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Project Management Blog
Monday, 15 November 2010 04:00

Managing a Virtual Project Team

VirtualTeam

Let’s face it; virtual teams (where we work with colleagues in remote locations, be they close by or in different countries) are now a reality in the workplace. If this trend in the workplace environment continues, virtual working will increasingly influence the way we operate, and the ‘effective virtual team worker’ will be a valued asset. A key benefit to forming virtual teams is the ability to cost-effectively tap into a wide pool of talent from various locations. There are several definitions of the virtual team worker, but within the context of this article, we are talking about people who work on project teams and who display the following attributes:

  • They work primarily from a particular office (maybe a home office, or maybe a fixed work location), and they are not expected to travel each week as a part of their job (i.e. road warrior) or be physically in the office on a daily basis.
  • They likely work from home one or more days per week.

Most project managers with a few years experience or more are likely to have managed a project where some or even all of the project members were remotely located. How different is managing a virtual project team from a co-located team? Are there additional considerations or risks involved in managing a virtual team? Before we answer these questions, one must first understand the dynamics of the virtual team worker.

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The Triple Constraint of managing the interaction of time, cost and scope is a familiar model to most Program and Project Managers.

Delivering projects on time, within budget and per an agreed scope can be considered to be a “good result” by the project team. But effectively managing these constraints does not guarantee that the project is deemed a success by all of its stakeholders. Additional project constraints need to be taken into account to determine whether “complete” project success is achieved.

A general starting point for these additional constraints is this: think about the longevity of the project’s end output. Take a moment to think about projects you have been involved in, or known about, that finished 12 months ago or longer. Did they deliver their end output on or before schedule, on or below budget and did they fully meet the requisite expected level of scope and quality? If so, great. Now fast-forward to today. Do you know how well the end output of that project is being used? And does it contribute to the organisation in the way that may or may not have been originally anticipated?

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RecognitionReward and recognition for project resources who deliver successful projects is generally accepted as good practice in the workplace (indeed, rewarding staff for successful performance against agreed criteria is commonplace in today’s organizations). Regardless of an organization’s general structure (be it projectized, functional, matrix-based etc), successful project completions are rightly celebrated. At project closing, the project team should take the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments, with the project manager and/or upper level of stakeholders using this event as an opportunity to recognize particularly strong performances from individuals on the team. Celebrating project success, when it is merited, is a worthy process; however, the manner or magnitude in which you celebrate project success has the potential to cause problems elsewhere within your organization if it is not handled in a measured way. 
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HR_selectionMany project managers have likely been subjected to “resource selection” well before they knew what selection criteria, roles and responsibilities, or project management for that matter was. Many may recall their elementary or primary school days, and perhaps the selection of sports team members in the school yard or playground. Typically, two captains were likely chosen by someone in authority (such as the sports teacher), and then each captain selected their teams based on a perceived ability to perform, the positions or roles they needed, and maybe how well the captain thought the people would fit into their team. That was then. Fast forward to today.  School yard “captains” are now the equivalent of project managers and/or resource line managers, and their “sports team” has become the project team. How different is your project resource selection from that of the school yard and do certain risks exist in your current approach?

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Saturday, 10 July 2010 05:00

What Makes a Good Project KPI Framework?

kpi

Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs as generally referred to by all of us, are a powerful tool at the project manager’s disposition that can, if structured appropriately:

  1. Play an important role in driving the behaviours and actions undertaken on a project
  2. Have a significant effect on the reporting and monitoring of a project’s progress.

Our article does not seek to focus on enterprise-wide or portfolio-level KPI metrics, nor does it seek to be all-encompassing in the uses of specific types of KPIs that can be deployed or how KPIs and metrics can help to run a business. We simply put forward some “pointers” to think about for project-level KPI control and how KPIs can be a tool to help you as an effective project manager ‘manage’ your project.

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firemanThe very worst fire plan is no plan.  The next worse is two plans.  ~Author Unknown

Let no man's ghost return to say his training let him down.  ~Firefighters Saying

Soon after being accepted as a member of a fire department, cadets are typically enrolled into training classes. Their training regime may consist of basic classes, hazardous material teaching, awareness classes, and several others that are relevant to the challenging role of being a firefighter.

New firefighters also are trained early in their career on communications protocols, the chain of command, and standard operating procedures. The need for a common communication language in the fire service is arguably more critical than many other professions, as the cost of a miscommunication can have serious consequences in an urgent situation. In most situations, there are procedures that every firefighter should know, and there are guidelines and processes that establish the chain of command. A system of protocols, chain of command, and standard operating procedures is needed so that, when called into duty, regardless of the department(s) or personnel responding, everyone knows what to do and who is accountable so that the teams can go straight into the “performing” stage of their activity. Being able to perform under the tightest of pressures does not occur by accident nor by luck. Many fire services, especially volunteer services, employ an almost continuous training model where as much as 50% or more of their scheduled meetings are dedicated to training. Career firefighters also spend an abundance of time training especially when first hired. Recent publications suggest on average 600 hours in formal training are required of new hires. These men and women are not just walking through motions in training exercises. To most, their motto is “train as you work” where every event is run as if it were a real live situation. When planning a response to a fire, the approach is to “Plan your work, and work your plan”.

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Saturday, 10 July 2010 05:00

Anatomy of an Effective Project Manager

projmgtIt’s first thing in the morning, and you are preparing to interview prospective project managers for an open position on your team. Whether it is your first candidate interview or you have conducted many before in your career, you are likely to be contemplating the line of questioning you will ask of the prospective candidates. Perhaps you are thinking of questions from a “Strengths and Weaknesses: Project Manager Profile” that you typically use, however, any line of questioning can only provide a limited insight about the candidate and their potential to be an effective project manager for your organization.  Understand that a skilled candidate may well have sat through similar interviews recently, researched your organization, and prepared competent answers to what they believe are the most typical interview questions. Or maybe they haven’t, because this is the first interview they are going to – although they are a first-rate project manager that is well thought of in their existing organization. In order to assess whether a person has the potential to be an effective project manager in your organization, we contend that you need to conduct specific assessments beyond interviews and references of previous work assignments.
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Monday, 21 June 2010 14:24

Put Others First

"It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed." - Napoleon Hill

Not a lot of people always get the above concept.  Some people become so focused on themselves and their own needs that they forget about the people around them.

 

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Tuesday, 15 June 2010 17:59

What is Motivation?

motivation-cartoonMotivation is the most important determinant for individual performance; yet, it is also the most difficult to analyze and define. Though behavior can be observed, motivational impact cannot be studied directly. The conceptual nature of motivation has given rise to the need for theories and models to help organizations better understand motivation. These theories have been divided into two categories: Content and Process.

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Wednesday, 14 January 2009 01:44

Facing Risk

All managers especially project managers are faced with risk at one time or another as the future cannot be  predicted accurately managers have to take a position when facing risk.  I looked at some real life situations from the past and found that the examples set by these persons is very similar to the responsibilities that project managers are faced with.

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