A choice of project management methods

project management methods

There are many project management methods available but the most important tool in your arsenal of management tools is the trusted system. In my case I’ve been through 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 putting a name on things because the naming process is part of the thinking about the thing that you want to do.

If you have to think what name and what words go to describe the task or the objective then at least you have to start to think about it. Indeed the actual process of finding the right words oblige you to think about what you really mean.

But I’m having some trouble with the different project management methods which are 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 book that I read about it was rather too dismissive of the idea of planning. I can’t get my head around it so I have another one to read.

GTD Inbox

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

Next Action

And finally I wanted to say a little bit about next action because this continues to be an overriding useful guiding principle in applying GTD. It’s something that can be used every day in the sense that it really relieves you from some of the worst tortuous over-planning because as long as you think of the next action for now you can move ahead.

Plan or Do

project management methods

Clearly there is a balance though between the amount of planning that you do 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 are out of balance, but if you don’t plan anything, you are just an electron rattling around in an empty bottle, you risk being jolted about from one thing to another without any “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, i.e. what are the criteria which 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 number of 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 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 any objectives and you don’t 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
the unpredictability of the world.

Initial planning is about establishing what you want to do, to determine whether you want to make apples or pears and defining 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 them, attend them, protect the field from rodents and finally, once the apples have grown, harvest them, collect them and decide whether to make them into 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 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 turned out to be rubbish, you might not divert your efforts into making cider, just remark that the plan failed because you didn’t sell apples.

Planning in Kepner Tregoe is very much about project definition, execution should incorporate the lessons of Agile and retain flexibility. The objective is that your project stays in touch with reality.

PDCA – Plan Do Check Adjust

PDCA is one of the best project management methods because there is a planning element, a fixing of 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 what your objectives are and where you will focus your energies.

Kepner Tregoe planning

Kepner Tregoe brings 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 is 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), what is to be done is easily visible on screen and and can be changed easily, moved around, played with.

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