ILTA PROJ 3: Project Management Isn’t My Day Job

Another ILTA 2008 session on Wednesday 8/27 from the Project Management Peer Group Track was geared towards those beginning project managers (PMs) and those who might not have “project manager” in their job title but still have the duties. Although unfortunately I missed Joseph Fousek’s slides from Kirkland Ellis, I did get there to hear most of Katherine Cain’s presentation on her experiences as project manager at Winston & Strawn.

I especially appreciated Katherine’s metaphor of the tree swing from projectcartoon.com (see my previous post on How Law Firm Intranet Projects REALLY Work) and how what you hear and what people really want may not match. Her real-life example was when she created an extranet for a client pitch. They jumped right into development, created some “shiny” technology, and ended up missing the direct connection to the attorney and client needs – not what was wanted OR needed.  To remedy the situation, they started to ask questions about the strategy and direction, and finally delivered a tool with a connection to the needs and won the client business plus more.  Her main advice was to build solutions based on customer needs by:

  • focusing on business before technology
  • asking intelligent questions, and then asking them again
  • drawing a picture
  • aligning the requirements with the customer business need

Tim Golden from McGuireWoods gave great advice about making your process fit the project, not the other way around.  He said that one size does not fit all in project management, and there are four aspects you should consider with each project:

  • Definition – what is your project?
  • Assessment – what does is mean?
  • Control – how are you going to manage it?
  • Reporting – how are you going to track and measure it?

Another of Tim’s key tips is to conduct an AAR (after action review – a concept popular with the US Army) for every project you work on.  This includes asking the following questions:

  • What did we think was going to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why was there a difference?
  • What did we learn?

At the end of the sessions during the attendee question period I was pleased to hear Joseph mention the importance of aligning your project with the PMO if at all possible to help with overall management (see my previous post on What’s a PMO, and why does is matter for my intranet project?).

~ Amy Witt

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