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Bare Knuckled Project Management: How to Succeed at Every Project

Bare Knuckled Project Management: How to Succeed at Every Project

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Bare Knuckled Project Management: How to Succeed at Every Project

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Lançado em:
May 30, 2013


“When the going gets tough, they call for the sons of bitches! — Admiral Ernest King (attributed)

It’s a sad fact that most projects fail — as many as 70% according to one well known study. Those failed projects cost billions of dollars. Perhaps they’ve even cost you or your company. You’ve hired certified project managers and implemented project management techniques, and yet you still don’t have the success you need.

BARE KNUCKLED PROJECT MANAGEMENT has the answer. Of course, there are lots of management philosophies that tell you that if you just follow a few simple rules, you’ll have perfect results. But it’s never that simple, and we know it.

The bare-knuckled approach to project management is all about the people. Anybody can swing a bat, but that doesn’t mean anybody can be a major leaguer. It’s all about the person. It takes talent, temperament, training, experience, and aptitude to achieve greatness. And make no mistake, for great projects, you need a great project manager — someone who isn’t afraid to do what it takes to get the job done.

You need a Bare-Knuckled Project Manager, someone not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, make hard decisions, and speak unpleasant truths to people who don’t always want to hear bad news.

In this insightful and powerful book, you’ll learn:

*** The key reasons projects fail, and the simple steps needed to avoid the most common mistakes.

*** How the “three sided table” approach empowers project managers, customers, and teams to do excellent work.

*** How to become a Bare-Knuckled Project Manager, and how to groom others.

*** How to handle conflict and communication like a pro.

*** How the “Kranz Dictum” that saved NASA’s Apollo Program can save your most troubled projects.

*** How to transform the organization using the Bare Knuckle approach.

For once, you’ll experience the “no bullshit” approach to project management: what matters, what doesn’t, and how to tell the difference. Bare Knuckled Project Management is the one guide you need to achieve real project results!

Lançado em:
May 30, 2013

Sobre o autor

Tony Gruebl, Jeff Welch, and Bryan Wolbert are principles of Think Systems, Inc. (also known as, Think), a 15-year-old operations consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland where each author resides. Together, they have over 75 years of experience in Operations, Technology, Finance, and Learning & Development. Tony is Think’s President and a former COO and VP in the software industry. Jeff is an engineer by trade and an Agile Transformation Coach; and he has worked as a lead Learning Solution Architect for Pearson Performance, Vangent, and later PDRI. Bryan is the current COO of Think and leader of Think’s staffing division. Tony and Jeff collaborated on their first self-published book, Bare Knuckled Project Management (BKPM).

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Amostra do Livro

Bare Knuckled Project Management - Tony Gruebl



By Tony Gruebl & Jeff Welch

With Michael Dobson

Art by Bartley Collart

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2013 Think Systems, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Think Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bare Knuckled Project Management is copyright © 2013 by Think Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or the author, except for brief quotations in review articles.

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. Although this is a free book, it remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy at Smashwords.com. Thank you for your support.

E-Book Tips

E-reading devices and software are all slightly different. Depending on what you’re using, try double-clicking or tapping on illustrations to make them full-size. Links (underlined and also in blue on color devices) allow you to navigate inside the book and occasionally to visit outside websites. Other devices provide a built-in table of contents that provides the same benefit. Be sure to learn the features of whatever program or device you’re using. While we can’t always make sure that every feature works in every e-reading program, we do invite you to let us know if there’s something that isn’t working for you.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Projects in Crisis

Chapter 2: The Bare-Knuckled Project Manager

Chapter 3: The Three-Sided Table

Chapter 4: No Bullshit Project Management

Chapter 5: Why Projects Fail — and How BKPM Prevents It

Chapter 6: Becoming a Bare-Knuckled Project Manager

Chapter 7: Conflict and Communications

Chapter 8: The Kranz Dictum

Chapter 9: The Next Bout

Chapter 10: Transforming the Project — and the Organization



Photo and Image Credits


About the Authors

Return to Table of Contents


In March 2009, the telephone rang. I answered. Tony Gruebl.

Hey, Tony. It’s Jeff. Jeff Welch was my client, working for a government services division of a well-known global provider of IT and strategic business process outsourcing services.

I was surprised to hear from him. I thought you were in Alabama, working on that Air Force project, I said.

I am in Alabama. That’s why I’m calling. I just got out of some meetings. It’s bad — really bad. Got a few minutes?

I did. Jeff’s company used me as their go-to project manager for non-standard (read: difficult) projects, ever since I’d handled a large and risky LMS system deployment for them about five years ago. And I knew Jeff wasn’t the kind of guy to hit the alarm over nothing.

In retrospect, Jeff’s call really wasn’t that much of a surprise. I’d worked with them through the bid and award process, so I knew the situation. I also knew they’d hired a seasoned project manager with a military background to be their on-site PM for the project. I was supposed to provide coaching and support for that project manager, but he’d been ignoring me ever since the contract had been awarded. I could sense something was — well, perhaps not wrong, but definitely a bit off.

Jeff quickly set me straight. You wouldn’t believe what’s going on down here. I’ve never seen such a mess. To start, I think I’m going to need to fire the project manager. No, strike that. I know I’m going to need to fire the PM.

That surprised me. You mean that guy you moved down from Virginia? I thought he was really well qualified. He seemed like a strong project leader.

Well, that’s what we thought, Jeff said. You wouldn’t believe the personal issues this guy is dealing with. It has him all screwed up. That’s what my meetings started to be about. Then I started digging beyond the PM’s personal issues and looked into the status reports, and they’re completely wrong. Nothing on this project is as it’s been reported. It’s like you’ve been flying along for hours and suddenly realize that no one’s in the cockpit! I have no idea where we are, where we’ve been, or where we’re going. I’ve got to get a handle on this immediately!

