Category Archives for 2=Planning

The What, Why, and How of Process Mapping

Operational risk includes people risk, technology risk, external event risk, and process risk. In this article, let's talk about process risk and how to reduce these risks through process mapping.

When employees leave organizations, these entities may loose daily operational knowledge. You know. The people that know how to get things done are now gone. And these organizations often lack process documentation. Furthermore, they fail to cross train other employees adequately.

So, who is impacted? Employees for sure. But most importantly, the customer is adversely impacted. 

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The Power of If-Then Risk Statements

IF. Have you thought about the use of this two-letter conjunction in risk management lately? Let's look at how to use the power of If-Then risk statements. IF is a simple word that can open up new doors to writing clear risk statements. 

If-Then Risk Statements

Once you've identified your project risks, you will need to write opportunity and threat statements.

Write Opportunity Statements

Opportunities are events and conditions, that if they occur, have a positive impact on your project objectives (e.g., schedule, scope, budget, quality). Here are examples of how you might start these risk statements:

  • If you purchase ten or more computers from the XYZ vendor, 
  • If you add an additional developer to task ABC,
  • If you use quick-drying cement,
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How to Perform a SWOT Analysis

If you are looking for a great way to engage your key stakeholders and identify project risks, perform a SWOT Analysis. Project managers or other facilitators can use this powerful tool to identify strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, strengths may give rise to opportunities and weaknesses may lead to threats. Let's look at how to perform a SWOT Analysis.

SWOT Example

What is SWOT?

S

Strengths. Something that an entity, department, or team is good at doing or that gives it an important capability. A strength may be a skill, expertise, a valuable resource, a competitive capability, or an attribute that provides competitive advantage. 


W

Weaknesses. Something an entity, department, or team lacks or does poorly or a condition that puts it at a disadvantage. 

O

Opportunity. Up-side risks that may cause positive effects to our project objectives. An example would be to exploit a discount savings by purchasing in bulk quantities. 

T

Threats. These down-side risks may cause negative effects to our project objectives. What are your obstacles? What may hinder your ability to achieve your project objectives?

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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 some reasons why project managers struggle to manage small projects.

Pitfalls of Small Projects

1. You think these endeavors are simple. In general, smaller endeavors have less risk. However, these may have a complex set of variables.

Be sure to analyze the complexity. For example, you may engage your team to develop a context diagram and/or data flow diagrams early. This exercise allows the team to understand the context of the project.

2. You don’t have a charter. Individuals are assigned projects at the last minute with a tight deadline. Rather than discussing the undertaking with stakeholders and documenting the business case, problems, goals, and deliverables, the project manager hits the ground running. Later, stakeholders demand costly changes.

Make it a priority to engage your key stakeholders and develop a project charter. This exercise will provide a good foundation and reduce the changes later. For smaller endeavors, one should be able to create a charter in short order.

3. You are applying the wrong level of rigor. I see two extremes: First, managers do not follow any methodology. Second, managers perform unneeded tasks.

Keep it simple. Determine the steps you plan to take and develop the planning documents that will provide real value. Execute and stay with the plan.

4. The Project Sponsor is invisible. Many pint-sized-projects have no sponsor at all. The organization may assign a sponsor, but the sponsor has abdicated his or her role to the project manager or someone on the team.

If you don’t have a sponsor, solicit a fitting sponsor. Discuss with the sponsor their role and ask for their commitment.

5. Your team has been poorly staffed. Often, these undertakings are assigned leftover resources. Any warm body will do or will it?

For all endeavors, define the required knowledge and skills. Seek to staff the team accordingly.

6. Poor risk management. Yes, smaller ventures typically have less risk. This does not mean there are zero risks.

Risk management should not take much time, but be sure to integrate risk management in your project activities. Simple qualitative analysis should be sufficient for evaluating the risks.

7. You are not performing change management. A stakeholder asks for a change in the scope. It’s not a big change. You say okay.

