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Learning From Mistakes: Project Management And Recovering From Failure

Michael Jordan didn’t hit every shot he took at the buzzer.  Warren Buffett has admitted to making poor investments in the past.  Muhammad Ali lost five of his fights.  On rare occasions, Bobby Fischer had to admit he was in checkmate.  Albert Einstein’s doctoral thesis contained a critical mathematical error.  And yes, even the best project managers can have a bad day.

The thing is, in a world where the failure rate for IT projects alone runs at an estimated total monetary loss of between $50 billion and $150 billion per year in just the United States (and a failed project’s effects aren’t necessarily limited to just the financial sector), bad days aren’t really something most project managers are able to have.  Project management can be a high stress job, where sometimes the only real acknowledgment of excellence is silence from the higher-ups while those rare mistakes are trumpeted from the mountaintops.

So, project managers of the world, what do you if the worst does happen?  What if a missed opportunity leads to a dramatic rise in the cost of completion?  What if a careless error causes a catastrophic drop in efficiency?  What if someone you assigned to complete a task is, to put it nicely, a bit underwhelming?

Well, that’s when it’s time to turn to the wisdom of others, and remember these fine quotes.

1) “A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.” - Novalis

First and foremost, don’t just throw your hands up in despair.  Unsolvable problems are far more rare that most of us think, and it’s entirely possible to salvage a situation that most would see as impossible.  Hang on a little longer, keep pushing, and solve that problem.

2) “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” - Voltaire

Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed.  You and your team are more than capable of fixing whatever problems life throws your way, so long as you keep your heads on straight and avoid falling into a panic.  Gather your team and focus on finding a solution.  Once you find that solution, execute it and move forward.

3) “When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.” - Anthony J. D’Angelo

Treating the cause is far more important than treating the symptoms.  Thoroughly investigate anything that might crop up in order to find its source, then make sure your solution revolves around taking care of that source before worrying about any after-effects.

4) “Inside of every problem lies an opportunity.” - Robert Kiyosaki

You started out well by not letting yourself get discouraged.  Then, you and your team put your heads together and came up with a solution that focused on the source of the problem.  The lessons learned from the experience about how well you and your team can perform under pressure are just as important as the ability to enact similar solutions in the future.  Remember, if you’re committed to learning from mistakes and determined to keep moving forward, what seems like a setback can become a triumph.

Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  Why yes, he does have a shelf full of books of quotes, why do you ask?

The Many Uses For Copper Project Management Software

You know what?  We at the Copper Blog think you deserve an apology.

See, we spend a lot of time here creating articles specifically aimed at assisting those who work in the tech industry with time management, effectively building and leading project teams, and all of those other issues that might crop up during day to day operations.  Here and there, you’ll find hints to assist with keeping calm in a crisis, methods for improving productivity, or assorted recommendations for preventative measures to help keep things flowing as smoothly as possible.  Basically, we’d like to think we’ve done a pretty good job so far of having you covered, and we’re going to keep right on doing just that.  No apologies necessary there.

On the other hand, while all those articles might come in handy when it comes to the primary use most of our readers might have, we haven’t really touched on how to get the absolute most out of Copper Project Management Software.  Oh sure, it’s great having a bit of organizational stress taken away while on the job, but those effects are by no means limited to your work life, nor are they bound to only the tech industry.  There are a wide range of uses for Copper that have nothing whatsoever to do with keeping your clients happy, and we would like to apologize for not discussing this earlier.

That having been said, here’s but a small sampling of interesting and creative uses for Copper that we hope will greatly improve your life.

1) Producing a Movie

Create a project under the name if your movie’s working title.  Then you can assign users to whatever tasks you need them to take care of (script writing, procuring sets, casting, lighting, what have you), share scripts, and offer scheduling and location information so everyone knows where to be and when to be there.

2) Creating a Graphic Novel

Start a project for your comic, just like usual.  Assign your users according to their function, then just let them do their thing.  Your writers can write and edit, your artists can create cells and provide ink and color, and the whole thing will be organized in whatever way you choose.  This is particularly nice when collaborating online, when you can’t necessarily just wander over to someone’s desk and see how things are progressing.

3) Running A Fantasy Sports League

For those who dislike using a major sports site to run a fantasy sports league, Copper can help you organize and schedule drafts, share information about statistics and key injuries, and keep up-to-the-minute records.

