Want to get project disciplines into your organization fast? Here’s how

By | April 21st, 2016|Project Management, Project Management Software|0 Comments

 Introducing Project Disciplines is hard work

Lots of companies find introducing project disciplines slow, difficult and not very exciting.  Staff often show resistance and it can be hard to get buy in and commitment at executive level where other stuff is seen as more important or pressing.

Well here’s some good news.  The best way to get some project disciplines in fast is to buy a project management package.

But before you get too excited and start reaching for the cheque book, you need to make sure that you chose the right package.

Choose the right project management software

Choose the right software and accompany it with a process for running projects and some training and you’re cooking on gas.

If you choose well, your project management package will do all of the following:

  • Provide the means for project managers to produce plans and keep them up to date
  • Capture time worked and optimise staff utilisation
  • Capture and track financials
  • Monitor project status and publish project status reports
  • Facilitate executive level reporting on all of the above

(more…)

Brainstorming – Trendy or Not?

By | January 16th, 2015|Business Management, Project Management, Risk Management|0 Comments

BrainstormingIt’s popular. It’s a classic. Those who endorse it say it’s an effective technique for generating many ideas but not a standalone method, so it should be used with other creative techniques. Those who criticize it say it generates mediocre ideas that are likely never implemented as solutions to problems. But this 60-year old technique called brainstorming – whose effectiveness is an evergreen hot topic among researchers, users, and critics – helps to identify project risks.

Brainstorming – The Definition

According to Merriam-Webster, brainstorming is “a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; also: the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem”.

Brainstorming – The Story

A technique with a catchy name, brainstorming has been around since the 1950s when Alex Osborn’s book Your Creative Power was published, becoming a best-seller. This book may be “an amalgam of pop science and business anecdote”, as Jonah Lehrer called it in a New Yorker article that triggered lots of e-ink on discussion forums, but brainstorming is easy to implement and generates many ideas. Besides that, it’s a great team-building exercise, which may also justify its popularity with businesses. A brainstorming session emphasizes the quantity, not quality, of ideas and one of the rules to brainstorming sessions is no criticism so that people do not fear their ideas are rejected by the group and, thus, limit their imagination.

Brainstorming Types

There’s individual and group brainstorming, with individual brainstorming being better for problem solving and group brainstorming better for identifying project risks. Group brainstorming draws from the intelligence and experiences of more people but ideas expressed loudly may be biased since people do worry about others’ opinions even if one of Osborn’s rules for group brainstorming is “no criticism”. Online brainstorming—a sub-type of group brainstorming—uses e-brainstorming tools to help remote teams share their ideas in real time. (more…)

Autocratic or Participative Project Manager: Which Type Are You?

By | August 26th, 2014|Project Management|0 Comments

There are as many types of project managers as there are projects, so any attempt to create the ultimate classification of project managers would equal chasing rainbows. However, since a project manager is essentially a manager, I’ll talk about the two main types of project managers classified according to the style of management they are adopting: autocratic and participative.

Autocratic Project Managers

Autocratic management strictly means the manager makes all the decisions, without involving the team members. But such a project manager would obviously be a bad project manager – imagine planning a project without involving the team, estimating the duration of tasks without the team’s input, making all decisions without considering the team. So by autocratic project manager, I mean a project manager with a tendency towards autocracy, not autocratic in the purest sense of the word.

You can think of this kind of project manager as the traditional manager – not the “whip in hand” manager, but one who makes most decisions unilaterally, with minor input from the project team. Such a project manager is able to make quick decisions and, if he or she is technically competent and experienced, those can be good decisions. When you have a newly formed team, unwilling to express their opinions or give their input, an experienced project manager with an autocratic tendency may be what the team needs. Also, in a crisis requiring swift decisions, an autocratic project manager is what it takes. Nevertheless, such project manager imposes authority rather than solves problems through negotiation with the team, and on the long term, the project may suffer from poor team coherence. (more…)

Earned Value Management—An “Overhead” View (PART 2: EVM Drawbacks and Benefits)

By | May 23rd, 2014|Project Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Tracking|Comments Off on Earned Value Management—An “Overhead” View (PART 2: EVM Drawbacks and Benefits)

Earned value management (EVM) is an efficient methodology for monitoring and predicting project performance only if it is correctly and timely applied. Otherwise, it can become a negative risk for the project, as it ends up consuming managers’ and project teams’ time without producing accurate estimates.

EVM Drawbacks or Limitations

Putting an EVM system in place attracts implementation costs, training costs, software costs, and other associated costs. In addition, generally only organizations with a mature project management system – that is, those that use well-defined processes and procedures consistently across projects – rely on EVM. Organizations that have inconsistent project management practices or little experience with projects may have more to lose than to win if attempting to invest their efforts into using EVM, as it requires accurate project planning and effective change management practices. Proper project planning includes, among many others, documenting requirements well and creating a good work breakdown structure – both essential for EVM.

