Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Effectively Focused: Project Management for the Small Business

I'm back! (I think.) I've learned during my second year in Hong Kong that July-August is going to be busy. I have visitors, my entire creative routine is disrupted, so I'm going to try something new and just go with the flow. I will most likely be MIA during the summers if this pattern continues. I'm hoping to return to regular posting soon.

On another note, I've been mulling this little project in my head for a long time. My day job is as a project manager and project management really touches (or has the opportunity) to touch many parts of a business. It can touch on budget, contracts, schedules, supplies, to name a few things relevant to a small business.

My qualificiations? I have my Project Management Professional certification and Certified Scrummaster certification. The PMP certification creates a common language when it comes to talking about projects (it does not give you a step-by-step plan on how to do a project). The Certified Scrummaster gives you training in a specific way to do a project. In general, I like this method because it embraces simplicity. However, I view both certifications as a "bag of tools" that I can use depending on the situation. I have used bits and pieces from both schools of thought depending on the project.

I've been struggling with this series because I didn't know where to start. I remember being a rookie project manager and wanting the "magic ingredient" about where to start. Heh. No magic ingredient. Just persistence and hard work. Why do I think this is relevant to a small business? When I was first self-employed about 17-18 years ago, I was overwhelmed with making sure I did everything right like contracts and reporting taxes. I think my PM experience has given me the broadest look across a business that I've found helpful to me. I know there are several other blogs that have business advice and I highly recommend them. Most are on my blog roll to the left. I will specifically point them out in a future post. My view is looking at your business as small projects. I'm not sure how regularly I'll post on PM ideas, but I'll try to share things I'm using and finding useful.

While there is no magic ingredient for managing your small business, I will say there are two concepts that can help make your life easier:
  1. Keep it simple
  2. Expect everything to change
Keep it simple. Don't go overboard writing every little thing down, unless that's what you need to do to remember something. And use Post-It notes. You might even want to take stock out in 3M (kidding...sort of). After all this work I put into learning "methods" and "tools" for project management, the Certified Scrummaster training took me back to simplicity. And it makes so much sense. The first class I took, we just used post-its for planning our projects. Of course, when the projects got large enough, we switched to software for tracking, but in the humble beginnings, Post-It notes are sufficient and maybe all you'll ever need. Why?

Expect everything to change. I fell into project management because I have a natural inclination toward organization and planning and then following through on the plan. The pitfall for me was realizing that plans are subject to change. A LOT. Your starting plan will look nothing like your finished plan. Oh, yes. You can learn from each project you do, but every one is unique. It was so frustrating to have a nice, pretty plan...only have to it wrecked by someone who forgot something, or changed something, or something got delayed, or...well, you get the picture. Post-Its are fabulous because you can move things around and it doesn't ruin the pretty picture.

Style Whiplash

In other news, I have been working a lot in polymer clay and my style has changed so drastically, I think it will give you whiplash. However, I've been experimenting with things I can find at the local art store and I found pearlized inks...below are my first experiments with small beads in the copper and silver inks over various colors. Purty, ain't it?

Then, I've finally figured out how to eliminate the whiplash by being more conservative and working in smaller beads. Sorry for the low light, but these are small beads (about 8-9mm) in mottled, earthy red that pairs nicely with antiqued brass findings and copper beads.

Stuff I Find Amusing in Hong Kong
Bumblebee socks anyone? I think this is the uniform of a messenger service because he came with a matching shirt.

As opposed to Ugly Wallpaper? Is there a store for the Ugly stuff?

Okay...that's it for today. Happy creating, y'all! ZaiJian for now.