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Monday, November 29, 2004

Break it Down

When faced with large projects the first thing I try to do is to break the project down into smaller, manageable chunks of work. Many of our projects can be large and complex. Breaking the project down into management tasks will help to:

Simplify the process of creating Metrics to manage project progress

Reduce Risk by creating shorter timelines with less overall scope

Make it easier for individuals and groups to understand the Work they must perform

Make Planning easier and more realistic

When creating your Project Charter be sure to address all phases of the project, but emphasize that the project will be delivered in phases. In addition, make sure your Project Charter clearly addresses the:

Project Objectives

Project Benefits

Project Risks (initial assessment)

Project Constraints

Project Assumptions

Project Dependencies

Resource Requirements

Project Cost and Duration estimates (establish your range for this estimate and state it)

What the Project won't address or deliver

There are other items that can be included in the Project Charter, but addressing the above items clearly and getting the sponsor's buy-in will be critical to getting your project off to a good start.

For more information regarding a Project Charter click here

Monday, November 22, 2004

Reforming Project Management Theory and Practice

Reforming Project Management Theory and Practice. Hal has created a very good project management website that provides great insight and valuable information that any project manager can use.

In a recent posting Hal talks about leadership and mentioned that as project managers we should provide just enough leadership to support the efforts of others. While on the face of it that statement sounds reasonable I believe that you may not know how much "just enough" is.

My thought is a project manager should provide leadership consistently throughout the project with all stakeholders versus trying to figure out how much is just enough. Obviously when we are working with executives and senior management we need to keep our messages and leadership short and to the point.

As Hal says "what we need on projects is to cultivate leadership throughout the team" and I would add we need to always Lead by Example.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Change and the Project Manager

Every project we work on as Project Managers brings change to the organization. Those individuals or groups that react negatively to change usually do so out of fear. How can we overcome this fear early in the project so it doesn't manifest itself later and throw the project into chaos?

To help in the process of managing change lets look at the "Stages of Negative Reaction to Change". As stated in the book "Project Manager's Portable Handbook - Second Edition" (David I. Cleland and Lewis R. Ireland), the stages of negative reaction to change are:

* Disruption of Work

* Denial of Change

* Realization of Change

* Negotiating Change

* Accepting Change

Basically the authors are telling us that Change needs to be managed, and furthermore managing change is a process. Inflicting change on an organization without realizing the repercussions or backlash can contribute to project failure.

Project Management can provide structure and help articulate the reasons for a change. The processes behind Project Management are there to help move the organization to accept the changes that come about as a result of the project's deliverables.

Keep the following in mind to help manage the change that will occur as a result of your project:

* Use SMART Objectives in your project (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound)

* Create a Risk Management Plan

* Create a Project Schedule that is realistic and agreed upon

* Create an atmosphere of Trust

* Define and Use a Scope Change Process

* Solicit feedback throughout your project from the stakeholders that will be experiencing the brunt of the change

Change will be disruptive and can cause unexpected behavior and results. Understanding the positive and negative results of change prior to its implementation will help you to head off problems early. Be patient with your stakeholders, and if necessary be ready and willing to escalate issues to senior management to get quick resolution and closure. Allowing stakeholders to hold your project hostage because of their biases and fears will only lead to project failure and ill will.

Understand the positive and negative effects of the change you are implementing, develop goals early in the project to mitigate the negative effects of the change, communicate your plan to all stakeholders, and involve your stakeholders in developing and effecting the change.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Setting Up a Project Management Office

When developing a Project Management Office keep in mind the following items:

PMO Need - Why are you setting up a PMO? What are the Pros and Cons?

Cultural Change - What barriers will there be to setting up PMO? How will the PMO overcome these barriers?

Organizational Assessment - What is the Project Management Maturity of your project managers and the organization?

Methodologies - What Methodoligies will you use in the PMO? Templates? Business Processes?

Resources - How many people will comprise the PMO staff and what are their roles and responsibilities?

Training - What type of training does the staff require? What type of training does the organization require to support the PMO?

Metrics - What type of metrics will the PMO be responsible for collecting?

Lines of Authority - Who runs the PMO and why?

PMO Type - What type of PMO are you going to setup? Strategic? Business Unit Focus? Project Control Office?

Executive Buy-In - How are you going to get your company executives to buy-in to and then support the PMO?

Setting up a PMO is a daunting challenge that all to often ends up in failure. If your organization is seriously considering starting up a PMO make sure they have done their homework.

There are several excellent books that will help you and your company setup and operate a successfull PMO.

Take a look at:

The Strategic Project Office - A Guide to Improving Organizational Performance - J. Kent Crawford

Advanced Project Portfolio Management and the PMO - Multiplying ROI at Warp Speed - Gerald I Kendall, PMP and Steven C. Rollins, PMP

One final thought, don't be afraid to bring in an outside consulting company to help you through the process of setting up your PMO. Most PMOs are shutdown within the first few years due to the lack of perceived value by senior executives.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Are you Trustworthy?

As I get ready to develop an internal training course entitled "Introduction to Project Management" I'm reminded of my past Project Management training. Invariably all Project Management training courses talk about the triple constraints, baselines, critical paths, scope, risk, cost management etc. While all these things, and more, are important to manage on every project, I think a lot of my training has been lacking in “What Matters Most” when it comes to successfully managing projects.

In my career I have found that the ability to work well with others, show empathy towards their needs, and being trustworthy have done more for my successes than being overly reliant on tools such as pert charts, resource loaded histograms, and quantitative risk analysis discussions. Granted, I haven't managed very large (over $10M) or overly complex projects, but I don’t think that matters when it boils down to what is important when managing projects. When managing any size project the project manager needs to focus on what is most important to that project. Only you, your sponsor, and stakeholders can answer that question. Is the most important thing getting the project done on time, coming in at or under budget, delivering at a high level of quality, or having a big WOW factor? (See Tom Peter's – “The Project 50” book for more on the WOW factor). You must decide what the Project “Driver” is before you begin your planning.

Don't get caught in the trap of believing that if you meet your Time, Cost, and Scope objectives your project is a success. If your users and/or sponsor aren't satisfied with the project's results YOUR PROJECT IS A FAILURE!

Every project needs a project sponsor, charter, a budget, a realistic agreed upon schedule, competent resources, a list of valid assumptions, a list of the project’s constraints, dependencies, and people assigned to your team that are dedicated and personally committed to seeing the project succeed. However, you as the project manager must have the trust of all stakeholders and demonstrate that your are committed to doing your best and delivering on your promises.

To get back to my initial point, your internal Project Management training (you don't just rely on external vendors do you?) must put a heavy emphasis on Project Communications and teaching your audience how to be TRUSTWORTHY Project Managers. Without the trust of your peers, management, and customers your project management career won't last very long.