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Project Management Warning Flag 1 – Unfunded Activities

Project Management Warning Flag 1 - Unfunded Activities | unfunded activities | StrategyDriven Project Management ArticleManaging a project to an on-time, on-budget completion has become increasingly difficult in the ‘do more with less’ reality of today’s business world. But what many project managers fail to realize is that their project is doomed from the start. Activities associated with a project’s roll-out and needed organizational change management often go unscoped and unfunded because they don’t directly contribute to the creation of the produce or service being developed. The cost of these activities is very real in terms of personnel and financial resources and the project’s ultimate success relies on their performance.


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Communicating Your Project Plan With Stakeholders

StrategyDriven Project Management Article |Project Management| Communicating Your Project Plan With StakeholdersAs a project manager, one of the most important things you need to do is communicate effectively. This is something you will learn about extensively during your project management courses. You are going to be working with different people all of the time, and you need to know how to communicate to each one successfully. Of course, one of the most important people you are going to be dealing with are your stakeholders. Read on to discover some of the different ways you can communicate your project plan to them.

A project report – Let’s start with the most common communication method that is used for business project plans, and this is a report. There are lots of benefits associated with going down this road, as you can blend a good mixture of narrative and hard statistics. You can also easily flag issues, as well as create a history for the project and share detail. However, one thing you do need to keep in mind is that this is a one-way communication channel, so they are not ideal if you need stakeholders to contribute.

Conference – You could even hold a conference. Make sure you detail it online like the Michael A. Peck MAPA Group have. This is advisable for cases whereby there are lots of stakeholders and important matters to be discussed.

Gantt charts – Gantt charts are ideal for showing the status of the project in real time. They can also be added to your website if you are building one for your project. One of the main pros associated with this option is the transparency. However, you will have to explain these charts to most stakeholders, as not everyone will understand what they are looking at.

Conference calls – This is a good way to quickly give updates and share information with busy stakeholders. It works well for briefings, but it is not always ideal for productive discussions. For this to work, you need to make sure there are some ground rules in place, otherwise people will be talking over the top of each other and there will be typing going on in the background.

Face-to-face – Face-to-face communication is not required all of the time, but it is necessary to schedule this in from time-to-time. This is especially the case at the beginning of the project, and again when you reach critical stages whereby feedback is required. It is also effective for dealing with senior leaders and difficult stakeholders. Such meetings can be daunting, though, which is why plenty of preparation is a must.

Presentations and slides – Last but not least, slides with the correct data can make a powerful impact, especially if you are communicating to a big group of stakeholders. Presentations ensure everyone has the same message. However, this is only the case if you put together a good presentation, otherwise they can be dull and boring.

As you can see, there are many different ways that the project plan can be communicated, and you do need to consider the approach you go for with care. After all, all options have their pros and their cons, so you need to determine what is right for the project in question, as well as the people you are dealing with.

How to Facilitate Retrospectives in Scrum-based Continuous Learning

StrategyDriven Project Management Article | Scrum-based Continuous LearningFor the connoisseur of Agile project management, Scrum is undoubtedly shown up on your “To Do” list. First formulated as an Agile strategy to assist software development teams in pursuit of sustainable project initiatives, the method has since found roots in a number of cross-industry projects.

Now, for those relatively new to Agile, Scrum can be thought of as an empirically-oriented strategy of project management, delivering the highest-valued outcomes with a focus on fluid adaptation. It’s footprint is small; Scrum teams strive to reduce waste by organizing work in short bursts, typically two weeks in length. The method loves focus, commitment and introspection to influence adaptation.

To best pursue Scrum, a team has to use retrospectives. Retrospectives are a vital instrument that triggers actions and serves as the ideal launchpad to changing team behavior. Any team identifying Scrum as a strategy would be wise to consider how powerful retrospectives can change the face of their product outcomes with a self-aware and dynamic approach to project management.

So… what exactly is a retrospective?

