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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Your Must Fail to Succeed!

If you are an "experienced" project manager and haven't had a few project failures, in my mind, you aren't a very good project manager. Project managers must constantly push their team members towards exceeding their comfort levels, take (calculated) risks, be decisive, make firm commitments, and be aggressive when base-lining and managing the triple constraints (Time, Cost, Quality). Just like a successful NASCAR driver, a project manager must learn to live close to the edge of disaster, but while doing so, he or she must aggressively manage their project’s Risks. 

In my opinion, too many project managers are unwilling to set firm expectations with their team for fear of being unpopular. There are going to be times when your project team doesn't really care if a milestone is missed or a promise isn't kept. The problem is your project isn't always your team’s top concern. Don’t forget that. You live with and for your project and at the same time some of your team members might loathe your project. Many team members have other responsibilities outside of your project and your project may be preventing them from doing their regular job. 

Project Tip - If you find that you have members on your project team that aren't 100% committed to achieving the goals of your project, you need to start thinking about replacing them. 

Based upon my experience, - at least on IT projects - most project problems that are encountered in the Project Execution phases are the fault of the project manager. Proper Risk Management will help the project manager foresee and mitigate many problems that will arise during project execution. If you have lots of problems and issues on your project you did a poor job of Risk Management in the planning phase. 


Some things to keep in mind to avoid failure when planning your project: 

Be crystal clear when communicating with your team. All important communications should be in writing. 

Don't allow project committees or executive oversight groups to dictate how you plan your project. 

Communicate quickly to your team and senior management if you believe that your project is out of control. 

Don't assume that suppliers or vendors will be honest with you. Make sure you continually follow-up and get commitments in writing (preferably in the contract). 

Split your project into manageable phases. 

Ensure that your end users are involved every step of the way. 

Communicate Status as often as is needed. Include bad news, problems, issues, and concerns in your status report and be sure to include how you plan to overcome them. 

Don't let your project fail because you aren't communicating or your team isn't functioning properly. 

Believe in the statement that “Project failure is always the Project Manager's fault”! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Absent Executive - replayed

Ever had a project that begins with strong executive/senior management support and over time that support fades?

The symptoms of executive disintrest are:

Executives/senior management don't ask questions during status meetings or stop coming to the meetings

Executives/senior management lack a sense of urgency regarding "your" project

Executives/senior management become more confused and/or less supportive over time regarding project goals and objectives

Executives/senior management begin to focus on what has been "installed" vs. what business results have been realized

The project sponsor(s) becomes detached and less available for project updates

Executives, sponsors, and stakeholders start to forget the culture and try to force solutions to meet deadlines

I know first hand that executives/senior management will tell you they support your project, and then turnaround and encourage resistance in their departments, and allow or ignore passive-aggressive behaviors of key staff members regarding the project's goals and objectives. What can be done? Here are some ideas; however you must realize that your project is in serious trouble if you have observed the behaviors listed above.

Calculate the costs of the project so far. Consider scaling back the project or killing it all together. I know from experience that this is much easier said than done.

Identify key executives and stakeholders and meet with them personally and restate the projects benefits. If they still aren't sold or supportive, move on to the next group. Ensure you create a Scope Change and de-scope portions of the project that aren't getting support.

Reevaluate the project team. Do you need new people? Are they really focused on meeting the project's objectives and scope? Are the project's objectives and scope still realistic, attainable and relevant?

Reevaluate the organization's culture and re-plan the project if needed. Reset expectations, and identify sources of resistance. If the culture can't be changed quickly, perhaps the project's objectives, goals, and/or scope need to be adjusted.

Remember, project failure rests on the project manager's and project sponsor's shoulders. Sometimes senior management is too busy to get or stay involved, however that doesn't release them from their responsibility to support your project. Determine if they are too busy or just too lazy to support your project. Not easy to do, but absolutely necessary.

Remember what Dr. Stephen Covey says is the 4th Discipline (The 4 Disciplines of Execution) - "Hold Each Other Accountable - All of the Time". If you are a project manager it is your job to hold all levels of the organization accountable for project success. Having said that, you must proceed with caution if you plan to do this with executives. Be tactful and respectful; however, don't let them off the hook!

A recent survey found that only 39 percent of workers feel highly energized and committed to their organization's most important goals. This survey includes executives and senior managers. Just because they have the title doesn't mean they will behave responsibly or be focused on doing the right things right!

Executives, senior management, and your project sponsor(s) may say they support you and your project, but it is up to you to figure out if they really are being supportive. Silence is not acceptance when it comes to dealing with the decision makers. When they stop asking questions, you are in deep trouble.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Seven Step Path to Sustaining Project Success

Tom Peter's Wisdom!


You take care of the people.
The people take care of the service.
The service takes care of the customer.
The customer takes care of the profit.
The profit takes care of the re-investment.
The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
The re-invention takes care of the future.
(And at every step the only measure is EXCELLENCE.)


More project wisdom at www.tompeters.com