Last year at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California I recorded an all time high of 14 interviews. They have all been published over the past few months and you’ve probably heard some or all of them. But what you don’t know is what happened once each interview was complete.
I pressed the recording button one more time and asked each of my guests the following question: Which is the interpersonal skill that you attribute the most of our success in your career to? In other words, what skill has helped you most on your projects when you interact with others?
And today you are going to get all the answers. In one nice mashup. Here are all the presenters in the order you will hear their answers
Kristy Tan Neckowicz
Kristine Hayes Munson
Cyndi Snyder Dionisio
Oh, and spoiler alert... the answer that I received most often was "Relationships".
Three Techniques to Get You Out of a Schedule Jam
There are maybe a dozen major techniques that can be use to try to get a project back on schedule. The exact techniques to use are based on the cause of the schedule drift. Three techniques are described below to help you get out of a schedule jam.
Fast tracking means that you look at activities that are normally done in sequence and execute them partially in parallel instead. For instance, when building a house, the frame cannot be constructed until the foundation is dry. However, fast-tracking might include building the walls on the ground while the foundation was drying so that the walls could be erected more quickly when the foundation dries.
Fast-tracking always involves a risk that you may have some rework later.
A good rule of thumb is that sequential activities can sometimes be fast-tracked by up to 33%. In other words, if you are fast-tracking, you can start the second of two sequential activities when the first activity is 67% complete. There is risk involved; however, at that level of overlap the risk that is normally acceptable.
Implement “Zero Tolerance” Scope Change
Many projects begin to trend over their deadline because they are doing more work than they originally committed to. This is probably the result of poor scope change management. However, if you are at risk of missing your deadline date, the project manager must work with the customer and team members to ensure that absolutely no unplanned work is being requested – even if it is just one hour – without going through proper scope change management procedures. All energy should go into completing the work that was agreed to. This does not mean there can be no change. However, all changes must go through scope change management for appropriate schedule and budget relief.
Check Discretionary Dependencies
When you map out the relationship between all of the activities you will notice that some of the activities have a hard dependency and others have a soft dependency. Hard dependencies mean that activities must take place in a certain order because of the nature of the work. However, in many cases there is discretion in the sequence of the activities. In this case you want to pick the order you feel is the most efficient. This is a discretionary dependency. It is important to know the difference.
As the project progresses, it is important to check these discretionary dependencies. It may turn out the activities can be rearranged to take advantage of resources, or perhaps because you may know more, you can plan a sequence that is more optimal. Of course, to have an impact, you must identify discretionary activities that are on the critical path or that influence the critical path.
Projects are the tool businesses use to take a strategy and turn it into reality. So your project better be aligned with your long term business plan. All of them!
This interview about strategic alignment with Jay Payette was recorded at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California. We discuss his presentation and white paper Making it Happen - How Project Managers Can Drive Strategic Alignment and Strategy Execution. Here is the abstract:
Good strategy can be critical to organizational success, however in order for strategy to transform from ideas into results it must be successfully executed. In order for organizations to successfully formulate and execute strategy they must achieve sufficient strategic alignment.
Project managers and project team members can make a critical contribution to their organization’s strategic alignment. This paper examines strategic alignment through the frame of three strategic functions: formulate, align, and execute and how they interact with each other.
Additionally, three strategic alignment frameworks are presented and recommendations are made as to how they may be used by project managers to contribute to organizational strategic alignment at the project-level.
When to Implement a Change Request Freeze
Business is always changing and the project solutions must reflect these changes as well. That is why projects accommodate scope changes. To account for changing business needs, it may seem like you need to accommodate requested changes throughout the project. However, you need to finish the project as well. So, at some point you need to stop making changes. Freezing change requests is simply a technique to bring closure to the project.
The scope change freeze is an agreement with the sponsor to stop approving changes and focus on project completion. Of course, the sponsor still has the final word. If the sponsor understands the benefit of the change request, as well as the cost and impact to the project, she may still approve the request. However, even important changes may not get approved during the freeze for the sake of completing the work at hand.
What About Errors and Defects?
You may wonder whether you can still fix errors during a freeze. Remember that the freeze is on scope change requests. Of course, if you find problems or errors in the solution, they must be corrected. For example, let's say you are building an IT system. During final stress testing, you find that your hardware is not powerful enough to take the load. This may require new or upgraded hardware. This is not a scope change, but a change to fix a hardware deficiency. These types of changes are still required under the freeze.
Why the Freeze?
As a project progresses, the cost of change gets higher. This is because of the need to go backward in the lifecycle and re-do work that was already completed. For instance, a late change may require you to go back and update requirements, see how the change impacts the current design, and then integrate the changes into work that has already been built. In addition, late changes may cause previously designed and built components to break, which causes more trouble-shooting and rework.
Just as important, late changes require the team to refocus in areas that they thought were already complete. Introducing change in the late stages of a project can lead to sloppiness and quality problems. It is very disruptive.
When Do You Freeze?
You freeze changes late in the project - not early. For example, you do not freeze immediately after you gain approval on requirements. That puts way too much pressure on the customer to get things totally right the first time. That is unrealistic. Similarly. you cannot freeze the first time you show your customer a draft solution. That is again too early and does not allow a review and feedback cycle.
The time to freeze requirements is toward the end of the project when you are in the "drive to implementation". This is the time when the solution is in final review. When the team is focused on implementing the solution, it is better not to introduce change. .
This does not mean that the customer cannot request changes. However, once you are in the freeze, the changes are added to an evolution list (or punch list) to be completed later after implementation.
Seven Key Areas to Create a Bullet-Proof
Project Status Report
Status reporting is the minimum communication element for a project manager. The primary purpose is to manage stakeholder expectations. The project Status Report summarizes the progress of the project to date, and provides a list of the critical changes, risks and issues which require their attention.
If you want to create a bullet-proof status report, then make sure that your report includes each of the following sections:
Summarize the overall progress and any key achievements since the last update. State whether the project is currently on schedule and within budget.
Describe the overall schedule status in terms of green (on track), yellow (at risk) or red (need to re-baseline), If the schedule is yellow, state what you are doing to get back to green. If the schedule is red, describe how you will re-baseline scope, schedule and/or budget to get back in synch. Also list any actual and estimated deliverable completion date variances.
Describe the overall cost status in terms of green (on track), yellow (at risk) or red (need to re-baseline). If the cost is yellow, state what you are doing to get back to green. If the costs is red, describe how you will re-baseline scope, schedule and/or budget to get back in synch. Also list any actual and budgeted expenditure variances.
Describe the overall scope status in terms of green (on track), yellow (at risk) or red (need to re-baseline). If the scope is yellow, state what you are doing to get back to green. If the costs is red, describe how you will re-baseline scope, schedule and/or budget to get back in synch.
Describe the overall quality status in terms of green (on track), yellow (at risk) or red (need to re-baseline). If the quality is yellow, state what you are doing to get back to green. If the costs is red, describe how you will change the project to meet quality expectations. This is normally changing project processes to meet existing quality expectations, although sometimes the quality criteria need to change to become more realistic.
Risks are potential problems that may arise in the future. Your project should have an updated risk register. You should pull out any interesting or critical risks to provide visibility to management stakeholders - along with how you are responding to the risk.
Issues are large, current problems that are impacting your project. Issues are big enough that all of them should be listed for stakeholder review. For each issue, describe your plan to address and sold the problem.
That's it. If you create a project report which describes each of the sections above, you will keep your project stakeholders better informed of the overall progress of the project, and manage their expectations about the state of the project. Remember, if your stakeholders are surprised, you likely have not done a good job of managing expectations.