Avoid Micromanaging the Project – Part 1 – What Not to Do

micromanaging the projectI don’t think anyone out there likes to be micromanaged. Well, I’m sure there are some very insecure individuals who need to and may even want to be told the very next move they should make. But those individuals are in the minority and aren’t likely to be part of a skilled, cohesive and successful project team so we’ll skip over them for the purpose of this discussion.

My preferences

I personally hate being managed closely by a supervisor (and I’m sure I’ve likely been a pretty bad employee when that has happened). It can drive me crazy. And, I’m not interested in, or inclined to, micromanage my direct staff or project resources. I never like to be overburdened with the task of resource management – it can make me a far less productive resource myself and can cause me to be too unfocused. That’s why I personally have always sought to hire employees and to staff projects with resources  based on the skills and experience needed to do the job. I like to think that those roles have been filled by very competent individuals – I make that assumption until they prove me wrong. Thankfully, that has rarely been the case.

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Adjusting the Project Schedule

adjusting the project scheduleSometimes you run into an impossible situation with the project schedule and it must be adjusted. It can be for a number of reasons, but the two main reasons usually come down to these: resource usage or conflicts and the need to meet a forced deadline.

Adjusting the schedule for resource needs or loading

If you find yourself stuck resource-wise and you must make schedule adjustments as a result, there are few options you have and a few things to take into consideration.

  • Change the scope of the project or add resources. You can possibly change the size of the project (up or down) and/or add project resources – but keep in mind that more resources always mean more cost. Approval from above will be required.
  • Add time to a task. Give a task more time or spilt it in two, modifying resource utilization to make the process work. You can also adjust the basic finish-to-start precedence relationships (if appropriate) by adding lead or lag time to tasks that enable some of the work to occur in parallel.
  • Move tasks around to when resources are available. Move a task to a time when more resources are free. This will mean calculating the entire schedule again to make sure the moved task doesn’t impact the critical path of the project. Continue reading “Adjusting the Project Schedule”

Sharing Projects from FastTrack Schedule 10

Oftentimes when working on a project we find ourselves in situations where we need to collaborate with other team members. Sometimes these team members have access to the same software that we are using, and other times they do not. In FastTrack Schedule 10 there are a variety of options for easily sharing your project with other users. We’ll have the choice of sharing data in both editable, and non-editable formats based on who we are sharing the project with.

First, let’s take a look at some of the options we have for sharing non-editable versions of our schedule. Our first option is to share our project as an image. When we do this, the view (Schedule, Calendar, or Resource) and all data within it will be created as an image. To share our project as an image we can go to File > Export > Picture.


Export as Picture

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Taking Over Someone Else’s Mess

troubled projectHave you ever come home to something your dog tore up and you didn’t want to deal with it but you knew you had to? Maybe it was a box he shredded (at best) or possibly the garbage he got into (at worst), but you knew it had to be taken care of and no one else was going to do it (unless you have kids old enough to assign it to…which I do now).

That’s sort of how I have always felt about taking over someone else’s troubled project. It’s a bit of an honor to be handed a project that is failing and to be asked to try to resurrect it. But it still feels like dumping. I like the feeling of leading a project from beginning to end – true ownership of the entire solution and the ability to engage the excited customer from the outset (they all start somewhat excited) and try to keep them that way throughout the project. Taking over the unwanted mess usually means you’re dealing with a customer who is ready to kill you, cancel the project and move on. It’s like talking someone down from a ledge or trying to stop a bank robbery in progress. It takes guts, risk taking, and negotiation skills…and a fair amount of Tylenol.

And unlike the dog mess where you could reassign it or just ignore it, if you’re assigned this type of project you usually have no choice but to take it over and do what you can with it. It would be nice to say that it’s failing anyway so I can only win – I can’t lose. But we all know that’s not true…because if it still fails now you’ll be the last project manager associated with it. It will still – to some degree – be YOUR failure. You can’t avoid it and there’s no prenuptial agreement you can sign before you take it over…it all becomes your mess now.

