What I am about to say may not feel good. In fact, I am certain that you will NOT enjoy it.
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I have been hoping someone else would do the dirty work. But no one has stepped forward (at least that I know of).
You know how you’ve been struggling with your projects? Are you tired feeling like you live on another planet, and no one understands you.
Well, it’s not because you aren’t trying. It’s not because you don’t follow the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). After all, you have your Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. You are a cut above the rest in your knowledge of project management.
Some project managers feel like they are running a race with weights tied to their legs. There are so many hoops to jump through…so many forms to complete…so many stakeholders to please. How can we move quickly, easily, and lightly?
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Yes, Jack can be nimble, and Jack can be quick, but it will require that we break some old habits. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Try some new things to increase your speed.
A lack of project quality management can have profound effects on projects –rework, schedule delays, higher cost, frustration, morale problems, and lack of customer satisfaction. Can project managers afford not to focus on this critical aspect of project management?
I ask in my quality management training sessions, “When buying eyeglasses, what quality aspects are important to you?” I hear comments such as “The glasses fit nicely. The glasses have the features I wanted. I like the style of the glasses.”
Other individuals talk about the quality customer experience: how they are greeted, how quickly they see the ophthalmologist, how easy it is to find their frames, and the fast, accurate checkout process.
Projects are similar–project customers, whether internal or external, receive deliverables and encounter project processes. How do your customers describe their deliverables and customer experience? Do your customers feel they are getting remarkable value?
Here are some common quality management mistakes. Overcoming these mistakes can greatly improve your chance of success.
Weathermen have an allotted time to forecast the weather. How do they deliver the most important information in a brief amount of time? How do weathermen determine what to say? Let’s explore seven ways to communicate more effectively.
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Know your audience. Weathermen (men and women) know their audience. If the audience has an interest in NASCAR and football, guess what – the weatherman will give weather forecasts for those events. Other people want to know about travel conditions. Good communicators provide the right information at the right time to the right people.
Keep the communications brief and to the point. Have you ever noticed? Weathermen don’t talk about wind currents at 30,000 feet or the temperature on Mars. Why? It doesn’t matter to most people. Find out what your audience needs and deliver it succinctly, particularly to individuals in senior positions.
Share your confidence level. Weathermen have the daunting task of analyzing lots of variables they don’t control and making a forecast. Sometimes the forecast is a piece of cake; others times, the task is seemingly impossible with multiple weather fronts converging. Seasoned weathermen give the forecast, but they also share the factors that may impact the accuracy of the forecast. To do otherwise is to leave people thinking the weatherman knows exactly what’s coming. When providing project estimates, be sure to share the factors that may impact the actual results and when you will provide revised forecasts.
Use different communication methods. There are several communication methods that are used to share information. Weathermen use “push communication” to send information through television broadcasts. They use “pull communication” such as a website to allow individuals to access information as needed. Good communicators also use “interactive communication” which allows individuals to have a dialogue one-on-one, in meetings, or by phone.
Use visuals. Weathermen are great at sharing maps and models to help their audience understand the changing weather conditions. When possible, share graphics, pictures, and other visuals to help improve your communications.
Communicate through multiple channels. Wherever we go, we can get the weather forecast – on TV, on the radio, and through social media. Good communicators aren’t lazy – they disseminate information through different channels and in different formats. Everyone has a chance to get the message.
Ask for feedback. Weather stations conduct surveys to find out how they can improve their services and if they are communicating appropriately. Ask your sponsor, your team members, and other project managers for feedback on how to improve your communications. Listen. Take action to make the necessary changes.
Your company’s future is at hand. Select and execute the right projects and you will reach your greatest potential. Select the wrong projects and you will fall behind your competition—possibly crash and burn.
I have seen companies wrestle with the project selection process for years. Which projects should we choose? Do we have the right resources to execute the projects?
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A Sad But Common Story
Here’s a common scenario. Senior management has grand ideas on enhancing an existing product and leaping past the competition. The project sponsor has declared a six month project deadline.
The project manager expresses concern: there is insufficient information to determine whether the project can be delivered within six months. The project sponsor says we have no choice. Do the best you can.
