The Project Management Podcast™

Bringing Project Management Topics to Beginners and Experts


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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Project Pushback Revisited

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Interesting... so it turns out that the pushback I got from my customer was because they didn't know what they really wanted. In other words, they weren't quite sure about their own requirements and when I asked exloratory questions about the scope they realized their own "ignorance" (for the lack of a better term). So they pushed back. Now the air is cleared and they will rethink the scope. You definitely learn something new with every project.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Project Pushback

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This post is unrelated to The Project Management Podcast. It's about my "real" job and I want to get it off my chest.

I have been asked to lead a new project at work. A small software development project of about 3-4 months of duration. Nothing big. You know how it goes at the beginning of a project, right? The scope is fuzzy and the schedule is firm, i.e. deliver "something" and deliver it tomorrow. During the initiation of a project, my approach is to ask lots of questions and to expand the breadth of my reasearch indefinitely. I talk to anyone and everyone about this effort, trying to see how it fits into the grand scheme of things and find similar intiatives that may be combined. And while doing this, I was astonished at the pushback I got from my customer towards this approach. I felt almost as if I was doing them a disservice by being dilligent. Hmmm... there must be something more behind this.

It might be a real business need like "We really, really, really need to have this implemented ASAP because our business hurts if we don't have it." Or it might be political, trying to stop me from uncovering"something unpleasant" for the customer. I am not quite sure at this point which it might be. However, it puzzles me simply because this is the first time in my career when a customer was annoyed at my attempt to deliver grander and better solution than what they had asked for.

I wonder what the customer's reaction will be when he finds out that there are plans in the making for completely replacing the tool which he wants to have updated... tomorrow will be a fun day.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Project Execution: In the Toilet

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Looks like this project is in the toilet. Literally. The workaround for my issues with the loud fan, is to take my microphone into the toilet, close the door and record in there. Lucky for me that the mic has such a long cord. The sound quality is "good enough" to lauch the project, but I still need to get that craptop I mentioned earlier and with it a decent noise cancelling microphone.

I also spoke to Ed Fern of PM-PREPARE today. He agreed to an interview about his many travels to russia and how the "Russian capitalism" has shaped project management in the east block. That discussion then lead to me thinking about interviewing Frank Reynolds of about his work of teaching project management in China.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Project Execution: Tech Surprise

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Over the last few days I have been reading any and every online article about podcasting. I learned about the basic features of Audacity, I searched high and low for information on what microphone to use and I educated myself on RSS. My eyes were and still are bloodshot from staring into the monitor for so long.

While I was doing this, I also dug out my old Euro Channels ECM-2020 microphone to make a few pilot recordings. It's so old, you won't find a single mention on Google. Man it sounded bad! I followed the audio instructions I found and applied all the effects in Audacity that were suggested to make my recordings sound better. Not a bit of improvement. Just a crappy sound with lots of hiss. I drove around to shop for a microphone but haven't bought anything yet. At the same time, I was also fiddling around with my home network. Having lost the connection between the two computers a long while back, my wife and I were forced to share just one - rather sad for two surf-junkies like us. I finally got it working again this morning, installed Audacity on the second computer, plugged in my old microphone and got a clean, crisp great sounding recording. Looks like I have to throw away my first computer and not my microphone.

Unfortunately, the fan on my second computer is so loud that it can be heard clearly on every recording. What did I expect? This is after all a technology project and these obstacles are here so that I can present a workaround to my sponsor.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Project Planning / Executing: The Service Provider

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Even though my sponsor has given me adequate funding for this project, there was no room in the budget to purchase a dedicated webserver for The Project Management Podcast. In planning and reading up on where I could host my podcast I came across Ourmedia. At this point they host media files for free, which is exactly the kind of budget break this project needs.

Project Planning / Executing: Technology

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When I last met my sponsor, it was decided that we need to be able to record in good sound quality while on the road. I looked at various digital recording devices and didn't find much I liked. In the end, my technologist came up with a good idea that will get us started: Let's get a craptop, an old laptop that someone wants to discard. We'll attach a couple of mid-range headsets with noise cancelling microphones and we should be good to go. I asked around and three of my colleagues have old laptops that they don't need anymore.

Project Planning: Risk Identification

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Hmmmm... will I need to have every person whom I interview sign a release form? My lawyer (=me) says "Not sure, but in this country you never know". I download a few samples and create my own Recording Release Form. Am I over reacting?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Project Planning: More Planning

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I think a lot about what I want to do with The Project Management Podcast. I think about quality. I think about mission statement. I think about schedule. I think about alternative technical solutions for on the road recording. I think about what kind of podcast shows I want to produce. I also think about the fact, that I need to get some initial feedback from other project managers.

