I often ask project managers the reasons for project failure. One of the top responses is a lack of leadership and sustained engagement by the project sponsor. The sponsor paints a fuzzy picture of what they want, throws it over the fence to the project manager, and goes on their merry way. He or she essentially says, "Let me know when you're done. Failure is not an option." Really?
Fortunately, some sponsors know how to hit home runs. These sponsors understand that their leadership is essential to a winning season. They stand out from other sponsors by owning their projects and maintaining a healthy relationship with their project managers from the beginning to end of their projects.
"PMI Pulse research shows actively engaged sponsors are by far the top driver of projects meeting their original goals and business intent."
Sponsors are typically busy senior executives often coming from the C-suite. In addition to the projects they are sponsoring, the executives have many other responsibilities.
How is it possible for a sponsor to complete their project work and still have time to perform their other duties? Let's look at 10 ways sponsors can boost project success.
Do you and your team members lose track of the things you discussed in your project meetings? Who was to complete that action item? Who owns that risk? What did we decide to do? Sound familiar? Let's talk about how to master meeting minutes.
When I published my blog post entitled Four Meeting Problems, I received several questions about recording minutes. Questions included:
Allow me to share a few tips. I am reminded of George Orwell's comment: "Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious." For both newbies as well as experienced project managers, it is good to get back to the basics.
Have you ever conducted a project brainstorming session and found yourself drowning in a cloud of ideas? Not a bad thing, but how can we make sense of the ideas? Well, let's see how to create a project affinity map to sort your ideas. As a bonus, we'll also look at Dot Voting, a simple and quick way to prioritize your ideas.
An affinity map is a tool that can be used to organize ideas into groups based on their natural relationships. The ideas commonly come from a brainstorming session. So, how do project managers actually use this tool?
For instance, a project manager may ask a project team to identify reasons why a project is behind schedule. Imagine that the team identifies fifteen reasons. Next, the project manager asks the team to sort the ideas into groups. The team discovers that the reasons fall into the following groups: processes, people, product, and technology. This is a great way to create a Cause and Effect Diagram.
There are countless ways to use a project affinity map after brainstorming. Here are some examples. Identify and sort:
So, what steps do we take to create an affinity diagram? Let's walk through the process.
When you complete the exercise, the team should have a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the issues. Sometimes the team may need additional help to identify the most significant items. Let’s look at another simple tool to prioritize the items.
Cling On Sheets
Have you ever used Cling On Sheets? They work like a whiteboard, but the nice thing is that you can put them anywhere on a dry wall and then move them as needed. After my brainstorming sessions, I take them back to my desk so I can complete my documentation and minutes.
The Affinity Map and Dot Voting provide a powerful one-two punch. You and your team will be able to sort and prioritize the ideas in a quick and organized manner. Give it a try!
Perhaps you are like me. You have lots of thoughts darting around in your mind. If you are looking for a way to sort and organize your thoughts, let’s look at the benefits of keeping a project journal.
Project managers are busy people, often managing multiple projects. During the course of a day, you may encounter all kinds of things–schedule conflicts, people issues, poor leadership by your sponsors, too many meetings, and scope creep, to name a few. Furthermore, we are so busy that it’s hard to find time to make sense of it all.
Author, blogger and speaker Michael Hyatt says, “…journaling is a means to an end. It helps me think more deeply about my life, where it is going, and what it means.” This is not only true for our personal lives, but journaling helps with our professional lives.
Here are seven ways I benefit from my project journal:Continue reading
How often do you hear someone say, “We’re having too many meetings, lasting too long, and they are woefully mismanaged.” And yet, meetings can be the indispensable tool for getting work done. Let’s look at 10 ways to revitalize your project meetings and get more done.
1. Meet somewhere new. One simple but effective way to reinvigorate your meetings is to meet in a new location. What about meeting at an external location or meeting outside on a nice day. Variety is the spice of life.
2. Meet at a different time. You have a recurring meeting where you’ve been meeting from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday for the last year. How about moving the meeting to Tuesday morning from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., schedules permitting, to leverage greater energy in the mornings.
3. Use a different facilitation technique. A bad habit is using the round robin every meeting. You start with the person on your left and you rotate from one person to another for updates. Use a different technique such as a whiteboard for example. Ask for the most significant limiting factors on your project and capture them on the whiteboard.
4. Rotate meeting roles. For meetings with ten or more people, I recommend that you assign meeting roles—facilitator, scribe, time-keeper, and gatekeeper, to name a few. Consider rotating the roles allowing different people to lead in different capacities. This gives everyone a greater appreciation for each role.
5. Invite someone new to the meeting. Perhaps you and the team have been trying to resolve a problem and you’ve met three times. Feeling stagnant? Invite another subject matter expert to provide a different perspective?
