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Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:30

Apply Project Management in a Scaleable Manner

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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.20.07

Apply Project Management in a Scaleable Manner

Projects are how we do new things. This makes them different than operational work - which is the day-to-day running of the business. Other characteristics of a project include:

  • Projects are temporary endeavors.
  • All projects are unique. They may be similar to prior projects but they are unique in terms of timeframes, resources, business environment, etc.
  • Projects result in the creation of one or more deliverables.
  • Projects have assigned resources - either full-time, part-time or both. This is reflected in a true budget or an implicit budget based on allocated resources.
  • Projects have a defined scope of work.
Projects can be one hour, 100 hours or 10,000 hours (or more). However, the level of project management varies according to the size of the project. For a ten-hour project, you 'just do it'. Any planning, analysis and design is all done in your head. A 100 hour project probably has too much work to plan and manage all in your head. For instance, you need to start defining the work and building a simple schedule. A 10,000 hour project needs full project management discipline.

We categorize projects into sizes of small, medium and large. We use effort hours as the key criteria for sizing projects. This seems to be a true factor that differentiates the level of complexity. The basic scale we use is as follows.

  • Small project - less than 250 effort hours
  • Medium project - between 251 and 2500 effort hours
  • Large project - over 2500 effort hours
In your company, the effort hours for categorizing projects may be different. However, in general, smaller projects need less rigor and structure. Larger projects need more structure. 
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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.19.7

Use These Five Communication Techniques on Your Projects

Many people think "managing communication" is the most important of the project management processes. If you think about it, over half of the time you spend managing projects involves some element of communication. Here are five techniques to help you be more effective.

  1. Use appendices for status report details. You want to focus on meaningful information in the status report. However, you may find that some of your audience finds meaning in the exceptions while others find meaning in the details. One way to satisfy both audiences is to write the formal Status Report as an exception-based document and include the details as appendices (attachments). If you are emailing the information, you could email the detailed logs and reports as separate documents.
  2. Report less detail as you get higher in the organization. Always keep the organizational level of your audience in mind. The organization level helps you determine the level of detail that is required in the Status Report. For instance, your team members need information that is highly detailed and highly specific to the work they are assigned. The manager of the project manager needs to have information summarized and delivered at a higher level. The next higher manager needs information at a higher level still.
  3. Use the best communication media. When you select the various types of communication that you need for your project, also determine the best medium for delivering the information. For instance:
    • Status Reports. These do not have to be on paper. Depending on the person sending and receiving the information, the status can be communicated via voicemail, email, videoconference or other collaborative tools.
    • Email. Use email for routine messages, information sharing and some marketing related messages. Spread these out so that you don’t inundate the same people over a short period of time.
    • Voicemail. Use voicemail to leave simple messages to individual people or to entire departments. Complicated or long messages are not appropriate for voicemails.
These and other mediums can be used to communicate effectively based on the message and the audience.

  1. Use green / yellow / red indicators to show project health. We refer to green/yellow/red colors as indicating the overall health of the project. "Health" takes into account schedule, budget and scope, but also quality, morale, risk and other project indicators. In our model, green means you are on track, red means you are in the ditch and you need to re-baseline and everyone else is yellow.
  2. Place communication activities on your schedule. The project manager should treat communication events like any project deliverable. You should add the activities to the schedule and assign people and end-dates so that the team understands when the communication is expected and who is responsible for creating and delivering it.
There are many elements of communication that require soft skills such as leading, negotiating and providing performance feedback. But there are other elements that simply rely on having good processes and good techniques. The best project managers have both the soft skills and the good process skills as well. 
Thursday, 13 July 2017 00:30

Use These Seven Steps for a Project Audit

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Use These Seven Steps for a Project Audit

In some cases, such as a government project, periodic audits may be called for as a part of the overall contract. The audit could also be described in the Quality Management Plan. An audit is conducted by a third-party. This third party could be any qualified person outside of the project manager and project team. In some cases, your organization may have a project audit specialist. It is possible that the Project Director or the Project Sponsor could also perform this audit. The outside party could be an outside contractor or consultant, but they do not need to be.

The audit itself focuses on whether effective project management processes are being utilized and whether the project appears to be on-track. A project audit asks questions about the processes used to manage the project and build deliverables. The audit can follow this process:

  1. Notify the parties (Auditor) - The auditor notifies the project manager of the upcoming audit and schedules a convenient time and place. Other key stakeholders are notified of the audit as well.
  2. Prepare for the audit (Auditor) - The auditor may request certain information up-front. The auditor might also ask the project manager to be prepared to discuss certain aspects of the project. This ensures that the actual meeting time is as productive as possible.
  3. Perform initial interview (Auditor, Project Manager) - During the initial meeting, the auditor asks the appropriate questions to ensure the project is on-track. If there are any areas that are not on track, the auditor notes them as such.
  4. Perform as many other interviews as necessary (optional) (Auditor, Project Team) - If the project is large or complex, the auditor might need to perform follow-up analysis. This includes meeting with other team members and clients, and reviewing further documentation.
  5. Document the findings (Auditor) - The auditor documents the status and the processes used on this project against best practices. If the organization has standards and policies in place for managing projects, the auditor determines whether any of these are not being followed. The auditor also makes recommendations on things that can be done to provide more effective and proactive management of the project.
  6. Review draft audit report (Auditor, Project Manager) - The auditor and the project manager meet again to go over the initial findings. This auditor describes any project management deficiencies and recommendations for changes. This review also provides an opportunity for the project manager to provide a rebuttal when necessary. The initial audit findings might be modified based on specific feedback from the project manager.
  7. Issue final report (Auditor) - The auditor issues a final report of findings and recommendations. The project manager may also issue a formal response to the audit. In the formal response, the project manager can accept points and discuss plans to implement them. The project manager may also voice his disagreement with certain audit points, and explain his reason why. In these cases, the project sponsor and the project director (manager of the project manager) will need to decide if the project manager should comply with the recommendations or not.