4) Recording An Album

Let’s say you know a few people online who have some serious musical chops.  Start a project, add the users, and assign everything from instrumental and vocal recording to editing and cover art design.  Then, when you’re done with all that, you can use it to notify your fellow recording artists of upcoming tour dates and interviews.

5)  Organizing School Activities

Copper can be used to schedule field trips and assign chaperones.  It can assist in collaborative lesson plans.  It can help with preparing for pep rallies, proms, and sporting events.  It can even be used for both short-term and long-term assignments.

Keep in mind that this is only a small sampling.  If you have anything you’d like to add to the list, feel free to comment below and let us know what you’ve got going on!

Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  He’s convinced that if he’d had access to Copper Project Management Software back when he was in college, he would have had a shot at ruling the world by now.  He might not be completely wrong.

Drawing Water When The Well Runs Dry: Maintaining Excellence In Your Projects

There are times when you’re working on a particularly difficult project when you might find you’ve worked yourself into a corner.  During those stressful times, maintaining excellence at your usual standards can be trying indeed.  It can feel as if the well of brilliant ideas you’ve been drawing from and pouring into your work has suddenly dried up, and you’re left with nothing but mud and grit in the bottom of the bucket.

There’s a moment of panic that goes with that feeling, particularly if you’re working under a tight deadline.  That’s fine.  It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, and nothing to really worry about.  After a few slow breaths, the feeling will fade and your pulse will return to normal, so just let it run its course and all will be well.

When you’ve gotten back to something resembling a bit of calm, it’s time to tackle the real problem, which is how to go about refilling the well.  The ideas are there, buried somewhere in your subconscious, but during times when you’re tired or stressed they just aren’t as easily accessible as they normally would be.  The longer you go without being able to produce, the more stressed you get, and the less likely you are to be able to unleash the full power of your creativity when you need it.

So how do you go about breaking through that wall?

During a multi-course meal, it’s not unusual to be offered a palate cleanser to neutralize your taste buds between dishes, thus enhancing the flavor of the next delicacy.  These foods are generally along the lines of various fruit sorbets, pickled ginger, or really anything with a bit of tartness to it.  When having trouble completing a certain phase of a project, a mental palate cleanser can refresh your mind in much the same way.

Spend a few minutes taking a shot at finishing a puzzle.  Sudoku, crosswords, and other assorted brain teasers are excellent ways to relax while stimulating your imaginative capabilities.

You could always reorganize your workspace, which serves as a distraction that results in a removal of distractions.  That’s pretty deep if you don’t think about it too much, and if that’s what you’re doing, you’re probably a bit too distracted and should get back to work immediately.

You might want to try taking some time out to brainstorm ideas for use in other aspects of your project.  This in particular has the added benefit of cutting down on the chances of the same sort of struggles in the future.

Even something as simple as going out for lunch can work wonders when it comes to replenishing your creativity, and not just because of the calories involved.  As we’ve mentioned before, a change of location is sometimes all it takes to get things going in a positive direction.

It’s far better to take ten minutes out of your day to sweep out the cobwebs than it is to spend hours staring at the screen in the hopes that something brilliant will magically appear in the midst of whatever internal crisis you’re accidentally building up to.  Give it a try.  You might be surprised at how much water the well still has left to give.

A Quick Checklist For Selecting Business Software Upgrades

When selecting a business software upgrade, what you need is something that’s a comprehensive, easy to use, and will make your life easier on multiple fronts.  Picking up something like Copper Project Management Software is a no-brainer of course, but what about when it comes to upgrading the more specialized areas of your business?

It’s easy to get caught up in the next big thing when it comes to shopping for software upgrades.  With the exponential growth in the rate of new advances in project management tools, technical capabilities, and communications, the choices available when picking personal methods of running a company are becoming more and more comparable to being a kid in a candy shop.  Sure, you can grab everything in sight and immediately cram it into your mouth, but then you’ll be out of cash in a hurry with nothing to show for it but an upset stomach and the jitters while the specter of a huge dental bill looms off in the distance.

When starting to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1) Do I already have systems in place that efficiently cover all of the options the Shiny New Thing offers?

The old term, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” comes into play here.  Purchasing something simply for the sake of purchasing something is counter-productive financially, and at best will provide a few steps to the side in the progress of your business rather than the leap forward you should be aiming for.  Sometimes it’s best to save your money until something truly better comes along.

