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Full Contact Project Management

project management

Huge milestones. I'm beginning to think I have seen it all: three such milestones shape my thoughts for today.

The first is that this month's column represents the 12th article that I've written for Masonry, so it becomes my anniversary issue. Wow! A whole year has flown by already. The exciting thing for me is that there are always new issues out there on the PM horizon, and you readers seem to appreciate the words of wisdom from this column — I thank you for that. Every month, many of you — sometimes numbering into the thousands — go to the fullcontactPM.com website, and avail yourselves of the help there. A big goal of mine for the next 12 issues is to improve the website's content and functionality.

Because of your continuing readership, I have been encouraged to write a book on project management; that is my second milestone for the month. The e-book version has been published and is available at the website. The book's title is "Get Paid for a Change." My goal for you Full Contact PMs out there is that you dramatically improve the profitability of your projects and also the value that your company places on you. Do yourself a favor and at least get the audio summary of the book. It's free at the website and has a lot of practical information in it. It's my present to you for your loyal readership. See the Playbook insert on the following page for more details.

The third milestone comes in the form of a prime-time television show featuring project managers. Now there's a milestone! You'd think that Coach Gary would be happy about that. I thought that I would! But, once again, television has given me inspiration for another great Full Contact Project Management column.

Last month, I mentioned that I tried to relax by watching some basketball on TV. I tried to forget about PM issues for a while and take it easy. As you may remember, I did anything but forget about being a PM.

So, I thought I'd try something different. Find something mindless on the tube, kick back, and enjoy life. But, what to watch? Then I remember a friend of mine telling me about some new show where project managers are the stars. Maybe I'll check it out. (Oh, no! It just happened again. Forget about relaxing!)

The show is all about project management. Imagine that — and about time, too! The premise of the show is great. The stars of the show are the PMs — of course, they are smart, young and good looking — who are working temporarily for a wealthy real estate developer. (After all, everyone knows that PMs should be the real stars of TV shows, just as they are on real job sites.) Following other competitive, reality type of shows, the real estate developer and his two senior project managers divide the apprentices into two teams, assign them each a similar project, give them a few hours to complete the work, and then judge the results. At the end, one team is declared a winner and one team a loser — and one of the members of the losing team is going to be terminated. So the story goes, the person most at risk is often the PM.

Believe it or not, I'm actually okay with this last bit. But what shocked me, got me to yell at my TV, and pick up my shoe, was this: the person who got sacked during the episode was the only one who offered a suggestion — an approach, a methodology, a plan — to accomplish the project. Well, the boss hated the approach, thought the plan was a stupid idea, and sacked the only person who came up with a suggestion. And his two senior PMs were more like "yes men," than advisors. Just sat there and said, "Good call, boss."

In real life, at the companies I have worked with — and I hope also at yours — everybody is encouraged to come up with ideas. Not only that, but everyone is free to argue their points, or explain why they don't like someone else's plan — even if it's the boss's suggestion. Every idea is thrown onto the table, and everyone has a hand at evaluating all of the ideas. This is best done before a particular phase of the project gets underway, and is called "planning." The idea is to do this stuff, talk about what might work and might not work, and hash these things out before you have people, materials and equipment coming to a job site and exhausting budgets. In fact, this has worked so well over the years that, once computers were invented, we now call this "modeling" and, oh yes, project management.

Now, it is fair to say that, once all of the ideas have been poured over and evaluated, a final decision has to be made on a course of action. That final decision is made by the boss. Oftentimes, the boss also happens to own at least a part of the company, so he or she is — and should be — free to pick the direction to go.

Good project management isn't only about building the perfect project. Sometimes it's also about figuring out — in advance — what won't work. And the way you do that is to promote an atmosphere in your company where people are encouraged to think unconventionally — to think "outside the box."

After all, in an industry looking for ways to help us build faster, cheaper and better, aren't we looking for the innovators? Don't we love new materials and technologies? In our industry, we are now using satellites to control grades for excavators and bulldozers! What a milestone that was. It is sad to think that, 20 years ago, talk of this kind of innovation and unconventionality could have gotten some of our present-day apprentice PMs fired!

I feel much better now. Think I'll set down my shoe.


Coach Gary's Playbook:






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