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…)

Top 10 Most Popular Project Management Articles of 2014

By | December 30th, 2014|Project Management Software, Time Management|0 Comments

When it comes to project management related topics year 2014 was no more special than any other year. Readers from all over the world visited our blog searching for answers and advices to their questions and problems. Here is a list with the top 10 most read articles starting with the one with the most visits:

  1. Creating Budget Or Cost Baselines For Projects
  2. CAPM® Exam – How to Pass It and Is it Worth It?
  3. Advantages and Benefits of Project Management Software
  4. Work Breakdown Structure Made Easy
  5. Traditional and Agile Project Management in a Nutshell
  6. Time Management In Project Management
  7. Managing Projects Using Project Baselines
  8. Which Set of Skills Is Crucial for a Project Manager: Soft Skills or Hard Skills?
  9. Is There a Project Management Methodology for One-Person Projects?
  10. How Important is Domain Knowledge for the Project Manager?

It can easily be seen that there is no particular topic that visitors are especially looking for. However it seems many of them are interested to know more regarding the work with baselines. Otherwise several blog posts are related to improving the skills required to better plan and manage projects – on short users want to become better as project managers.

Of course readers feedback is welcomed for the new 2015 year.

Talent Management at Project Team Level

Talent ManagementAny organization thrives or fails because of its people. It is no wonder that so many highly successful organizations, like Samsung, Intel, IKEA, Procter and Gamble, just to name a few, invest in talent management. Talent management refers to “a set of integrated organizational HR processes designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees” according to the staff at Johns Hopkins University. For organizations that carry out projects, talent management also means equipping team members with the right mix of technical, project management, and leadership skills, according to the authors of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession “In-Depth Report: Talent Management.” Here are four reasons why any organization that does projects should invest in talent management:

1. Talent management improves projects’ performance.

According to the authors of PMI’s “Talent Management” white paper, organizations that invest in talent management are more likely to succeed in projects than organizations where talent management is poorly aligned with organizational strategy.

2. Talent management means having the right people for the right project roles at the right time.

Effective talent management ensures the organization has qualified team members and project managers ready for any new project when the need arises. As such organizations will not have to wait to recruit new talent, and delay a project’s start, having the right staff available can turn into a competitive advantage.

3. Talent management leads to motivated, and thus productive, team members.

Giving team members the opportunity to grow professionally and personally by developing their technical skills, project management skills, and soft skills, and providing them with mentoring and coaching sessions can motivate employees. Of course, not all employees will take advantage of those opportunities, but those who do will become even more valuable for the project and the organization. (more…)

RationalPlan 4.8 – Hungarian Language Support, Ubuntu Adoption and Earned Value Analysis

By | May 12th, 2014|News, RationalPlan|1 Comment

Stand By Soft is pleased to announce the release of version 4.8 for RationalPlan project management suite. Current version comes with significant changes that will certainly help users: Hungarian language was added, Ubuntu integration, support for Earned Value Analysis, tasks distribution in Timesheet view, improved filtering and many other features.

RationalPlan is a project management suite that started as a desktop application designed to run on all major operating systems – Windows, Linux and Mac OS X – but it evolved into an embedded management system that is now available even as a cloud service both for individuals and for companies that need a distributed solution with concurrent access from multiple users.

Important changes for this version:

  • Added possibility for Earned Value Analysis – including CV, SV, CPI, SPI, ACWP, BCWP, BCWS related values
  • Better integration with Ubuntu
  • The products are now also available in Hungarian
  • Tomcat 8 compatibility for the On Premise solution
  • Added tasks distribution in Timesheet view
  • More work on filters
  • Also export data to Microsoft Project .xml format when working with the Server
  • Also export the reschedule date to .xls
  • Changes related to email notifications for resources
  • Added information about documents on tasks in the Info column
  • Compatibility with Google Calendar – updated libraries for iCalendar integration
  • Project import into Server should not be done if you do not have rights to add projects, resources, calendars and clients

At multiple users requests it was added the possibility to perform Earned Value Analysis. Users are now able to work with well known entities like CV, SV, CPI, SPI, ACWP, BCWP, BCWS. For those that are more interested on this subject, the team behind RationalPlan prepared some short tutorials on Earned Value Management. (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…)

The Voice of Project Managers Around the Globe Through Social Media

By | September 24th, 2013|Contests, Project Management|Comments Off on The Voice of Project Managers Around the Globe Through Social Media

It all started some time ago when I heard about a project management related podcast hosted by Cesar Abeid. I am talking about Project Management for the Masses podcast. I did not give too much credits to it until an interesting episode caught my attention: “Stop Hiring Project Managers!” and decided to listen to it.

Now the fun part is that although initially I wanted to listen to the podcast intrigued by the title, in the end I got to hear about an initiative of Shim Marom, a PM in Australia, in which he was trying to get a number of PM bloggers to write a blog post with the same title, to be released on the same day, at the same time: a PM Flash Blog. The interesting part is that it is the first PM Flash Blog.

Participants are from all over the world and the theme selected  is “What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon“. Publication date has been set to 25 September 2013 at 01:00 GMT and posts will be tagged on social media with #pmFlashBlog.

Happy writing everyone!

Fixing a Project that is Behind Schedule

By | July 31st, 2013|Project Tracking, Resource Management, Risk Management|1 Comment

project behind scheduleA project being delayed may seem a reason to panic but schedule slippage is not as rare as some might expect. Depending on the project, there may be things that can be done to fix a delayed project. In some cases, however, there is no choice other than cancelling the project. Before listing any solutions,  there are things that should not be done, at least for most delayed projects.

Just Work Harder?

