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Friday, 14 April 2017 18:40

Use These Four Techniques for Managing Issues

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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.13.04

Use These Four Techniques for Managing Issues

Issues are problems that will impede the progress of your project, and are not within the control of the project team to resolve. They need outside help. Use these four issues management techniques on your projects.

Understand the Difference Between Issues Vs Action Items

In many cases, project managers are not using the Issues Log to identify and track true issues. Many items that are classified as issues are really risks (potential problems) or just action items. Action items are minor activities that must be followed-up on in the short-term. Action items often come out of meetings. They may not be problems at all. If you find that your Issues Log has dozens of items on it, you are probably tracking many action items. Because issues are large problems, there should not be many items open at any one time.

Ask Team Members to Identify Problems and Solutions

Issues can come from team members or any project stakeholder. It is a good practice to encourage people to help identify solutions along with the issues. When a team member identifies a potential issue, ask him to look for options to fix the issue, and to bring one or more possible solutions. This process will help build accountability among the team members, but it will also help determine possible courses of action. In fact, if a team member proposes one or more viable solutions, the problem may be able to be resolved with the help of the project manager and never reach the level of an issue at all.

Break Very Large Issues into Smaller Problems

If a large issue looks too difficult to be resolved in a timely manner, break it down into logical sub-issues. In many cases, the resolution of an initial sub-issue will drive the solution for the remainder of the issue. If it does not, it at least lets people understand the components of the issue, so that they can be attacked and resolved individually.

Create Guidelines for When Can Team Members Can Make Decisions?

Since issues require outside help they need to be raised to the project manager. Sometimes it might seem that team members do not have the ability to make any decisions at all. You definitely do not want to give that impression. As a project manager, you need to encourage people to accept responsibility and make decisions when appropriate. This helps the team run more efficiently and allows individuals to grow professionally.

Team members can handle all the day-to-day problems and only bring items to you on an exception basis. Team members need to ask themselves some key questions before deciding if they need help or if they can make a decision themselves.

  • Is there an impact to effort, duration or cost? If there is, the project manager must be involved.
  • Will the decision require you to go out of scope or deviate from previously agreed upon specifications? If so, the project manager must be involved.
  • Is the decision politically sensitive? If so, the project manager must be involved.
  • Will the decision require you to miss a previously agreed upon commitment? If so, the project manager must be involved.
  • Will the decision open the project to future risk? If so, the project manager must be involved.
If none of these conditions are true then the team member can make the decision. It may sound like there is nothing left, but in fact, most of the decisions that are required on a day-to-day basis do not meet these criteria and can be made by the team or individual team members.
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Thursday, 13 April 2017 01:14

Practice Five Parts of Configuration Management

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.12.4


Practice Five Parts of Configuration Management

Configuration management is one of the many aspects of project management. It is applicable to certain projects that need to track components.  There are two major types of configuration management.

  1. Identification, tracking and managing of all the assets of a project. This definition would be especially relevant on software development projects where the “configuration” refers to the collection of artifacts, code components, executables, etc.
  1. Identification, tracking and managing of the metadata that describes the products that the project is creating. In this definition, the configuration is basically the detailed specifications of the product. For example, if you are manufacturing a laptop computer, the configuration would refer to the size of the hard drive, speed, DVD specifications, etc.  
The following items make up the Configuration Management Process.

