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Everyone's a Project Manager


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  • 1. MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Everyone’s a Project Manager
  • 2. 2MINDJET PERSPECTIVES There once was a time when one simply fell into project management. There were projects, someone needed to manage them, and boom: eventually someone did. But corporate structure did as corporate structure does and funneled the role into an official title, outfitting it with all the usual business-y tenets and a certified career path. Today that professionalism still exists, but recent trends in the workplace–particularly the push for cultures of collaboration and agility–are leading project management to a place more reminiscent of its origins. In other words, more and more organizations are finding that they require the bootstrap approach of those without the PM title to take the reins. In this edition of Mindjet Perspectives, we present a collection of articles covering the changing environment of modern project management, as well as tips for avoiding its most common pain points: 1. Traditional vs. Agile Project Management A quick overview of where project management has been and where it’s currently going. 2. Solutions to 5 Modern Project Management Pain Points When untrained individuals are suddenly heading up projects, things can often get a little overwhelming. In this article you’ll learn how to resolve five of the most common pain points. 3. Why Visual Project Management Makes Sense Communicating in a language everyone understands is particularly helpful when the unaccustomed are shouldering project management responsibilities. In this article, we explain why visual processes are a simple yet effective way to boosting communication as well as productivity. Though every organization will certainly need to find its own winning combination for handling modern project management, we hope our thoughts on the matter will serve as a helpful foundation, as well as encourage you to start thinking differently about how to maximize your individual value as well as your team’s. Jascha Kaykas-Wolff Chief Marketing Officer, Mindjet JASCHA KAYKAS-WOLFF Intro
  • 3. 3MINDJET PERSPECTIVES While there are several process differences between traditional project management and agile, the most significant is the shift away from hierarchal responsibility and task assignment to the team-based approach. Traditionally, the onus for project success has resided with the project manager, as he or she is usually responsible for creating, communicating and executing on a completed and linear project plan. In the agile approach, however, the whole team is responsible for success. While an official project lead is still available when needed, members are given the freedom to pick and choose the tasks that are best suited to their abilities, even when that means playing the role of temporary captain. In effect, agile fosters a sense of shared responsibility within a self-organizing team. Everyone in the agile workplace must be their own project manager, to a degree, by tracking his or her individual tasks, duties, expectations, and how they fit in with the overall project. Those without formal process backgrounds most instinctively turn towards what they want to accomplish over how it will get done. The agile approach provides the framework and guidelines to allow for that, with enough true process still intact for providing boundaries. And rather than looking to a single project manager for task delegation and direction, agile encourages problem solving from multiple points of view. Of course, none of this is to say that agile is anti-project manager, or that PMs should steer clear of agile adoption. Instead, the aim with this modern approach is to provide official PMs some relief by parsing out responsibilities. At the end of the day businesses still require leaders, and in the case of agile project management that simply means someone to keep tabs on all activity as well as provide whatever resources are at his or her disposal. Whether it’s out of GTD necessity or simply a desire to join the agile club, this all-in strategy will ideally result in the empowerment of every player, spurring innovative thought and productivity where it might not have otherwise had the opportunity to grow. Traditional vs. Agile Project Management
  • 4. 4MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Pain Point #1 It’s not uncommon for someone to fall into role of acting project manager without asking for it. As a result, organizations see varying degrees of acceptance. There are those who move forward with glee, others seem neutral, and some shift grudgingly or not at all. Resolution: Management needs to recognize the differing levels of acceptance. Encourage those that relish and thrive in that type of environment, guide those that are neutral, and accept those where it isn’t a good fit. Also, have the acting project managers who enjoy it mentor those who don’t. Peer training is often the best! Pain Point #2 Most (if not all) acting project managers have little or no formal training. As a result, there can be a variety of differing styles and approaches, and it’s unlikely any will have traditional certifications or training in Gantt charts, work-flow-diagrams, etc. Resolution: To resolve this, settle on a simple, yet effective ‘Minimum Viable Product’ project management style. Agile is perfect for this! Start with the basics and some simple approaches everyone can agree upon. Pain Point #3 It’s difficult for the team and management to get complete status and the overall picture, including accountability and metrics. Acting project managers will show varying inclination for documenting and measuring their team’s progress and results. Resolution: Create an agile story to settle on a basic reporting template everyone can use. Focus on the results, the value, and what can be learned from them. Format is secondary! Solutions to 5 Modern Project Management Pain Points
  • 5. 5MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Solutions to 5 Modern Project Management Pain Points Pain Point #4 Often employees will take on the project manager role simply to get their work done. They suffer from the “if I don’t do it, it won’t get done” syndrome. Initiative is good, but this scenario can lead to unhappy workers. The overall project environment can become very horizontal without a clear, designated manager with oversight jurisdiction. Resolution: Designate someone on the team, preferably a volunteer, to oversee the big picture. Acknowledge this will take some bandwidth. The best manager will promote, incentivize and reward this. Pain Point #5 Everyone’s-a-project-manager is not a long-term solution. This approach can work in the short- term, meaning up to twelve months or less. Assuming success, which should be anticipated, the lack of a more structured approach will inhibit growth as products and companies move forward. Resolution: Accept this risk and shortcoming in the near-term. Set a standard and checkpoint for when ad hoc project management has reached a ceiling. Move to the next agile step and have the team members agree upon an additional process everyone can accommodate. By this point everyone will have some real world project management experience.