For your Scrum team, a retrospective is conducted at the conclusion of an iteration. An iterations is a short project schedule, typically ranging between one and four weeks in length, with two weeks being ideal. Keeping iterations as short as possible is key to Scrum’s success; it’s all about avoiding dragging out poor performance strategies, which means minimizing the time they’re in use.

At the conclusion of these iteration cycles, teams are tasked with reflecting on observations during this time period. Specifically, teams are faced with a combination of hard data and anecdotes and asked to consider how well everyone worked together and what problems influenced their team and individual performance.

How do you hold an Agile retrospective?

The environment for the retrospective needs to feel like a safe, open discussion forum; it simply won’t work if team members don’t feel that there’s space to share what amounts to criticism. When looking to introduce the retrospective into your Agile/Scrum team, consider the five step method for conducting a retrospective:

1. Preparing Your Audience
2. Examining Team Data
3. Generate Powerful Insights
4. Create Workable Strategies
5. Work The Closer

Let’s delve further into each of these retrospective steps.

Preparing Your Audience

The retrospective meeting doesn’t have to take off at high speeds. Let your team warm up before diving into the substance of the meeting.

Throw out a question for the team and ask for a think/pair/share scheme; it’s a classic discussion method used by school teachers. Let your coworkers come up with their own answer to the question, which might be something like, “What’s one moment from this past iteration that sticks out as a true ‘lightbulb’ moment?”

They’ll then share with a partner, discuss together and bring to the bigger group. It’s a great way to gauge the room, gather further thoughts and navigate the direction of the retrospective.

Examining Team Data

There are a myriad of ways to structure a retrospective on data and produce hyper-efficient results, and there really isn’t any single perfect approach. With that said, let’s think about some general ways that can serve as launch points for obtaining data.

A common method to think about is the sailboat method. Think of it like this: the wind that pushes the boat ahead represents items in the data that assist the team in performing well. Anchors are pulling the team down, keeping them from forging onward in their pursuit. Organizing data into these columns, wind and anchors, will help the team think visually about what metrics can be pinpointed as an absolute success and what needs improvement.

Retrospectives also don’t have to be too quantitative in terms of the data points, or even discussing about areas of improvement. Consider a method called “Success Criteria”. This strategy centers around clearing up what the intentions are as a unit and targeting outcomes and results for success. You plan for the success of a goal, but you also try to prep by thinking ahead about what total and complete failure could look like. You list out your intentions in precise terms and what the target is for a project, and by considering the worst-case scenario, you’re able to minimize being caught off guard.

Generate Powerful Insights

After you’ve assembled your data, it’s time for the main event: the discussion. Get ready to bundle up problems, ideas and opportunities in a way where actionable measures can be taken.

An Affinity Map is a key Scrum retrospective technique for insights. Take one post-it with an idea and put it in a group; grab a second and decide if it belongs in the same group. Once the groups are formed, attach names to the groups and decide which post-its are most important, taking note of how big the clusters are and the overall themes of the notes.

Create Workable Strategies

In this final step, you’ll think get to move forward with actionables. Use the method of “Start, Stop and Continue” originally brought forward by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.

Draw three sections (Start, Stop, and Continue), and place clusters from the Affinity Map in these headers. Give each person a dot to vote on most crucial items, and pick the ones with the most votes to make an actionable decision on. Reflect on feasibility and consider the short and long-term.

Work The Closer

It’s the end of the line! Closings can be underestimated and skipped over, but don’t fall for that. There are a ton of ways to close the meeting out that are forward-looking and positive, from sharing final reflections to ending on a powerful quote gathered during the retrospective itself.