If the project plan is faulty, EVM will result in misleading results, which are not only a waste of time and effort, but may also lead to project failure. Some organizations start employing EVA analyses in their projects, only to find out later that they got no reliable results. Instead, they realize that employing this technique only added to the cost of managing their projects. Usually, in these situations, the culprit is not EVA, but a missing earned value management system, which may well be the case in an organization with little experience in running projects. (more…)

Earned Value Management—An “Overhead” View (PART 1: EVM Basics)

Despite being one of those topics that put project management students into the doldrums, earned value management remains the most effective way for monitoring project performance. It is a project management methodology used by the U.S. Department of Defense and by many private companies all over the world. Besides a PMBOK chapter and the U.S. Department of Defense EVM Implementation Guide, many other resources cover this topic.

This article—structured in two parts—outlines earned value management in an attempt to provide a starting point for anyone interested in exploring the topic or wanting to decide if it is something his or her organization might use.

EVM, EV, EVA, and EVMS—Not Interchangeable Acronyms

According to the authors of the PMBOK, earned value management (EVM) “integrates project scope, cost, and schedule measures to help the project management team assess and measure project performance and progress.” EVM is a system for project management control that uses earned value as a criterion.

PMBOK defines earned value (EV) as “the value of work performed expressed in terms of approved budget assigned to that work for an activity or work breakdown structure component. It is the authorized work that has been completed, plus the authorized budget for such completed work.” (more…)

Recognizing and Avoiding Project Team Burnout

“Death march projects are the norm, not the exception,” says Edward Yourdon, the author of the Death March, a book about surviving highly stressful, irrational projects in the software industry. Many organizations promote “death march” projects – those with unrealistic goals and schedules – to keep up with the competition in their respective industries. As a result, project teams work overtime to meet unrealistic goals and schedules, sometimes with insufficient resources, only to reach the burnout phase. The productivity declines, the absenteeism rate increases, and the team is unable to meet requirements. A burnout team means that the employees’ job satisfaction diminishes and that they cannot perform their tasks and meet deadlines. The consequence is a failed current project and a high probability of failure of the next project.

Recognizing team burnout and taking steps toward avoiding it are essential for avoiding cost repercussions for the organization.

“Burnout can be defined as feelings of exhaustion, a cynical attitude toward the job and people involved in the job and through a reduced personal accomplishment or work efficiency,” according to a dieBerater report.

Many things can trigger team burnout besides death march projects. These include poor project planning (cost, time, and resources), customer changes, micromanagement, high workload, time pressures, insufficient project manager support, as well as insufficient training and decision-making opportunities.

Exhausted teams tend to focus on achieving the results by working harder rather than smarter. The team members fail to use creativity to develop efficient solutions, so they become frustrated, communicate less, and work inefficiently. (more…)

Costly Mistake: Communicating Ineffectively with Project Stakeholders

By | March 24th, 2014|Project Management, Resource Management, Team Management|Comments Off on Costly Mistake: Communicating Ineffectively with Project Stakeholders

More than half of what an organization spends on a project is at risk due to ineffective communication, warn the authors of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: The Essential Role of Communications. Over 50% of the project managers surveyed by PMI researchers nominate effective communication as the most important factor that contributes to any project’s success.

Since the project manager is the main person responsible for communication, a project manager that engages in ineffective communications endangers the project. Communicating effectively with all stakeholders starts with understanding what effective communication is and who the project’s stakeholders are.

Defining Effective Communication

“Effective communication takes place only when the listener clearly understands the message that the speaker intended to send.” (University of Pittsburgh)

“Effective communication is about getting your message across.” (Nature)

Effective communication is transmitting a message the receiver clearly understands. Since most messages a project manager transmits are time-sensitive, effective communication in the project management realm also implies timely transmission and reception of the correct message.

Tips for Communicating Effectively with Stakeholders

Identify all stakeholders of your project, starting with the team members, project sponsor, and the customers. Rank their communication needs and define a communication plan. Who and when do you need to update? Whose feedback do you need and how often do you need it? Since stakeholders in each category have different levels of technical expertise, pay attention to the language complexity. For example, you can use technical jargon with your team members, but you might need to convey the same message for the customer in layman’s terms so that you do not bury the message in jargon.

Besides transmitting the right message to the right stakeholder at the right time, effective communication implies effective listening to the stakeholders. Ensure there is no misunderstanding in the messages you get from the stakeholders just like you ensure they understand your messages.

Formal and Informal Communication

A good way to ensure effective communication with your team members is to promote informal communication besides reports, status updates, or planned team meetings that are part of your communication plan. Ensure all your team members can openly express their opinions. Let them know your door is always open for informal discussions about the project. And when they do have questions, give comprehensive answers. (more…)

5 Reasons Even a Small Project Needs a Project Manager

By | March 13th, 2014|Project Management, Risk Management, Team Management|Comments Off on 5 Reasons Even a Small Project Needs a Project Manager

Why hire a project manager for running a small project? “The team can multitask; they just need to organize their workload.” “The project is simple; the team needs no leadership – they just need to get the work done.” “We can spare no money; a project manager is a luxury we cannot afford.”