  • 6. 6MINDJET PERSPECTIVES The human penchant for visualizing information has never been anything short of obvious. From cave drawings to an obsession with cartography to the number of hours per day we spend staring into computer/cellphone/tablet screens, pictorial association has always been our thing. In fact, several supporting statistics of this behavior indicate that, in order for information to be conveyed most efficiently, it needs to be visual. According to, for example, the human eye can see visual patterns 65,000 times faster on a picture than in tabular form. And claims 95% of all information is perceived through the eyes. In other words, seeing is understanding. Visual + Data =The Cognitive Sweet Spot It’s surprising, then, to think of how many of today’s workflows lack a visual component– particularly when it comes to the soup-to-nuts requirements of project management. A simple shift in cognitive approach could drastically improve processes in domino-effect fashion: Bottleneck Visibility The human problem solving process involves a number of stages, including identifying the problem, generating alternatives and evaluating alternatives. According to psychologists Allen Newell and Herbert Simon, the most difficult is identifying the problem, as it is the most ambiguous of the three. But imagine if all the disparate data points were presented visually. Project leads could perceive the nature of the data and determine weak points much quicker–such as when a CFO looks at a graph of profits and losses, or a social media manager reviews website traffic reports. Why Visual Project Management Makes Sense
  • 7. 7MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Quicker Decision Making When hiccups are more easily spotted, managers are able to swiftly respond. This is particularly useful when the need to make decisions in unstructured environments arises, which any team lead–including club C-Suite–can likely identify with. Higher Human Bandwidth The end result is simple and yet increasingly elusive: increased headspace. Robert E. Horn, an award-winning scholar at Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Language and Information, puts it like this: “When words and visual elements are closely entwined, we create something new and we augment our communal intelligence … visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth’—the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.” Perceptible Progress Visual communication has proven its worth time and time again, and yet most of us still put it on the back-burner, choosing instead the (often overwhelming) linear approach to work. Perhaps it is its obvious nature that blinds us from its usefulness, or maybe we just have an attitude problem. As Sunni Brown, leader of the Doodle Revolutions sadly points out, “[Visualization] is considered to be anti-intellectual and counter to serious learning.” As we trudge our way through the increasingly crushing age of information overload, we at Mindjet think people will begin to turn to visual components out of necessity. But why wait? Why Visual Project Management Makes Sense
  • 8. 8MINDJET PERSPECTIVES Want to know more? The agile project management conversation is just getting started, and we at Mindjet are dedicating to contributing on a fairly frequent basis. Head on over to Conspire for our latest musings on the topic, and don’t be shy about adding your own two cents in the comments section. 1. Want to learn how you can conquer these project challenges? Mindjet ProjectDirector can help. 2. Visit the Mindjet blog for more project management tips, ideas, and inspiration. 3. Share this guide with your friends and colleagues. Click the icons below to post the whitepaper directly to your favorite social networks. Try ProjectDirector Now
  • 10. © 2013 Mindjet. All rights reserved. Mindjet, Work Inspired and the Mindjet logo are trademarks of Mindjet, which may be registered in the U.S. and other countries. Work Inspired