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Be an IT Project Marie Kondo - declutter your Portfolio


When we're called in to rescue AWOL IT Projects we come across a lot of the usual suspects: scope creep; unrealistic budgets; overambitious timescales; etc. More recently though, we are seeing a new trend. Projects are failing just because they are heaving under unnecessary layers of CLUTTER!

As IT Projects have got more complex, teams have started to fall into the trap of over-complicating their approach to managing them. Where's Marie Kondo when you need her?

If you haven't heard of Marie Kondo, she is a Japanese tidying guru. In her Netflix programme, she promises that her "KonMari" method will deliver, not only a de-cluttered house but also a clean and de-cluttered mind. I wondered whether this was something we needed in IT Project Management.

So where to start?

1 - Declutter the docs

Have you ever heard a Project Manager complain that they completed a document during a project, then picked up another and found themselves writing or even copy and pasting the same information? They'll say that it slows down productivity and adds little benefit. It’s time to declutter your docs!

Let's drill down a bit on this because Marie Kondo's method of decluttering really works here.

Faced with IT Project docs, she'd say:

  1. i) Take your time, don’t force it. There are people in your organisation that do not want to stop using that template and it will take time to bring them around. Be patient, ironic that as change managers we can sometimes be rather resistant to change!!
  2. ii) Tidy by category, that’s reasonably easy as we’re already talking project documents but the information in them may be, as mentioned earlier, copied and pasted elsewhere!

iii) Be appreciative. Appreciate the work that went into the creation of a document. Chances are the person next to you spent hours creating drop-down lists in it two years ago.

  1. iv) Ask if it sparks joy. This is one of my favourite parts of Kondo's approach to decide what you keep and what you let go of - how much joy does the item bring you. Tough one, in terms of IT Project Management, but if a document is cluttered and incomprehensible the person you are asking to complete it, will dread doing so. The Kondo method, at its core, means to work out not only the usefulness of an item but also if there is another layer that creates a positive response.
  2. v) - Skip the big reveal (to your department). It’s tempting to try to show off the work, but your department will already notice the change. Who needs a fanfare (or as one CIO puts it the pat on the back parade”)?

2 - Inbox zero

"Inbox Zero" is an email management system that means you end each workday with no emails in your main inbox - not even read ones!! Imagine – relaxing just thinking about it, isn’t it! The peace of mind that comes from having rigorously and effectively sorted, actioned, deleted or forwarded every message that pinged during the day is priceless.

It might seem like a crazy, unachievable dream! If you have hundreds (or even thousands) of unread emails, it can start to weigh upon your mind and impact performance. Colleagues who have achieved this inbox nirvana swear by it. The positive effect on their mental health transfers into every aspect of their life. On told me, "You don't wake in the night worried that you may have missed something.”

3 - Have the stuff you use every day close to hand

When decluttering a kitchen, Marie Kondo will recommend that you put the plates you use every day in a cupboard that is easy to get to, meanwhile, that ice-cream maker can probably get stored in a less easy to reach space (we have a cupboard of regret!).

It's the same with IT Projects. We often ask Project Managers on struggling IT Projects to show us how they access the crucial system documents that they use to run their projects. In our experience, few are just one click away from the assets that are the lifeblood of their projects.

"If you have to click the start menu and scroll through your programmes, you're starting your task too late," one PM friend says. "The programmes and documents that you use to run your project should be as accessible as the knives and forks in your kitchen.”

The more successful Project Managers have links to the stuff they use every day on their desktop or pinned to the taskbar and on the first page of apps on their phone!

And this doesn't have to be all work, work, work - if your motivational music comes from Spotify playlist each day - stick that on your taskbar too!!!  

That's just three areas that could be de-cluttered. I'm sure there are more. This week take a look at your portfolio, work out what you NEED to manage projects, like we did with Stoneseed's induction pack which consists of the Project initiation document, RADICAL log, Weekly Update, Change Control and Project Plan. Take a look at how your Project Management Office could help streamline document suits.

Ask yourself, honestly, if your working environment and approach could use the Marie Kondo touch.

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed

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July 2020

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