Browsing all articles tagged with project management
Comments Off on Managing People is Key to Effective Project Execution

Leading peopleIdentify groups of people resources to effect this goal.

A key skill for PMs is managing the key delivery resource – the people. Although highly obvious, this skill is often downplayed as regressive politics or burdensome bureaucracy, more lovingly known as the sentient art of cat herding, and as such it is repressively limited to the subconscious and not allowed to develop and permeate into the active consciousness of most PMs.

With 17 years in the process-intensive world of consultancy in the portfolio, program, process, PMO and projects realms as well as two years as a contractor-consultant, I have had the honor of meeting and working with highly experienced and senior PMs that are far smarter than me and better at leveraging their experiences. However, I couldn’t help but notice the general lack of acceptance of this key skill – managing people – by most PMs.

  • Fact: Undoubtedly, people resource management is the key constraint and a critical success factor of all projects. PMs in all industries are well aware that project management has been/is/will be interpreted as people management. However, for most PMs, the people management skill is undeveloped, crude or simply defined negatively as manipulation.

 

  • Fact: A PM has to manage, communicate with and connect with project resources during the entire project duration and get them involved completing project activities and moving the project forward. The project’s success lies in the hands of these valued resources and on how responsibly and effectively they execute tasks/project activities they are assigned to, as well as how well they interact with each other.

 

  • Key: To ensure the project’s success, the PM’s strongest leverage is to ensure effective collaboration, rapport and good will with all individuals on the project and ensure they are working effectively and efficiently to deliver on their assigned tasks.

 

  • Key: An effective PM should be clear and thorough on his project sciences of methodologies, processes, metrics and tools, as well as the project art of a people manager, mitigator, resolution expert, trusted advisor, motivator and importantly an influencing leader. In a nutshell: a very wary king-maker but nary ever a king.

 

The resources necessary to accomplish this skill can be identified into several categories:

  • The Relationship Builders: They understand that relationships are needed to get things done within the organization. They know that you can’t influence others and get others to support your ideas unless you have first built relationships with them.

 

  • The Organizational Savvy: These are the veritably astute bureaucrats. They know how the organization works – why things happen and how decisions and work gets done. They know the ins and outs of the organization – the formal and informal processes as well as who the true decision makers are that are getting things done.

 

  • The Team Players: These are risk averse, dependent, collaborative types that work well within a team environment to be successful and get things done.

 

  • The Creative and Innovative: These are the out of the box thinkers, cowboys, cowgirls and idea people. They will also work with others on their ideas. They care about ideas in general that enable the organization to be successful and stay ahead of the competition.

 

  • The Calculated Risk-Takers: The deliberate thinkers and risk hedgers are calculated in taking and transferring risks. They carefully plan what they are going to do and are very cognizant of what can go wrong.

Effective PMs are acutely aware that the project resources look at them as a soft leader, the get it done guy or gal, and the key person to always stand up for them, win their hearts and guide their minds. And to be successful in the proverbial real world, which could arguably be a matter of perspectives, the more a PM can own and satisfy the aforementioned core sentiments of the project resources, both up and down-stream, the higher his/her chances of long-term successes are to have the cherished repute of an effective PM.

By Armann Ardaini, SSBB, PgMP, PMP, CQA. Ardaini is a PMO Management consultant for program, process and projects management. He is currently a Sr. Program/Project Management consultant managing a HR Process and Vendor Management Outsourcing Program.

 

Comments Off on When In Doubt, Communicate!

When In Doubt, Communicate!

The stakes are high: according to a 2007 PMI study, 28% of projects fail due to poor communication—the single most common cause. Data hoarding, ill-defined communication expectations, and sheer inertia all conspire against open communication channels. But if you hammer the communication basics, you’re contributing a vital ingredient to project success.

If you want to encourage communication, practice it yourself.

Lay out realistic channels, with your audience in mind . How well have you communicated with your team today/this week/month? Right-size your communications: don’t use the communications structure required for a shuttle mission for your migration to SharePoint 2010. Keep your stakeholders’ risk tolerance levels in mind. Lack of communication almost always aggravates risk.