  1. Planning. You need to plan ahead to create the processes, procedures, tools, files and databases to manage the configuration. You also may need to gain an agreement on exactly what assets are important, how you will define them, how they will be categorized, classified, numbered, reported, etc. The results of this up-front planning are documented in a Configuration Management Plan.
  2. Tracking. You need processes and systems to identify when assets are assigned to your project, where they go, what becomes of them, who is responsible for them and how they are disposed. Since a project has a concrete beginning and end, ultimately all the assets need to go somewhere. This could be in a final deliverable, into the operations/support area, scrapped, etc. You should be able to dissect each major deliverable of the project and show where all the pieces and parts came from, and where they reside after the project ends.
  3. Managing. Managing assets means they are secure, protected and used for the right purposes. For example, it doesn’t do any good to track purchased assets that your project does not need in the first place. Also, your tracking system may show expensive components sitting in an unsecured storage room, but is that really the proper place for them? Managing assets has to do with acquiring what you need and only what you need.
  4. Reporting. You need to be able to report on the configuration, usually in terms of what you have and where they are, as well as financial reporting that can show cost, budget, depreciation, etc. If you are tracking configuration metadata you should be able to report out a complete set of the current product specifications. 
  5. Auditing. It is important that the integrity of the configuration process be validated periodically through audits of the status of configuration items. This can include physically inspecting or counting these items and comparing them against the expected results of your configuration management system. You will also want to audit the configuration change process to endure that the appropriate processes are being followed.
If you practice configuration management on your project, it is suggested that you have a specific person identified as the configuration manager. This may be a part-time role, depending on how much asset tracking and management your project does. This person is responsible for the overall process, with focus on the planning, management and auditing responsibilities. 
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Friday, 07 April 2017 20:17

Five Key Benefits of Project Management

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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.60.03

Five Key Benefits of Project Management

Every once in a while it is worth reminding ourselves of the value of project management. For us that are in the project management field, there should be no question that project management provides value to an organization. However, when you meet skeptics, are you able to articulate the benefits? Here are five key benefits. 

Better Planning Helps Set Better Expectations

How many times have you heard about or been involved in a project that was not as successful as it needed to be. Did you ever spend time looking back to see what caused the project to go wrong? If you did, chances are that you said, "You know, we should have spent more time planning."

Project management focuses first on planning the work. This is a vital discipline, and allows the project team and the customer to have common perceptions of what the project is going to deliver, when it will be complete, what it will cost, who will do the work and how the work will be done.

Value statement: Project planning helps sets realistic expectations, establishes the path to success and makes sure that the right work gets done. 

Save Time with Standard Processes and Templates

People intuitively understand that it is faster and cheaper to reuse something that already exists rather than to build something similar from scratch. If your organization creates a set of project management processes and templates that are used consistently from project to project, each instance represents a savings of time that would otherwise have been spent on building the processes from scratch.

Value statement: Utilizing common project management processes and templates saves the cost and time associated with having to develop them from scratch on each project. 

Utilize Proactive Project Management Processes

People who complain that project management is a lot of 'overhead' forget the alternative. Your project is going to face issues. The question is whether you will proactively resolve them or figure them out as you go. Your project will face potential risks. Will you try to resolve them before they happen, or wait until the problems arise? Are you going to communicate proactively or deal with misunderstandings caused by lack of project information?

The characteristics of the project are not all going to change whether you use a formal project management process. What changes is how the events are dealt with when the project is in progress. Are they dealt with haphazardly and reactively, or proactively with a smoothly running process?

Value statement: Having proactive project management processes in place allows you to anticipate what will happen on the project and be prepared for various contingencies. This will ultimately help projects run faster, cheaper and at a higher quality level.

Avoid Surprises with More Effective Communication

If stakeholders are not kept informed of the project status, there is a much greater chance of confusion due to differing expectations. In fact, in many cases where conflicts arise, it is not because of the actual problem, but because people were surprised. Project management provides a structure and a vocabulary to communicate what is going on.

Value statement: Proactive communication allows you to better manage expectations, avoid misunderstandings and conflict, and provides better information for decision-making.

Build a Higher Quality Product the First Time

Practicing simple quality management helps you deliver to a higher level of quality and avoid the expense and time of having to fix things after the fact. This helps avoid quality problems and rework that surface toward the end of the project. The entire project can be completed better, faster and cheaper. 

Value statement: Quality management helps you build your deliverables correctly the first time and saves time and costs by discovering problems as early in the project as possible.

Summary

It is not possible to give an exact set of arguments that will convince executives at every company. The arguments you use for one company might fall completely flat at another company. However, regardless of your situation today, the basic value points above probably hold true in every company.

