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Thursday, 15 March 2018 14:46

Five Things You Need to Know About Action Items

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2018.14.03

Five Things You Need to Know About Action Items

An action item is an ad-hoc work activity that requires follow-up execution. By their nature, action items normally cannot be planned for in advance. They arise on an as-needed basis during meetings or as a by-product of working on something else. There is no Knowledge Area in the PMBOK® Guide for managing action items, but they can be important to the smooth running of the project. They are an important aspects of time management. 

  1. An action item is assigned because there is not enough knowledge, expertise or time to resolve the item at the time it originally surfaced.

  2. Action items need to be assigned, worked on later and completed. (If they are not going to be completed, they should not be called action items. Instead, simply note that the item will not be completed.) Examples of action items include forwarding specific information to someone, arranging a meeting and providing a quick estimate on a piece of work. 

  3. Sometimes an action item is established to investigate an area where there may be a potential problem. Because of this, action items are sometimes called "issues". However, this is not right. An issue is a problem which will have a detrimental impact on the project if left unresolved. Issues are not the same as action items.

  4. Trivial action items may be tracked and managed with a standalone Action Item Log

     



    . If the action item came from a meeting, you can create a section in your meeting minutes for action items. These trivial action items are usually less than two hours of effort and are scheduled to be completed by the next meeting. If you use this technique you can start each meeting with a review of the prior action items to validate that they are completed and then cross them off the list. 
  5. If the action item is non-trivial (greater than two effort hours) you should add them as activities in the project schedule. A resource and end-date are assigned as well, and the activity is then managed and tracked as any normal schedule activity. This is the better approach to follow, because it keeps the work activities in one place and allows the project manager to enforce the discipline of knowing ‘if it’s not on the schedule, it will not be worked on’. This approach also allows the project manager to see the impact of the action items on the schedule. For instance, you may have a small action item that is 4 hours of work. If you assign this action item to a person on the critical path, you will see the resulting delay to your project. This may result in you assigning the action item to someone else instead.

In many cases, action items are trivial in nature, but in other cases they can require substantial work to complete. Track non-trivial action items in your schedule. Leave the true trivial action items on the Action Item Log. Projects tend to generate lots of them and you need some method to track and close them to ensure the project work continues to run smoothly.

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 admin@TenStep.com
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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2018.28.02

Six Reasons Companies Struggle Implementing 
Project Management


There are many companies that do not have common project management processestemplates, approach and skills. One initial observation is that companies that don’t manage projects well are usually run by senior managers who never learned formal project management themselves. It is hard for them to lead culture change around project management when they don’t understand the value themselves. In fact, sometimes these managers think of project management as a tool for managing projects, rather than as a process for doing the work. When they discover a tool isn’t involved, they lose interest.

There are a number of other reasons why companies have not implemented project management processes. These include:

  • The company does not have committed sponsorship.

Some managers want to hold a training class and hope that project management sticks. They don't have a strong commitment to the culture change required to get better at managing projects. In large companies, it could take two to three years, or longer. The sponsor needs to be committed and focused long term to make the changes successfully. 

  • The entire organization is not included.

It's hard to be a good project manager in an organization that doesn't value project management skills. For instance, if you take the time to create a Charter document, and your sponsor asks why you were wasting your time, you are probably not going to be very excited about the planning process on your next project. To be effective, the entire organization must be part of the project management initiative.

  • The organization does not have a lot of pain around projects.

This is very common, especially in small to medium sized organizations. In many companies, the projects are not under pressure to complete within fixed deadlines and budgets. They just need to be completed within a “reasonable” timeframe. In these companies, there is not much internal pressure to change the status quo.

  • The organization is not scaling the processes and approach.

A common criticism of methodology is that it is cumbersome, paper intensive and takes too much focus away from the work at hand.  Sometimes this is a legitimate concern, caused by not scaling the methodology to the size of your project. For instance, if you were required to develop a fifteen page Project Charter even if your project is only 200 hours, you may have been turned off. This is not usually a methodology problem as much as it is a misapplication of the methodology.

  • The project teams fight the changes.

Many people want to solve problems and do their jobs creatively, with a minimum of supervision. They fear that project management techniques will result in controls that will take the fun out of the work. Without strong sponsorship, the project teams resist the change until the pressure goes away.

  • There is a fear of the loss of control from management.

If you really want to effectively implement a project management discipline at your company, you must give a level of control and authority to the project manager. Some organizations, and middle managers especially, do not want to lose that control. They may want people to coordinate the projects, but then they want to make all the decisions and exercise all the control. Formal project management will not be possible in organizations where this fear is prevalent.

