Some project managers feel like they are running a race with weights tied to their legs. There are so many hoops to jump through…so many forms to complete…so many stakeholders to please. How can we move quickly, easily, and lightly?
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Yes, Jack can be nimble, and Jack can be quick, but it will require that we break some old habits. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Try some new things to increase your speed.
Perform a project premortem. As your project begins, get your team and key stakeholders together to conduct a premortem to identify things that may keep you from moving quickly. Brainstorm ways to reduce project friction and ways to remove obstacles.
Leverage your project sponsors. One of the responsibilities of a project sponsor is to clear the path for your projects. Work with your sponsors to identify potential roadblocks and ask your sponsor to help clear the way.
Build momentum. In this book The 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell says, “Momentum helps a leader do anything and everything more easily. That’s why I call it the great exaggerator. Without momentum, everything is harder to do than it should be. With it, everything is easier.” Maxwell goes on to say, “…spend less time trying to fix problems and more trying to create momentum.”
Staff your project teams with skilled, knowledgeable members. Nothing will help you move faster than skilled team members. Also consider the chemistry of the members. The goal is not to get the most talented individuals in the organization; it’s to select and build TEAMS that can work TOGETHER to deliver the greatest results. There is a difference.
Reduce meetings. “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be meetings,” said comedian Dave Barry. I am not one of those people who hates meetings, at least not well-planned, productive meetings. However, most projects have a meeting obesity problem. We have too many meetings, and we try to cram too much stuff in them. Try daily stand-up meetings. Get to the point and get on to the work!
Reduce documentation. I’m not down on documentation either. However, we sometimes spend more time documenting than executing. Look for ways to lighten the documentation. Have more face-to-face communication. Use tools such as instant messaging and web conferences for virtual team communications. Do more prototyping.
Ask your team members for ideas. Periodically ask your team how you are doing on keeping things simple and moving things forward at a healthy pace. Ask how you can increase the speed and maintain an acceptable level of quality.
Build and keep your core teams small. Look for ways to ensure good representation on your teams and at the same time, keep your teams small. Keep core teams to no more than eight people if possible. Identify supplemental team members that are brought into the project on an as-need basis and then released to return to their daily jobs.
Use the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your project results will come from twenty percent of your effort according to Pareto’s Principle. Constantly ask yourself which activities matter most. Periodically perform a Start – Stop – Continue Exercise: What should we start doing? What should we stop doing? What should we continue doing?
Co-locate your team. When possible, co-locate your team members. Co-location can be done for certain days of the week or half-days for each day of the week. Another strategy is to co-locate the team early in the project to enhance communications and to help build relationships.
Pick a few of these ideas and give them a try. Evaluate the results. Seek to continuously improve your project processes.
Question: What tips do you have to help project managers be more nimble in their projects?