CIRCA:My Management Philosophy


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This being a wiki the writing of this guide is somewhat random. When I find myself with advice and no one to give it to, I scratch that itch by putting it here. I also write pages here for issues that come up in the Project Management course that I teach so I don't have to prepare handouts. I try to remember to put stuff here when I find myself once more giving the same small speech on how to get something done to a research assistant. Finally, I have asked others to write things where they had shared something useful (though not much of that has happened yet.)

This being a wiki it is incomplete and mostly aspirational in the sense that it is full of items that aren't fleshed out. It is a guide to what I hope I can write.

There are however, some guiding principles:

  • Lists are a useful way to share ideas without presenting any one way of doing things as the right way. For that reason I am trying, wherever possible, to organize this into lists of suggestions, reasons, issues, approaches and so on. See CIRCA: Why Lists.
  • Managing without having to think to much about it. In the humanities we develop a certain skepticism and distrust of management and administration. I share this skepticism, but avoidance of management makes us bad at doing it when our usual habits aren't sufficient. This guide is therefore for those who don't want to think too much about administration. This is for those who need ideas to get a project done without having to immerse themselves in management theory. If you are fascinated by project management you should go elsewhere or help me improve this.
  • Management is not an end in itself in the humanities; if you want to get things done you need to be careful not to turn the management of a project into a more important objective than completion of the research. There are cases where a useful outcome of a project is learning about project management, but in many cases you will want to focus on the research. This guide tries to help you balance the need for explicit management and the research. I therefore try to suggest heuristics that may work instead of more complicated and formalized approaches. That said, you need to know when a project is of a scale that you need to switch (and get everyone else to switch) to more formal tactics.
  • The goal is to advance knowledge and enjoy the process of doing research in community. I try to not lose sight of opportunities to turn the process into joyful research and I try to imagine ways to make the management a pleasure for all. I hope you do too.
  • I am often wrong and, like everyone, need to be careful with advice that could mislead or be limited. Likewise you should be careful to test advice against your experience and the advice of others.
  • Experience as a guide can be misleading. The virtue of this is that it is based my experience with a large number of projects at different institutions and with different teams. That said, this is also a limitation as it is essentially anecdotal. I wish I had the time and interest to test the suggestions (if that is even possible), but I don't. Instead I have tried to use a first person voice where that doesn't distract to remind you that it is one persons advice.
  • Learn by doing. You will learn more by trying to start a project than from this guide. This guide may help you reflect back on what you learned and give you ideas for different ways to do things, but it is the doing of a project that matters. Everything else is aspiration.

Does this sound too tentative? Does it sound like you shouldn't bother reading further because the philosophy of this guide is one of listed uncertainty and learning from the mistakes of doing? Well ... that's one of things you need to learn about project management - it is not a science and there isn't a right way to do it which may mean that doing doesn't work either. For that matter doing includes reading about doing, thinking about doing, and talking about doing. This guide tries to add to that field of humanities talk.

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