By Henry Chuks
I’ve been delivering projects since the first dot-com boom. From those days of huge budgets and big teams, to recent times of Agile and Lean, the causes of project breakdown have remained the same. I’ve witnessed hundreds of millions of dollars (and Euros) wasted due to project delivery disasters in large businesses, and much smaller amounts — but critical amounts nonetheless — wasted in start-up projects. On a high-profile project a few years ago — another horrible project that had run out of control — I thought to myself that there had to be a better way to deliver projects; a better way that could be adopted by workers and managers who do not see themselves as traditional project managers.
From that, Gorilla Theory was born. Gorilla Theory is a new framework that aims to help anybody involved with or managing a project to better understand their role in the project. Specifically, it helps them be more adept at handling their tasks and workload, managing the project’s delivery, and detecting the negative issues that may arise in any project.
Gorilla Theory is founded on the core principles of discipline, awareness, communications, vigilance and people skills. These lead to greater project management control, and smoother delivery of projects due to improved intra-project team dynamics.
Project management is critical for every business, but especially in the case of online work and distributed teams. When your team members are hundreds or thousands of miles away, the importance of those principals — especially communications — becomes significantly amplified.
To get more insight into the nuances of project management in online work, I spoke with Odysseas Tsatalos, oDesk’s co-founder and CTO. Here is an excerpt from our interview:
“One mistake people often make when delving into online work is that they assume there is no need for a working relationship,” Odysseas said. “The assumption is not intentional; it happens almost unconsciously. This is because when you meet someone in person, you put some investment into a social understanding of that person — you shake their hand, you ask them how their day was, you care about how they are feeling. Suddenly, when someone is working remotely, this lack of visibility changes expectations. It’s almost an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ situation, leading to less of an investment in the person as an individual and instead viewing them singularly as a worker.
However, relationships are key with online work, and you need to make a more deliberate effort to cultivate them since they do not come as naturally. They are especially key if you expect someone to go above and beyond just receiving work and sending it back — such as by clarifying expectations, proposing new solutions, etc. It requires re-creating more of the trust, commitment and loyalty that tend to happen more naturally with face-to-face relationships.”
As online work, distributed teams and other flexible work models become increasingly widespread, effective project management and relationship-building are only going to become more important; in fact, I believe mastery of online project management will soon make the difference between a business’s success and failure.
What are your best practices for online project management? Share them in the comments section below!
Henry Chuks wants to change the way people think about managing and delivering projects. Henry started out as a scientist (pharmacology) and used the same analytical skills when he moved into technology at the height of the original dot-com boom, originally as an anlyst programmer. Over 13+ years, Henry has contributed to and then led the delivery of tens of millions of pounds worth of applications, digital marketing campaigns, websites and bespoke software for clients in the public and private sector. Many of the projects were not plain-sailing and Henry has observed many ways NOT to deliver a project. The eureka moment for Gorilla Theory came in 2010, and Henry has been implementing the framework for clients since 2012.