2) Does the Shiny New Thing do everything I need it to do?

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you’re running a graphic design business.    You’re looking for an upgrade to your current software.  Buying a program that covers only 90% of what you need isn’t a good option, since you’re just going to have to go shopping for a specialized utility to cover the other 10% that the first program lacks.  Unless the new software is such a spectacular upgrade that it makes up for the difference in time and money involved in finding something that covers what the newer software lacks, it’s not going to be a good use of your finances.

3) Do I need everything the Shiny New Thing does?

A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a pen with an attached adjustable flashlight for writing in the dark.  That’s all well and good, as I’m a frequent note taker, and I don’t always have the advantage of proper lighting.  It also had a laser pointer, which would come in handy when doing presentations or creating adorable cat videos.  That was really nice as well.  It also had a built-in black light, which could be used for…  I don’t actually know what I would use that for, since I don’t often use invisible ink.  As a gift, it was still a really neat thing, but if I were actively looking to purchase a pen that could suit my potential needs, I’d take a good long look at exactly how much I was paying for that black light option.  Your utility software should be treated in exactly the same way.  Basically, a program that can blow through 3D models with ease while wirelessly communicating with your coffee maker in order to brew that perfect cup might seem like as much of a really neat thing as the aforementioned pen, but is it really something you should be willing to pay a premium for if you’re not a coffee drinker?

4) When taking the answers to the three previous questions into account, is the Shiny New Thing cost effective?

If so, then by all means, pick the software upgrade that best suits your needs.  If not?  You’re probably better off saving your money and sticking to what you have.  If nothing else, it’s good to maintain a bit of financial padding in case of emergencies.

Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  A long time ago, he spent around $70.00 at a candy store and had some serious regrets.  Oh, and by “a long time”, he means “about two weeks”.

3 Management Quotes, And How They Can Help Your Business

The concept of project management has existed ever since the first time one caveman turned to the others and said, “Well, we can’t all go mammoth hunting.”  While things have evolved a bit since then due to the development of things such as written language, long-distance communication, computer technology, and the like, the idea behind the original (albeit imaginary) quote remains the truth in its simplest form.  For any objective to come to fruition, whether the goal is finishing a business project or ensuring the prosperity of an entire civilization, it’s important to remember that if we’re all out hunting mammoths, no one’s picking berries, guarding the cave or figuring out what that whole “fire” thing’s all about.

Over the many years since those cavemen realized that variety is the spice of life, we as a people have greatly refined our approach.  While we haven’t lost the basic survival instincts involved in reacting to our surroundings, we have learned to adjust our surroundings in order to make them significantly easier to react to.  As business as a concept has become more intricate, technology has advanced and management skills have progressed to keep pace.  Spectacular successes have served as sources of motivation while equally spectacular failures have become lessons on what to avoid at all costs.

Occasionally, some of those who have run those spectacularly successful businesses have been good enough to share the management knowledge they’ve gained from their years spent in their industries.  You’ll find a few tidbits of that knowledge below, as well as some helpful hints as to how you can use their advice to help you manage your own projects.

1) “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”  ~ Former Xerox CEO, Anne M. Mulcahy

In every position in any industry, it’s important for the morale of each individual to feel as if they matter as an actual person rather than as just another cog in the machine.  We’re all far more likely to do our best when we’re doing something we care about as more than just a paycheck, and the best way to ensure that workers do care is to ensure that they in turn feel they are cared for.  There’s more to it than just learning names or shaking hands.  Learn about your workers.  Listen to their ideas.  Give each person a voice, and you might be surprised at what they use that voice to say.

