Thursday, April 26, 2007

Review: Mark Perry and The PMO Podcast

As I continue my self learning through my iPod and venture out into the world of Project Management I found Mark Perry and his PMO Podcast.

A typical cast is around the 10 to 15 minute mark so useful for short commutes or coffee break. Rather than the usual Lunch and Learn brownbag think more Drink and Learn Coffee Cup.

He always uses the same structure.

  • The PMO Memo: useful tips and tricks
  • The PMO Interview: a keynote speaker from various backgrounds
  • The PMO Mailbag: An email initiated QandA session
Mark has really been a prolific 'caster and is quickly approaching 100 episodes.

A very useful resource for PMO managers and members.

Creative Thinking: Brainstorming

Invention and thinking of new solutions to old problems is one of the key skills required for today's manager. This could be applied to Projects and People; wherever there is a problem there could be a need to be creative in the solution.

One of the key tools is Brainstorming. For this I use MindJet's MindManager Pro. A great tool and very easy to use. But there is more than the tool....

Blockers: Premature Judgment
Nothing is so harmful to inventing and idea creation as a critical sense waiting to pounce on the drawbacks of any new idea. Judgment hinders imagination.

Blockers: Searching for the single answer
If the first impediment to creative thinking is premature criticism then the second is premature closure. By looking from the outset for the single best answer, you are likely to short-circuit a wiser decision-making process in which you select from a large number of possible answers.

Brainstorming Objective: Separate the inventing from the deciding
Before brainstorming:

  • Define the purpose
  • Choose a few participants
  • Change the environment
  • Design an informal atmosphere
  • Choose a facilitator
During brainstorming:
  • Seat the participants side by side facing the problem
  • Clarify the ground rules
  • Brainstorm
  • Record the ideas in full view
After brainstorming:
  • Highlight the most promising ideas
  • Invent improvements for promising ideas - use the SCREAM technique
  • Set up a time to evaluate ideas and decide
There are some great podcasts on Brainstorming.

I recommend the two part Manager Tools series:
Part 1: 2006.07.10 - Brainstorming part 1 of 2
Part 2: 2006.07.17 - Brainstorming part 2 of 2

In addition there is also a nice summary available in the PMO Memo.
The PMO Podcast Episode 19

The PMO Podcast is presented by Mark Perry.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Getting Things Done.... David Allen

Like many I struggle with keeping on top of things. This has become progressively more difficult as my remit expands from doing, to managing people and then managing projects.

Some friends of mine were talking about a book that had been recommended to read, David Allen's "Getting Things Done", or GTD as it has become popularly known.

The book itself is not the easiest book to read. However; push through it and try to read the very real and useful message that is being conveyed.

Implementing the theory

The great thing that I find about the theory is the small incremental steps that you can take to start to overlay the principles on your daily life.

Setting the basics for me, the key being what works for YOU, was using a system to keep track of what was on my plate, what I was going to do now and what would still be left outstanding. Due to the amount of travel involved for me in my job this has to be something I could and would take with me. This meant my laptop.

At the company I work for this means something with Lotus Notes. Hunting around I found Brett Philp and his GTD for Notes template. Very easy to use and implement and has made a real difference in getting on top of where I am.

Having gotten used to the GTD way of doing things I went through what David suggest is the logical starting point, implementing your real Inbox. This has left me with some key tasks to complete.

The killer app here is post-it notes. Three different colours works very well, defer-delegate, reference and tickler (what Brett would also call fup, follow up)

Next Steps

David has a suggestion for a live filing system, 43 folders. The system is as basic as it can get so it's worth having a look at.

Useful resources:

The PM Podast - a review

As I start to expand into a new role as a project manager I wanted to get some real first hand knowledge to learn by. Book smarts are OK so I did go out and get a language book, the PMBOK third edition, if I'm going to be a project manager I might as well speak the same language right?

Anyway to get beyond the book smarts I started looking for a way to use my newest toy, my iPod, to help. I had already found Controlling Chaos so I went looking for another, complimentary, resource. This is how I found Cornelius Fichtner and The PM Podcast.

Cornelius has a good structure as he leads you in to the interview du jour. His light hearted style leads to easy listening and the length of the 'cast hovers around the 40 minute mark.

He has been very active and his is well into 60 episodes. The supporting website is a very valuable resource and some of his guests have taken me deeper into the world of Project Management.

Well worth listening to.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

MindJet's Mind Manager

My former boss and good friend starting using MindJet's Mind Manager and got me using it.

Now, more than one year on, I am still scratching the surface on this excellent tool's features and abilities.

I find myself using it for the traditional uses of brainstorming and defining scope, and initial work breakdown structure, for project initiation.

Having listened to Dina on Mind Manager, an interview with Tim Bombosch, I have taken the time to listen to a couple of the webinars available on the MindJet website. The series looks to be shaping up nicely.

I would recommend the following webinars to learn more of the ability of the software

  • Creating a Project Dashboard
  • Running Effective Project Team Meetings
  • Planning & Initiating projects
  • Improve Project Performance - Integrate Mind Manager with MS Project
Now with some of these new features at hand I will using my software for
  • Managing meetings more effectively
  • Project Dashboard
  • Knowledge Management
  • Resource tracking - applying some of MT's tools.

Controlling Chaos - Review

I found Dina Henry-Scott's Controlling Chaos when searching though Podnova for podcasts on project management.

I have since worked through her back catalogue of 'casts (currently up to 32 episodes) and found her friendly style, particularly when interviewing, to be very refreshing and it makes it a lot easier to listen to.

For those of you working in the software industry, opposed to more traditional PM environments such as Civil Engineering, there is a strong focus on Agile Methods which I have found particularly useful and I am rapidly trying to apply some of those learnings, even though the company I am in at the moment doesn't use agile.

Well worth listening to, Dina herself is currently working on her MBA so the regular 'cast schedule is changing to fortnightly (or more).

Sunday, April 1, 2007

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Use the Label [tag] Cloud to navigate to posts of interest

Manager Tools - A Review

I stumbled across Manager Tools at the beginning of the year.

Manager Tools is a weekly podcast with supporting blog and very active forums for registered members. Since finding the podcast I have worked through the back catalogue and have been really impressed by the quality of the podcast, the advice and how successful I have been implementing some of the advice in the real world.

Manager Tools is the work of Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne. Their style is very informal and well worth listening to