How do you take over such a project? What do you do to hopefully give yourself – and the project, of course – the best chance for success? The couple of times that I’ve had to do this, I’ve generally followed this path (mostly on the 2nd occurrence because I was still ‘learning’ how to best take over something like this the first time around)….

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The Inexact Science of Project Management

project_management_methodologiesIt would be nice to say the more organized and rigid you are in your processes and leadership, the better the project manager you will be. In fact, isn’t that what project management is all about? Defining a methodology and using it and creating and using repeatable processes and planning templates so that we can create best practices, run successful projects and then be able to repeat those practices and processes on future projects so that we can continually realize project success? That’s the goal, right? Well, yes, in theory.

If everything else was equal, yes. If our team dynamics never changed. If our customer was always the same and reacted the same and had the same expectations and always provided the same input or always just stayed out of the way. If the non-PM variables on each project were removed, then yes, that would probably be the goal and the easiest path to success. But we know that’s not the case.

Each customer is different – some are easy, some are hard, some are demanding, some don’t have a clue, some are ever present, some are no where to be found, and others are so far off the mark on what the project really is that the PM may spend much of their time just managing that customer and keeping them from bringing the project to a crashing halt. And each project team is different – made up of different personalities – not clones. And it’s the project manager’s responsibility to keep those very different individuals focused on what’s best for the project and focused on being productive and completing their assigned tasks.

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Do I Cut the Green Wire or the Blue Wire?

project risk managementYou’ve seen the movies…the hero is facing certain death if he doesn’t figure out which wire to cut to diffuse the bomb and save himself or the girl or whoever. In the end he always cuts the right wire – I think it’s the green one. But the thing is, he’s always taking a risk because he’s not absolutely certain he’s cutting the right wire. And squinting his eyes as he cuts it isn’t going to help or lighten the effects of the impending blast.

Do you ever reach a point like this on your projects? A critical impasse when a decision must be made that can significantly affect the course of the project – it might even mean the difference overall between success and failure? I’ve personally had this happen to me twice – that I know of. Meaning there may have been other decision points like this that at the time I didn’t realize their significance and thankfully I must have made the right decision…but I definitely know of two. On one I made the right decision and on the other I did not. Both projects moved forward and both technical solutions were ultimately implemented and used, but one went over budget by $185k because the choice I made to move forward with the info I had but was not completely comfortable with was the wrong choice.

So, forget the bomb scenario because unless you have a bomb expert on the phone, then all you really can do at that point is guess. Let’s think of it more in terms of this – I have to make this critical decision as fast as possible (today?)…what avenues can I quickly exhaust to try to help me make the best and most informed choice right now? Beyond that, I’ll just have to make my best educated guess. Think of it in terms of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” What are my three lifelines?

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The Perils of Always Saying Yes

say yesBeing generally agreeable is a good thing. Being easy to work with – also a good thing. Being flexible is a good thing. Having a very positive attitude…definitely a very good thing. Always saying “Yes.” Think of all the problems that can bring you.

I remember when my wife and I were first dating and she was annoyed that I never disagreed with her. She finally told me some 30 years later, and she probably regrets that day, but the thing is you can’t always be a ‘yes’ man. Conflict is good from time to time and as far as customers go, it’s simply not a good idea to always agree with them.

Too much agreement with your team

It’s great to have a smooth flowing, cohesive project team. When everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals with a common vision it’s amazing what can be accomplished. The danger lies in falling into a trap where ongoing success keeps us from constantly reviewing work and deliverables to ensure quality, from questioning the tough decisions, and from checking in with our team members regularly to make sure we’re all on the same track. It’s easy to get in a groove of success where we assuming everything is fine because we aren’t seeing or hearing anything negative. It’s during those times where the project manager can mindlessly agree with project team members and the team as a whole without thinking or questioning what is being discussed or decided.

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Creating Layouts in FastTrack Go

Just because we are out of the office doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have access to our full project plan. When using FastTrack Go, we can easily view all of the data that’s built into our schedule, even data stored in customized columns. Much like in FastTrack Schedule 10, FastTrack Go allows us to utilize existing and customization layouts based on the type of project data that we would like to see.

First, let’s take a look at some of the data that we see in our schedule while using FastTrack Schedule 10.


