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Friday, November 17, 2006

A Communication Failure?

When project teams are surveyed at the end of failed projects, poor communications is always cited as being one of the major causes. Why does this keep happening? Why is project communications so poorly executed so often. My short answer is that many project managers are arrogant, inattentive, and oblivious to the feelings and needs of the project team.

Project managers get busy. Many times they don't make time to manage project communications properly. Also, the project manager may think they are doing a good job communicating, but that may not be the case.

Project managers must remember that the project team is made up of individuals. Each person on the team has a preference for the types of communication they like to receive, and each person processes communications differently.

Some things to monitor that may point to poor project communications are:

Trust - Does the team trust you (the project manager)? How do you know? Everybody will not trust you all the time. Team members that don't trust the project manager will not be open in their communications. They will tend to either shut down or challenge the project manager at every turn.

De-motivated - Where are we going? Are we going where we said we were going when we started? Did we clearly state where we were going before we started?

Whining - Despair and anxiety take over the team or key team members. Infighting is prevalent and people are starting to talk openly about the project being a failure.

Incompetence - Team isn't sharing information and learning. Perhaps the team has had little to no training, or the training received was of poor quality.

All the above can be overcome, however it requires that the project manager is listening and changing strategy when necessary to get the team back on track. Just because you are a project manager doesn't make you a good communicator, however ignoring problems like the ones mentioned above will make you a bad project manager.

My two cents are, be a leader. Lead through your communication and your ability to motivate your team to get the job done. Be on the lookout for the above warning signs. When you see signs of the warning signs act quickly, follow-up, then continue to monitor.

Poor project team synergy is the fault of the project manager. There are a lot of incompetent project managers that are hurting our profession because they either refuse to alter their communication styles or are too arrogant to change. My advice to them is to change their ways or leave the project management profession.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Project Management Maturity and You

The subject of Project Management Maturity has been given a lot of press lately. At this year's PMI Global Conference there were lots of vendors selling all kinds of products to help organizations and project managers increase their project management maturity level. As project managers, we need training and tools to help us perform to at our best. Over the years I have evaluated several products to help me manage my projects more effectively. I like two products in particular because they are reasonably priced, and have free templates and processes available on their websites that you can put to use right away.

The products I'm speaking of are:
TenStep's Project Management Process and
PMOStep - Project Management Office process also available from TenStep

I also use a great collection of templates and forms called the Project Management Kit from Method123.

As I said, I own, use, and highly recommend products from both of these vendors. They are the only sites I advertise on this blog because I use them both and can say that they are a great deal for the money.

Now, lets talk about Project Management Maturity.

It is widely agreed that there are five levels of Project Management Maturity.

They are (my definition):

LEVEL 1 - INITIAL- No consistency in the organization's approach to project management

LEVEL 2 - REPEATABLE - There are some project management processes being utilized. There are some procedures developed for managing projects. There are some measures in place to help measure project management performance.

LEVEL 3 - DEFINED - Formal integrated processes are in place and they are agreed upon. There are project management coaches in the organization, and project management training is emphasized and provided to all project managers. Project management procedures are integrated around project scope, quality, time, cost, etc.

LEVEL 4 - MANAGED - Project reviews and benchmarking are formal. Project results are and procedures are benchmarked and used as a basis for improvement.

LEVEL 5 - OPTIMIZED - Continuous improvement is the driver behind project management excellence. Data is used to make decisions. Errors and anomalies are analyzed and patched to support continuous improvement. Project management success is visible to all. Project management skills and a project centric culture is embedded in the organization. Performance and innovation drive the organization towards excellence.

We exist as project managers to help our organization improve project performance. In order to help ourselves and our organization's projects succeed, we need to:

Continuously improve our project management processes and procedures

Conduct post project reviews

Benchmark our project results internally and externally

Be continuous learners

Use tools that are relevant to our jobs