2) “Management must speak with one voice.  When it doesn’t, management itself becomes a peripheral opponent to the team’s mission.”  ~ Winner of five NBA championships as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, three Coach of the Year awards as head coach for both the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, and two NBA championships and the 2011 Executive of the Year award as president of the Miami Heat, Pat Riley
When strife rears its ugly head among the upper echelon of management, it’s hard enough to keep things under control when it’s kept behind closed doors. On the other hand, when those issues become public knowledge, the ripples that emanate from the top on down can have a catastrophic effect not just within the company itself, but on the opinions of those outside the company.  A company’s reputation that took years and years to build can be thoroughly demolished within minutes if the worst comes to pass.  If you ensure that everyone involved in upper management is on the same page, everything else has a much better chance of falling nicely into place.
3) “Management innovation is going to be the most enduring source of competitive advantage.  There will be lots of rewards for firms in the vanguard.”  ~ Founder of the international management consulting firm Strategos and one of the world’s most influential business management thinkers, Gary Hamel
With advances in language, technology, and communications, the world has become a much more fluid place.  The internet has given voices to millions upon millions of people, each of whom has the ability to share up-to-the-moment news of world events in a manner that can span the globe within minutes.  The power of computers is developing at an exponential rate, and with that comes a massive torrent of both the progression in knowledge of innovative management techniques and the advancement of the capabilities of software designed to allow a more streamlined usage of said techniques.  Businesses must not just learn to adapt, but learn to excel at adapting to new advances and new circumstances alike.  Those companies at the forefront, those that learn to use the new methods of management that have been designed to cope with the trials and tribulations of this ever-changing world, will find themselves in a far better position to succeed than those who stick to more conservative methods.
Remember, by learning from those who came before us, we in turn can teach those who come after us.
Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  He spends a lot of time hoping other people learn from his mistakes, and would never lead anyone astray unless doing so would be really, really funny.

A Few Words On The Weather

A series of enormous snow storms recently hit the eastern coasts of the United States and Canada, leaving tremendous destruction in their wake.  Areas in the southern US like Atlanta, Georgia and Raleigh, North Carolina were caught relatively unprepared for the snow and ice, causing wide-spread power loss and leaving cars stranded on highways, while parts of New England and eastern Canada have been hammered by up to two feet of snow with more expected to come.

In parts of southern Australia, a record setting heatwave that served as a catalyst for numerous bushfires was followed by deadly floods caused by torrential rains.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has been dealing with their own weather related troubles, as a superstorm with winds clocking in at over 160 kilometers per hour has caused widespread flooding and left over a quarter of a million homes without power in Ireland alone.

If you’re in one of the affected areas, we here at Copper hope you stay comfortable and safe until it all passes.  If you’re not currently dealing with those kinds of weather conditions, we hope that’s the way it stays.  Take care of yourselves, all of you.

Be careful out there.

 

4 Tips For Proper Crisis Management

A gift for proper crisis management is one of the most sought after talents in any business while simultaneously being one of the gifts we hope we’ll never have to use.  While change is as inevitable in business as it is in any other facet of life, we all strive to ensure that those changes are for the better.  We constantly invent new methods to save time and effort.  We push ourselves to excel partly from pride and partly in the hopes that our efforts will go noticed, thus bringing in new clients (and the money that comes with them).  We adapt with the times, doing bigger and better things until we’re living the dream.

Unfortunately, sometimes the changes that come are due to circumstances that are completely out of our control, and the ability to react in a positive manner to a negative situation is key to not just your work life, but life in general.  That having been said, it’s good to keep the following four tips in mind when it appears that everything you’ve worked so hard for is about to come crashing down around your ears.

1) Stay On Target

The Problem: A very important piece of technical equipment was shipped out far behind schedule, got held up in customs at every opportunity, somehow ended up on a boat going in the wrong direction, and now no one is quite sure exactly what happened to it (though of course they’re all sure enough that it’s someone else’s fault that everyone along the line is refusing to replace the item or give a refund).

The Solution:  Remember that there is more than one way to get to any destination.  Sometimes there’s just a minor detour involved, while other times you may have to take it off-road and slog through the mud.  The journey might be a little more interesting than you’d like it to be, but you and your team are fully capable of working together to get from point A to point B regardless of how winding a circuit you’ll need to take to get there.

2) Don’t Panic

The Problem:  The proverbial butterfly flapped its wings in Japan, stirring up a breeze that rapidly became a gale, which then led to a hurricane smashing into the eastern coast of the United States, and now your primary call center is under two feet of water. 

The Solution:  Panicking will help absolutely nothing and no one.  Remember, the mental state of your team is a direct reflection of your own mental state at any given time.  Take a few deep breaths, count to ten, do whatever it is you have to do to calm down, and then handle it.  Treat it just like any other problem.  Look at your options and act decisively, then just watch as your team reacts accordingly and things fall back into place.  Isn’t that better?

3) Be Flexible

The Problem:  Your lead programmer managed to win a record-setting lottery two weeks ago, and didn’t bother telling you that he’d stopped working on his tasks until his purchase of a private island had been finalized. 

