A choice of project management methods

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There are many project management methods available but the most important tool in your arsenal is the trusted system. I’ve looked at and used many different types of software starting with Toodledo, then Todoist, Droptask and now Trello, which is clearly the best. It is rapid, synchronises reliably, the presentation is clear on-screen.

Naming your stuff

Pervasive to establishing any plan or task is expressing the things that you do, the things that you want to do. Really put a name on things because the naming process is part of the thinking.

Thinking what name and what words go to describe the task or the objective invites to start thinking about it. The actual process of finding the right words obliges you to think about what the task really means.

But I’m having some trouble with the different project management methods available. I think PDCA is the best but the book by Deming on PDCA is the most expensive.

Agile Methods

Agile is the interesting buzzword of the moment but the first Agile book I read was rather too dismissive of planning. I couldn’t get my head around it so I moved on to another book!

GTD Inbox

I wanted to write about the inbox. This is a favourite theme of David Allen. It is the idea of processing the things that come in that require your attention. For me I have continual inbox zero because I now know where to put things. But for sure when I started out, I had a non-zero inbox. Todoist also uses this idea.

Next Action

And I wanted to say a little bit about next action because this continues to be an overriding guiding principle in applying GTD. Use Next Action every day to relieve you from some of the worst tortuous over-planning, because as long as you think of the next action you can move ahead.

Plan or Do

project management methods

Balance though planning and the extent to which you let the plan constrain you. What is your commitment to the plan?

If you allow yourself to ignore reality and follow the plan, you may be out of balance. But if you don’t plan anything, you are just an electron rattling around in an empty bottle and risk jolting about from one thing to another without clear direction.

Setting objectives

So the challenge then is to set objectives representative of your plan and to determine to what extent you commit to them. What criteria will allow you to drop your objectives, change them and move on to others. Or, on the other hand, to what extent will you move heaven and earth to bring about the objectives.

This may be a question of the resources that you are willing to put in, it may be about how realistic your objectives are. If your objectives are too far from reality then they will require a large amount of resource to force them through.

If your objectives are easily achievable, you may question whether they are sufficiently challenging because you may not have moved forward very much. This could simply be just a series of next actions.

Ideally, you set objectives far in the future and achieve them successfully, but the further into the future you set your objectives the less likely they are to be achievable because of unpredictability. Things change so much, but if you don’t set objectives or commit to anything then you are a boat without a rudder.

Creaction and planning

You can’t get out of some planning, despite what Creaction says about the unpredictability of the world.

Initial planning is about establishing what you want to do. Determine whether you want to make apples or pears and define at least some of the logical steps to getting apples on the apple tree as opposed to pears on a pear tree!

You have to find a field, get some seeds, plant them, water and attend them, protect the field from rodents. And finally, once the apples have grown, harvest them, collect them and decide whether to make apple juice, cider or to sell them as is.

Creaction will help you determine and decide that if the apples are not sufficiently good quality whether it might be better to make them into cider than sell as apples. But you need a lot of equipment, bottles, etc. Even if you sell just apples, you need a lorry and a customer.

The criticism of the old project management methods is the dogma of sticking to the plan (in the face of failure). i.e. if you decided absolutely on selling apples and the apple crop turns out to be rubbish, you might not divert your efforts into making cider, just remark that the plan failed because you sold very few apples.

PDCA – Plan Do Check Adjust

PDCA is one of the best project management methods because there is an element of planning, of fixing objectives. Creaction seems to assume that the choice of what to do is completely obvious. There needs to be some analysis of your situation and the market to determine your objectives and where you will focus your energies.

Kepner Tregoe planning

Planning in Kepner Tregoe is very much about project definition.

t describes useful techniques for thinking about and securing the plan. But the plan should be representative of reality and reality represented in the plan. So there is no point having a really extensive in-depth overworked plan (this is a lesson from Agile). A simple Trello kanban may be the best approach.

It establishes where you’re going and is so flexible that it can adapt to reality. It is simple in that (it is a trusted system), tasks are easily visible on screen and and can be changed easily, moved around, played with.

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