How to Rescue Failing Software Projects: Practical Proven Methods That Work

IMG_1712 My book is finally available as an eBook, on Amazon Kindle and on Amazon. I wrote this book to share my experience in how to rescue failing software projects. When I was going through such a situation, I had no one to turn to. My hope is that the information in this book will be useful to those in similar situations. Although the information in the book pertains to software projects, I have come to realize that the techniques can be used in many other situations. I have personally used these techniques in business and technical projects.

You can read more about it here.
My book can be purchased here at
Amazon Kindle version is available here at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Personal effectiveness and project management?

I received questions after my latest post. What has taking action and personal effectiveness have to do with project management?

My simple answer: EVERYTHING!

Let's take a look at an organization structure that is built for a higher chance of army! It's about life-or-death situations with an army. Isn't this true with projects? It may not look like a life-or-death situation, but it certainly feels like one when you are in it! :)

An army functions like a well oiled engine. All moving parts know what each part is supposed to do. Each individual part knows what it is supposed to do, and they are expected to do it well.

The strength of any organization or team lies with the individual.It is the collective individual that together bring a team or organization towards this success. Every individual needs to be effective and competent in what they do. In this way, groups of individuals become effective and achieve their goals. This translates to higher order or groups and eventually, into a larger group known as an organization.

In the project, if individuals are not effective, the team cannot proceed smoothly. The project manager must find ways to promote effectiveness and more importantly, to ensure effectiveness either through mandated processes or through informal means.

Whether I'm involved in reviewing projects that are successfully executed or projects that require assistance, I always want to know the modus-operandi of the individual and processes that were instituted that contributed to the current outcome (whether positive or negative).

I'm old school. I have the belief that everyone in a team wants to do the best job they know how, provided they are given the tools to perform. In my view, knowledge and information are considered as tools. If these individuals to not know where they are headed, the project is headed for big trouble.

This is the linkage between personal effectiveness and project management. Everyone in the team counts. The trick is how to harness that positive energy from each individual so that the sum total positive effectiveness of every individual is greater than the team.

The word "effectiveness" can mean many things, which I will discuss in future blog entries.

This is the trick to successful project management. I have personally used and witnessed the power of an individual and how it can lead to a successful turnaround of a project in trouble.


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Copyright © Bernard Ong, 2006-2009.
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Decisions you make, when all the stars in the universe align and a cup of coffee!

What a day! It began like any other day. Within one hour, it was as though all the stars in the universe were aligned. The decisions my wife an I made early in the morning caused the stars in the universe (my universe) align.

Decision #1
My daughter had classes really early this morning. I decided to drive her to school at 6.40am, and head to Starbucks by the beach. I had decided to have Bagel and coffee for breakfast with my wife before getting started on my work.

As luck would have it, we were too early. Yup. At 7.30am, Starbucks was closed. We were sorely disappointed. We stood outside Starbucks for 10 minutes, deciding where we could go to fill our growling hungry stomachs.

Decision #2
Between going to a hawker centre and a McDonald's by the beach, we decided to have breakfast at McDonalds.

Decision #3
While at McDonalds, we took 5 minutes to decide on our breakfast. It was a difficult choice because we were set on having bagels. As we were about to place our orders, a voice behind me said, "Why aren't you in Korea?".

Conrad, an old school mate and buddy of mine, had also just dropped by McDonalds for breakfast with his wife after sending their kids to school. He is also one person who would kick me if I did not complete writing my book "How to rescue failing software projects", which I eventually did and got it listed on Amazon! (Believe me, you don't want to be kicked by Conrad!)

What a coincidence. We had a really nice chat, catching up on the latest happenings in his field of work and compared notes on family tips.

It wasn't long before Conrad's sister, Gwen, came roller-blading by. Another coincidence. She teaches in an education centre that my son attends. She also mentioned that another common friend of ours was having breakfast with his wife at another coffee joint.

Adam, the other "common friend", and his wife, came by McDonalds and we all sat around a small table, sipping on coffee while catching up with each other. Adam is the other person who gave me the inspiration to write my book.

While we sat around a table sipping coffee, we didn't talk about business. There were no expectations placed on any of us. We were relaxed and comfortable, sharing our experience and insights freely

What are the chances that a group of friends can get together by being at the same place, at the same time and doing the same thing? All the stars in the universe must have been aligned!

What has this got to do with effectiveness and project management? A lot. It may seem like a simple get-together, but the same concepts learned from this simple setting can be very powerful.

Observation #1
Simple decisions can determine the outcome of major tasks. If my wife and I hadn't made the decision to have breakfast together at Starbucks, this chain of events wouldn't have happened. It takes one decision to get the ball rolling.

Observation #2
When one door closes, another opens. If we hadn't made the decision to have breakfast at Starbucks, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to make an alternative decision to have breakfast at McDonalds. If we didn't have breakfast at McDonalds, we wouldn't have met Conrad and Adam with their wives, and Gwen. If my wife and I had breakfast just 10 minutes earlier or 10 minutes later, we wouldn't have had the gathering. A closed door or failed opportunity leads to another open door, provided a decision is made to take action.

Observation #3
Not all get-togethers or meetings need to be about business. In managing projects, project managers and team members are up to their necks with uncompleted tasks. It does pay to have small breaks, or small celebrations on milestone completions. These breaks and celebrations are just that...real breaks. It should not be done on a pretext of having a break, and end up having a meeting about the project over coffee. It is about building rapport. It is about understanding each other in the team. It is about building camaraderie and friendships. People relate best when they are relaxed and not have expectations put upon them. Especially in project teams where there is always a tight schedule and endless number of tasks, these friendships help the project team to have a higher morale and thus, leading to greater productivity.

I have personally experienced observation #3 when I was in the midst of rescuing projects. No matter how tired we were, we remained a cohesive team, We understood each other better, we could relate to each other's challenges better and we were willing to help each other out. There was a strong "give-and-take" attitude that enabled us to successfully turn projects around. Boundaries and walls within the team were chipped away naturally.

So, do not wait for all the stars in the universe to align before having a cup of coffee. Make that decision to enjoy a simple, freshly brewed, steaming hot cup of coffee with your family, with your team, with your boss, or just by yourself. You never know when and how the stars will align for you.


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Copyright © Bernard Ong, 2006-2009.
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