I speak to the president of the local PMI chapter, the PMI-OC. I speak to a PM colleague if he would be willing to be interviewed regarding his PMP prep workshop. I speak to another if he'd be interested in talking about his involvement in project management in Russia. They all react positively. Good. I find interest in the local community.

I think about what I want to achieve with this podcast. I think about my next steps. And I think about communications. I realize that I need to capture my experience in a blog and that I need an email address where listeners can reach me.

Then I think about a name for my podcast and decide to keep it simple. The Project Management Podcast is born. The project is back on track.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Project Planning: Taking a step back.

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I take a step back from managing The Project Management Podcast project. I see what I always see at the start of my projects. I rush in. I get excited and cut out steps that I should not have cut out. I am in the middle of the planning process and I am already buying stuff without having formulated a plan. Here I am, able to properly manage medium sized projects at work but I mess up this comparatively small, home grown project. If I were my sponsor (which incidently I am) I would fire myself.

So I do what I always do. I stop my activities, take out a PM methodology book and read up on what I was supposed to be doing. It may seem strange that I still do this after having been in the field for this long but I find that it helped me every time.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Project Planning: Status Meeting

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My sponsor clearly tells me that 8Khz is fine for an on-the-fly and occasional podcast. However, he wants to keep the quality high. He sends me back out into the world to find a portable solution that we can us to record The Project Management Podcast on the road with a high sound quality.

I hate micromanaging sponsors, but in this case I have to agree with me...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Project Planning: The Technology

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OK... I have an iPod and the most sensible technology, seemed that I buy a microphone for my iPod, so that I can record The Project Management Podcast on the fly with my iPod, right? Wrong. Well, mostly wrong.

I did what I always do at the start of a new project - I asked "Question No. Zero": Who do I know who did this before me? The answer is of course: other podcasters. I surfed to Google, spent a few hours reading up on the technology and came to a conclusion as to what iPod accessory I needed in order to start podcasting.

First I bought a Griffin Lapel Mic plugged it into the iPod and nothing happened. Turns out, that in order to use the Lapel Mic, you also need the Griffin iTalk. But is this fact clearly described on the Griffin webpages...? Not really. Now that I know the facts, I can see that the wording of the Lapel Mic page kinda sorta describes it. Oh... and since the iTalk is a mono recording device, and since the iTalk also seems to dictacte what is recorded by the iPod I only get mono recordings even if I use the stereo Lapel Mic.

But that's only half my problem.

Turns out, that the iPod's firmware is only capable of recording at 8Khz. I learn very quickly, that you need at least 22 to make anything sound good. I am absolutely crushed. I have been leading projects for the last 15 years and I know how to plan for and execute a product selection. And I go and fail with something like this.

I hang my head low and meet my sponsor for a status update.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Project Planning: The Schedule

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Yikes! I just returned from my first planning meeting with the sponsor of The Project Management Podcast project. You're not going to believe this one... he wants me to have everything in place, so that the first Podcast can be recorded during the PMI's 2005 Leadership Meeting in Toronto. The guy just doesn't have any idea how proper project planning is done. Oh well... so I am faced yet again with a project plan that is based on the date of a bleeding trade show. I better stop babbling and get on with my planning...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Project Initiation

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Over the past 3 months, the idea of creating The Project Management Podcast has resurfaced several times in the mind of my customer (i.e. myself.) I toyed with the idea and then dismissed it. But it came back. And I dismissed it once more. When it came back again two weeks ago I decided that it was time to act. I surfed around in order to see what was out there and found very little on the topic of "project AND management AND podcast".

I found Lisa Sieverts's Podcast which she started in January 2005 but she only posted an introductory postcast and a few small test soundfiles. I found a very good interview with Dave Po-Chedley on The Cranky Middle Manager Show. The show's main focus is however not on PM. And I found a few PM MP3s on Educause. (I may find more as I keep searching and will post it here).

The more I thought about this project, the more I got hooked on the idea. Even though I cannot begin to analyze if there is a market for The Project Management Podcast out there, there is definitely a niche. So I began jotting down ideas for possible shows, discussed it with my wife and PM colleagues and decided that I wanted to give this a try. The project got a green light and appropriate funding from our sponsor (i.e. myself... again.)