The Solution:  The old adage “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” comes into effect here.  In cases like this, just trust in your intuition, keep your people up to date on any adjustments that need to be made, and keep right on moving along.  It’s good to have back-up plans ready to roll out at a moment’s notice, but it’s even better to be able to snap out solutions on the fly for all of those things it may be impossible to plan for.

4) Trust Your Team

The Problem:  A nightmare of a client just decided to tell you that everything they told you to do is the complete opposite of everything they wanted you to do, but they want the new version of the project to be finished by the same deadline. 

The Solution:  Give your team a bit of warning, change the tasks accordingly, soothe whatever damaged egos need to be soothed, and let your people work their magic.  Remember that your team does know what they’re doing, and that they’re probably just as capable of flexibility and damage control as you are.  After all, that’s why you picked them in the first place.  Now is their time to shine.

In time, all those trials and tribulations with be a distant memory, and when the next crisis comes along, you can remind your team of that time they pulled together to overcome seemingly impossible odds and excelled, succeeding far beyond their expectations.

After all, in the words of H.G. Wells, “The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.”

Joseph H once used a butter knife, a roll of duct tape, a well-chewed piece of gum, and a turkey baster to fix a dehumidifier, thus proving that when you don’t have the tools you need, you use the tools you have.

6 Kinds Of Problem Clients, And How To Cope With The Inevitable

In any business, it’s only a matter of time before you end up working with one of those clients.  You know the ones.  They make demands that are impossible to fulfill without the use of three times your staff and a time machine, or attempt to micromanage every single aspect of the process, or require the use of technology that exists only in the fleeting dreams of budding science-fiction writers, while single-handedly disproving the old stand-by, “the customer is always right” with a ruthless efficiency normally only seen in reptiles, spiders, and certain jungle predators in the process.  Then, once you’ve somehow managed actually acquiesce to their demands (in part due to your team having enough caffeine and adrenalin flowing through their systems to take down an entire herd of bull elephants), maybe they’ll say something along the lines of, “wait, it says here you wanted to be paid in actual money?”

It’s best to be prepared for the eventuality that you’ll have to deal with something like this, so in our never-ending quest to make your life easier, we here at Copper have decided to provide you a list of problem clients, how to respond, and (possibly more importantly) how not to respond to each one.

1) The Dreamer

Traits: Has brilliant ideas that may not be possible without the use of alien technology, writes long and rambling descriptions of demands without ever really getting to the point, often has no concept of the process involved in getting from point A to point B.

How to respond: Be patient.  Clearly explain how the things they want may not work and why, nicely ask for clarification on certain points in order to give them an end result that’s as close as possible to the one they desire, and make sure they know their feedback is an important part of the process.

How not to respond: “Why won’t it work?!  Because of physics, that’s why!”

2) The Micromanager

Traits: Wants to be involved in every single stage of the project, no matter how small.  Offers suggestions for every phase, many of which are inadvisable at best.  Sometimes comes off as trying to teach you how to do your job.

How to respond: Calmly tell them that it’s probably best if they take a few steps back and let you do what you’re paid to do.  When suggestions are offered, patiently tell the client exactly why things are done the way you do them instead of the way he wants you to do them (note: this may take multiple examples before they will learn to trust your judgement). 

How not to respond: “For the love of all that is holy, would you please just leave us alone?!”

3) The Psychic

Traits: Has certain ideas that have to be exactly replicated, while being unable to articulate said ideas with anything even approaching accuracy.  Often says things like, “that’s not how I pictured it, do it differently,” without providing any guidelines for doing so.  Has been known to add hours upon hours to the time needed to finish a project by fixating on one tiny detail and repeatedly saying, “weeeeell, no, that’s not right either.”

How to respond: This can be tricky.  Don’t be afraid to run through the entire repertoire of options available at the first sign that a client may be a Dreamer, as it will save you a lot of time and trouble later on.  Keep in mind that having a Dreamer as a client isn’t necessarily a bad thing, no matter how frustrating they can be.  They want the a satisfactory end like everyone else, they simply aren’t as good as most at properly relaying their wants and needs.

How not to respond: “I’m sorry, I’d love to help you, but our staff medium is out with the flu and we are currently unable to break through into the spirit world in order to find out exactly what you’re looking for.”

4) The Taskmaster

Traits: The Taskmaster is used to having things done their way immediately without question, and their mindset when working with you and your team is no different.  They are rude and demanding.  They want their results, and they want them now, and woe unto anyone who they think is standing in the way regardless of the reason.

