How to Deal With Pre-assigned Project Resources

Life is not easy. We are dealt hands that can be difficult. Project managers may be pre-assigned resources internally and externally that lack the skills and knowledge required for their projects.

How to Deal WithPre-assigned

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Why do we always feel like we get the left-over resources?

What can we do? Jump ship. Give up. Find another job. Let’s try some other strategies.

  1. Negotiate. First, determine who assigns the resources? Is it a functional manager? Does your organization have a resource manager? Will a vendor or supplier provide resources? Second, meet to discuss the goals of your project and the knowledge and skills that will be required for success. Third, recommend resources for the team.
  2. Influence. What do we do if we work for a large organization where we do not have access to the individuals making the assignments? Someone has access to these people. Does your sponsor have access? Does your manager have the right connections. If so, influence the people you know and make your case. Ask your connections to influence the decision makers.
  3. Acquire outside resources. When your organization lacks staff to complete the required project activities, see if you can acquire outside resources. Here is one reason that project managers need to be involved in projects early. You can make your case and build the resource cost in your budget. Carefully interview potential candidates.
  4. Develop your teams. At the end of the day, you will be assigned teams. Guess what? The teams will not be perfect. What skills and competencies are lacking? Are the team members motivated? What do you need to do to improve overall project performance? Look for ways to improve knowledge and skills, create team building opportunities, build trust, and encourage collaboration.

The Insanity of Resource Management

Many organizations have under-performing projects. Why? Organizations do a poor job of defining their projects and understanding the resource requirements. Next, organizations overcommit – they commit to more projects than they should. Team members are stressed and organizations experience a lot of employee turnover. Furthermore, organizations fail to identify and acquire and develop skills and knowledge for these resource bottlenecks.

I am sometimes asked to take a look at organization’s resource problems and help them find solutions. My response? Before I come, prioritize your project portfolio and kill or postpone half of your active lower-priority projects. Do fewer projects better. Of course, very few organizations will do this…the insanity continues.

Question: Perhaps you feel different. What would you recommend to improve project resource management?

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.

How to Whip Up Your First Online Course

I had a crazy idea a few months ago. I decided to create my first online project management course in 30 days and create a pre-launch series in the following 30 days.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

I’ve had a lot of questions from other project managers and entrepreneurs concerning this project. I thought I would answer some of the more common questions to help others build online courses. Even if you do not have an interest in creating online courses, I hope to provide insights on how I approached a project, unlike anything I’ve managed before.

The Masters of Project Management

One of the events I enjoy each year is the Masters; a premier golf tournament held in my home state of Georgia. I have carefully studied the masters of golf each time I have attended. What is it that allows golfers to reach the summit of the golf world?

The Masters ofProject Management (1)

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I have also watched many project managers through the years. Some project managers outperform other project managers exponentially. These project managers have superior soft and hard skills. They are the masters of project management.

Traits of World Class Performers

What are the traits of world class performers? World class performers practice hard, receive coaching, and sleep and rest.

Practice

World class performers practice in a consistent and disciplined approach. They put in many more hours than average performers. Their thinking is that they never arrive at the top of their game. They continuously learn new tools and techniques.

How can project managers learn more and improve performance? Here are some ideas:

  • Ask for projects that challenge you and allow you to learn new things
  • Attend project management conferences and symposiums
  • Read project management books
  • Read non-project management books that teach leadership and communication skills
  • Speak and teach on project management topics
  • Take project management simulation classes

12 Sure-Fire Ways to Improve Project Risk Management

If you survey people involved in projects on the importance of risk management for achieving project objectives, a high percentage of the participants will say risk management is important or very important. I’ve seen survey results where 90% of the people thought risk management was important. So…why do few people employ and support risk management?

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Many people have had a bad experience. Project managers have performed risk management poorly. Let’s look at several reasons why project risk management can become useless and what we can do to gain better project results through risk management.

  1. Failure to lead by example. In order for organizations to mature and benefit from risk management, leaders including sponsors and project managers must walk the talk. People resist change. Without a consistent example by those in authority, people will likely seize opportunities to revert to their former behaviors. What must we do? Lead by example.
  2. Failure to focus on the risks that matter. Some project managers start their programs and projects with gusto. They facilitate risk identification exercises that result in a boatload of risks. However, no one knows which risks matter…there is no evaluation and prioritization of risks. People become overwhelmed and take no action. Be sure to evaluate and prioritize risks.

More Project Meeting Tips

I created a discussion concerning meeting tips on LinkedIn. More than 200 people “Liked” the post and more than 100 people made comments.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

I summarized some of the tips and suggestions into a checklist below. While you are not likely to perform all these tips at once, I hope the list aids you in improving the effectiveness and value of your meetings.

