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Summary:

Although we’ve shared a multitude of project management tools with you since the start of Web Worker Daily (including, since just the beginning of the month, “Organize Your Life With Jott,” “(Mostly) Free Resources for the Web Worker Who Works on the Web,” and “QuickBase Goes Enterprise”), actually doing the job of project management requires — above all — simple common sense. At least, that’s the take of Kimberly Wiefling, author of Scrappy Project Management.

Although we’ve shared a multitude of project management tools with you since the start of Web Worker Daily (including, since just the beginning of the month, “Organize Your Life With Jott,” “(Mostly) Free Resources for the Web Worker Who Works on the Web,” and “QuickBase Goes Enterprise“), actually doing the job of project management requires — above all — simple common sense. At least, that’s the take of Kimberly Wiefling, author of Scrappy Project Management.

“In the real world, things go wrong, things change, people don’t do their action items, and everybody knows what’s going to happen on day one on the project, but nobody admits it,” Wiefling said.

Here are the three things to master, according to Wiefling, that will get you 80% of the way to project success.


1. Make the goals as clear as possible. Say the goal is launching a new website. “Often, [teams] find out they don’t all have the same idea of what success is six months from now,” said Wiefling. “Is it just launching the prototype? Is it the home page works, but everything else is clunky? What about bug free. Is it full of bugs or working smoothly? How long does a page take to load? A lot of details get lost in some of the high level, ‘Hey, get the site up in six months.'” Make sure the goal looks the same to everybody.

2. Communicate obsessively — “until even you are sick of hearing it.” This has two components, said Wiefling: talking and waiting to talk. “One of the things we have to get really good at is the listening side of communication. I emphasize that first because people rarely think about it.” What needs to be communicated? “There’s a goal — the big what, then the how — how are we going to get there? Then what is each person’s responsibility for making that happen? Then, status and progress towards that goal.

3. Prioritize ruthlessly. “I talked to one guy,” said Wiefling. “He said, ‘I’ve got 40 projects going on.’ I said, ‘Great. What are the top three?’ He said, ‘Oh, I can’t pick the top three. They’re all important… You’re asking me to choose from my heart, my lungs and my kidneys.’ I said, ‘Your heart is number one, because you’ll die in one minutes. Your lungs are number two, because you can live for 3 minutes. And your kidneys are number three, because you can go on dialysis.'” In other words, if every project appears to be equal in importance, look at the company goals and align the projects to those.

Wiefling said the client finally wrote a one-page description about what the company was about and how it made decisions regarding how it needed to “spend” its people, money and time.

Here are two project management tips from Wiefling that can improve results even if you feel like the project is a disaster waiting to crash:

First, provide status reports. “We have to communicate where are we headed and what’s our progress to our goal — so people will row like hell to get there.” She advises telling the team, “You’re 10% of the way, 50%, you’re 75% of the way, you’re 90%, you’re doing good…” In return, she said, the team will actually perform 60% more efficiently than a team told to “come in every day and work like hell and do your best.”

Second, make your communication tools as visual as possible. For a project kick-off, bring people in from wherever they reside in the world. “Fly them in, stay in a cheap motel, have some biscuits from Costco, and get people together to agree on the goals, objectives, plans, schedules, risks, mitigation, communications, roles and responsibilities and all of those things,” said Wiefling.

Then, once everybody has gone off in his or her own little world, use voice and video camera — “because the words alone in email are totally inadequate to express meaning.” Use screenshots, drawings or slides to simulate final results.

Wiefling has plenty more scrappy advice in her book, but we’d like to hear what tips you can share for getting projects right.

  1. Before we created http://www.octabox.com , we were using email to communicate and I can say that we had some problem tracking multiple projects and tasks.

    We understood that in order to complete projects in a timely manner, we’d need few tools to track our status and document while we progress.

    Now using octabox, we’re able to track the status of every single task and project and communicate clearly around them.
    Public beta will be available in few weeks, but you can meanwhile leave your email in the front page to get notified about the public beta.

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  2. Don’t invite everyone and their uncle to your meetings. Invite only those who are necessary to provide input or make decision on something.

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  3. [...] over at Web Worker Daily, they’re discussing a new productivity book from Kimberly Weifling called Scrappy Project Management. It’s for people trying to get stuff done as leaders in a group setting. They list several [...]

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  4. [...] working with (and for) knows what the true goals are? Share your thoughts in the comments. 3 Scrappy Project Management Techniques to Master (Plus 2 Tips) [Web Worker [...]

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  5. On status reports, that sounds a little odd. Shouldn’t the team be sufficiently empowered so they can demonstrate their own progress, rather than being told it?

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    1. Status and progress vs. goals needs to be visible to the team. It’s not about TELLING the team their progress as REFLECTING back to them where they are in the grand scheme of things. Individuals on the the project who are heads down working on a small part may lose sight of the overall goal. It’s the project leaders job to make sure they can perceive the team’s progress towards the overall goals of the team, not just their own progress locally. It’s not a problem on very small teams, but on teams the size of dozens to hundreds it becomes a real challenge for individuals to know where they are on the big picture map.

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  6. Tim – the members of the team should be able to demonstrate progress on wrt their individual roles and tasks, but (generally) it’s the PM who owns looking at that holistically – individual team members aren’t always clear on where the Team is at with the project/deliverables as a whole.
    (imho, of course…)

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  7. [...] 3 Scrappy Project Management Techniques to Master (Plus 2 Tips)Web Worker Daily’s quick-and-dirty guide to managing a project: have clearly defined goals to keep you focused, communicate status and problems relentlessly, and keep your priorities straight.Tags: management productivity projects communication [...]

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  8. [...] 3 Scrappy Project Management Techniques to Master (Plus 2 Tips) [image]Although we’ve shared a multitude of project management tools with you since the start of Web Worker Daily […] [...]

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  9. Good thoughts on the intangibles which go into getting things done in a project. The PMBOK falls far short of giving insight into the human element of project management.

    The idea of expressing progress updates to your team seems a good idea at first, but I feel that they (your team) should probably be well-aware of where they stand without the PM telling them. Perhaps, this was meant for projects where the team members have a spoke-an-wheel role, with little communication between each other.

    In a typical scenario, however, I feel this may be a little too much micromanagement unless it is absolutely needed for ensuring timely completion.

    Overall, however, these are some very good thoughts. Especially the ideas on communication.

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  10. [...] in choosing between various courses of action. It can be used as a starting point for decisions in project management, capital budgeting, [tag]product life-cycle [...]

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