Learn How to Crush Entropy (aka Run a Project Well)

I’m running another session of my “introduction to project management for non-project managers” class, called Better Projects Through Better Planning. This is the same class I offered in June under the title of “Get More Done,” but I’ve renamed it to make it a little more clear what the course offers, and to avoid a collision with a completely unrelated book with the same title.

If I had fewer ethical compunctions, here is where I’d say something like “for just $99 I’ll teach you the secrets that will let you easily run successful projects.” The trouble is, I don’t think there are any “secrets” or “cool tricks” that make running projects easy.

So what I’ll say instead is: For just $99, I’ll explain the basics of project management and the reasons behind the various techniques, so that you can construct a process that works for you in your own particular environment. You already have a process- if you think you don’t, then you have what Kate Heddleston calls the null process– and if you’ve never thought about your process, chances are there a lot of places where it can be improved. This will allow you to get more done, feel less stressed about the work, and generally just have a happier time running your project.

My ethical version is nowhere near as punchy as the first one, but it is far more truthful. Great projects don’t happen by accident, and there really isn’t a shortcut to making your projects better. There are, however, skills that you can learn that can help you make your projects better if you’re diligent about applying them. My class teaches those skills.

It is aimed at people whose job title isn’t necessarily “project manager” and who don’t need a big long certification in formal project management processes, but still need to run projects. I may be committing project manager sacrilege when I admit it, but I think a lot of projects don’t actually need someone who is a formal project manager. I’ve held jobs where I was the formal project manager, and that worked well. I’ve also held jobs where I wore a bunch of different hats, no one was formally a “project manager” but I did the work of organizing the project and keeping it running, and that worked well, too. Having someone with the title “project manager” is not the important part. Having someone with the knowledge and willingness to do the work of managing the project is the important part. If that person needs to be you (or you want it to be you), my class will show you what you need to think about to do a good job.

I sometimes get asked why in this age of self-organizing teams someone needs to do the work of managing a project. My answer is the second law of thermodynamics. In case you’ve forgotten, that’s the one that says entropy tends to increase, and if you want to decrease entropy you need to put in energy.

No matter how experienced, well-intentioned, and smart your team members are, when they try to work together to achieve a common goal (i.e., when they work on a project), entropy will tend to increase. This is no one’s fault. It’s just a law of the universe. Someone is going to have to put in the work to keep the entropy under control or your project will eventually degrade into utter chaos, and once your projects reaches that state its chances of success hinge on random luck and heroic efforts from your team.

You can’t escape the second law- but you can make your odds of success better by accepting that this tendency towards chaos is real, and expending some energy to manage it.

In short, as Rands says: project managers are entropy crushers, and all projects need someone to crush their natural tendency towards entropy.

Learn how to crush some entropy on your projects. Sign up for Better Projects Through Better Planning now. Early bird registration is just $99, and ends October 9.

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