When the situation is this bad, you don’t have any time to waste. How about the onsite project team? I asked. "How are they doing?

They’re the ones who brought the situation to my attention, Jeff said. It’s a good crew. They care about the project, and they understand the need for leadership — and leadership looks like it’s gone AWOL.

In response to a few more questions, Jeff filled in the rest of the story. The team was following the original plan, but requirements were shifting without anyone making sure the project was aligned with the changing goals. We might not be in too bad shape, but we might be totally screwed. I just don’t know. I can’t trust any of the data that’s been coming from the project manager, he concluded.

I already had access to their accounting system because of the other projects I’d been managing for Jeff’s company. Get me permission to take a look at this project’s financials, reports, communications, the current project plan, whatever you’ve got. I’ve got the original project plan I helped your guy create; that’ll give me a baseline.

I could hear the relief in Jeff’s voice. Sounds good. Can you fly down next week? I need someone I can trust to peel back all the layers and find out exactly where we are, and I’m going to be knee-deep in personnel issues. I’m going to need a revised plan and detailed status before I have to explain to the colonel what’s going on.

I knew how important this project was for Jeff’s company. I’ll need to move some things around, but yes, I can help.

And so began a rescue effort. We quickly gained control over the project and made personnel changes, starting from the top. We had a few frank discussions with the colonel in charge and set up a workable action plan.

It took a year of constantly changing USAF personnel, evolving project requirements, and constant travel between Maryland and Alabama — but in the end, we got the job done.

You know this scenario – it happens far too often. If you haven’t yet experienced a project in complete collapse, sooner or later you will. And when it does happen, and the only option is to succeed, conventional business practices and standard project management approaches aren’t always up to the challenge.

The no-nonsense approach to getting the job done involves ruffling a few feathers, making some hard decisions, and speaking unpleasant truths to people who don’t always want to hear bad news. I think of it as taking a bare-knuckled approach to project management, and that’s what this book is all about.

You need to understand something. This isn’t going to be a book of management platitudes, high-minded business practices, or a refinement of the standard project management materials taught in textbooks. It’s about practicality and efficiency — keep what works and get rid of the rest. It’s about what actually works in a wide variety of project types, project teams, and project owners.

And it will make project failure a thing of the past.

For me, living the idea of bare-knuckled project management is pretty much the way I am. I’m unconventional in my approach. I push back against business norms, especially when they aren’t getting the job done. And I don’t mind getting in the face of someone who’s clearly out of touch with reality.

Frankly, I feel more comfortable articulating these ideas over a few beers in a Baltimore pub than in the pages of a book. (Not to mention that my colleagues didn’t like my idea for the cover: me in a black leather jacket sitting astride a Harley.) On top of that, a lot of what I do instinctually has to be translated so that other people can do it to.

That’s why I enlisted the help of three colleagues.

The first, Jeff Welch, you’ve already met. He’s a technical solution architect who’s been designing, building, and deploying information systems in government and commercial environments for nearly 25 years. Jeff is a master at taking complex information and converting it into something easily understandable. He has been integral in challenging me to extract and codify my knowledge and practices for this book, a process that involved more than a few beers and cocktail napkins. (Note: Jeff would like all tavern owners to provide whiteboards for their patrons.) Jeff and I together are the soul of the bare-knuckled project management process: this book is us.

Then there is Michael Dobson. I first met Michael Dobson through a mutual friend, and attended one of his project management workshops many years ago. I was struck by his clarity, practicality, and expertise, and I immediately went out and bought several of his books on project management. (He’s written ten of them — along with novels, business books, histories, and lots more, currently fifty books and counting.) Running a full-time business doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing, and so I prevailed on Michael to take on this project as a third collaborator, taking the methodology Jeff and I developed and laying it out in written form, adding his expertise and insights to further flesh out the book.

I also enlisted the services of Bart Collart (L10.biz). Bart is a graphic artist and I emphasize artist. Jeff has been working with Bart for many years and was one of the first people he thought of when the need for an artist became self-evident. Pictures can communicate emotion and concepts non-verbally, which is important since many of the practices codified in this book focus on limbic brain conditioning: a level below the language centers of the brain.

Of course, many others have added their expertise and insight over the years. You’ll find a list of acknowledgements at the very end, right before the author biographies.

What is this thing called Bare-Knuckled Project Management (BKPM for short)?

BKPM is first and foremost a mindset, a limbic conditioned response to produce a good outcome even when rational decision-making goes out the window because, as we just saw, sometimes we’re thrown into a situation that’s already out of control.

BKPM uses that limbic learning to force you to get your projects on the right track from the very first meeting. Maybe you’ll be asked to step in when things are already bad, but when you’re in charge from the beginning, you’ll make sure these problems never happen in the first place.

If you’ve noticed that the mass production of traditional project managers isn’t delivering the project results you need; if you’ve noticed that the most visible issue often becomes who to blame rather than how to fix it; if you’ve noticed that even smart and capable people all too often end up over their heads, then you’ll benefit from this book.

My promise to you is that if you use the BKPM approach from the outset, project failure won’t happen. That’s a big promise, but as you’ll see, it’s one we’ll keep.

But the book isn’t the end of our conversation; it’s simply the pre-read. To really experience what being a Bare-Knuckled Project Manager is all about, you and I need to talk. Give me a call at 443-725-5131 (my company, Think Systems, Inc.) or send me an email (tgruebl@thinksi.com).

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