  • Add an agenda item entitled “Any Other Business” to allow participants to share other items at the end of the meeting
  • Adjourn the meeting when the agenda is complete and do not linger
  • Adjourn the meeting early enough to allow participants to arrive at their next meeting on time
  • Ask for agenda items in advance of creating the agenda
  • Ask participants to mute mobile devices
  • Assign seating and place the difficult people near you (allows for greater visual focus and control)
  • Ask if the meeting achieved the purpose at the end of the meeting
  • Circulate agenda prior to the meeting and ask for confirmation
  • Deliver the orientation of the meeting in a rapid and direct manner to set the pace of the meeting
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your meetings
  • Organize your thoughts before the meeting
  • Introduce new team members
  • Invite only the needed people
  • Send the project status report the day before project meetings and ask team members to review before your meeting
  • Start a 15 minute daily stand up
  • Stop allowing the meeting to be a place to “raise a subject from the dead”
  • Stop going back over what was discussed when latecomers show up
  • Stop unnecessary meetings
  • Use an internal blog for collaboration (may eliminate need for some meetings)
  • Use an off-topic bell (anyone at any time can ring the bell if the participants get off topic)

I learned a lot from this collaboration. I hope these tips are helpful to you too.

For additional ways to improve your meetings, check out my blog post “Four Meeting Problems – Which Ones Do You Wish to Overcome?“.

Question: What other tips would you suggest?

Editors Note: This article was originally published in April, 2013 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Five Things to Start and Five Things to Stop in Project Meetings

Project managers have a responsibility to ensure their project meetings are efficient and effective. Here are five things to start and five things to stop in meetings.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Five Things to Start:

  1. Start and end your meetings on time.
  2. Start your meetings by stating the purpose of the meeting.
  3. Start summarizing, validating, and capturing Risks, Action Items, Issues, and Decisions during your meetings as they surface.
  4. Start engaging your team members with well-thought-out questions.
  5. Start capturing off-topic items in your Parking Lot to be considered for future meetings.

Five Things to Stop:

  1. Stop letting people ramble on and on off topic (i.e., topic hopping).
  2. Stop having meetings with no agenda and stated purpose.
  3. Stop letting meetings go over time.
  4. Stop allowing ego-centric individuals dominate your meetings.
  5. Stop having meetings when things may be handled in a different manner.

Questions: What else would you start or stop in meetings? 

Want Better Results in Software Projects? Try 3 Simple Questions

Project managers crave successful software projects. They dream of crossing the finish line with a win. Project managers want to help their company and advance their career.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Unfortunately, some project managers fall into a rut and fail to make progress. They do the same things from one project to another project and expect a different result. They take the wrong actions, pursue the wrong things and operate under wrong assumptions.

Four Meeting Problems – Which Ones Do You Want to Overcome?

Friends, have you experienced any poorly run meetings lately? Although meetings are a fundamental tool for managing projects, many meetings fail to achieve results.

Let’s look at four common meeting problems: unclear purpose, topic hopping, indecision, and unclear direction.

Why Are We Here Concept

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1. Unclear Purpose. Far too often, people attend meetings with no idea of why the meeting was called. You can bet the meeting will wander aimlessly without clear objectives.

The meeting facilitator should specify the purpose in the agenda. For example: “To select requirements from the backlog for the next sprint.”

Start your meetings by stating the purpose of the meeting. For example: “The purpose of this meeting is to select requirements from the backlog for the next sprint.” Then review the agenda topics and ground rules. Ask if there are any questions or any additional agenda items.

These steps help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the purpose, topics, and desired conduct.

How to Use the Degree of Agreement Technique

Figure 1: Degree of Agreement Process

Sometimes, we are asked to get parties to agree on a proposal filled with conflict. Asking individuals to vote yes or no can pit one group against another.

Is there a better way to get everyone on the same page and achieve consensus?

A few years ago, I was asked to facilitate a meeting where stakeholders were at odds with one another. The company wanted to add a new sales position to the sales force. However, the new position would have a direct impact on the existing office personnel in many of the remote offices, reducing hundreds of people’s responsibilities.

I was told, “You are going to have your hands full trying to get this group to agree.” I took that as a personal challenge and looked forward to seeing how things would evolve.

Consensus isn’t just about agreement. It’s about changing things around: You get a proposal, you work something out, people foresee problems, you do creative synthesis. At the end of it, you come up with something that everyone thinks is okay. Most people like it, and nobody hates it. -David Graeber