Focus on available tools.

There’s a reason that Microsoft Excel is the world’s most popular software for documenting and managing project plans: it’s everywhere, and most everyone knows how to use it. Check your organization first for communication standards, and then broaden your search for communication formats and procedures that make sense for your project. Why reinvent the wheel? And, PMBOK provides a complete (at times excruciatingly so) roadmap for effective communications.

Find an appropriate cadence for communicating project information.

When do the c-level offices prefer their briefings? How much hand-tooling, and how much broadcasting, does your corporate culture want in its messaging? Build team consensus on how much documentation of communication is required.

Establish who communicates which information, and to whom.

Better internal communication propagates beyond your project, first to sponsors and external stakeholders, and then throughout your organization. A Role Report Matrix is a handy way to define responsibilities for communication to project stakeholders and media outlets.

Imposed solutions are often ignored/rebelled against.

Be willing to change communication methods midstream as your team gains traction, and management articulates or changes preferences. You could try inferring the right amount of touch for each audience. Better yet, ask.

Adherence to PMBOK principles adds to project clarity.

Staples like the project Org Chart, Risk Register, and Gantt should be public touchstones. And, don’t forget Lessons Learned as a function of effective communication. Both you and your organization will be smarter for future projects.

Lee J. Tarricone, PMP

Lee J. Tarricone, PMP, is a project management consultant with BCforward. He currently manages projects for business process enhancement and web search optimization.

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

Comments Off on Should We Outsource Our Project Management Work?

Should We Outsource Our Project Management Work?

Magic 8 Ball: Should we outsource our Project Management work?

“Yes.” “No.” “It is decidedly so.”

If only obtaining answers to our questions were that simple.

In today’s world, it seems that transformation is happening all around us. From the simple changing of the seasons, to the complex world of technology, one thing is for certain: change is constant. Even in corporate work environments, change is occurring in how staffing models are implemented. Considering the economic conditions, many companies are focused on ways to minimize costs without sacrificing quality of services or products they provide. How is this accomplished varies from company to company but considerations may be made to outsource certain resources based upon the specific needs of an organization. One example could be to outsource project management resources.

When is outsourcing project management work appropriate? Instead of shaking the “Magic 8 Ball” for the answer, there are a few signs which may help when considering this option:

  1. So many projects, so little time. Many times organizations have prioritized projects which must be completed within a given timeline and to meet the needs for delivering a product or service. In a lean workforce environment, internal resources are easily over-allocated which can impact project delivery dates. Outsourcing the project management component can supplement the shortage of resources while bringing rapid organization and oversight for effectively streamlining resource tasks and activities.
  2. Cannot see the forest for the trees. How project expectations are identified, outlined and communicated are key to delivering successful outcomes. Because of competing priorities which may be occurring between stakeholders it is imperative that projects have clearly communicated goals and objectives. On-boarding outside project management resources can bring an unbiased perspective to ensure focus is maintained on understanding the broader vision instead of “getting lost in the details.”
  3. Continuously reinventing the wheel. Though organizations may accomplish project success, many may find themselves managing projects with no formal/informal methodology or processes. Without this, projects may find themselves in disarray and resources continuously developing tools to help maintain project stabilization. External project management resources can bring expertise to assist in creating tools and techniques which provide structure and capabilities for reuse on future projects.

Though the “Magic 8 Ball” can give us answers to our questions, the real answer of whether or not to outsource project management work lies within each organization and the importance they place on project management.

Jamie McKinney
Jamie McKinney is a Project Manager with BCforward. Jamie’s primary responsibilities include working to identify and overcome business needs and challenges in order to improve efficiency and business strategies.

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

Comments Off on Is Agile Right For Your Project?

Is Agile Right For Your Project?

The definition of Agile is: “quick and well-coordinated in movement.”

