Archives for category: Project management

Three Michaels organized th PM Camp in Vienna, which took place last June. I am still arranging all impressions, ideas and questions in my head – so many thanks to all participants as much as to the organzational team! Looking forward to meet some of the people in Dornbirn on PM Camp 2012!

In the meantime I managed to put my Vienna speech into Prezi – let’s go!


If you are a wise man, you always add holidays to the project plan. your national as much as holidays of your customer and your best-cost-country supplier. at least two weeks between X-Mas and next year, so that nobody expects you to deliver in that period.

Every summer I’m facing the summer vacation problem: how to plan if one – two – three – many people are on the beach, but customer still expects to have proper stand in and deliverables per schedule? may I add two to three vacation weeks to my project plan?

I need to think about. if you have any suggestions or experiences, please share!


Two weeks vacation. Mexico. Dad’s hacienda. Days full of sun and tequila limo. Doing nothing. After some days in the sun I decided to do something useful. To paint an old bench. My dad as a stakeholder gave me a budget for needed stuff and I got a very high motivated team – my kids.
The one thing I missed to do was I kind of plan – where to start, who is responsible for which area etc. So the kids started to paind the front area of the bench. Thereafter it was nearly impossible to paint the backrest. So it took one day longer to finish my project. Alone. My team was not longer motivated to do something after the disaster at day before.
Vacation lessons learned:
– even in avery simple project try to get an expert to prepare a plan or a WBS
– it is not enought to have a motivated team to get something done in time
Tomorrow I will go back to do nothing. Greetings from Mexico!


A good project manager follows the invitation to join the evening session with colleagues. We met at seven and we were the last ten guests. We enjoyed fresh brewed beer and wonderful Bratkartoffeln. We didn’t loot to our watch and no one left earlier because of meeting next morning. We had time.

A good project manager don’t speak about work in the bar. Ten of us, responsible for mechanical, electrical, chemical or nontechnical parts of the project, would have enough topics to fill weeks with work related discussions. We spoke about good films (Pulp fiction e. g.) and good music, about bicycle or run competitions, kids stories and other good stuff. We did story telling.

Good project managers are just nice people. That’s end of the story. That’s a beginning of next one.

I’m not sure if you know the marshmallow challenge. this is one of that kind of simple games for everyone which brings a lot of fantastic perceptions to the visible level. e.g. about teamwork. about organizational structures. roles and responsibilities. personality types. you can play it with kids and with CEOs, all of them will have fun and – well facilitated – learn a lesson.

Usually, a marshmallow challenge lasts 18 minutes. My first challenge – played in the PM camp 2011 – was different. I thank to Sven who provided us excellent guidance and made me curious about agile way of doing things – we played the marshmallow challenge in 2 sessions each with 9 minutes. We did lessons learned between the two sessions. and – as expected, the result of the second round was much better!

In my current project, I facilitated the marshmallow challenge same way – 2 rounds, lessons learned in between. Three teams started immediately, no questions, no rules violations! We repeated the experience with the better result in the second round in all three groups. We also confirmed the known effect that mixed teams (e. g. engineers and purchasing) are more successful.we had a long discussion after the game, and there were a lot of questions – especially about “usual size” of the towers.

Now, 2 weeks later, we started to call our demanding items “marshmallow”. If you don’t know what I am speaking about, never played this game and would like to, please feel free to check out, download and use the short presentation I did.

Today I scheduled a “Silent Tuesday” for forty engineers. Every Tuesday forenoon, no meetings and no telecons are allowed in our cube farm. All Eisenhower B-tasks can now be scheduled into this magic hours to get things done. I have neither functional nor disciplinarily kind of power in this organization – I am subcontractor. But I am sure, we will use this time as planned and no one from higher management will come and disturb us.

I’ll keep my finger crossed.

My customer’s engineering doesn’t care about my budget. According to the contract, all of my non-recurring costs are included until the requirements freeze milestone of the project. Probably because of this, my customer doesn’t care about dates either. Our final requirement freeze milestone was moved (by the customer) five times – from January 2010 to December 2011. The only thing my customer is asking for is to assure the quality of the product.

