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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.

Five Ways to Reduce Risk Exposure Early

When do you think risk exposure or the level of risk is greatest in a project – in the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the project?

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com (edited in Canva)

Risk exposure is highest in the beginning of your projects. Why? We have the least amount of information – this is when uncertainty is greatest. We know very little about:

  • Goals of the project
  • Deliverables
  • Requirements
  • Budget
  • Constraints
  • Success criteria
  • Availability of resources
  • Who will bring the donuts to the project meetings? (just kidding)

Here are five activities that you can undertake to reduce the risk exposure early.Continue reading

10 Surprising Ways to Make Your Project Customers Happy

Have you ever had a customer accept your project work although they were not happy with the project?

According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, customer is “the person(s) or organization that will pay for the project’s products, service, or result. Customers can be internal or external to the performing organization.”

Group of People Standing Holding Customer

Internal customers have many problems. The problems may include:

  • A product that lacks certain features or functionality
  • Too many defects in a manufacturing process
  • A regulatory requirement
  • Insufficient sales
  • Lack of a building or infrastructure
  • Unhappy external customers due to poor response times
  • Vulnerabilities to a cyber attack
  • Not enough coffee (just kidding)Continue reading

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.Continue reading

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?