Project Management

Don't Park Your Brain Outside: A Practical Guide to Improving Shareholder Value with SMART Management

Author: Francis T. Hartman

ISBN: 1880410486

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The Insider's Scoop
By Kam Jugdev, MEng, MHSA, BSc, BSc

Ever worked on a project that was so doomed or so ugly that you felt certain everyone involved had parked his or her brains outside? Ever wondered if there was a better way of managing projects and getting them (teams, management, customers, stakeholders, vendors, etc.) to put their brains in gear and work together on a project that added value and was more successful?

Francis Hartman pondered this long and hard over his 30 years as a practitioner, consultant and academic. That’s why he wrote this book. It is unlike the standard ilk of project management textbooks promising you templates, guidelines, tips and how-tos.

The beauty of this book is in its simplicity and adaptability. Start by thinking SMART. The acronym describes  Hartman's framework: Strategically Managed, Aligned, Regenerative and Transitional. SMART is a way of looking at the dimensions of a project in a balanced way and not forgetting that there is big picture out there into which your project fits (and that the big picture is not in a parallel universe). The big picture is about the business, technical and social dimensions of the workplace. The philosophy is about adapting your project into the “zone” of the big picture, being people-focused, getting your head out of the project details, putting the project into the business context and understanding that in a world of uncertainty, not everything can be controlled and that we need to “go with the flow.” 

The book is divided into four sections.

  1. Section A is called “Getting Started” and it provides the overview to SMART, emphasizing the need for controlled anarchy. Controlled anarchy is about tapping into your right brain and getting creative on projects.          
  2. Section B covers the principles and theory behind SMART in a clear and practical manner so that the reader can quickly apply what is read. Hartman emphasizes alignment throughout the book and gives the reader powerful tools to take the "pulse" of projects to ensure and maintain project alignment. For example Chapter 5, Section 5.8 called “Fun in the Workplace” provides clever insight into an often overlooked or discounted area. It’s a unique perspective on teambuilding and uses the analogy of building a “tribe” with its own customs, practices and codes of behavior.        
  3. Following the foundation chapters, Section C describes how SMART works on projects. It addresses key SMART tools such as the project charter, risk management, contracting, teamwork, metrics, etc., so that they can be applied to your projects. For example, in the planning phase, the emphasis should be on key result areas. The three key questions to ask are: 
    1. What are we delivering to tell us the project is complete? 
    2. What are we delivering that tells us we have been resoundingly successful? 
    3. Who gets to vote on these two questions?

In hindsight, have you asked these questions on your projects? In hindsight, how might it have helped you better understand what everyone thought they were delivering or wanting delivered? This section provides a multitude of strategies to apply on your project the SMART way. For example, do you plan your project forward and backward? If not, you should consider doing so because it exercises the left (rational) side of the brain when you plan forward, but planning backward exercises the right (intuitive, insightful) side of the brain so that you get better alignment.       

  1. Section D is a self-evaluation guide to help readers determine how SMART their projects are and provides a handy set of references back to specific chapters in the book.

There are no lengthy lists of detailed guidelines and processes that must be followed to save your project from doom. Instead, there are icons interspersed in each chapter (of the smiley face, time bomb and light bulb variety) to help keep you mindful of useful insights and things to avoid. In addition, there are project management cartoons on every third or fourth page, and if you’re like me, some levity is always in order in the work we do as project managers!

So why should you buy this book? Well, for one thing, the book provides the people, process and practical approaches that are more creative and innovative and not often seen in project management texts. These tools and techniques are just what the complex, chaotic world we manage projects in warrants. Throughout, Hartman challenges readers to question those project management practices that are followed for the sake of following them. He encourages calculated risks that focus on those practices adding value and enhancing shareholder value. Many who have read the book, loved Chapter 13. There is no Chapter 13! The point Hartman makes is that you need to be creative in managing scope, schedule and costs on your project. As he was committed to doing 18 chapters, he found that he was behind, checked his priorities and deleted a chapter. The Project Dashboard in Chapter 14 was an innovative way of presenting “the big picture” in terms of executive level reporting. The technique exemplifies the added strength of the book in that it takes basic project management techniques and not just simplifies them but explains their value, thereby intriguing readers to revisit them instead of disregarding them because they tend to be confusing and complicated (e.g., earned value).  

Last but not least, many gantthead members are from the IT discipline and will enjoy the “Error Messages” on what typically goes wrong on projects. When readers reflect on specific project difficulties, they can refer to the error message section to better understand the symptoms, problems and a corrective course of action to take. For example, if you are thinking, “We never seem to know what the customer really wants,” and “Management seems to get off track with its expectations on what the project will produce,” (p. 379-380), it's time to review specific sections in Chapters 2, 3, 8 and 14 on alignment, communication breakdown and the customer’s changing world. Or, if you’re thinking, “The team is dysfunctional,” “I’m on this project and it seems to be a career-limiting move,” or “In this organization it's everyone for themselves,” (p. 382) it's time to review Chapters 5 and 12 (and reread them if necessary) because the issues you are dealing with relate to trust and communication.

The book offers many different ideas, techniques and anecdotes, further shattering the myth of the one best solution to managing projects. Fresh and provocative, this book is a must-have for those who want to challenge themselves out of the linear thinking rut and for those who are radical enough to believe there is a better way to manage projects–the SMART way.

Kam Jugdev is a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Calgary, specializing in project management. Kam has more than 10 years of project management experience in a wide range of industries including the oil and gas, government and healthcare sectors. She has managed large scale, high technology and information technology projects. Kam is a member of the Project Management Institute and local Project Management Institute chapter. With more than 15 publications in project management, she has presented on the topic at local, national and international venues. Kam’s Ph.D. thesis is on project management as a core competency. She is also involved in an international study funded by PMI on Selling Project Management to Executives.  


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