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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Manage Expectations to Succeed

In the project management world there are many differing opinions regarding how to successfully manage a project. One of the most important things project managers must do is to manage the expectations and relationships with our stakeholders.

Some things to keep in mind to help us manage our relationships better are:
  • Take the time to assess the culture (Is it supportive, what is the balance of power, what are the stakeholder attitudes)
  • Identify and formally document the goals of the stakeholders and sponsor (Are the goals realistic, attainable, communicated)
  • Assess our own capabilities and limitations (Are you politically savvy, respected, a good negotiator)
  • Define the problem(s) the project will be solving (Define objectives, risks, relationships)
  • Develop solutions (Create action plan, determine the right solution for the right time)
  • Test and refine the solutions (New learnings must be incorporated, replan, retool, rethink)
  • Develop communication plans to ensure expectations are managed 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Successful Project Managers Have...

Have recognized leadership traits

Be a great communicator
Have a sense of humor (often)
Have integrity
Be driven to succeed
Have great project management skills
Be disciplined
Be able to think strategically
Be a good listener (active listening)
Be compassionate
Make good decisions

How does a new project manager obtain and hone these skills?  My quick answer is a blend of education, experience, on-the-job training, mentoring, and a continuous feedback loop.  In order to move from good to great we must work to improve our skills and focus on our strengths; however, we must also identify and minimize or eliminate our weaknesses. 

Finally, great project managers like working with people. They like challenges, they have an even temperament, and they are a motivating influence to those around them.  Good PMs don’t just plan and delegate, they get involved and become part of the team. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wisdom and Projects

Albert Einstein said "A clever person solves a problem; a wise person avoids it". After reading this quote, it reminded me that project managers spend a lot of time (or should be) avoiding problems. One thing that can help project managers avoid problems is to follow a Project Management Methodology (PMM). A PMM is a set of agreed-upon processes that assists project managers and  teams to deliver predictable project outcomes.

To create a customized PMM for your organization you need to define all applicable project management processes, procedures and policies used to deliver your organization's projects. Also, don't forget to develop or obtain a set of project templates as they are an important part of any PMM.  Finally, you need to develop a training program to introduce and educate your organization about the new PMM.

Once your PMM is implemented ensure you measure the results and make adjustments where necessary. If you need help in developing your PMM there are many companies that can assist you and your organization.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Organizational Best Practices for Project Management

A good reference book about Project Management is “The Portable MBA in Project Management by Eric Verzuh”. In the book Eric sites a major study that was conducted around what Project Management Best Practices look like in a typical large organization. Perhaps we can learn a few things by looking at the results.

Formal (agreed-upon) Project Management Structure

Companies that successfully implement and use project management have a formal structure in place. These organizations have repeatable project management processes, and executives of the company are engaged and accountable for the success of project management and the project’s that they sponsor.

A Repeat Project Management Process

Repeatable processes that are aligned to PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) Guide’s Nine Knowledge areas have been shown to increase the probability of project success.

Alignment of Projects to the Organizations Strategy

Projects that aren’t aligned will probably not be given a high priority (or proper support) within the organization. Projects that are aligned will have an executive sponsor that is engaged and measured against the project’s success.

Use of Tools

Project Managers need tools to do their job just like any other profession. The tools can be project management software, templates, and other items. The tools need to be closely aligned around the organization’s project management processes.

Experienced Project Managers

This was found to be the single most important success factor in the companies studied. The skills that successful project managers exhibit were:

Experience in Project Management
Ability to see the big picture
Excellent communications skills (verbal and written)
Willingness to do what it takes
Leadership and organizational skills
Problem solving skills
Collaborative and cooperative
Positive Attitude

The book is a great Project Management reference, is well written, and contains a wealth of information that will help you to be a better project manager.