TWEET!

     

    By: Tom Goebel, PMI Houston Director of Communications

     

    PMI Houston is expanding its efforts to connect with its membership. Over the next few months, our members will see an increased social media presence, easier newsletter access, and more integration between all of our platforms.

    One of our main efforts will be devoted to driving Twitter participation. As a platform, Twitter offers many advantages. The biggest, probably, is that it’s a way to “push” the chapter’s information out to 4400+ members rather than forcing them to search for it. And with Twitter, the reader receives easily manageable packets (“Tweets”) which are ideal for digesting information during busy days.

    With all of these benefits in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to help you get started with a step-by-step tutorial that runs through setting up your account and explains some of the “ins and outs” of navigating the Twitterverse.

    Signing up is easy. When you type in the Twitter URL (http://www.twitter.com) in your browser, the first screen you will see is this:

      

    Create your login credentials (sign-up is free) and you are ready to go!

    Once you’re in and your profile is completed, you can get down to the business of tweeting. You can look for any existing account in the “Search” field – friends, colleagues, well-known celebrities and news organizations. A good place to start is our very own organization. Type “PMI Houston” in the search box. You should end up with something that looks like this:

     
      

    Clicking on the “Following” link will ensure that our chapter news, events, and notifications will appear in your Twitter “feed” automatically. If you’ve selected the “always stay logged in” option, merely going to Twitter on your desktop browser or clicking on the Twitter icon on your mobile device will immediately bring the feed to your screen.

    Your comfort with the application will increase with use, and as you experiment with the features. Of course, you will probably want to follow other people and organizations in addition to the PMI Houston chapter. In addition to following the accounts of friends and news organizations, I also follow the PMI global organization and several other chapters, as well as some chapter members.

    I hope you will give this a try. The information we can deliver to you about your organization is too useful and important to pass up. We would love to hear about your experiences with Twitter and our outreach to you in general. Drop us a line. We’re here to help you!

    Thomas Goebel

    director.comm@pmihouston.org

     

    Project Management Planning

    Keith Willeford, PMI Houston Content Writer

    I have recently been tasked with developing a global software implementation plan for a very large corporation.  I will not write this plan alone, but the job is nonetheless daunting.  In a fit of desperation, I have found myself flipping through old military publications looking for help.  Most of my attention has been directed to Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 5 (MCDP 5), appropriately titled “Planning.”  

    What follows are some of the more interesting passages from this brief document.  Consider it a book report, if you will.  I will interject my own thoughts where I can, considering the ways military planning can be applied to project management.  First, let’s start with the military definition of planning:

    Planning is the art and science of envisioning a desired future and laying out effective ways of bringing it about… Planning involves projecting our thoughts forward in time and space to influence events before they occur rather than merely responding to events as they occur.  (MCDP 5, 3-4)

    So far so good.  We plan as project managers in order to shape events on our projects.  In the case of my current project, we are attempting to guide the software implementation efforts of several far-flung and vastly different business units.  However, there is no way I can anticipate every circumstance these businesses will encounter.  And, you may recall from a previous article the Helmuth von Moltke quote, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”  So what am I even doing?

    In that previous article, I brought up the von Moltke quote to make the case for “project manager’s intent.”  But what I now find interesting is the way the functions of planning are described by the Marine Corps.  According to MCDP 5, the key functions of planning are:

    •         Plans direct and coordinate action
    •         Planning develops a shared situational awareness
    •         Planning generates expectations
    •         Planning supports the exercise of initiative
    •         Planning shapes the thinking of planners (15-17)


    What’s interesting to me is the lack of emphasis on absolute control.  Obviously, military planners do expect to exercise control over their forces.  However, there is an explicit admission that the planning process is iterative, and the plans themselves subject to change.  Consider this passage: “…we can also think of planning as anticipatory decisionmaking – tentative decisions made before the need to act… a plan is a system of interrelated decisions subject to revision, and decisions are plans put into effect.”  (14).

    Okay, I’m starting to feel a little bit better about this whole thing.  We don’t have to have all the answers, nor control every organizational action.  We do, however, need to provide the framework for achieving our desired goals.  What will that look like?  Consider the following guidance:

    Each plan should have a desired outcome, which includes the intent (purpose) for achieving that outcome. (48)

    Every plan includes the actions intended to achieve the desired outcome. (49)

    A plan should include some control process by which we can supervise execution. (49)

    When it comes to simplicity and complexity, the needs of executors and planners may sometimes be in conflict.  Given time to plan, planners may naturally tend to develop increasingly complex plans with numerous decision points, branches, or phases… However, the needs of execution are usually better served by simplicity. (53)

    The object of planning… is to provide the maximum degree of freedom for future action. (79)

    As valuable as plans may be, the process of planning matters more because of the learning and shared understanding that result… Consequently, “planning cannot be done to or for an organization; it must be done by it. (84)

    Effective planners do not so much plan for others as they facilitate others’ planning for themselves by providing the necessary guidance, context, and resources. (84)

    Participatory planning requires open sharing of information throughout the organization.  It cannot be done in isolation. (84)

    Directives should convey the minimum amount of instruction necessary for effective execution. (89)

    If I could have re-typed all 92 pages of the book, I might have done just that.  But by now, everyone probably has sufficient food for thought.  Over the next month, I will attempt to incorporate this guidance into my own implementation plan. 

    The good news: I’m off the hook for trying to anticipate all variables and write a complex plan to address each one.  The bad news: in some ways the job is more difficult – we need to distill the plan down to the minimum instruction necessary, and still ensure project success.  Does anyone have best practices for eliminating flowery and redundant corporate speech?