6. Undertake a team-building exercise. Wise leaders know how and when to inject team building exercises. Facilitate a problem-solving exercise, develop a work breakdown structure, or identify ways to improve project communication.
7. Develop or revive your ground rules. Perhaps your team has developed some bad habits—getting off track, showing up late, or reading emails on their smartphones. Ask your team to identify ground rules for future meetings that can drive better performance.
8. Do more planning and problem-solving. One big meeting problem is the lack of engagement. Participants are passive—brains are turned off. Rather than using meetings to report status, use the time to plan, to solve problems, and to innovate.
9. Stand up or walk for a meeting. Many agile teams perform daily stand-up meetings, fifteen minutes in length, to discuss: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? Are there any impediments in your way? Rather than having a stand-up meeting, try a walking meeting (notify them in advance) where you discuss these questions.
10. Monitor energy levels. I’m not a fan of all-day meetings, but sometimes, they are necessary. Recognize that energy levels will likely diminish in the afternoon. What can you do to improve energy throughout the day? Provide good coffee and healthy snacks. Take a periodic stretch break. Break up into groups to discuss a topic or problem—have someone from each group share their group’s thoughts. Keep things moving.
Good leaders shape their team cultures. Think about your teams. What changes would you like to see in their attitudes and behaviors? Implement one or two of the ideas in this article. Evaluate whether the team is getting more done. Never let your meetings get into a rut. Periodically, try something new!
For years, I’ve sought ways to get more done in my work day. You know the time management mantra: capture, prioritize, and schedule, right? What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done.
Need any apps? I’ve tried iPhone apps such as Fantastical, Pomodoro, and Evernote (which are all super).
I’ve read every book and tried every tool known to man. I even bought an Amazon Echo. Cool device. I can say, “Alexa, add 8 O’Clock coffee to my grocery list. Alexa, what appointments do I have on Thursday?”
These time management tools and techniques have helped me in significant ways, but there’s another powerful key to productivity. Continue reading
Many project managers feel overwhelmed with emails, phone calls, and meetings. They often work overtime, but few feel as though they are making progress. Although we are all given the same amount of time each day, some project managers are able to produce greater value for their organizations. Some are more engaged.
Imagine yourself as a more productive project manager, one with greater capacity and energy to complete each day’s tasks. Let’s look at common problems that impede our progress and what to do about each:
Susan, the project manager, had a gnawing feeling that the network team might fall behind schedule on a high profile project. The network manager failed to order the network cable and routers on time, and now the team is scrambling to make ends meet.
How can project managers prevent fires? The answer is grounded in a simple assumption: Successful project managers proactively identify project hazards – the things that increase the probability and impact of risks – and take action.
Develop a risk management plan – define how you and your teams can identify, evaluate, respond to, and control risks. Teams should take preventative measures to minimize issues and develop contingency plans for risks that may become issues.Continue reading
Be honest. How many days have you worked late this week? How many weekends have you worked in the past month?
How’s your energy level? How are your relationships with your family and friends?
I’ve been there. It is so easy to get sucked up into a never-ending marathon. Are there better ways to manage projects, reduce stress, and increase our productivity?
In 2008, I helped manage the largest, most complex program my company had ever undertaken. The purpose of the program was to re-engineer hundreds of business processes, replace insurance core systems (e.g., policy administration, claims administration, and billing), and train hundreds of people in 158 remote locations.
Going into the program, I knew I would work long hours for the next few years. I thought I was prepared. (After all, I bought all of the Eight O’Clock coffee at our local Publix grocery store. You should have seen the check-out clerk.)Continue reading
Meetings can be maddening. Some people come unprepared and others get off track. And how about those that constantly check email.
Team members leave meetings with no decisions, lacking direction, and not knowing what to expect next.
Power hungry individuals dominate the discussions. The meek say nothing.
Meetings can be an absolute waste of time and money. Make sure you have a legitimate reason for meeting.
How can we better manage our meetings and get results? Assign meeting roles that combat common meeting problems. Continue reading
Allow me to ask you a question. When you face life’s most difficult problems, do you run away from your problems? Successful individuals, groups, and organizations have a habit of running TOWARD their problems, not away from them.
Rather than seeing problems as unwelcomed, problem solvers see challenges as opportunities to use their God-given talents and skills to make rich contributions to their organization.
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. –Winston S. Churchill
What are your most significant project problems? Are your project teams making decisions and changing their minds repeatedly? Do you find yourself spending more time reworking things than creating new things? Are your stakeholders constantly changing requirements?
Worry and anxiety are not productive ways to respond to life’s challenges. There is a better approach for solving problems. Irrespective of the types of problems you face, you can find effective solutions through the following 7-step process:Continue reading