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Monday, June 20, 2005

Project Communications Plan

Project Communications Planning is a process that is continuous throughout a project. When building your initial Project Communications plan focus on the following:

Define Your Audiences - Who needs to know What, and When and How do they need to know it. Communication needs and audiences will change as the project moves forward. Plan for it.

Start from the Top and Work Your Way Down the Chain - Start your Communications with the highest levels of the organization first, then work your way down to the team members. Repeat this cycle.

Target Your Message to the Different Groups - Different groups (and sometimes individuals) may require different types of communications media (e-mail, status reports, web site, face-to-face, memo, etc.). Plan for these different types of communications vehicles up front.

Define Roles and Responsibilities - Ensure that your Project Communications Plan includes Roles and Responsibilities for key stakeholders.

Status Reports - Status Reports are a great form of Project Communication if kept short and to the point.

Repetitive Messages will be Required - The same message delivered using different mechanisms and sources will help to reinforce your message.

Anticipate Conflict - Tailor your communications to overcome Conflict before it occurs. Keep in mind that Conflict will always occur on a project. Conflict needs to be anticipated and managed continuously throughout the project.

Allow for Anonymous Feedback - Create a way for people to relay their positive and negative feedback anonymously.

Project Managers need to recognize that good Communication is important because it helps to reduce conflict, increases information distribution, and helps to silence critics while reinforcing the positive aspects of your project.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wow! Projects

As many of you may know from my previous blog entries I really like Tom Peters. Tom has so much energy and passion, and additionally, he has some great ideas regarding reinventing work. In my opinion, his ideas around Project Management are revolutionary, bleeding-edge, and way out in front of what is considered the "norm". Recently while reviewing his website I found myself reading about what Tom calls "WOW! Projects". If you have a moment, take the time to read what Tom has to say about WOW! Projects.

To reflect a bit, as I look back over my career I do not think I have ever worked on a WOW! Project, and in hindsight that is a disappointment. As a Project Manager, I struggle every day trying to manage my projects to a "successful" conclusion. Over the course of my career when managing individual projects how that project's success is measured has many times been a moving target. Stakeholders and the project sponsor change their minds in the middle of the project regarding what they want and the ensuing scope changes cause the project success measurement bar to move.

While the project manager is responsible for project success and scope management, the project sponsor can influence project success when stakeholders have more influence over the scope of the project than the project manager does. While this does not happen on every one of my projects, a lesson to be learned is that I must be vigilant regarding stakeholder management.

NOTE: Remember the number one measure of Project Success (according to PMI) is Customer Satisfaction.

In my opinion WOW! Projects require a strong executive sponsor and a well-oiled projectized organization (in addition to many other things) that is not opposed to taking risks. In addition WOW! Project stakeholders must be committed to supporting the following goals of a WOW! Project.

A WOW! Project's Goals are:
An enhanced "customer experience" (internal and external)
Dramatically increased sales
Sharply reduced costs
Improved operating margins
Accelerated leadership and talent development
Innovative solutions to wide-ranging issues
Improved employee morale and job satisfaction
Accelerated post-merger integration
Enhanced stakeholder and community involvement
Cultural transformation

I recognize that I have a lot of work to do to turn my projects into WOW! Projects. Personally I do not think every project that we are assigned can be a WOW! Project, but I do believe if we keep the WOW! Project goals in mind our projects will add more value to the organizations we serve.

What do you think? Until Next Time...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Best Practices for Project Management

Good Planning will Eliminate Many Surprises - Most project problems can be traced back to poor planning desicions, or inadequate planning. Take the time to plan your project properly.

Have Agreed-Upon Project Objectives - Ensure that the project has several agreed-upon objectives that can be reviewed throughout and at the end of the project to ensure they have been met.

Create Verifiable Milestones in your Project Schedule - To measure progress make sure you have milestones that can be verified by someone outside your team. This will assist you to measure real progress.

Manage Scope - Ensure the Project Sponsor approves all Scope Change Requests. Make sure you give the project sponsor your opinion whether the Scope Change Request (SCR) should be approved and why or why not.

Track and resolve Project Issues in a Timely Manner - Ensure that you keep an accurate log of Project Issues and that this log is distributed to the Project Team and Sponsor on a regular basis.

Continue to Assess Your Project Risks throughout the Project - When meeting with your team it is a good idea to reassess the Risks you identified in planning and to see if any new Risks have surfaced that need to be captured.

Communicate Status on a Regular Basis - Depending on the size of your project a status report can be delivered orally, via e-mail, formally, via a website or some other mechanism identified in your Project Communications Plan.

Be Personable and Approachable - Many people will be more willing to help the Project Manager if they are friendly, personable, and trustworthy. Don't be arrogant, rigid, or unreasonable. The project probably won't be successful if your team members distrust and dislike you.

Look for the Warning Signs - Is your team's morale low? Is your schedule off course? Are your team members fighting all the time? Is the team working excessive amounts of overtime? You better regroup now before the situation gets out of hand. Bring the sponsor in to your next meeting and let them assess the project by asking then team for a collective status report. Have the sponsor interview team members one-on-one to look for hidden agendas and unspoken fears.

Most of all, Have Fun.