IDEAS INTO ACTION: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER BRAINSTORMING?

Many project management teams are good at brainstorming new ways to make their processes more efficient and to devise strategies that allow them to have repeatable successes. But sometimes moving those innovations into practice is harder than coming up with the ideas in the first place. How good is your PMO at turning all those good intentions into action? Below we’ve put together 3 steps to help you make sure the seeds sown during brainstorming sessions have the opportunity to grow into real fruit.

1 – Keep track of ideas. Your team is too busy to remember all the great suggestions that come up in brainstorming meetings, so make a record of everything—notes, screenshots, whiteboard postulating, etc. Don’t sell the process short by editing the list too early or too much. And remember that an idea may be introduced before its time, so a periodic review of the list is helpful in keeping things from slipping off the radar.

2 – Assign every good idea to one person for further review. Too many promising concepts fade into obscurity because no one shepherds them along. Rather than allowing useful ideas to fall through the cracks, give them a home by assigning each one to a member of the project team. That person can then evaluate the idea’s real-world viability and identify potential issues that could affect implementation.

3 – Follow up. Project Managers are busy, and the best way to keep good ideas on the front burner is to create a schedule for routine follow ups. These will allow the group to get together for updates on pending ideas. They can then continue vetting the ideas, offer potential solutions to any problems that have been identified, or come to a consensus that an idea isn’t feasible or doesn’t return enough benefit to continue exploring it.

Project Management professional

 

THE TASK CONUNDRUM

In project management, there are two schools of thought on doling out tasks to team members—assign all tasks at the beginning of the project, or assign them as they come up in the project schedule. Each method has merits, along with some notable pitfalls. Here we examine both strategies to see what’s good about each, and where problems may lurk.

Assign at the beginning of the project

Benefits of this approach are felt at both the team and individual levels. Project professionals often feel they are better able to juggle tasks for multiple projects simultaneously when they can budget their time early in the process. From the team’s perspective, assigning tasks during the initial project phase may allow resources to be more efficiently managed across the overall project load. Possible downsides include increased susceptibility to delays, due to the unavailability of the person responsible for the task. If one individual gets behind, the effects may be magnified across the entire team.

Assign when the task is ready to begin

This strategy may enable PMOs to eliminate delays by leveraging available resources on a just-in-time basis, rather than wait for a specific individual to begin the task. It may also facilitate a generalist approach to project management by ensuring team members have opportunities to oversee a variety of tasks, rather than just those in their areas of expertise. Potential concerns include the delays that may occur if a task languishes before being assigned, and the unavailability of a team member suited for the task if there is a requirement for a specific skill set.

A team comprised of high performers could likely use either strategy successfully, assuming that some things—communication channels, stakeholder expectations, etc.—were well established and carefully managed. How have these approaches worked in your own experience?

PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consulting services.

Confronting Challenges by Adding a Project Management Consulting Firm to Your Team

There are many reasons that corporate executives turn to external consultants to provide project management support for their projects. The challenges that organizations face include: sub-par project performance, the potential for lost credibility, lack of experience with a particular project type, and a lack of internal project management practitioners. Project management consulting firms can supply experienced practitioners that offer high-quality solutions to the complex issues facing project teams. Here are six ways that project management consulting firms are making a difference with leading organizations.

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Going Beyond Mentoring

Mentoring remains an important way for project management professionals to expand their knowledge base (6 reasons-mentoring still matters), but sometimes your needs go beyond what a mentor can provide. We’ve outlined a few instances where a different kind of expert might have the information or expertise you’re seeking.

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Project Management Documentation Tips: Forms & Templates

Forms and templates are the foundation for many types of project documents. Rather than putting unnecessary effort into creating new forms for each project, the use of existing forms and templates can streamline your project’s documentation requirements, and allow your team to focus on higher-level objectives. A variety of resources are available to you when looking for ready-made forms, and a few simple tips will help keep your project’s momentum moving forward when truly custom forms are needed.

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Project Management : The Power of the Checklist

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.

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Documentation Tips: Archival

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.

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Conducting a Useful Post Mortem Analysis

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.

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Software is a Tool, Not the Answer to Project Planning & Control

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:

  1. Define the Project
  2. Develop an Initial Project Plan
  3. 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:

  1. Gain an objective indication of the status of the project and key milestone dates
  2. Keep team members focused on the project and their activities
  3. Uncover and resolve any schedule-related problems
  4. 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.

Conclusion

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!

PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consultingproject management training and project office development services.