Your company is launching a new project and your boss asks you if you think the new project would be a good candidate to work as an Agile project. Your company is rather traditional, branching out occasionally to try new things, but you are not sure if this project is appropriate for an Agile approach. You definitely want the project to be successful. What do you need to consider when making a decision of this type for your new project?

Here are some major factors to look at when considering an agile project approach.

  • Is this project similar to other projects that your company has done, or is it a completely new type of project? Projects that are pioneering efforts are typically better candidates for Agile projects primarily because there is a great deal of uncertainty about the end product, and the Agile model is designed to address these shifting priorities.
  • Is this project a large, medium or small project? Does it have an extensive number of elements that interact with other systems? Medium to small system projects that are relatively independent of other systems are easier to leverage with an Agile approach.
  • Are your project requirements completely nailed down, or are they just defined at a high level? Agile typically is better at leveraging high level requirements.
  • Is the management team at your company willing to let this project launch without imposing a project completion date immediately? One of the keys to an Agile project is that the first couple of sprints help to identify how much work is getting done during each sprint; this also helps to plan out the remaining backlog of work, and feeds an estimate for a completion date built upon a foundation of performance, not guesswork.
  • Access to the right personnel is also critical. A product owner is a keystone element for an Agile project; as are the ability to put together a small co-located team of folks (8-12) that are experienced, self-reliant, and cross-trained.
  • Can the product roll-out in increments to show progress, or must it all launch at one time? Likewise is continuous improvement feasible? If it can roll out incrementally, and continuous improvement is feasible, then it is absolutely a good candidate. If not, but all of the other elements meet the Agile criteria, then this can be worked out.

If you can answer “Yes” to all of these questions then by all means your project is a candidate to use an Agile Project Methodology. If you can answer “Yes” to half, or less of these questions then I would advise you to stay with your current project management methodology. Staying true to the process, at least initially, will give you a much better idea if it can really add value to your organization.

Mark Timmis

 

Mark W. Timmis is a Certified Scrum Master and practicing IT Project Manager with 10+ years experience in project management. His experience in project management spans across: Pharma, Medical Device, State and Local Government, Healthcare, and Insurance. 

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

Comments Off on Critical Chain vs. Critical Path

Critical Chain vs. Critical Path

I have had it happen before that someone has overheard discussions of Critical Chain methodology, and commented along the lines of: “Critical Path? Oh yeah, I know what that is!” I’d be more inclined to look down my nose were it not for the fact that I did the same thing the first week I was on the job. Fortunately, my mentor was of a forgiving nature.

So what are the differences?

Critical Path is an important concept. Functionally, it looks at how to get from point A to point Z and what has to occur to get there. The important thing in building a critical path is that you start at the end and work backwards. “Directly, before I can Z, I have to Y.” And so on. This works perfectly for the work of a single person, or a simple line of tasks. If there is more than one work stream going on, the longest one is the most critical path to get the tasks done, hence the name.

In Critical Chain, we concentrate on working only one task at a time to increase efficiency. Avoiding interruptions assists in timely completion. Critical Chain recognizes that when dealing with multiple workstreams and many resources, things get murky. More importantly, it takes into account that humans make mistakes. By making estimates that are only 50% completable and counting on the project to account for the remainder, it frees the employee to just do their best without fear of repercussion for late delivery. But that willingness will fade if you, as the PM, don’t champion their right to go beyond that 50% estimate.

In summation, Critical Path is more of an approach of efficiently connecting tasks, while Critical Chain uses that task order as a basis to better direct human activity, thus managing the most critical asset of the project: the people performing it.

Scott Moreland is a certified Project Manager with 10+ years in project delivery.  