A project manager may seem an extra cost to the organization, but in reality, a good project manager helps to keep the cost of the project low, the customer’s satisfaction high, and the risks to the project under control. If an organization wants its small project to succeed, that project needs a project manager. If resources are limited, a part-time project manager might be the choice. Indeed, some small projects may be simple, and team members can, and usually do, multitask, but the need for a project manager remains. Project managers do more than just organizing the work of the team members. Here are just five reasons even a small project needs a project manager.

Large or small implies the same constraints

A small project is no different from a large project in terms of constraints like cost and time. All project constraints must be taken into account for the project to succeed. To complete a project in time and within budget means the team needs to work efficiently. But usually the project team is more focused on making the deliverables successful than they are focused on making the project successful. The project manager focuses on both the success of the deliverables and the success of the project. By taking the burden of project management from the team members’, they can fully focus on executing the project. The project manager manages the project so that the team can manage the work.

Planning is a must

It is too easy to skip the planning phase of a small project. Because a small project is considered simple, the team might be tempted to skip planning and start working on the deliverables. But the lack of planning triggers rework, missed deadlines, and schedule delays. The motivational speaker Brian Tracy said, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.” The project manager plans the project so that the team can efficiently execute the work and complete the deliverables. Ideally, there is no rework and, thus, the team spends less time on the project, which translates into lower costs for the organization. (more…)

Are You Micromanaging Your Project Team?

By | November 20th, 2013|Project Management, Team Management|Comments Off on Are You Micromanaging Your Project Team?

Being a diligent project manager is a quality, just like being detail-oriented is an advantage in most professions. Over-diligence, just like perfectionism, is desirable in some situations, while in all others over-diligence becomes an obstacle in the way of getting things done.

Micromanaging means over-supervising each task that the team members need to complete, not delegating tasks, and, ultimately, not trusting the team members and their competencies.

Micromanaging is not bad essentially. It is just a very inefficient, and thus costly, way of managing people to achieve the desired outcome. Micromanagement is actually useful in some situations, such as when an inexperienced team member needs to complete a task that would be too risky to not complete perfectly, or when an employee has demonstrated that he or she cannot be trusted. Micromanagement, to some extent, may even be useful in the early stage of a project.

In most other situations, micromanagement frustrates everyone involved, and hurts the project. It steals the project manager’s time that should be spent on motivating the team and keeping the project on track. Micromanagement undermines the team’s morale and impedes the project’s progress.

Are you Micromanaging?

You are “guilty” of micromanaging, in situations when you should not, if you recognize yourself in all or some of the following statements:

  • You prefer to complete the team members’ tasks yourself because you are convinced you can do it better than they could.
  • You organize several-hour-long status report meetings more often than you need to.
  • You tell your team members all the tiny steps they need to take to complete their work.
  • You monitor everyone’s progress closely, but you are losing sight of the project’s progress.
  • You allow your team members to make no decisions.
  • You think perfectionism is the best quality of a project manager. (more…)

From To Do Lists to Managing Projects – The Path From Personal to Professional Management

By | October 29th, 2013|Project Management, Project Management Training|Comments Off on From To Do Lists to Managing Projects – The Path From Personal to Professional Management

from personal to professional

Personal life is a good place to start testing the managing skills and also to improve them. Once someone gets to the point when he thinks he is the master of his day by day life he can start extending his skills on his professional life.

No one was born an expert. We all start from low and through study, hard work and exercise will eventually get there. But in time and with patience… This process should start in childhood with the help of parents and continuously evolve in time. Being an organized person will always help in any working domain. Personal life is the right place to practice on. And the best part is that it can be done for free, without constraints and with minimum failure risks.

Know what to do and when

In order to reach the final outcome for any type of work it is important to know what needs to be done and when. Once it is established a to do list it is a good practice to prioritize it. A logical pattern should be followed to reach a goal. One must decide what is going to have the biggest impact either in good or in bad on the final deliverable.

Prepare for battle

Knowing what to do is not enough to be efficient. Nowadays people tend to have so much things to accomplish that they just get distracted from one objective to another. Meditation and exercise are some of the tools that should be used to refocus, that will help anyone to move from one day to another and to stay on track.

A well done plan is the key to efficiency. One solution to achieve it is to do part of the work in the evening – organizational stuff – that will set you up in no time for the next morning. Dead simple: prepare it and then just jump in to get it done.

To mix or not to mix – that is the question

OK, suppose one has what it needs to manage both his life and his job. But is it a good thing to mix them? For simple tasks this may not be a problem but if things get more complicated at work it is a good idea to separate them. Failure in personal life has a smaller impact and will influence only the close people. However not meeting a deadline within a project can be a major risk with a large impact over many people and with high costs… (more…)