Users request additional changes over time. The cumulative effect becomes significant.

Decide upfront how you will manage, track, and report changes. When is a change order required? Who has to approve it?

8. You are managing a project no one cares about. Projects may be selected arbitrarily. In some cases, the project does not align with the company’s strategy. The team knows the venture is a low priority and give it little attention.

This is a management issue. Management should create a Project Board that reviews requests for strategic alignment.

9. Your team is too large. Your project may be small, but it impacts several areas of the company. Everyone feels like they need someone on the team. You have fifteen people on the team when a handful will do.

Create a small core team. Make sure the team represents the primary stakeholder groups. You may wish to create a supplemental team of individuals who may be engaged as needed.

10. You are using the wrong tools. One may spend more time setting up their tools than managing the effort.

Keep things simple. For example, rather than using complex scheduling tools, you may use Excel.

11. You are managing too many projects. An individual may have a heavier load than they can manage. These managers may have difficulty prioritizing and juggling all the activities resulting in wasted time.

The resource manager should be careful to assess each project, estimate the time required for each project manager. Monitor success rates for these endeavors and make adjustments as needed.

12. You have not identified the important stakeholders. Surely we know who the stakeholders are or do we? We are tempted to skip the stakeholder identification.

Don’t make the common stakeholder mistakes. Small projects can touch a complex set of variables. Neglect in identifying and managing the stakeholders can be costly later in the project.

How About You?

Take a few minutes to review your small projects. Do you need to let go of some misconceptions and make some changes? Create some new habits. Don’t allow yourself to slip back into unproductive behaviors.

Let Me Show You How to Determine Project Budget Reserves

After publishing my article entitled Evaluating Risks Using Qualitative Risk Analysis, I received questions on how to determine project budget reserves. Here are my answers.

4 Business People at a Boardroom Table discussing budget reserves

Project Budget Reserves: Questions and Answers

Question #1

After evaluating risks qualitatively, do you set aside some dollars for a contingency reserve?

The Answer:

The short answer is yes. Contingency reserves are for “known risks” identified in risk management. The contingency reserves cover residual risks in the project and account for cost uncertainty such as rework.

Imagine a project budget with no reserves. The project manager is basically saying there will be little to no problems. The project manager expects to deliver every task with no negative impacts to the budget. A wise project manager will identify risks, assess risks, and recognize the potential impacts by adding appropriate reserves to the budget.

Question #2

How do we estimate a contingency reserve?


The Answer:

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) says that contingency reserves may be a percentage of the estimated cost, such as 5% - 10% of the estimated cost.


For example, a project manager may estimate the project cost to be $100,000. Assuming a 10% contingency reserve, the project manager would estimate the contingency reserve to be $10,000 (i.e., $100,000 x 10%). The project manager would add the contingency reserve to the project estimate resulting in a cost baseline of $110,000.

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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. 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.

Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time

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?
  12. How will we know if the project was successful?

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.


Read: How to Develop a Project Charter

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Five Things to Start and Five Things to Stop in Requirements Management

According to PMI, "47% of unsuccessful projects fail to meet goals due to poor requirements management." Wow! Requirements are a pretty big deal. Let's look at five things to start and five things to stop in requirements management.

Requirements Notebook

5 Things to Start

  1. Identify and engage appropriate stakeholders. Project managers who work in a matrix environment should seek resource approval from stakeholder's managers early in the project.
  2. Ensure the requested software features will be used. Inquire (politely) why the features are needed. How does the requirement align with the goals of the project? The results of one Standish Group indicated that 45% of product features were never used.
  3. If questionable, ask if a requirement is in the scope of the project. The project manager may wish to capture out-of-scope requirements in a parking lot for future consideration. Check with the Project Management Office (PMO) or other authority on how to handle these requirements.
  4. Analyze requirements using context diagrams, use cases, stories, and other tools and techniques. Project managers or business analysts who use different tools help the stakeholders see things from various perspectives.
  5. When requirements change, be sure to update the requirements under version control. Ideally, the project manager should be able to see the versions of the requirement from the initial version to the current version. Many of the requirement tools today provide this capability.
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How to Manage Project Scope

How many times have you experienced scope creep? You know the drill—you elicit and document the requirements. You receive sign off. You continue to see changes to the requirements. Many projects experience 10, 20, 25-percent change in requirements over the life of the project. Let's explore how to manage project scope.