Use the closer as an opportunity to garner self-reflective feedback. It’s a bit meta, but that’s the power of Agile and Scrum. It cuts through to serve as a focal point by which we can address all matters of progress within a forward-thinking environment.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Project Management Article | Scrum-based Continuous LearningAs chief evangelist, Lean-Agile strategy at Planview and former co-founder of LeanKit, Jon Terry helps enterprises around the globe discover how to increase effectiveness, optimize processes, and deliver value faster with Lean-Agile principles. Jon actively seeks to raise awareness of the benefits of Kanban and visual project management and is a highly sought-after presenter within the Lean-Agile community. In addition, Jon has been a leader in Agile transformations for some of the largest organizations in North America, including hospital-giant HCA Healthcare and its subsidiary, HealthTrust Purchasing Group. Jon earned his Global Executive MBA from Georgetown University and ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain.

Connect with Jon Terry – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonterry

Why Do Good Projects Go Bad?

StrategyDriven Project Management Article‘Why do good projects go bad?’ – This seems to be a question a lot of project managers end up asking themselves. This blog post presents some of the most common project management mistakes made by companies all over the world. By being aware of these issues, you will be able to increase your chances of success with all future projects.

An organisational culture that is not ready for project management

A lot of companies initiate project management when their organisational culture is not ready for it. For instance, individuals are given special project assignments, yet they are not given the resources, training and/or tools to execute them. Such a project culture is extremely unproductive and can lead to a significant loss of money. Nevertheless, the losses are not only monetary; customer retention rates are likely to drop as well. All leading project management consultants in the UK will tell you that preparation is the key to success.

Resisting change

Yes, no one wants to make changes to a project halfway through it. However, you are going to be one of the luckiest people on the planet if you get through a project successfully without any changes at all. Projects change all of the time. The best project managers and teams know how to adapt to this efficiently.

Not planning sufficiently

When it comes to managing a project, there is simply no getting around planning, no matter how tedious or boring you may find it. Frustration will kick in without proper planning, as you will end up missing project objectives, falling short of deliverables, exceeding the scope of the project, running over budget, and missing the deadline. This is because there will not be a clear definition of overall goals, what you need to achieve, who has what role, and what they are responsible for. Planning will increase efficiency considerably, and there will be a much better chance of meeting the expectations of the stakeholders.

Being exclusive

Another big error you can make, which could cost you your career in project management, is opting to be exclusive. This type of attitude can cause risks to crop in, as it generates a situation whereby team culture is fraught with animosity and trust. There will be a disconnect between you and the team, and this is something that is very difficult to rebuild.

Failure to acknowledge employee performance

Failure to recognise employee work performance through a project review is another common mistake made. The probability of your project being a success will fall if you do not recognise, assess and appropriately reward the work of your employees. You need to get everyone on the team behind the project. Often, employee job performance only reflects the work carried out in accordance to the individual’s job description, and therefore work assigned on a project is rarely assessed. This can cause employees to treat the project as secondary in importance. Therefore, make sure each individual’s role is clear and tell each person how his or her contribution will be evaluated.

Having a know-it-all attitude

This is something that will get you nowhere. In fact, even experienced project managers could benefit from project management training from time to time. Plus, when you can do any sort of training or degree online today, even an MBA study, there is no excuse for not expanding your knowledge or the knowledge of your team. There is always room for learning and growth, and indeed possible error. A lot of project managers get it into their head that they know everything because of their significant amount of responsibility and leadership. However, this attitude can hinder projects, as team members will not receive you very well and you will struggle to get them behind you. In addition, it is not only about learning in terms of doing different training courses and advancing your skill set. It is also about acknowledging any mistakes that have been made in previous projects and learning from these for the future.

Having too many projects in production at the same time

A lot of project managers make the mistake of thinking that it is more productive to start all projects at once. However, the opposite is true. If you have too many projects in production at the same time it is counterproductive. Why? Multitasking leads to a lack of quality and slows people down. Moreover, delays caused will intensify and multiply through the organisation, as individuals further down the line must wait for others to complete prerequisite tasks.

