Month: September 2016

A project manager learning from a Queen of the desert

Behind are the times when I thought that managing a project is a purely technical job. Problem tree, Objectives setting, logframe, work plan, work breakdown structures, reports, scorecards, Gantt chart, technical requirements etc sound indeed technical and schools make you believe that. No blame assigned. It is just easier for them to teach you. Your growth however is fully up to you.

When I read fiction or watch movies I catch my brain in Roden’s “Thinker” pose. The little voice asking “what can I learn from this character for my projects world”. The inspiration is borderless. All you need are wide-open eyes and tuned in ears. I learn a great deal of tips and approaches from most unexpected sources.3564_fee51463caa859c

I’ll start with one example. The “Queen of the Desert” movie by the famous director Werner Herzog, staring Nicole Kidman, is about Gertrude Bell, British writer and archeologist, passionate about studying the East.

I drew parallels with my work, comparison with Nicole Kidman would not be in my favour anyway. So, back to her character, Gertrude. She goes into the unknown places, makes deeply rooted traditions her allies in changing without challenging, creates cooperation and collaboration without confrontation. Projects also take me into the unknown, I am in quest of legal and institutional traditions on which to build changes for development, I create space for cooperation with others doing a similar development work.

The way this movie character talks, positions herself with the almighty gives me insights into how to distinctively approach female and male decision makers according to the culture they operate in. The way she persuades her own breed, with knowledge and self-earned authority, is insightful for relationship building within the organisation I work in. And it goes on …

Romans and projects

Projects are about getting things done. You write or are given a project work plan. A wonderful piece of paper or a document on a shiny looking screen. And then the question “what on Earth I do now and where do I start?” spoils the scenery. It was my first reaction back in time. I’ve noticed the look on the face of new project managers when they start the journey.
divide-et-imperaLuckily, it is not a new challenge and history helps. Romans knew a thing or two about getting what they wanted. Remember “Divide Et Impera”? So, go ahead and break the wonderful work plan into pieces. Cut it with a scissor, if necessary. 

Look at your big headings. Think small. Write it down. Think even smaller.  Write it down. Repeat until your eye for detail is happy. It is called “Work Breakdown Structure” (or known as WBS), one of my favourite project management tools. It satisfies my need for details in projects. It is a cure to the overwelming feeling in complex projects. It deserves a better name though. 

Tips for and steps for creating a work breakdown structure are available on internet and in project management books. Some are included here:

a. Create a list of major activities or deliverables.

b. Arrange them in order.

c. Break down each of the major activities to several smaller tasks.

d. Continue the decomposition till you find set of non-redundant deliverables and the smallest level tasks can be assigned to an individual.

It can be in any format you want: word, excel, post it-s on a wall. You can do it by yourself or with the project team. I like to add timelines and a budget column and use colour.

So go ahead, divide and rule!