A simplistic solution for a delayed project is putting up more effort to catch up with the schedule. Some claim that this is as easy as estimating how behind you are and how faster you need to go to catch up. But doing more in less time is only possible if the team has not operated at their full productivity so far, or has not used the most efficient tools possible, and the project being delayed is only a question of improving efficiency or simply the work climate. Overtime work may be a solution but only for a limited amount of time and in the right environment. It actually creates a negative work climate, which has a detrimental effect on the schedule. So is there a way to fix a delayed project?

The Cause of “Evil”

As with all problems, minimizing or cancelling the symptoms does not eliminate the cause and the problem re-emerges. You need to identify the cause of the discrepancy between schedule and reality. You cannot tell that from analyzing the schedule unless there is a specific task that is causing delays or an artificial task dependency. In the first case, add expert resources to bring back on track the delayed task. In the second case, eliminate the artificial task dependency.

3 Ways to Fix a Delayed Project

If you find out that the project schedule is slipping because you have an unclear scope, or a scope creep, you have a serious problem and the project is likely a death march. However in many cases, the team is very good, all tasks were done efficiently, but the project schedule was very optimistic. If it is so, discuss with the management and project sponsor and look for solutions: (more…)

Is There a Project Management Methodology for One-Person Projects?

By | June 13th, 2013|Project Management Methodology, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Is There a Project Management Methodology for One-Person Projects?

If you are an employee of a small organization or of a research institution, or just a freelancer, you are likely dealing with one-person projects. You are the team, you are the project manager, so you are responsible for all project documentation, communication, and, of course, project work.

Before you start looking for the right project management software and methodology, make sure you were assigned a project and not just a task or a set of interrelated tasks to accomplish a goal. A project has a definite beginning and end, and its aim is to create a unique product or service. It also has definite resources and usually its timeframe is defined by the organization. If indeed you were assigned a project, it is useful to approach it from a project management perspective in order to complete the work in an efficient manner, taking advantage of the knowledge, tools, and techniques of project management.

All projects have scope, deliverables, resources, and budget. For one-person projects, you are in charge of planning, executing, and monitoring your work, and you are accountable for the project’s outcome. Almost any project management methodology can be applied to one-person projects, with some exceptions. For example, applying Scrum is arguably not possible because there is no Scrum Master or Product Owner. But if you have volatile project requirements, an agile management approach is likely to fit your project, so you can use Scrum or other agile process as a basis to create your own version of the methodology and tailor it for your specific project. (more…)

Project Team Productivity – Problems and Solutions

By | May 23rd, 2013|Resource Management, Risk Management, Team Management, Time Management|Comments Off on Project Team Productivity – Problems and Solutions

Team productivity isTeam Productivity a source of risk in any project. Low team productivity can trigger other issues, including schedule delays, unsatisfactory quality of the deliverables, low team morale, which, in turn, can all lead to the project’s failure. The project management approach, the project manager’s skills, the changes in project scope are some of the risk factors for a team’s productivity. But often the issues and conflicts that arise from the team itself are the causes of low productivity. The productivity can suffer when the teams are distributed rather than collocated, and when there are cultural differences among team members, since both situations can generate conflict and miscommunication.

Collocated vs. Distributed Project Teams

Since creating a cohesive team depends on how the team members communicate and bond with each other, there can be significant differences in productivity between collocated and distributed teams. In collocated teams, communication is facilitated because all team members are physically in the same environment. However, with the modern communication technologies, including videoconferencing, e-mail, and VoIP, distributed teams can also communicate effectively. As a technical report from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, demonstrates, one of the problems in distributed teams is that members do not bond as easily as the members of collocated teams do, so it can be difficult for collaborators to trust each other. As a result, the teams do not work effectively together, which is likely to decrease productivity and even generate conflicts. There is obviously no quick fix for this problem.

Risks to Productivity in Agile Projects

Having a cohesive team that works well together is crucial especially in agile projects, where the teams are self-organizing and even cross-functional at times. On the one hand, having distributed teams is becoming necessary for many organizations in order to keep their costs low, find the best talent, and keep up with the their competitors. On the other hand, having distributed teams in agile projects adds a new layer of complexity to the project, not only because the teams are self-organizing, but also because daily meetings can be difficult with local time differences. The productivity can suffer. The role of the project manager, if any, is crucial. This person needs to be a leader and be able to motivate the team to work effectively, solve issues when they arise, and prevent conflicts. In large agile projects, organizing the distributed team in smaller teams, and having a project manager to facilitate communication between teams can be a partial solution. (more…)

How to Deal with a Lazy Team Member

By | April 9th, 2013|Project Management, Resource Management, Risk Management, Team Management|Comments Off on How to Deal with a Lazy Team Member

lazy team memberWorking with people is almost never a simple matter, but it can become even more complicated when the project manager has to deal with a lazy team member. In many cases, dismissing the person from the team is not a possible or acceptable solution. As the project manager, you have to find other ways to deal with this problem, and quickly.

Who Labeled the Team Member as “Lazy”?

Determine the basis on which the team member was labeled as “lazy”. If he or she was classified as such by the other team members, they might not be objective. This is why it is important to analyze the performance evaluation reports, which should have clear metrics for monitoring all team members’ evolution.

Lazy or Performing at a Different Pace than Others?

Sometimes, a team member is not lazy at all, but only performs slower than others, while still bringing value to your team. In this case, you need to understand why the team member takes longer than others to perform a task. You may be dealing with a perfectionist, or a person who does not like his or her role in the team.

If, based on documentation, you conclude that the team member does not only perform tasks at a slower pace than others, but constantly underperforms, fails to meet deadlines, demonstrates a continuous lack of commitment to work, it means the person is genuinely lazy and a danger to the project. You need to find a solution fast. (more…)