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. 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.
The Project Charter
Unfortunately, many people think of the project charter as an administrative hoop they must jump through to get their project approved. Therefore, many charters are written hastily with little thought.
The value of the charter process is engaging stakeholders, discussing the issues, resolving conflicts, and getting agreement as you initiate the project. The stakeholder interest is considered and aligned, resulting in less likelihood of costly changes later in the project.
For most of my career, I have served in financial service organizations. As a project and program manager and PMO director, I’ve had the responsibility of procuring the necessary products and services from sellers. In other words, I was a buyer.
I recently left the corporate world to develop my LLC where I provide consulting services and teach courses to help project managers prepare for their PMP and PMI-RMP exams. Now, I am a seller.
Whether you are or a buyer or seller, good communication and doing what you say is critical to success. What can we do to get everyone on the same page and for the buyer and seller has a mutually beneficial relationship? Allow me to offer three recommendations.
1. Define the Buyer/Seller Relationship
First, healthy buyer/seller relationships require clarity in the roles and responsibilities. Think about a project that requires third-party professional services. Perhaps you need an outside team to develop a new software application.Continue reading
As we initiate our projects, we may find that our organization lacks the skills and knowledge to create the project deliverables and meet the project objectives. In other cases, we may need products outside of our organization. Project managers use procurement management to secure these needed products and services.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) says that Project Procurement Management “includes the processes necessary to purchase or acquire products, services, or results needed from outside the project team.” Our ability to find and procure the right resources at the right time will enhance our chance for success.
So, how can we improve our project procurements? Start by developing a Procurement Management Plan. The plan describes your approach to acquiring the necessary products and services from outside organizations. This plan may include things such as:
Have you ever experienced surprise TKO (Technical Knockout) project? You never saw it coming. There was no countdown. Bam! Your project was over.
Imagine a marketing project. You and the team had been charged with implementing a fresh marketing program for a long-time product. Furthermore, you’ve been asked to deliver the program in record time.
The team had been working overtime for four months. Blood, sweat, and tears. You weren’t sure if you could make the deadline or not, but you were trying every trick of the trade.
Little did you know that senior management had been discussing the possibility of killing the project for the past month. Why? The senior team had discovered that a competitor would soon roll out a far superior product requiring your company to divert its resources into product development.
Then the day came. Your project sponsor called you to her office and told you that the party is over — close the project. As you left her office, you wanted to crawl in a hole.
Where does a project manager go from here?
My family has a tradition of going to a Christmas tree farm, selecting a tree, bringing it home, setting it up and decorating. This year was a disaster…here’s my story (please don’t tell anyone) and the risk mitigation strategies I learned.
Normally, we get our tree the day after Thanksgiving. Not this year. We waited until the second weekend of December to make our tree trek. My wife Sherri and I took our dog Hobson with us (our son and daughter now live out of town). There were very few trees left.
We finally found one that didn’t look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The trunk looked straight, and the tree looked fine (no gaping holes if you looked from the right side). I cut the tree. The tree farm owner shook the needles out, wrapped the tree in a net, and helped me tie the tree on top of our car.Continue reading
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?
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.Continue reading
Depending on how your project has gone, closure often feels like the mirage of an oasis witnessed by delirious travellers in the desert – close enough to touch, but tantalizing far away.
However, on all projects, that day arrives when the project team believes that all approved scope has been delivered, and the rush begins to transition to the next project.
Don’t succumb to the temptation to short-change the closure phase as there are a few critical activities which you will miss out on if you lock the project door and throw away the key.
What have we learned? While valuable lessons are learned throughout the lifetime of the project, closure provides that final opportunity to assemble the team, key stakeholders and sponsor to review what worked really well and what could have been done differently. Team members should now have some perspective to be able to prioritize which lessons were the most profound, and could be asked to distill and refine usable change recommendations which could be passed on to a PMO or other process improvement body for incorporation into your methodologies.Continue reading
How can we reduce project uncertainty?
Previously, we have covered risk management topics directly for the Planning Process and the Monitoring and Control Process:
What about the other Process Groups? Let’s consider 7 other places to integrate risk management in the pursuit of achieving project objectives.
1. Complete the Stakeholder Analysis. Identify individuals and groups impacted by the project. What are their interest and concerns? Which stakeholders have the greatest influence and interest? Understanding your stakeholders is foundational to managing risks.
2. Develop Project Charter. Clearly defined goals are foundational to risk management. Fuzzy goals fuel fuzzy risk management. Work with your Project Sponsor, project team, and stakeholders to clarify goals. Identify threats and opportunities for each goal. Capture the highest risks in the Project Charter.
3. Collect Requirements. The Standish Group says the three biggest factors that lead to failed or challenged projects are:
Invest in the elicitation, analysis, documentation, and validation of requirements and reap the benefits. Get appropriate stakeholders involved. Clarify and manage your requirements.
4. Complete a Work Breakdown Structure. Work with your project team to decompose the project into the work required for the project. The WBS allows your team and stakeholders to see all the work required. Use the WBS to drive risk discussions for the chunks of work.
5. Develop Project Schedule. As you develop the project schedule, determine risks for your detailed tasks, particularly for tasks on the critical path (i.e. the longest path through your schedule). Where appropriate, add schedule contingency reserves (i.e. additional hours) to address the uncertainties.
6. Develop Project Budget. As you develop the project budget, determine the budget contingency reserves for known risks and the management reserves for unknown risks.
7. Conduct Lessons Learned. Lessons learned evaluations are typically performed in the Closing Process. Try conducting them throughout the project, particularly for large, complex projects. Learn as you go.
If your organization has a lessons learned repository, access the lessons for insights from other projects. Discover, discuss, and document lessons learned for your projects.
In the early part of your next project, define your Risk Management Plan. Use this blog post as a checklist for risk management activities. Apply what is fitting to your project.
Question: What other risk-related processes would you suggest PMs consider?