Not having a metric in place to define success

This is another big mistake that a lot of businesses make today when it comes to their projects. After all, how are you supposed to know if your project is heading down the right path if you cannot define success because you do not have any metrics in place? You need to have a clear vision of what the end user is going to be satisfied with and you need to outline relevant goals. If you do not do this, no one is going to have a collective, clear, and consistent understanding of what counts as project success.

Being inflexible and setting overly optimistic timelines

Flexibility is imperative when implementing any project. A lot of project managers make the error of providing overly optimistic timelines and being inadaptable with project tasks and assignments. Don’t turn away new information. Listen to suggestions and be flexible in achieving your goals. When it comes to timelines, be realistic. Missed deadline after missed deadline will only cause further aggravation and distrust on the part of your client.

Setting your project up for failure

There are also a lot of businesses and project managers that set the project up for failure before it has even begun. They do this because they provide deadlines and timelines that are overly optimistic. Yes, you want to lure the client in. But if you do so under false pretenses, it will only backfire in the end.

Not communicating with stakeholders and team members regularly

When you take any project management courses, one of the first things you will learn about is the importance of communicating regularly. In regards to your team, they will feel a lack of leadership and direction if you do not converse with them on a frequent basis. Moreover, executives and stakeholders can lose faith in your ability to make and execute sound judgments.

Failure to seek expert advice

Finally, if your project is failing, don’t be afraid to seek expert help. An outside perspective is always a welcomed one. Often we are determined to put the issues right ourselves, but when you become so involved in a project it can be extremely difficult to see where the real problems lie. A leading project management consultancy will review and troubleshoot your project to ensure it gets back on track and you achieve your goals.

As you can see, there are many different reasons why good projects go bad. Some of the errors that have been mentioned above relate to individual project manager mistakes. Some of them relate to business errors as a whole. Either way, they can all have a negative impact on your projects, which is why it is important to avoid going down these routes.

How Agile Project Management Can Improve Your B2B Business

StrategyDriven Project Management ArticleAgile project management can seem to be complex and daunting to undertake but it doesn’t need to be. The key principles are the same as with traditional project management; organisation and planning must be undertaken before a project begins and then the project must be continually managed throughout to ensure it is being completed in the most efficient way. The difference is that agile management is specifically targeted at adapting the project as it progresses, ensuring the end result is more successful and meets the changing demands of the business or customer. As such, agile management can be extremely beneficial for B2B businesses.

Better Results

The success of projects is dependent on various factors, some of which are beyond the control your business. However, those elements which can be controlled should be carefully managed to ensure the success of your project. Agile management will take project management one step further. By breaking each stage of the project into separate components for completion, there is more potential to make changes to the project as it progresses. This can ensure that end result of the project meets the needs of the business. It also reduces the number of failed projects or projects which exceed their deadline.

Working Faster

Agile project management is a good way to increase the pace of your work. The careful planning of each stage of a project means that employees should have a clear indication of every action and step they need to take to ensure the project is completed. Although there is room for adaptation and flexibility, the general pace of competition should be much quicker. Agile management should enjoy workers productivity levels as there is more room for their input as the project progresses, enabling them to work in a much more efficient manner.

Keeping Up With Trends

A significant benefit of agile project management is that it enables businesses to keep up-to-date with the latest trends in technology and marketing or even software updates. These areas are constantly changing and developing, so being able to implement a new idea in the middle of a project without disrupting the schedule too significantly is essential.

Feedback

Agile project management enables regular feedback to be given on each stage of a project. This feedback can come from both the project manager overseeing the completion of a project and from the stakeholders. It also offers more opportunity for collaborative feedback, which improves communication between members of the team and allows them to raise any issues before they become a significant cause for concern.

Agile project management can require a significant change within a B2B business. It can be difficult to engage employees with a new method of working. However, this is a worthwhile undertaking for many businesses and can improve the success rate of your projects and your business as a whole.

Enroll in agile courses to learn more about the techniques involved, from communication to prioritisation, and how these can benefit your business.