My customer’s management cares about my budget. They want an agreed end date for my services because every prolongation costs a lot of money. Starting this week I have to report my earned value. As requested, I did a burn up chart for 2012 based on the agile methodology (story points).

So even if my project is planned in days and measured in $$, I want to measure the value of my project based on the product, especially on product quality. In points. Agreed with the team, to be agreed with the management. Uff.

We never have time to do things right, but we always have time to do things twice.

In 2012 I do not care about my milestones and I also do not care about my budget. No, I am not kidding. There are two ways to spend too much of both: doing things wrong and doing wrong things. I will take care about quality. That’s all. In other words: It is better to have a happy customer than an earned value above 1.

May the force be with me.

There is no better time to eliminate and delegate as now. Big chance to get more by doing less, let’s try:

– remove all yellow sticky notes from your desk. Yes, put them in trash. Delete them. Destroy them.

– do the same with all other loose notes and reminders on your desk. If something is really important (need your review or signature e.g.), put it into your 2013 tray. So delete all printed minutes, plans and so ones. Let them disappear from your desk.

– clean your desk. Dispose 2012 calendars. Remove all souvenirs and destructive stuff into a drawer or box.

– for those of the task and things to do which are still in your head, forget your own. You don’t need to think about them during the holiday season. Have the heart to do so!

– for those of the tasks and things to do which are still in your head but belong to someone else, delegate it. I write letters, similar to: “Dear Xxxx, this short notice is to say Hello to 2013. I’m glad to have you in my team (bla bla bla, personal message with some feedback – every feedback is s gift!). In 2012, we had good progress and some ambitions for 2013. To start well please think about #Task#. It is one of most important in our current project phase bla bla. Good start! Nadja”. As also my team members have the right to forget, I will give them the letters next year.

Summarized: Eliminate! Forget! Delegate! Everything what is really important, will come back to you early enough.

Merry Christmas and Happy lazy New Year!

p.s. you can get a wonderful calendar for 2013 HERE

My project is out of budget. In the budget review 2012 we were kindly asked to implement earned value process to watch our progress. I rejected this request last 3 years because we are in the engineering project, where too many changes happen (requirements, materials, durations, authorities requests), but now the budget is spent, nerves are on edge – the micromanagement phase starts.

So how to calculate earned value in an engineering project? Well, lets start with deliverables. We have about 30 hardware parts to be delivered to the customer for the brand new aircraft. Every of this equipment is different in complexity, some are simple, some have very new product development parts, never seen before. For this reason, the testing and documenting is partially more important and more difficult as usual. We had a lot trouble with some of the parts already in the engineering testing, no one knows, how many Murphys will visit us in the next weeks and months. So, most of the time we do much more than planned and still behind schedule. How to calculate this?

Currently we agreed on using agile thinking and the burn up chart. Every change – every unpredictable change – will be added on top to the scope. If the management wants earned value management, they will get the whole truth. I will report about the progress here.

If you read this and have similar experience or helpful ideas, I would be glad to learn from you!

I am a bad project manager. Seems to be so. I have a date. I have a customer who really needs my product at this date. I was able to speed up ordering parts, but I forgot Murphy. Murphy took two of three needed resources in the needed week.

To write a report and to say that we need to move the date would take me five minutes. Than I would need some more minutes on the phone with the customer to explain. Than some more hours with the management to explain why customer called them. Then some more time to get other resources and to try to reach the goal with them.

There is no project management book that says that non-technical project manager is not allowed to do technical stuff. And if there would be one, it is on time to write another books. Mixing up roles and responsibilities in a good team can add a lot of fun to what we do, I believe. From all the engineers around me that’s me who knows the product from the first day – so I rolled up my sleeves and had a wonderful day in the factory. As I am not allowed to show you the product, imagine you can see first functional prototypes of a brand new aircraft cabin equipment…