FastTrack Schedule 10 Layout


Here we see some “standard” data such as Activity Name, Start Date, and Finish Date but we also see some additional columns for items such as Department, Budget, and project Notes. Continue reading “Creating Layouts in FastTrack Go”

My Project is in Trouble

Project TroubleDo you remember that panic-ridden moment possibly early in your project management career when you came to the realization that a project you were managing was in serious trouble? Heck, maybe it was even yesterday on whatever project you’re managing right now. It can certainly happen to us at any time and it will happen to you again before you leave this project management life.

Maybe a project you were managing before had experienced problems – maybe even this one – but not the type where you felt you couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel… where you felt nearly all hope was lost.

If you reached this point – the point where it almost seems that all hope is lost, then it’s likely that you’re going to need to take some immediate and possibly drastic action.

I’ve found when this has happened – and yes, it’s happened to me a couple of times – I usually need to take a few steps in order to do my best to get the project back on track. It won’t always work, but these steps will give you your best chance of a successful outcome for your efforts. And it may not involve all these steps, but they can all help if they are absolutely necessary….

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How Formal Should I Run the Project?

Project Management MethodologyYou know the drill. You get a new project by whatever means – usually assigned to you by someone you report to – and then you go about your normal business of preparation, kickoff, and execution. But are you a shoot from the hip type of project manager or are you extremely rigid…following the same very set protocol on each and every project you manage? Do you do everything ‘by the book’ so to speak, or do you follow some sort loose project management process that varies enormously from project to project? Or are you somewhere in between these two ‘extremes’ with your own hybrid methodology that works for you?

I do realize that how we manage projects, the detail and formality involved, and the exact methodology we follow is often dictated by the organization we are working in, but most of us have a tendency to add our own ‘flair’ to the process…however good or bad that might be.

Assuming you have some say in how formal or informal each individual project is run, what’s your process for deciding? What ingredients go into laying the groundwork for how strictly you follow a prescribed methodology for each project engagement that you manage? Please share your thoughts and experiences. As for me, I get handed a project and I generally go through these items to decide exactly how the project schedule will look and how much detail is going to be needed:

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Is a Project Manager Born or Trained?

Project Manager LeaderBasically, I’m just thinking out loud here though I do indeed have an opinion, and I’ll eventually get to that. But the question I’m posing is this…are project managers born or trained? Are we born with the inherent leadership traits that make us good project managers, or do we learn these along the way? And what are these leadership traits? What makes a project manager a good project manager – or even equipped to think about becoming a project manager at all?

I would be very interested in hearing what our readers consider to be the key traits of a good project manager. For me, there are three that specifically come to mind….

Ability to make unwavering decisions

This is a tough one because out of the gate as a new project manager it’s next to impossible to make those tough decisions and stand by them when you know you might be wrong. The key always is to rely as much as possible on your experienced team to help you with those decisions and any key stakeholders who are available to discuss options with. The project manager that always acts like an island is bound to make a terrible decision – a career defining…or ending…terrible decision and isn’t likely to be in the profession long.

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Using Templates to Create New Schedules

Throughout many of our Tip blog posts, we have looked at the different options we have for adding features and functionality to a schedule. But, what happens to all those great Layouts, Filters, and Summary Graphs you’ve added to your schedule once your project is completed? Are you going to have to create them again for your next project? The answer to this question, is no.

In FastTrack Schedule 10, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when scheduling a new project. You can easily create template files that transfer all of the customized features you’ve built into our schedules. You can even transfer the Activity Data from old projects as well. Using templates to create new projects is quick, easy, and greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to get up and running. The other benefit is that your schedule will have a familiar look and feel, which can make your next project easier to work with.

The first step in creating a template file is to add all of the features that you would like to use in your file. In the image below, we have built in features such as Customized Columns, Layouts, Filters, Resources, and Summary Graphs.


Original File


Once you’ve added all of the desired features to the file, go to File > Save as Template. When we save the file as a template, it will be saved into a “Templates” folder that will allow FastTrack Schedule 10 to add it to an easy-to-use Template menu.

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