The Standish Group says three of the biggest factors that lead to failed or challenged projects are:
Lack of user input
We should attack these threats with a vengeance. How can we do this? We add skilled requirements analyst such as business analysts (BAs) to our teams.
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When Project Managers Need Business Analysts
The role of the project manager (PM) is to achieve the project’s goals or objectives. Who performs the business analysis tasks for the projects? That depends.
For small projects, the project manager may assume many roles including but not be limited to:
Facilitator and scribe
Chief bottle washer (just kidding)
For larger projects, PMs must find ways to complete project tasks through others. They must not fall into the trap of doing everything themselves. Wise PMs recruit team members with the necessary skills and talents.
The success of a project manager largely lies in the individual’s ability to communicate. Some project managers have great oratory skills but don’t ask the right questions at the right time.
Here are some key questions for each of the project management process groups (PMBOK). This is not meant to be a comprehensive list; just some questions to get you thinking. Neither will you need to ask all of these questions for every project.
Keep in mind, the project process groups are seldom sequential, one-time events; they are overlapping activities that occur throughout the project.
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Initiating Process Group
Why are we doing this project?
Is your project sponsor fully engaged and on board?
What is the authority level of the project manager?
What do we wish to accomplish?
What are the products and services we wish to deliver?
What are the budget constraints?
What are the schedule constraints?
What assumptions are being made?
Who will be impacted? Which stakeholders have the greatest interest and power?
1. You think small projects are simple. In general, smaller projects have less risk. However, some small projects touch a complex set of variables.
Be sure to analyze the complexity of the project. For example, you may engage your team to draw a context diagram and/or a data flow diagrams early in the project. This exercise allows the team to understand the context of the project.
Most of us have personal goals and/or professional goals. Our ability to achieve those goals is dependent on our risk management skills, that is our ability to manage opportunities and threats. We seek to make good things (opportunities) happen and to eliminate or reduce the bad things (threats).
Through the years, I have captured my favorite quotes related to the art and science of risk management. I hope you enjoy the insights as well as the humor.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” -NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICAN STATESMAN
“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” -THOMAS JEFFERSON, U.S. PRESIDENT
“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.” —EARL NIGHTINGALE, MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER AND AUTHOR
“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses those skills to accomplish his goals.” —LARRY BIRD, NBA PLAYER AND COACH
“The world is getting to be such a dangerous place, a man is lucky to get out of it alive.” -W.C. FIELDS, COMEDIAN AND MOVIE STAR
“There is a myth that people hate change. Not true! What scares them isn’t change, it’s uncertainty. They worry about whether the changes are good or bad. People love change when it involves pleasant surprises. What they fear are the unpleasant ones.” -ALAN MULALLY, CEO OF FORD MOTOR COMPANY
“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.” —WINSTON CHURCHILL, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.” —FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, U.S. PRESIDENT
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” —GEORGE S. PATTON, GENERAL IN THE U.S. ARMY
“The man who comes up with a means for doing or producing almost anything better, faster, or more economically has his future and his fortune at his fingertips.” —J. PAUL GETTY, ANGLO-AMERICAN INDUSTRIALIST
“Not only do I not know what’s going on, I wouldn’t know what to do about it if I did.” -GEORGE CARLIN, COMEDIAN
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” -SUN-TZU, CHINESE GENERAL AND MILITARY STRATEGIST
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.” -GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, IRISH PLAYWRIGHT RISK
“They that are on their guard and appear ready to receive their adversaries are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, secure and negligent.” -BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, SCIENTIST, PUBLISHER, AND DIPLOMAT
When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it. -YOGI BERRA, BASEBALL PLAYER
“100 percent of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.” -WAYNE GRETZKY, PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY PLAYER
“You decide what it is you want to accomplish and then you lay out your plans to get there, and then you just do it. It’s pretty straightforward.” —NANCY DITZ, MARATHONER
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.” —JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, GERMAN WRITER AND POLYMATH
“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” -GROUCHO MARX, COMEDIAN AND MOVIE STAR
“I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.” -RODNEY DANGERFIELD, COMEDIAN
Question: What is your favorite quote related to goals, threats, or opportunities?