Project Management Now and Later Tasks

I just finished listening to a recent Manager-Tools’ podcast “Project Management Basics: Now and Later Tasks“. They dumbed down project management a few years ago with “Horstman’s Law of Project Management” which is basically “who does what by when”. While I have built a good part of my career around complex project management concepts, I am also a big Manager Tools fan (and even pay the premium content price). They do not pooh-pooh the practice of project management, but rather advocate that for the majority of managers out there, PMing can be distilled down to a few basic concepts that frequently get obfuscated by complex or convoluted tools and processes.

In this podcast, their advice is regardless of the project methodology or presentation or categorization of project tasks, there are basically only two types: Tasks we need to do today, and tasks we need to do later. Again this actually makes a lot of sense. Spend time worrying about the NOW tasks. Spending an inordinate amount of time planning LATER tasks is not a good use of time since those plans will likely significantly change.

This is good advice for hardcore PMs to hear too.

  • We may want to consider presenting on occasion just the NOW tasks to our teams to demonstrate focus and remove potential confusion.
  • It helps to realize that our business stakeholders really prefer to view our work at a high-level. The methodology, the process, the templates, the doc, the ceremony – it is all a means to an end, not the end itself.

Now conversely, why can’t we as PMs then pitch our MSP files and scope doc and managed a list with two categories?

  • Somebody has to think about the LATER. Someone needs to hold out the LATER for all to see and aim for, because particularly in IT projects, the structure of the LATER affects how the now tasks will be completed.
  • Someone needs to continually compare and concatenate the now and later to ensure they fit within the committed scope, schedule and cost.

So PMs, listen to that podcast and don’t be offended. Good stuff.