How to respond: When discussing the time frame necessary to complete a project for a taskmaster, it might be necessary to treat it as if you’re haggling for prices.  If you think something’s going to take a certain amount of time, double it and let them argue you down to something reasonable.  Otherwise, while you might end up being under a high amount of stress for a while as you try to fulfill whatever seemingly impossible demands are being made of you, keep in mind that it’s not a permanent situation.

How not to respond: “Is that you, John Wayne?  Is this me?”

5) The Annihilator

Traits: Nothing is ever good enough for The Annihilator.  Even if your team follows the exact instructions given to the absolute letter, it will still be lacking in every single way possible.  First they yell, then they threaten, then they yell some more, and there is no force in the ‘verse that appears to be capable of pleasing them.

How to respond: While The Annihilator’s standards sometimes seem absolutely impossible to meet, keep in mind that this is actually not the case at all.  Sure, there are going to be a lot of headaches, but eventually things will be in proper order.  A good temporary solution during the whole ordeal is to spend less time trying to make them happy, and more time convincing them that they’re happier than everyone else.  Then, when you finally do meet their demands, their gratitude will be worth the experience…  particularly when it comes time for reviews and paychecks.

How not to respond: “You know what?  Just do it yourself then.”

6) The Devil Incarnate

Traits: Imagine a combination of the worst aspects of all of the above clients, but tainted by a streak of actual malevolence.  They expect absolute perfection without being clear about what that absolute perfection is, they rage when you are unable to fill impossible demands, and they often appear to expect you to work without things like sleep or payment.  If you were able to meet their impossible stare for long enough, you might notice that their eyes only blink from side to side, if they blink at all.

How to respond: Sometimes, in extreme cases, it’s okay to throw your hands up and tell someone they cannot be worked with any longer.  It may be hard, but it’s better in the long run.  Refer them to a competitor.

How not to respond: “Where do you want me to sign the contract again?  Also, why is it written in blood?”

We hope this helps you when dealing with clients in the future.  If there’s any we’ve forgotten, feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

Joseph H has a slight Dreamer streak going on, and has occasionally been known to go full Taskmaster against his better judgement.

A Philosopher’s Guide To Workplace Perfection

It’s universally agreed upon that as far as influential people in history go, the philosopher, scholar, and scientist known as Aristotle is pretty high up on the list.  He was the teacher of Alexander the Great (and without those teachings, we may never have heard of Alexander the Not-Too-Shabby), he was a prolific writer and contributor to the arts of dance and theater, and he’s known as the father of the field of logic and history’s first genuine scientist.  It has to take a good sized chunk of vision to be a Renaissance man around a thousand years before the Renaissance actually happened, doesn’t it?  Basically, the guy had a lot on his plate, but he made it work.

Aristotle once said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work,”  and who are we to argue?

On the other hand, we at Copper know that not every project is going to be a walk in the park.  Sometimes, no matter how innovative an idea is or how much enthusiasm the team has, there are going to be times when the thrill of progress isn’t enough to mask the tedium involved in the process itself.  It’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, when you think about it.  It’s just a thing, and as far as things go, it’s a fairly common one.

Sometimes the little things help the most.  We here at Copper do a pretty good job of making things easier for those who use our project management software, so there’s that to consider.  Music can add rhythm to our efforts and make time fly by.  A cup of something hot to drink gives us a split-second break every time we lift the mug to take a sip, and can soothe nerves that would otherwise be wound far too tightly for comfort (or if you drink as much coffee as I do, can make your eyes throw off sparks, which at least helps pass the time).  Decorations in the work area can help with creativity, assist with keeping up morale, and if nothing else can give us something to stare at briefly when we need that precious mental break.

I personally like to simply pick up everything critical to what I’m doing and go work elsewhere.  I grab my laptop and wander off to find something interesting.  A major change of location is exactly what gets my head where it needs to be.

You want an example of a change of location?  Oh, I’ve got an example of a change of location for you.  I’ve written this entire blog post while sitting on the back bumper of a loading dock.  I’m not entirely sure what the temperature is here, but I do know it’s cold enough that my coffee keeps freezing in my mustache.  I suppose I could go ask the polar bear that’s huddled next to the campfire that’s down the road a bit, but she looks pretty hungry.

