Category Archives for 1=Initiation

The What, Why, and How of Projects

woman making presentationIn this article, let’s look at three simple and powerful questions that project managers should ask in every project, the what, why, and how of projects. Getting answers to these questions will greatly reduce risks to your projects and position you and your teams for success.

3 Key Project Questions

1. The What Question

The center point of every project is the goal or goals. The key question is: What is the project team trying to achieve? Are we creating a new product or service? Are we modifying existing products or services? When we implement the project, how will the organization be in a better position to meet the strategic objectives?Continue reading

How to Develop a Stakeholder Register

Today, let's explore the development and use of the stakeholder register.

How important is the early part of your projects? Gregory H. Horine says, “No project recovers from a variance at the 15% completion point. If you underestimated in the near, you are greatly off on the long term too."

There are several factors that affect estimates. For example, we may misunderstand the stakeholder needs due to poor stakeholder engagement and communication.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Over time, new stakeholders show up with additional needs. And this occurs in Waterfall as well as Agile projects.

So, what can we do to mitigate these risks? Identify and engage your stakeholders early. Seek to understand your their needs and interests.

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Are You Tired of Missing Big Project Risks? 3 Ways to Stop It

I have had the privilege of managing two PMOs, both composed of several project managers. It was always interesting to watch—the best project managers were the ones who had a habit of identifying risks, both threats and opportunities. And these individuals did not perform the risk identification just once at the beginning of their projects. Rather, they had a habit of reevaluating their projects with an eye toward new risks.

picture of frustrated man

Wise project managers know that there are unknown risks lurking in every corner. Each new phase of a project brings uncertainty, some significant, some not. Furthermore, as new stakeholders enter the scene, new interests and concerns can cause our projects to get off track.

If you’ve been burned by risks recently, let’s talk about what you can do to improve your chance for future success.Continue reading

How to Conduct a Killer Kickoff Meeting

One thing that I've learned after twenty years of projects. Double down on your initial efforts. And one of the most critical events is your project kickoff meeting. Let's ensure that our meeting participants leave the kickoff meeting with a good understanding of the project and motivated for the hard work ahead.

Prepare Your Agenda

Proper planning prevents poor performance. Project managers should work closely with their project sponsor to develop an agenda for the project kickoff meeting. Here is an example of the contents:

  • Date, time, and location
  • Purpose of meeting
  • Meeting participants
  • Agenda Items
    • Vision of the Project (Project Sponsor)
    • Review of the Project Charter (Project Manager)
    • Team Exercise (Project Manager)
    • Timeline Discussion (Project Manager)
    • Wrap Up (Project Manager)

While the project sponsor and manager will lead much of the meeting, it's important to engage the participants. For example, for the team exercise, the project manager may conduct a risk identification exercise or facilitate a work breakdown structure (WBS) exercise.

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How to Get Awesome Results Through Your Projects

Project sponsors send a message to their project teams and other stakeholders through the goals contained in their project charters. The focus of the goals — either business results or project activities — will drive the project team. As Steven Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.”

How to Get Awesome Results Through Your Projects

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

Project managers are often asked to undertake projects to transform the business operations or to respond to an operational risk. There is often a disconnect. The project manager may not understand — since the sponsor may not have shared — how the project connects to the business strategy.

When writing project goals, the author — typically the project sponsor — should determine whether to state their goals as business results or as project activities necessary to drive the business results.

“If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.” — George S. Patton

With this in mind, allow me to illustrate the difference and why it’s super important. Get this right and project teams will start to run in the right direction.Continue reading

How to Share Your Project in 60 Seconds

You get on the elevator with someone who asks you about your upcoming project. Can you clearly describe your project in 60 seconds?

How to Share Your Project in 60 Seconds

Photo courtesy of AdobeStock (edited in Canva)

Perhaps you are on the way out of a meeting with senior leaders when a Vice President asks you about your project. She says, “I only have a minute, but could you give me a brief summary of the project?”

Your ability to describe your projects helps others understand your projects. You (and your project sponsor) will be in a better position to engage your stakeholders and get their support. Are you ready?

Let’s look at creating a summary that allows you — at a moment’s notice — to tell others the most important information about your project.

Why do you need a project summary? Here are three reasons:Continue reading

How to Facilitate the Resolution of Conflicting Ideas

Have you ever encountered conflicting ideas when facilitating change within a department, business unit, or across an organization? Do you often see resistance to your change efforts? Have you ever started down a path that made perfectly good sense to you but seemed crazy to others?

How to Facilitate the Resolution of Conflicting Ideas

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock (edited in Canva)

Perhaps you’ve recently started a program. The program team has been working on an organizational strategy, where the mission is translated into a strategic plan that is subdivided into projects. You are looking for ways to align your efforts to gain the greatest benefit.

For any program, it’s critical to identify your stakeholders and seek to understand their needs and expectations. Invariably, stakeholders have different needs. How can we resolve and harmonize the different stakeholder perceptions and distinct expectations?

