Monday, August 29, 2011

Communication: Keep your team small

A common mistake when projects are running late is to add more people.

This is often a disastrous mistake.

Often called "Brook's Law", Fred Brooks stated in The Mythical Man Month that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."

I've written about this twice before when explaining how building software is not like building a house.

A key reason for this actually comes from the PMBOK, and has to do with communication.

One of the formulas you must learn when studying for the PMP certification is the following:
For N people, the number of communication channels is (N^2 - N) / 2
This means that the number of communication channels increases exponentially with a linear increase of team members.

I'll explain with a simple visual example. Consider a team of 4 people:

#Channels = (4^2 - 4) / 2 = 6

Now let's add two new members:

#Channels = (6^2 - 6) / 2 = 15

Adding just 2 people has added a whopping 9 new communication channels!

Technology and design consulting projects often require a lot of detailed communication, so you can see how large teams can get out of control quickly.

So keep your team as small as possible, and if you're running late, think twice about adding more people.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

5 tips to get paid quick

"Money money money money. Monnnney!" - O'Jays, For the love of money

Getting paid for consulting work can sometimes be a challenge.

And it often seems like the largest clients are the slowest to pay.

Here are some tips to help you get paid quicker:

5: State your terms

If you don't put them on the invoice, they'll assume. And that might mean 60 days, 90 days, or longer!

4: Set a date

Even if you have your terms, put the specific due date for that particular invoice somewhere large and visible.

3: Have a penalty

Make sure you have a stated penalty for late payments (usually 1-2%/month). And if they're consistently late -- charge it!

2: Remind them

Sometimes invoices get misplaced or misfiled. Make sure you track when they're due and remind your clients about upcoming invoices and the penalties they'll face if not paid on time.

...and the number one tip:

1: Put it in the contract

Make sure your terms, penalties, and all your invoicing policies are listed in the contract your client signs at the beginning of a job.

Monday, August 15, 2011

5 Project Accountability Tips

Where does the buck stop?

When you're managing a project, it stops with you.

Save yourself a lot of trouble by making accountability clear.

Here are five quick ways:

5. Be specific

Your team members can't read your mind! Think about tasks from their perspective and add as many details as possible.

4. Assign tasks to one person

If you assign a task to multiple people, everyone thinks someone else will handle it, and nobody does.

3. Ask questions to one person

Don't CC the entire team. Ask one member a specific question.

2. Ask one question at a time

People are busy. Make things easy for them. Send separate emails, or number your questions so it's easy for them to respond to each one.

...and the number one tip:

1. Keep track

As a project manager, you need to track all of your "open loops." When a team member agrees to do something, make sure it's tracked somewhere you can both access, so it's clear what they've committed to.

Anything I've missed? Let me know in the comments or by email:

Monday, August 8, 2011

You have to spend time to make time

"We're too busy to try something new."

Trust me, I completely understand.

Syllogistic Software used to have project information scattered across 5 different systems.

I would spend 8 hours a day emailing, and copying stuff back and forth.

There had to be a better way!

We invested hundreds of hours testing and tweaking a system to track and automate the repetitive stuff.

Soon, it took only 2 hours a day to manage the same number of projects!

Now you can benefit from this same system.

Think carefully about how much time you'll spend today doing manual project management tasks that could be automated.

Each month you delay, you could be wasting 100+ hours of billable time!

So spend some time today, and make time for tomorrow...

Ready to invest the time, but not sure how to get started? Post your questions here, visit, or email me directly at