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Attend a Morrison & Foerster administrative management meeting and you’ll hear staff and partners speaking in a strange language (“Where’s the SOW?”) and making triangles with their fingers as if in some curious salute or meditative pose. Considering that MoFo has several offices in California, you might dismiss this behavior as “new age” — but the inspiration is far from new. The core concepts have been around since King Zoser hired Imhotep to build the first stone pyramid in 2600 B.C. Fortunately, there’s no need to learn ancient Egyptian, as the practices and vocabulary were modernized by British civil engineers working on post-World War II reconstruction, and then by U.S. scientists running projects from 1950s cold war defense through today’s space program. DISCIPLINE What’s it all about? It’s the discipline of project management, defined as “the process of planning, organizing, and managing tasks and resources to accomplish a well defined objective with a clear beginning and end.” Project management at MoFo has expanded from a techies-only tool through human resources, and is starting to take hold in other departments and offices. In 2000, we had two project management staff members, and began our project management efforts as part of the installation of an information system for our HR department. In late 2000, we developed, in collaboration with The Versatile Co., www.versatilecompany.com, a specialized two-day project management training course. The first day covers project management theory, reinforced by the book, “The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management,” by Eric Verzuh (John Wiley & Sons, 1999).This is followed by a second day of hands-on practice with Microsoft Corp.’s Microsoft Project software.To date, more than 70 technology team members have completed our internal course. Some team members have sought further education, such as that offered through the Project Manager Certification program from the University of California. Others are taking advanced classes offered through the Project Management Institute ( www.pmi.org). A project office, comprised of the HR and technology project managers, is collaborating on firmwide best practices, standards and training techniques, to help other offices and departments take advantage of project management. Our professional development group is pondering how to adapt project management principles to client engagement management. BENEFITS Here are some of the benefits of using a formal project management process: 1. The cost/time/quality challenge: what wins and what loses. Without constraints, everyone wants their project to be faster, better and cheaper. The reality: Projects always are a delicate balance of cost, time and quality — the three points of the project management triangle. Conventional wisdom is that you can maximize two of the three but you can’t have it all. For example, first-class and fast means higher cost. You can get inexpensive excellence, but it will take time. This concept is so well accepted at MoFo that someone merely forming a triangle with their fingers can redirect a meeting’s discussion from “I want it all and I want it now!” to a constructive dialogue on the trade-offs. Projects must be managed — they just don’t happen. MoFo understands that successful projects aren’t the result of magic but sweat equity. Even multi-year and “cast of thousands” projects can be accomplished by following a routine, including requirements definition, design, construction and implementation, all accompanied by management involvement, regular status e-mails and a willingness to change direction when justified. Dividing large projects into manageable components allows for progress on otherwise seemingly unattainable goals such as reengineering complicated, multi-department business processes. 2. It takes a firm to complete a project. It would be easy to walk (run?) away from projects after anointing the project manager. Not so at MoFo. Every project requires participation by the full team. As they say in the theater, “There are no small parts (or small players) in a successful production.” Some people are committed to the effort full time, others join only for short, intense bursts. A full team will include the project manager, subject matter lead, assigned specialists, senior management and user community representatives. Large projects may also incorporate outside consultants and a change manager responsible for training and communication. 3. Meetings are more fun. Okay, that’s a lie. When were meetings ever “fun?” But with project management, meetings are more productive — have you heard the old line, “I don’t attend 200 meetings a year, I just attend the same meeting 200 times?” You won’t find that sentiment at a MoFo project strategy committee meeting. Projects with high risk, substantial cost or other large impact require a steering committee to function as an oversight board. To ensure productive sessions, multi-tasking is discouraged (BlackBerrys are checked at the door), agendas are issued in advance, discussions cover specific items (such as percent complete on sub-tasks), and project finances are reviewed using established charts. 4. One firm, one language. Sharing the same project management training and status meetings, MoFo speaks one language and has one set of process expectations. This common culture strengthens ties in a far-flung global firm. For example, projects start with a Statement of Work (SOW) to define the project scope, milestones, deadlines, sponsors, costs, and communication plans. Regular status reports are issued by e-mail. You can check the first few lines to learn of project problems and priorities. Read further to see what happened in the last reporting period and what will happen next. Be sure to look for your name next to an assigned task. A related policy states that “silence is assent” — if you don’t speak up while the project is in progress, you give up your right to complain later. 5. Course corrections are faster and easier. Have you ever been on a project that morphed completely into something else — something it wasn’t intended to be? Our redecorating committee is taking bids to tear down walls and construct a state-of-the-art conference room. With a solid statement of work describing what’s in scope (painting and carpeting) and what’s out (anything involving jackhammers) plus status e-mails and occasional steering committee meetings, MoFo hopes to catch any misstep and redirect the team before the demolition crew arrives. RESOURCES Here are just a few of the many Web sites that address project management: allPM www.allPM.com Association for Project Management www.apm.org.uk Element K (Ziff-Davis Media online courses) elearning.ziffdavis.com First Place Software Inc. www.project-management-center.com The Hampton Group Inc. www.4pm.com Galorath Inc. www.galorath.com Kraft Kennedy & Lesser Inc. www.kkl.com Microsoft Project www.microsoft.com New York University/International Institute for Learning Inc. www.iil.com/nyu_central PM Forum www.pmforum.org Project Management Institute Inc. www.pmi.org Project Management Solutions Inc. www.pmsolutions.com Redwood Analytics www.redwoodanalytics.com Satori Group Inc. www.satorigroupinc.com Technology Associates www.projectmanagement.com Jo Haraf, a member of the LTN Editorial Advisory Board, is CIO of Morrison & Foerster, and is based in San Francisco.

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