Why am I here?  Because the office wasn’t doing it for me.

Mind you, what I’m doing is an extreme example.  The same effect can be had by something as simple as say, moving your chair so you’re sitting facing a window, or going for a quick walk around the building.  Even getting up to go get a cup of coffee can provide enough of a mental nap to let inspiration slip into your consciousness.  There’s happiness to be found in the little things, and every little bit of happiness you create for yourself during the course of the day gets you one tiny step closer to finding that workplace perfection that Aristotle was talking about.

We all have our methods.  What’s yours?

4 Sure-Fire Ways To Ensure Your Project Collapses

So you’ve got your Copper Project Management Software installed.  You’ve hand-picked a team composed of the best of the best, every single member of which is absolutely chomping at the bit and ready for action.   Your financing is solid.  Your resources are handy.  You feel like you’re ready to take on the world.  Nothing can stop you now!

Well, hold your horses for a second there.  Admittedly, not much can stop you now, but there’s no such thing as too careful when it comes to your project (and your future success along with it).  That having been said, let’s take some time to talk about a few of the things that could potentially send your project spiraling out of control.

1) Improper Planning

Okay, you’re pretty sure you’ve crossed all your t’s, and the last time you checked all of your i’s were dotted.  Now let me ask you, is “pretty sure” good enough for you?

Have you accounted for the inevitable no-show from one or more of the people involved due to unforeseen circumstances?  Have you familiarized yourself with the full capabilities of everyone that’s planning on putting in time on your idea?  Have you spoken with a neutral party about the feasibility of your project in both the short term and the long term?  Are you sure that there’s a place for everyone, and that everyone’s fully prepared to take their place?  Check all your options, then double-check them, and if you’re feeling even the slightest bit of hesitancy then check them again.  Don’t go overboard with it or anything, but it’s good to minimize the potential for catastrophe whenever possible.

2) Micromanagement

Now that you’ve taken enough time to make sure everything looks as stable as it’s going to get, it’s time to get everyone started.  You’ve created a timeline for tasks to be performed, and you’ve added people who are fully capable of performing them.  Things are merrily chugging along.

This next part is very important, and cannot be emphasized enough.  You know your people are capable of doing their jobs, right?  I mean, that’s why you picked them.  So let them do their jobs.  Nothing slows a project down like having someone in charge who feels the need to constantly have their hand in the most minute of details.  No manager causes more resentment than one who constantly tells people how to do what they’re obviously already qualified for.  Basically, if you ever catch yourself describing your leadership style as “perfectionistic”, you should probably go have a nice cup of tea.

You’ve picked these people.  Trust your own judgement.  Let them do their thing.

3) Neglecting Your Project

Unfortunately, the opposite of micromanagement is just as bad, if not more so.  If you throw out instructions and just disappear, leaving everyone completely to their own devices, you may find upon your return that your project has gone in a completely different direction than the one you envisioned.  Sometimes there will be questions that need to be answered, sometimes there will be solutions that need your confirmation, and sometimes there may be one of those previously mentioned unforeseen circumstances that desperately needs your attention, lest things go terribly horribly wrong.

Don’t fret.  There’s a balance to be found.  Being a good project manager has a lot in common with being a good teacher.  You can explain whatever needs clarification, you can solve any crisis that can’t be solved peacefully among the people in your care, you can give special attention to the people who might be falling behind in some way, and you can be the guiding force that keeps everyone on track, but you can’t actually do the work for them.  Your job as a project manager is, in essence, to make the lives of everyone working for you easier while on the path to achieving the chosen goal.

4) Poor Communication

Of course, absolutely none of that matters if no one has any idea what in the name of Alan Turing they’re supposed to be doing.  Even the greatest worker in the world can’t really help things progress if the tasks they’re given amount to, “Go forth and do a thing of some sort!”  Be clear and concise, always allow room for clarification if needed, and avoid giving conflicting instructions at all costs.  Also, as important as it is that you know what everyone involved in your project is doing, it’s just as important for everyone involved to be able to know what everyone else involved is doing, you included.

Of course, since you picked up Copper Project Management Software you’re obviously on the right track already.  Go ahead and get your project rolling.  We’re confident that your project is in the right hands.  In fact, you deserve to do something fun for yourself.

How about a game of Ping Pong?

Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  He always knows what to do in a crisis, usually because he’s the one responsible for causing it in the first place.