Of course, project success is a probabilistic measure, so the title should read Eight Habits needed to Increase the Probability of Project Success.
Each chapter starts with a nice quote, that every project team needs to put on the wall and share on a daily basis. While these ideas focus on the behavior of the project team, they are actually principles by which project work, not only the people but the processes, practices, and tools used to manage the project.
Here are the quotes that can be applied before you buy the book
- Why do so many professionals say they are project managing when what they are actually doing is firefighting? - Colin Bently. I have a colleague who is a volunteer firefighter and he'd tell us fireman don't spend much of their time fighting fires. They spend the vast majority of their time preventing fires. Keep the Program Green is a good Goal for all project management.
- Vision without Action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare - Japanese proverb. We need both plans and schedule, both risk-adjusted to increase the probability of program success.
- Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here? That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the cat. I don't much care where, said Alice. Then it doesn't matter which way you go, said the cat - Lewis Carol, Alice in Wonderland. With a Plan, you don't know what Done looks like. This Plan can be detailed, as in an Integrated Master Plan to build a Nuclear Power Plant on the west coast of the UK, or a Product Roadmap for a new product development using Scrum. But without this plan any way go will NOT get you there.
- A goal without a plan is just a wish - Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Plans are strategies to reach the needed goal. Schedules execute the strategy. Both operate in the presence of uncertainty and must adapt to the risks and changes emerging from this uncertainty.
- The last ten percent of performance generates one-third of the cost and two-thirds of the problems Augustine's Law (Number 15), Norm Austine, Martine Marietta. This is the classic issue when Physical Percent Complete is Not used to measure progress to plan.
- No plan of operation extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength - Helmuth von Multke, WWI German Field Marshall. This is an often misquoted quote by the agile community and #Noestimates advocates as the reason for not planning or estimating. Read carefully what the original quote says the plan of operations and first encounter with the ... main strength. When these operations plans meet this main strength they need to be changed.
- It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent: It is the one that is most adaptable to change - Charles Darwin. Another quote that is often misquoted. That adaptation means we need to new plan to confirm we are still headed toward Done, what ever that new Done.
- I was thinking of my patients, and how the worst moment from them was when they discovered they were masters of their own fate. It was not a matter of bad or good luck. When they could no longer blame fate, they were in despair - Anais Nin. Managing in the presence of uncertainty requires changing from What If to If Then.
- The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place - George Bernard Shaw. This is the basis of a shared understanding between all the project participates. This understanding needs to be in a form appropriate for the problem at hand. If that's sticky notes on the wall or a 1,000-page technical specification, that's driven by the need of project, measurably traceable to increasing the probability of success