Scope is Not a Mouthwash

You cannot manage what you do not understand. Let's get our arms around the concept of scope. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines scope as the sum of the products, services, or results.

When we use the word "scope", it is helpful to specify the type of scope—product scope or project scope. The product scope are the features and functions of the product, service, or result. The project scope is the work to deliver the product, service, or result.

Imagine that you plan to have a painter paint your living room. Here are some product scope questions:

  • Do you want the walls painted?
  • Do you want the trim painted?
  • Do you want the ceiling painted?
  • Do you want a coat of primer applied before the first coat of paint?
paint
  • What color do you want for the walls, trim, and ceiling?
  • What brand and type of paint do you want?
  • Do you want a second coat of paint?

What are the tools and equipment that are needed? What work will be done to deliver the product? Here are some project scope questions:

  • Will someone remove the furniture from the room before the room is painted?
  • Will the painter clean the walls and trim before painting?
  • Will the painter tape the trim before painting the walls?
  • Will the painter use a brush or a paint sprayer?
  • Will someone inspect each step before the painter moves to the next step?

Want more clarification on product and project scope? Read this article from Villanova University.

Manage Your Project Requirements

When it comes to requirements, I wish I could read my user's minds. Unfortunately, collecting requirements is challenging. Project managers should consider engaging an effective business analyst for large projects.

A critical part of projects is defining and managing the project requirements. Requirements are the capabilities or conditions needed in the product, service, or result. They are specifications of what should be developed or implemented.

Like the word scope, it is helpful to use an adjective when talking about requirements. There are different types of requirements. Check with your organization to see if there are standard definitions for different types of requirements.

I typically use the following terms. Notice the cascading levels of requirements. We begin with high-level requirements and progressively elaborate the requirements into greater detail.

  • Business requirements - the high-level business goals of the project (e.g., Increase customer retention by 5% by the end of the year).
  • User requirements - a task of a user group (e.g., Quote an insurance policy).
  • Systems requirements - the detailed specifications of the features and conditions needed in the system (e.g., The system shall invoice customers at month-end).

WBS: Define Your Scope

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at time. We all know the saying. Project managers can use this principle for any size project. Use the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to break your projects into bite-sized pieces.

The WBS is a hierarchical decomposition of the work to be performed in order to meet the project goals and create the deliverables. The lowest levels of the WBS are the work products and deliverables used for scheduling, estimating, monitoring, and controlling the project. Learn how to build a WBS.

“Any goal can be achieved if you break it down into enough small parts.” -Brian Tracy

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Use Prototypes to Analyze Requirements

Do not make the mistake of waiting until the end of a project to unveil the product, service, or result to your stakeholders. Periodically show the prototypes or deliverables to the customer(s) and the sponsor. When the deliverables are mature, seek formal acceptance. These steps can greatly reduce the risk of rework.

Monitor and Control Project Scope

Project managers should meet with their teams on a regular basis to compare the work completed to the project scope baseline (the defined deliverables, assumptions, and constraints). If there is variance, determine whether corrective or preventive action is required.

Manage the Changes

Many project managers think their job is ensure that no changes occur. Make no mistake about it—change happens. Expect it!

Our job as project managers is not to stop all the changes but to ensure the necessary changes occur in an organized and agreed-upon manner. Don't get me—project managers should not just add anything that is requested. Requested changes should support and align with the overall goals of the project.

Take changes through a change control process. Analyze and report the impact to the project sponsor. Seek approval when necessary before proceeding.