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 22:12

Your Organization Culture Influences Project Success

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.5.4

Your Organization Culture Influences Project Success

It should come as no shock to learn that some organizations are better than others at managing projects. There are probably no organizations that have a 100% success rate, and hopefully none have a 0% success rate. However, some organizations definitely perform at a higher level than others.

There are a number of organizational factors that influence your ability to deliver projects successfully. Your organization’s culture has a lot to do with the success rate of your projects.

The term “culture” generally means “how we do things around here.” For example, if someone asked how well your organization's delivers projects, you might say “we are pretty weak at delivering projects on time and on budget”. If so, you are expressing your perception about your project delivery culture.

There are a number of areas where culture comes into play on projects.

  • Process orientation. Many organizations have good processes in place, and people generally follow them. This is perhaps the biggest single factor in overall project success. If your organization follows a good, scalable project management process, you are more likely to be consistently successful on your projects. This means that the entire project team generally knows how to create and follow a realistic schedule and can use standard processes to effectively handle risk, scope change and issues.
  • Governance. Many organizations have processes in place, but no one follows them. This is a problem with management governance. In simplistic terms, governance is the management function having to do with making sure people do what they are supposed to do. Typically, if your management structure is engaged and interested in projects, and if they make sure that your project management process is followed, you will tend to be more successful. If every project manager is on his or her own and management support is haphazard, you will tend to be less than successful.
  • Training. Some organizations do a poor job of training project managers. (Typically, these types of organizations do a poor job of training in general.) If project managers generally do not have the right skills (other than from the school of hard knocks) you will not be as successful as you like.
  • Sponsor engagement. In successful organizations, people typically know the role they play on projects and what is expected of them. This especially includes active and engaged sponsors. Sponsors need to provide guidance, monitor the project, remove barriers, approve major deliverables, and more. If your organization leaves project managers in a leadership vacuum without strong sponsor support, you are not going to be consistently successful.
Culture plays perhaps the biggest role in whether your organization is successful executing projects. If your organization has difficulty completing projects successfully, you cannot just blame the project managers. They are only toiling within a culture that is not supportive of their efforts. Managers, including the head of the organization, need to step up and evaluate the project culture. Until the culture changes, project managers will consistently struggle to be successful.
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.30.03

Should You Factor Positive Risk into Project Planning?

Risks represent potential future events or circumstances that could have an impact on your project. Generally we think of risk having a negative impact. However, what if the impact on your project was positive? In that case you would have an opportunity risk.

You have heard the saying that you should "push the envelop", "be a risk-taker", or at least that you should take "intelligent risks". These statements get to a difference between how risk is typically identified from a project management perspective. Positive risk refers to risk that we initiate ourselves because we see a potential opportunity.

For example, let's say that you have a project that is scheduled to take 12 month to complete. Your sponsor would like the project completed earlier. One of your team members has an idea. If you utilize a new engineering process, it is possible that you can deliver the project in nine months. If this were a guaranteed solution, you would jump on it. However, there is risk since it is the first time you have used the process. There is a lack of expertise and a start-up learning curve. It is possible that if the process does not work out, the project could end up taking 15 months to deliver. What would you do?

This example illustrates the concept of opportunity risk. If you decide to use the new process, it is a risk you are introducing yourself, based on an evaluation of the chances of success, and the impact of success, versus the chances of failure and the impact of that failure. When we say we are intelligent risk-takers, it is these types of decisions that are being evaluated.

There are a number of ways to respond to positive risk.

  • Accept. Do nothing and hope that the benefit of the positive risk occurs.
  • Exploit. Remove the uncertainty of the risk and try to make certain that the event will occur.
  • Share. Share the risk with another party that is better able to capture the benefit associated with the risk.
  • Enhance. Look for ways to increase the probability that the risk occurs, or increase the size of the benefit if the risk event occurs.
Even though you may commonly think of project risks as having a negative connotation, you can also use risk management to identify and quantify potential positive risks as well. 
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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