The Curse of Project Management Knowledge

Can I be painfully honest with you for a minute?

What I am about to say may not feel good. In fact, I am certain that you will NOT enjoy it.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

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.

So here it is.

How To Be More Nimble In Your Projects

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?

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

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.

7 Sharp Ways to Improve Project Quality

A lack of 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?

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

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 for success.

7 Things Project Managers Can Learn From the Weatherman

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.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Upping Your Communications Game

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Related article: 
What I Learned About Communications From a Multi-Million Dollar Software Program

8 Powerful Ways to Choose & Execute Projects

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?

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

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.

Why PMs Need BAs for Project Success

The Standish Group says three of the biggest factors that lead to failed or challenged projects are:

  1. Lack of user input
  2. Incomplete requirements
  3. Changing requirements

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.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

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:

  • Project manager
  • Requirements analyst
  • Tester
  • Facilitator and scribe
  • Trainer
  • 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.

10 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers

Just because you’ve been a project manager since the days of “Gilligan’s Island” is no guarantee that you are getting better.

As a matter of fact, you may be stumbling about trying to get off your island. Even the Skipper and the Professor can’t seem to help…encouraging…huh?

Master Good Habits Words 3d Magnifying Glass

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

I have audited many projects through the years. Without exception, the projects in troubled waters have one common factor – a lack of basic risk management.

Why do project managers resist risk management? Don’t have time. That’s like saying you don’t have time to sleep.

Tried it but no one seemed to buy in? It’s time to apply risk management in a way that demonstrates the value.

Here are ten ways to improve your project risk management and improve your chance for success.

Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time

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.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Initiating Process Group

  1. Why are we doing this project?
  2. Is your project sponsor fully engaged and on board?
  3. What is the authority level of the project manager?
  4. What do we wish to accomplish?
  5. What are the products and services we wish to deliver?
  6. What are the budget constraints?
  7. What are the schedule constraints?
  8. What assumptions are being made?
  9. Who will be impacted? Which stakeholders have the greatest interest and power?
  10. Who will comprise the project team?
  11. What are the most significant risks?

Planning Process Group

  1. Who do we need to communicate with? When? How? Why?
  2. What needs to be done? When?
  3. Will we take a traditional approach or an agile approach?
  4. Who will do each task? Is each person’s supervisor/manager in agreement (matrix environment)?
  5. What is the skill level of the project resources?
  6. How long will each task take (i.e., effort and duration)?
  7. What are the requirements?
  8. How will we ensure the quality will be managed properly?
  9. How will we identify, evaluate, respond, and monitor risks?
  10. What procurement documents are needed?

Executing Process Group

  1. Are team members focused?
  2. Are we managing the stakeholder’s expectations?
  3. Do team members have the resources required to complete their tasks?
  4. What are the roadblocks?
  5. Is the team maturing in working with one another (forming, norming, storming, performing)?
  6. Are we tracking risks, action items, issues, and decisions?

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

  1. Are we on track? If not, what can we do to get back on track?
  2. Are we managing changes appropriately? If not, how can we improve the change management process?
  3. What are the new risks? What has changed for risks previously identified? Do we need additional risk response plans?
  4. Are we planning and executing in an efficient and effective manner?
  5. Have we provided appropriate support to the team members? If problems persist, have we dealt with the problems appropriately including removal of team members.

Closing Process Group

  1. Have all the requirements been met?
  2. What went well in the project?
  3. What did not go well?
  4. If we had to do the project again, what would we do differently?
  5. Have we made the final payments and recorded final accounting transactions?
  6. Have we recorded the lessons learned?
  7. Have we delivered everything promised in the contract(s)?
  8. Have we closed out all risks in the risk register with final notations of what occurred for each risk?
  9. Have we archived the project documentation?
  10. How will we celebrate?

Question: What other key questions would you ask?

12 Good Reasons You Are Struggling With Small Projects

“Why am I still having problems with small projects?

This plaintive question is one I’m asked from time to time. I’d like to give a few brief reasons why project managers struggle with small projects.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

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.

Wow Software Users With Superior Training

Wow software users with superior training

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com

Through the years, I have seen software development project teams create awesome software.

I have also seen companies invest millions of dollars in configuring commercial-off-the-shelf solutions (COTS).

However, some of these projects failed to meet expectations. Why? Poor training.

It is ironic – the project team may invest thousands of hours in building, configuring, and testing software. The moment of truth comes when the software is presented to the end users. Why not wow the users with superior training?

Let’s look at common training risks and discuss how to reduce these risks in order to deliver higher quality training.

First, the project manager may fail to identify and engage the trainer early in the project.

Correct this by identifying the trainer early. Remember – trainers are stakeholders. Invite the trainer to the project kick-off meeting. Introduce the trainer to the project team members, particularly if the trainer is not a part of your core project team.

Second, the project manager may fail to ensure a Training Plan is defined during the Planning Process. Many times, training plans are defined towards the end of the project when the trainer is in a time crunch.

Project managers should ensure the trainer completes a high-level training plan early in the project. As Steven Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Third, the project manager may fail to keep the trainer in the loop throughout the project. Far too often, the trainer sees the software for the first time just before the software is implemented.

Keep the trainer engaged throughout the project. Invite the trainer to the requirements validation and the design review meetings. Have the developers demonstrate parts of the software during the build process or during each sprint if the team is using an Agile approach.

Last, the project manager may fail to provide adequate time for the development of the training materials and the delivery of the training.

The trainer can develop the training materials in parallel to the requirements, design, build, and testing processes or iteratively during Agile sprints. The project manager should schedule adequate time for the development and delivery of the training.

What to Include in the Training Plan

  • Project Name.
  • Project Manager.
  • Trainers.
  • Date Submitted.
  • Project ID Number.
  • Training Goals. What are the specified, measurable training goals?
  • Training Content Outline. Define a high-level outline. Refine the outline over time.
  • Training Sessions. When possible, identify the tentative training dates. If you do not know exact dates, enter the month and year. Determine how the training sessions will be delivered such as webinars, face-to-face, and/or learning management system (LMS). If face-to-face training will be offered, determine the maximum number of participants per session. Determine the physical locations.
  • Registration. How will registration occur? Will the trainees be assigned to training sessions? Will trainees register online? How will the trainer confirm registration?
  • Reporting. Determine how and when the trainer will report the individuals who have completed training. What should be included in the reports?
  • Testing. Will trainees be tested? How will trainer administer the tests? If someone fails the test, will this person be allowed to take the test again? If so, how many times?

The rubber meets the road in the training. Make training a high priority. Identify and engage the trainer early. Keep the trainer in the loop. Schedule adequate time for developing and delivering superior training.

Question: What tips do you have for improving software training?