We’ve already talked about a few flavors of nightmare end users (Nightmare End Users) and ( LEARN TO SPOT THESE 4 NIGHTMARE STAKEHOLDERS) now it’s time to look at some ways you can manage their behavior to keep your project moving forward.
In an earlier post (DELEGATION 101) and (READY, SET, DELEGATE!) we covered some delegation basics, including how and why to assign tasks to others in your group and what to keep for yourself. Now let’s look at five common signs that you still aren’t delegating enough.
Good communication is the foundation that keeps your project management team moving forward. But as our communication options expand, our ability to match the method to the need sometimes becomes fuzzy. Here we’ve outlined the top 3 communication methods, along with dos and don’ts for each.
Project documentation proliferates at a startling pace. Before you know it, your current project’s files are stuffed, you have a stack of documentation boxes to prepare for storage, or you’re stuck sifting through thick folders from past projects in search of important information.
Before the amount of documentation flowing amongst team members and stakeholders becomes overwhelming, make an effort to rein it in with some thoughtful planning and ruthless editing. Consider employing the following guidelines to help trim your documents to a more manageable level, and enjoy increased efficiency now and later.
#1 – Clear
When composing documents, state the information you want to convey as plainly and simply as possible. If you’re announcing bad news, don’t dress it up – just say it. Changes to the team’s structure, schedule modifications, budget issues, updated stakeholder expectations and a host of other topics can be sensitive and uncomfortable, but resist the urge to be vague or evasive. Everyone involved with your projects needs to clearly understand the lay of the land, even if it isn’t pleasant. If you’re still waiting for additional information or if data is pending, plainly delineate what you know and what you don’t. Ensuring your team is operating under a common set of information is a critical concern.
#2 – Concise
The simplest way to remember this rule is this: say what you need to say, and then stop. But beware, it’s often harder than it sounds. With the exception of timelines, budgets and a few other items, you shouldn’t be rehashing old news. If information has already been disseminated, strongly consider if it needs restating before including it again. Rather than releasing the same information multiple times, maintain a single set of always-current baseline or reference documents, such as master budgets, schedules and contact lists. As much as possible, stick to a single topic (or set of related topics) per communication. This reduces documentation while also allowing for more finely-tuned distribution.
#3 – Relevant
Including potentially irrelevant or off-topic information in your documents may prompt readers to place your document in the bottomless “read later” pile, or simply file it without more than a cursory glance. Not only does this add to your overall documentation load, it also increases the likelihood that truly important information will be missed. Unless information is vital to your team’s ability to successfully execute your project, or to your stakeholders’ need for ongoing project updates and information, don’t include it.
By applying these guidelines to every document associated with your project, you’ll help cut down on time spent creating and assimilating documents, without compromising the quality or timeliness of your team’s information flow. You stand to gain efficiency in several areas:
During the project – Instead of reading through e-mails that don’t affect you, memos that cover information you received previously, and meeting notes comprised of agenda items both project-related and pertaining to other topics, your team will appreciate receiving exactly the information they need, when they need it, and little else. It’s a way to save time for everyone involved.
After the project – When preparing documents for archival, your commitment to following these guidelines will have a clear pay-off. You’ll have less documentation to archive, and less work to make everything ready for long-term storage.
Preparing for the next project – reviewing documentation from previous projects is enormously helpful when working to identify key players, refreshing your memory about past vendors, and comparing scope against earlier cost metrics. If you’re conditioned to shuffle through a lot of papers before finding what you need, you’ll appreciate the more streamlined process facilitated by the use of these guidelines.
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Vacations are sometimes hampered by a frantic lead-up in the days before, by trying to accomplish too much while you’re supposed to be relaxing, and by feeling like you’re overwhelmed as soon as you return to the office. Thoughtful preparation and a plan for your return can help lower the stress level of your next vacation.
Good resource management keeps the project management consulting team running at full speed. Vendors and collaborators may change from project to project, and even from phase to phase, but checklists ensure your team knows the resources that are needed at any given time, and where to find them. Maintaining supplies, managing documentation and quickly locating a properly outfitted meeting space can all be facilitated through the use of checklists.
At the end of each project, it’s important to ensure your documentation – including e-mails, invoices, contracts, schedules, diagrams and anything else related to the project – can be easily located, retrieved, searched and referenced later.