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

Comments Off on 5 Attributes of a Great Contract Project Manager

Managing Projects for over 20 years has taught me a few things about what attributes a good project manager must possess. A good part of my role today is to find and place contract project managers. Great PMs have many traits and you can read tons of articles on what attributes comprise a good PM. After reading and reflecting on several of these article and then looking back over my years of project delivery and hiring PMs, I have compiled these 5 attributes I look for in a great contract project manager:

PM Technical Knowledge:

You must be able to demonstrate that you know a little about most PM methods of management, and a lot about a couple. The ability to articulate project management methodology and the classic structured approach to managing a project instill confidence. That is, a good contract project manager MUST be able to articulate and demonstrate that they understand the mechanics of a structured approach to managing a project. This is important to any client who is purchasing PM expertise to supplement their workforce. The understanding of the mechanics instills the confidence that you can pull them through this project and have many methods to choose from in your toolbox. A PM who cannot debate the pros and cons of Critical Path, Critical Chain, Waterfall, Agile/Scrum is not ready to be put in a contract PM position. Secondly, the PM must be highly skilled in the software tools required to manage a project (MSProject, SharePoint, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.)

Confidence:

Contract project managers are not for the faint of heart and to do this well you have to have confidence in yourself. You have to have the ability to be thrust in a situation and say I can do anything given enough time and information.

Honesty:

Demonstrating consistent personal integrity is your golden ticket. Clients need to trust that you will provide what they are paying for. Respect their time and money by giving 110% during your work day. As well, the ability to provide honest information and feedback in a constructive way demonstrates your intention of integrity.

Personable:

As a contractor you are often looked upon as an outsider in the beginning. You require the ability to win the confidence of your team who might be initially threatened by your presence.  Personality and humor work wonders and are a necessary tool of all contractors.

Passion:

Having a passion for what you do and doing it well is another attribute that is key for contract PM’s.  As a contractor a genuine concern for serving the client and the project and making them successful is key.

Of course, there are other attributes that make up a great contract project managers but these are the top five in my, not so humble, opinion.

 

Patty Cline is a Senior level Project Manager with 20+ years in project delivery.  Patty is currently the BCforward PM Engagement Manager.  Patty recruits and hires entry, middle and senior level PMs. Her experience in project delivery spans across many industries including, Healthcare, Education, Government, Insurance and Finance. 

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

Comments Off on 10 Things to Look For in a Project Manager

10 Things to Look For in a Project Manager

Today, PM’s are doing more (and faster!) than in previous years. Here are here are 10 important traits required for a PM:

Written Communication:

A person needs to have an extensive vocabulary and know how to use it in written fashion.  Always have emails from the candidate in front of you and ask them: “What did you mean here?”  Are they getting point across?

Active Listening:

Most people think they are listening, but have little to show for it after a meeting. Does this person take notes? Can they here when a decision has been made? Are they asking questions? Even seemingly trivial questions can show the desire to know more.

Professional Attire:

Being dressed for success is important – anything less does not reflect a winning attitude.

Leadership:

PM’s are going to be looked as leaders, but we are not all born leaders. Delegating leadership to into the team will empower individuals to be best they can be.

Magnetism:

A good PM draws together a team quickly. A good PM will learn first names quickly and use them often. The PM is the figure people look to early in the project, when everyone has questions.  This skill gets the group together and gets collaborating quickly.

Organizational Skills:

Even though this is a style item with many successful variants, PMs have to have it. The ability to be able to quickly pull up an old email, document or artifact is crucial. Organization can be taught within a PMO system.

Collaboration:

Getting out of your cube and working with people is crucial. A shy PM is an ineffective one.

Communication Methods:

Sure you email, but do you text?  Yes, it is a phone, but do you use it to make a meeting?  OneNote, SharePoint, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging – all of these are viable options in today’s world.

Adoption Skills:

Too often, PM’s come in with all the answers and fail to adopt a new team’s organization or a company’s producers. Find out early if a PM can learn and adopt existing ways. Getting certified proves they can learn, but not if they want to on the job.

Flexibility:

Are you sure your organization won’t change?  PMs have to be fast on their feet and not get stuck looking back into the old ways. Be ready for change, when it’s called for.

 

Brian Burrows is a Project Manager at BCforward, providing services for multiple projects in Initiation, Execution, and Monitor and Control process groups. Current assignments have also included assistance with preparing RFQ and vendor selection activities.

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

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