Project management

Just-In-Time PM #16: Effective ROA

In Part 15, I advocated for multithreading, or weaving together multiple projects to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and synergies.

To take advantage of the benefits of multithreading, it’s critical that you begin to think of yourself not as a lone project manager, but as a project portfolio manager (PPM). Traditionally found only in large companies with hundreds of simultaneous projects, digital technology has made it possible and necessary for each of us to manage a portfolio.

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Just-In-Time PM #15: Multithreading

In Part 14, we looked at the potential for massively increasing our bandwidth by creating “personal productivity networks.” These networks are made up of packets of work that move between “nodes” where some kind of intelligence is applied, whether human or software-based.

But what does it look like to operate such a network in our day to day work?

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Just-In-Time PM #14: Personal Productivity Networks

In Part 13, we looked at the benefits of Component Thinking, which involves thinking of any product we are working on as made up of subcomponents, which can be evolved or swapped out over time.

Now I’d like to take a step back and consider the big picture of what it means to work in small packets.

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Just-In-Time PM #13: Component Thinking

In Part 12, I described the shift from a just-in-case to a just-in-time philosophy of work, using late starts as an example of the benefits it offers.

But if nearly everything can be done later, and there are major benefits to doing so, one question comes to the forefront: what in the world should I do now?

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Just-In-Time PM #12: Just-In-Case to Just-In-Time

In Part 11, I introduced the concept of a “critical path” of tasks in a project, and the rationale for pushing tasks as late as possible on the timeline.

The late starts approach inspires a tremendous amount of resistance, especially from creative knowledge workers. It sounds an awful lot like taking control from individual employees, centralizing it in a central decision maker, and forcing people to finish everything at breakneck speed at the last minute.

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Just-In-Time PM #11: Late Starts on the Critical Path

In Part 10, I argued that digital knowledge work was fundamentally different than other kinds of work, because its structure, features, and purpose could be added or changed after it was built.

Principle #4 of Digital Knowledge Work is therefore to “Start everything as late as possible.”

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Just-In-Time PM #10: Structure, Features, and Purpose

In Part 9, I explained why it is so important to create placeholders for your work-in-process: to allow you to pursue multiple projects across different spans of time without losing your progress.

What we are converging towards is a set of core principles for how Digital Knowledge Work is fundamentally different from previous kinds of work.

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Just-In-Time PM #9: Placeholders

In Part 8, we looked at divergence and convergence as the two fundamental modes of all creative work.

Now let’s see what this looks like in our day to day schedules.

The main feature of the modern workday, you may have noticed, is fragmentation.

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Just-In-Time PM #8: Divergence and Convergence

In Part 7, I argued for the importance of interacting with information, instead of just passively consuming it. Interaction results in better learning at the same time as it creates valuable deliverables.

But incorporating all these new ideas about how work is completed – flow cycles and intermediate packets, downscoping and evolving deliverables, interaction over consumption – can be a little overwhelming.

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Just-In-Time PM #7: Interaction Over Consumption

In Part 6, I recommended treating any deliverable (whether it’s a simple email all the way to a full-fledged product) as a series of evolutionary artifacts, each one intended to test an assumption or make forward progress.

But there is a deeper reason for downscoping deliverables and then evolving them through a series of stages.

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Just-In-Time PM #6: Evolving Deliverables

In Part 5, I introduced The Iron Triangle of Project Management and the idea that any given deliverable can be reduced or expanded in scope at any time.

How should you use this newfound ability? You should use it to:

Get started
Maintain momentum
Test assumptions

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Just-In-Time PM #5: The Iron Triangle

In Part 4, I introduced the idea of “intermediate packets.” Instead of delivering value in a big project that spans huge amounts of time, we want to deliver it in smaller chunks at more frequent intervals.

This follows a basic principle that has revolutionized many industries: small batch sizes.

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