Once a project is complete, take some time to review what was successful and what needs improvement. By evaluating each project in retrospect, you’ll be able to apply the lessons learned to future endeavors.
No matter what the job is at hand, great tools in the hands of a trained professional will lead to exceptional results. But what about providing great tools to an untrained person? Would you expect comparable results? The answer is a resounding NO!If this is true, then why do some people believe that having good project management software tools will make them good project managers and ultimately lead to successful projects? The missing variable in this equation is a sound project management methodology to guide them through the planning and control process. Engraining a sound project management methodology in your organization, supported by a suite of great tools, is the first step towards getting great project results.
Select a Sound Project Management Methodology
All projects have three major elements that need to be controlled in order for a project to be successful. Those elements are Time, Cost, and Quality. Time is measured by using a schedule, cost is measured by using a budget, and quality is measured by using specifications. Projects are only successful if they are completed on-time, within budget, and to specifications. If the project management system you have selected does not take into consideration all three of these elements then you will have a difficult time planning and controlling your project through its completion. Your project deadline, budget, and quality constraints will require you to make trade-offs in these three variables. A sound project management approach creates an opportunity to make better decisions about those trade-offs earlier in the process and thereby increases the probability of success.
Select Tools that Support the Chosen Methodology
There are many project management software packages currently available in the market today. Finding a software tool that quickly provides the information needed to analyze and make decisions for your project is not a simple task. While many project management software tools are good for planning the initial schedule, sometimes it can be difficult to update the schedule, change resource allocations, modify activity durations or change precedence relationships. Select a tool that has a friendly user interface, easily allows plan changes and supports your chosen project management methodology.
The PMAlliance Planning Process
A good planning process is made up of three distinct steps:
- Define the Project
- Develop an Initial Project Plan
- Compress the Schedule and Develop a Baseline Plan
Defining the project is the first step towards having a successful project outcome. During this step the project manager is selected and the sponsor(s) of the project is interviewed to determine exactly what he/she is expecting the project team to deliver. Once the project has been defined by the sponsor(s), the project team is assembled to develop the project charter. The charter should contain a short background statement, the expected deliverables, the project objectives, the list of the project team and sponsors, a list of key dates, and any assumptions, risks, and constraints that the project team can identify. In addition, the project charter should also contain the time-cost trade-off rate. This is defined as the cost to the organization if the project is finished late or the benefit if finished early. The time-cost trade-off rate is used to make cost effective decisions for compression of the project plan. Once the team is in agreement about the project’s scope, key personnel requirements, major constraints, assumptions, and risks, those items should then be presented to stakeholders for approval. By completing this process up-front, the project team will have a clearly defined (and understood) set of deliverables and an agreed-upon direction prior to making the investment in developing the project plan.The initial project plan is developed by the project team around the deliverables identified in the charter. The deliverables are broken down into work tasks (activities) through the development of a work breakdown structure. Once this is complete, the team needs to identify the task owners, durations and the precedence relationships. The precedence relationships are developed and documented using a network diagram. After the network diagram is developed, the project plan is entered in to the selected project management software for validation and schedule compression. Upon completion of the project plan compression and validation, a baseline of the plan is saved. The baseline plan is used to measure variance as the project is moved into the control mode.
The PMAlliance Control Process
The Control Process is the most important part of managing a project once a good plan has been developed. All projects should be updated on a regular basis, typically, every one to two weeks. The main objectives of project control are to:
- Gain an objective indication of the status of the project and key milestone dates
- Keep team members focused on the project and their activities
- Uncover and resolve any schedule-related problems
- Update the schedule to reflect the most current information about the project
The first step in the control process is to collect activity status information from the team members. The project plan should then be updated and the remaining activities should be rescheduled. The plan is then compared against the baseline plan and the variance is analyzed. If necessary, based on the update, the plan may need to be recompressed to meet the project deadline/key dates. The recompression is typically done with the project team. After the schedule has been recompressed, all team members need to reconfirm that they can meet the near term commitments for their assigned tasks. A project status report is then developed and distributed to the management and project team members. In some cases, a formal control meeting is held to communicate the update results directly to management and the project team members.
There are many good project management software packages available on the market today, but without a team that is well trained in sound project management principles that utilize a proven planning and control process, successful projects will be difficult if not impossible to achieve. Software is not the answer, a sound project management methodology is!