Your Turn

Project managers face a multitude of scope risks. Be diligent up front in your project to develop a scope management plan. Seek to understand your user's needs. Engage appropriate stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Regularly compare your work against your plan and make needed corrections.

Risk Analysis — The Managing Up Secret Weapon

This is a guest article by Dana Brownlee from professionalismmatters.com.

One of the most common questions I get when speaking to groups is “How do you deliver a difficult message to/push back on senior leaders – particularly the difficult ones?” I certainly understand the popularity of the question because that’s a sticky situation for sure. While project managers and others often find themselves in opposition to the boss’ ideas, recommendations, or preferred course of action, telling the boss they have an “ugly baby” is a different story.

Credit : gorodenkoff | iStockphoto       

One of my favorite suggestions for this unenviable predicament is using risk analysis. Indeed, I think risk analysis can be the secret weapon of managing up! Why? Because risk analysis provides an opportunity for you to focus the discussion on the objective (often quantifiable) facts and away from the more emotional opinions.

In my book The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up: Project Management Techniques from the Trenches I discuss the importance of using risk analysis to make your case for a particular point of view. Consider the following example…

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Risk Management Wisdom and Humor of the Ages

Most of us have personal and career goals. Our ability to achieve those goals is dependent on our risk management skills, that is our ability to manage opportunities and threats. We seek to make good things happen and to eliminate or reduce the bad things.

Books of Quotes

Through the years, I have captured my favorite quotes related to the art and science of risk management. I hope you enjoy the insights as well as the humor.

1. "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall." —NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICAN STATESMAN

2. "Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude." —THOMAS JEFFERSON, U.S. PRESIDENT

3. “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.” —EARL NIGHTINGALE, MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER AND AUTHOR

4. “A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses those skills to accomplish his goals.” —LARRY BIRD, NBA PLAYER AND COACH

5. "The world is getting to be such a dangerous place, a man is lucky to get out of it alive." —W.C. FIELDS, COMEDIAN AND MOVIE STAR

"They that are on their guard and appear ready to receive their adversaries are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, secure and negligent." —BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, SCIENTIST, PUBLISHER, AND DIPLOMAT 

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6. “There is a myth that people hate change. Not true! What scares them isn’t change, it’s uncertainty. They worry about whether the changes are good or bad. People love change when it involves pleasant surprises. What they fear are the unpleasant ones.” —ALAN MULALLY, CEO OF FORD MOTOR COMPANY

7. “Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.” —WINSTON CHURCHILL, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM

8. “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.” —FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, U.S. PRESIDENT

9. "A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week." —GEORGE S. PATTON, GENERAL IN THE U.S. ARMY

10. “The man who comes up with a means for doing or producing almost anything better, faster, or more economically has his future and his fortune at his fingertips.” —J. PAUL GETTY, ANGLO-AMERICAN INDUSTRIALIST

11. "Not only do I not know what's going on, I wouldn't know what to do about it if I did." -GEORGE CARLIN, COMEDIAN

12. "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." —SUN-TZU, CHINESE GENERAL AND MILITARY STRATEGIST

owl reading a book

13. “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.” —GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, IRISH PLAYWRIGHT RISK

14. “They that are on their guard and appear ready to receive their adversaries are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, secure and negligent.” —BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, SCIENTIST, PUBLISHER, AND DIPLOMAT

15. “When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” —YOGI BERRA, BASEBALL PLAYER

16. “100 percent of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.” —WAYNE GRETZKY, PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY PLAYER

17. “You decide what it is you want to accomplish and then you lay out your plans to get there, and then you just do it. It’s pretty straightforward.” —NANCY DITZ, MARATHONER

18. “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.” —JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, GERMAN WRITER AND POLYMATH

19. “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” —GROUCHO MARX, COMEDIAN AND MOVIE STAR

20. “I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.” —RODNEY DANGERFIELD, COMEDIAN