Three Ways to Surface and Resolve Conflicting Ideas

1. Identify Stakeholders. First, identify the stakeholders. Stakeholders include individuals, groups, or organizations — internally and externally — that may be impacted by the change initiative. In the program example, stakeholders might include the project sponsor, the project team, the project manager, the board, program vendors, information technology, and human resources, to name a few.

2. Analyze Stakeholders. Next, identify the needs and concerns of the stakeholders. We should also identify the stakeholders with the greatest interest and power. Who can influence the change in a positive or negative manner? Change can be deliberate (planned) or emergent (unplanned). As much as possible, guide the change process in a deliberate manner. Things coming out of nowhere can be highly disruptive.

3. Facilitate the Resolution of Conflicting Ideas. After identifying and analyzing the stakeholders, turn your attention to resolving the conflicts. In the change management world, this is called sensemaking. Sensemaking consists of things that help individuals and groups to make sense of what’s happening around them. How does this happen? It often occurs in hallway discussions, rumors, gossip, and half-baked emails.

senseHealthy sensemaking, however, consists of activities aimed at understanding the impact and outcomes of the change process and agreeing on how to move forward. Approaches include:

  • Clarifying the mission
  • Defining the strategy
  • Engaging the stakeholders in the change process
  • Identifying the initiatives to support the strategy
  • Open communications
  • Team meetings

Are You Making Sense?

What change initiatives are you managing right now? Does the change make sense to your stakeholders? If not, consider identifying and analyzing your stakeholders. Pay particular attention to the high-power / high-interest stakeholders. Then apply some of the approaches listed above to harmonize the interests of your stakeholders. Best wishes!

How to Manage a Project Like No Other

Life is filled with new adventures and experiences. Remember the first time you rode a bike, climbed a tree, or took a job. New adventures are exciting, but they can be filled with great uncertainty.

Project managers may be asked to manage a project, unlike anything they’ve ever faced. Consider Sue, an event planner, who was asked to manage a project to implement a new accounting system for her organization. Sue had no accounting background or experience in implementing software.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited via Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited via Canva)

To varying degrees, every project is different from our prior projects — that’s what makes them unique, and for me, this is what makes project management fun. It’s different every day.

But, some projects are completely alien to us; the endeavors are foreign to our experience. How should we approach these projects? What steps can we take to improve our chance for success?

Taking Control of Your Aliens

I recently decided to write my first book — The Intentional Project Manager (10 Things Successful Project Managers Never Tolerate). I’d like to share some transferable concepts that you can apply to your alien projects, Here are some tips:Continue reading

7 Proven Ways to Overcome False Expectations

People have expectations. Individuals, teams, or organizations have a strong belief that something is going to happen in the future.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Project sponsors expect projects to be completed in a timely fashion. Developers expect clear requirements. Testers expect the test region to be stable. Users expect that all of their needs will be met. Vendors expect a statement of work.

Sometimes the expectations are valid; other times the expectations are false. The individual’s expectations are unrealistic or invalid. What causes false expectations and how can we set and maintain the proper expectations?

The Muck and Mire of Expectations

Let’s look at seven common causes of false expectations and what we can do about each. Take note that all of these problems are related to communications.

  1. Things are not discussed adequately. For example: Why do the users of software expect one thing and get something different in projects? One of the top reasons that projects fail is due to a lack of user input. Be sure to involve appropriate stakeholders in your discussions (whether it’s software requirements or anything else). Summarize and document decisions.  
  2. Things are miscommunicated or not communicated at all. Another reason people have false expectations is due to information not being communicated properly. Check your sources and verify information before communicating.
  3. Things are misunderstood. Sometimes the information is correct but is misunderstood. The receiver’s environment, experience, language, and culture may affect the way the receiver interprets the message. Create the message with the audience in mind. You may wish to test the message with a small group before distributing to a larger audience.
  4. Things are over promised. Sometimes, well-meaning people make promises that can’t be kept. The promise maker thinks things can be accomplished but the individual doesn’t understand the requirements, constraints, and required resources and budget. Validate requirements. Get estimates from experienced personnel. Make sure you have adequate budget and resources. Stay focused on delivering the promises.
  5. Things change. In the course of developing new products or services, things may change. It’s easy for a small group to make decisions and fail to communicate the changes to the other affected stakeholders. Define a method for capturing and communicating changes to stakeholders.
  6. Things get lost. One group specifies the requirements. Another group creates a design. Another group may perform the build process…and yet a different group may test and accept something being created. It’s no wonder that things get lost in the process. Consider tracking things/requirements from one process to the next to check off and make sure the things specified early in an endeavor end up in the final product.
  7. Things are constrained. Someone may share a need in a strategic planning session or a requirements session. There seems to be agreement in the room. Later the idea is cut due to resource or budget constraints, but the person who shared the need does not know about the cut. Communicate the final plans to stakeholders. Communicate through different channels – don’t assume everyone will read an email.