Thursday, 06 July 2017 14:05

Use These Five Steps to Delegate Project Work

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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.06.07

Use These Five Steps to Delegate Project Work

As a project manager, you cannot do all the project work yourself. You can't create all the deliverables, respond to all the risks, solve every issue, perform all communication, etc. You have to be able to delegate. Some of the delegation is natural - such as assigning schedule work to team members. The schedule includes the names of the people assigned to do the work, so that is usually pretty easy to manage. However, other work can be done by multiple people - or by the project manager. Make sure your plate is full, and then delegate the rest. Here are fibe key steps to take.

Step 1: Look for team members that can take more responsibility

Delegation is when you assign responsibility to another person to carry out a specific task. The task could be large (such as "revamp our training department" or small (such as "write and distribute the meeting minutes"). It doesn't matter how large or small the task is. What matters is that there is another person that you can delegate the task to. You have to have good people on your team that can take responsibility for work, even if it requires them to work outside their comfort zone.

Step 2: Get comfortable asking others for help

You need to have a mindset where you feel comfortable delegating to others. You may be hesitant. You may feel that it will be faster to get something done yourself rather than having to explain it to others. Or, you may feel as if the other person already has enough to do and you don't want to add more to their plate. In fact, it may take another person longer to do the work - the first time. But you will have something off your plate and the team member will have a chance to learn a new skill.

Step 3: Create your full "to-do list"

Every day you should have a list of the things that you need to do that day. As a project manager, some of this work is your responsibility. There will be meetings, reminders, short-term items, longer-term its, etc. You should include any non-project work as well, such as completing your open enrollment insurance form.

Step 4: Determine which core work you must do

You are going to have a sizable list. You may be amazed at how much stuff you have on your plate to accomplish. Some of these things are extremely important and others may be of marginal value. There may be items on your list that are months old and probably should be deleted. Now figure out the items you and only you can complete. For example, filling out that open enrollment insurance form. Perhaps these can be flagged with a star.

Step 5: Begin delegating

The items that you have not starred are candidates to delegate. Since you did not star these, there must be someone else that can do them. Of course, just because you can delegate them does not mean you will delegate them. Make sure you keep a full plate of work for yourself. But ask others on your team to complete some of the remaining work for you.

This is not an easy process at first. But soon it becomes more comfortable. Delegating work allows you to leverage your time. You are now able to get more work done, with others help, than you could do by yourself.

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.05.7

Here are Five Strategies for the Responding to Risks

Risks are future events or conditions that have a probability of occurrence and an impact to the project if they occur. Identifying risks is only the start of the risk management process. After you identify risks, you need to analyze them to see which ones are important enough for you to manage. For all "high" risks you must create a risk response. There are a number risk response options that the project manager should consider.

  • Leave the risk (accept). Sometimes we see a high risk and still decide to leave it. This can happen for one of two reasons.

    • First, the project manager may feel that cost and effort of managing the risk is more than the impact of the risk event itself. In this case you would rather deal with the costs of the risk occurring that the cost of trying to manage the risk.
    • Second, there may not be any reasonable and practical activities available to manage the risk. For instance, it is possible that there is a risk of your sponsor leaving and a new sponsor canceling the project. However, you may not be in a position to do much about it as long as the current sponsor is in place, and you may just need to leave it and see how events play out.
  • Monitor the risk. This is a good approach if you have identified a risk that should be managed, but the risk event is far off in the future. In this case, the project manager does not proactively manage the risk, but monitors it to see whether it is more or less likely to occur as time goes on. If it looks more likely to occur later in the project, the team must formulate a different response at a later time.
  • Avoid the risk. Avoiding the risk means that the condition that is causing the problem is eliminated. For example, let's say you identify a risk associated with using new equipment. You could avoid the risk by deciding to use current equipment that you are familiar with. You eliminated the cause of the risk, therefore avoiding the risk itself. 
  • Move the risk (transfer). In some instances, the responsibility for managing a risk can be removed from the project by assigning the risk to another entity or third party. For instance, you may identify a risk associated with a new technology. Outsourcing the function to a third party might eliminate that risk for the project team. The risk event is still there, but now some other entity is dealing with it.
  • Mitigate the risk. Mitigating is the most common risk response. Mitigation means that you create a plan to minimize the likelihood that the risk will occur, or minimize the impact if the risk occurs. You could eliminate the risk by reducing the likelihood down to zero percent, or reducing the impact to zero. However, even if you cannot eliminate the risk, minimizing either the probability or the impact of the risk is often the most viable risk response strategy. 
These are the risk responses for negative risks. After you have a risk response plan in place, you need to monitor the plan to ensure it is working as you expect. 

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