us here on Manage This.  You can always visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And you can also tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or questions about project management certifications, we’re always here for you. That’s all for this episode.  We thank you for joining us, until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

2 responses to “Episode 78 – Answers, Advice, and Anecdotes”

  1. Hi,
    I loved the chat and your ideas. On the subject of meetings and their effectiveness my best ever tip is that when you send out the invitation you add the following text: “This meeting will be a success if …” and then you finish the sentence with your own words.
    It is so simple, but it demands clarity from the organiser and it allows people to prepare adequately and to know what is expected of them.
    Gerard

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