Without proper management, any project is likely to become infinite, get stretched for months and even years, and run out of budget without getting done.
I've Witnessed All Kinds of Project Management
Project Without Project Management
I've taken part in projects with literally zero project management.
It was always like an endless rush when you take on some tasks, then suddenly get overtaken by another one and forget to do a couple more. Always without any feeling of progress because finished tasks are not tracked and new tasks appear faster than anything is done.
The huge waterfall that one day you jump from.
Projects Managed With Agile Methodologies
I've taken part in projects with a project manager, infected with Agile methodologies: scrum, kanban, and a different kinds of mixes. While 99% of the time workflow looked like a cargo cult ritual: playing scrum poker, meaningfully staring at burndown chart, etc.
Every time a week before the deadline the whole project management process was always blown away by developers' burning asses.
Decentralized Project Management
I've taken part in projects where every participant managed his own work.
It worked amazingly when everyone managed tasks, related to his part of work and initiated "sync up" with other team members to push the project forward.
In that case, the project manager could have just a helicopter view of the process and join the game only in cases of emergency, when some tasks were starting to get out of due dates.
Agile Methodologies Are Often Overestimated
Unfortunately, it's still common to blindly pull "methodologies" on teams and treat them as silver bullets against fucked up deadlines.
Once I've seen how two Agile Coaches were arguing what was "true" Kanban and Scrum and what was not. The correct outcome of their debates should have been: "it just doesn't matter".
The existence of Agile Coaches is already enough for me to believe that these methodologies are overestimated.
Or is it coaches who are really overestimated?
Anyway, it's not the problem of methodologies themselves. It's more about how we treat and apply them. Paying too much attention to non-essential things like naming instead of really essential.
Pareto's Principle Applied in Project Management
I've come up with the following idea of rational project management.
There are basic things that can be done for the management of a project and that will give the most impact compared to zero management.
Most of the further tunings and improvements are team and project specifications that are likely to give much less impact. Similar to Pareto's 20/80.
Essential Project Management Tips
Rather obvious, but all tasks should be stored somewhere. Otherwise, some of them are guaranteed to be forgotten and lost.
Tasks must be estimated.
Some estimations (for routine tasks) will be more or less accurate, some will be not. But even the least accurate estimation is better than no estimation.
Estimation of tasks allows understanding of what can be done during the considered period of time. Plan it!
Apply all your imagination to improve the process as you are the master of methodology!
Leave more buffer space for estimation errors if needed. If the planning period seems too long, cut it and vice versa. Decide what to do with outstanding tasks you failed to do in time.
Non-essential Project Management Tips
- Which Japanese term do you pick for your workflow?
- Was your workflow used on any of the Japanese factories, or not
My Project Management Basic Flow
Tasks Backlog is the Foundation
I had always been using Trello until I switched to Notion recently. I'm a big fan of Notion since I started to keep ALL my projects, notes, links, and other stuff there.
Here is my Notion template for projects management.
I never start doing new tasks immediately and put them in backlog first. So any task's life-cycle is always: backlog -> scheduled -> in-progress/cancelled -> done
Tasks Estimations Tips
If I estimate the task to be more than 8 hours, I decompose it into smaller tasks.
If the task is super huge (a kind of task you don't know how to approach) I create a "plan milestones" task first.
Yeah, I plan to plan tasks sometimes🤦♂️
Furthermore, I should say that my estimations are often more accurate than I expect them to be.
Optimal Planning Timespan
The week seems to be an optimal planning timespan for me.
I usually plan for the whole week on Sunday, giving my week plan some extra time buffer for unexpected circumstances and estimation errors. And I try not to make any changes to what is planned.
Outstanding tasks are rescheduled for the next week if they are still relevant.
Project Management Workflow Optimisations
I track how many tasks were done in time before the due date. A also check how "loaded" my timetable is.
Occasionally, I adjust the load by tuning the overall amount of scheduled tasks and hours for the week.
Scaling Up Project Management Workflow
It can be scaled rather straightforwardly if every team member keeps up with the flow described above.
Make estimations and arrange due dates. Sync up with other team members, and plan tasks in a way to avoid blocking each other. That's it. Easy breezy.