Summary

These are some common reasons why project management is not sponsored at
companies, and when it is sponsored, why it does not always stick. However, almost
every study that looks at project management shows that it is a discipline that will help
project managers deliver on time, on budget and within client expectations. All
companies should have a common project management process to maximize the chances for delivering their projects successfully.
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 admin@TenStep.com
Friday, 16 February 2018 02:58

Who Are Green Stakeholders?

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2018.14.02

Who Are Green Stakeholders?


Recap of GreenPM:

GreenPM® integrates environmental thinking ("GreenThink") into all of the project management processes. The point about GreenPM is not that you make every decision in favor of the one that is most environmentally friendly. The point is that you start to take the environment into account during the decision-making process. You might make most decisions the same as you do today. But there might be some decisions you would make differently.

Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholders are specific people or groups who have a stake or an interest in the outcome of the project. Normally stakeholders are from within the company and could include internal clients, management, employees, administrators, etc. A project may also have external stakeholders, including suppliers, investors, community groups and government organizations.

The first part of stakeholder analysis is to determine the project stakeholders.

Green Stakeholders

The additional question we ask in GreenPM is whether there are any “green” stakeholders that are relevant to our project. In most cases I think the answer will be “no”. That is, most projects may not have any obvious connections with the environment or green concepts.

However, on some projects, with a little bit of thought, you might realize that there are some additional stakeholders that are interested in your project from a green perspective. Some examples of green stakeholders are.

  • Your internal Environmental Management Group. Check the mandate for this group to see the areas where they have an interest. You might be surprised that they could have an interest in many projects if the project manager and sponsor only bothered to ask the question.
  • The facilities organization. If your project touches on the facilities organization, you may well have some green implications. The facilities group is interested in recycling, waste handling, trash removal, office moves, cleaning, and much more. Of course, most projects don’t have a need to engage the facilities group. But if you do, they may very well have green policies that you will want to take into account on your project.
  • Procurement. If your project will work with vendors, make sure that the vendors meet any green requirements that have been established by the Procurement Organization.
  • The public or public agencies. If your project impacts the public, or a public agency, you may well fall under some environmental scrutiny. For instance, let’s assume your project requires a survey to gather stakeholder feedback. If the survey is only internal to your company then only your company would be interested in the format of the survey. However, if the survey goes to the public, you may get held to a higher environmental standard. For instance, you may be criticized if your survey extends to multiple pages. You might be scrutinized if you print too many physical surveys and you have many extra copies. You may be asked to use recyclable paper. These are just small examples. The point is that if your project has a public component you may get held to an even higher level of green scrutiny.
The prior examples show that you may have some stakeholders that are interested in the environmental aspects of your project. Some of them may be stakeholders anyway and you will just need to be aware of their green interests as well. However, in some cases, thinking about GreenPM will allow you to include some stakeholders that you may not have identified before.  

Save the World – Use GreenPM®.
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 admin@TenStep.com
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 15:18

Portfolio 101 - Six "Validates" to Authorize Projects

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2018.7.02

Portfolio 101 -
Six "Validates" to Authorize Projects

When projects get approved they should be placed on a pipeline until the organization has the capacity to staff the project. It might seem that once a project makes it through the approval process there is a commitment to start immediately. This is not the case. There is one more step that has to happen before a project can actually start – authorization.

All of the approved projects cannot start at the same time. There are usually not enough resources and business focus to work on everything al the same time. Authorization takes place when a previously approved project is actually ready to start. This is the point where the budget is actually allocated to the project, a project manager is assigned, and the work is ready to begin.  The authorize step to make sure that the project is still viable. There are a number of things that need to be validated before the project begins.

  • Validate the Business Case. The time lag between approval and when the project is ready to start may have changed the Business Case. For instance, it is possible that a competitive opportunity has come and gone.

  • Validate sponsorship. It is possible that the customer and sponsor are no longer committed to the project. This could happen with changing priorities and it could also happen with a changing of the sponsor.

  • Validate staff. You should not start a project without staff availability. It is possible that the resources that were going to work on the project are no longer available.

  • Validate budget. It is possible that budget cuts, or overruns from other projects, have resulted in a lack of funding for the project.

  • Validate detailed estimates. Once the project manager is assigned, the project planning process begins. This will result in an estimate of effort, schedule and cost at a greater level of accuracy than when the Business Case was created. It is possible that the more accurate estimates prepared at this time will result in the project no longer being viable.

  • Validate priorities. It may be that nothing has changed on a project that was approved. However, business changes during the year may have resulted in a number of new projects with high priorities. These new projects may take the funding that was originally allocated to another project.

You can now see that there are a lot of reasons why a previously approved project may no longer make sense by the time it is ready to be staffed. It is usually the case that the shorter the timeline between approval and authorization, the more likely it is that the project will in fact proceed as envisioned. Likewise, the longer the lag between the project approval and readiness to begin, the more likely it is that the project will no longer make sense. If the project no longer makes sense, then it should not be authorized. 

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 admin@TenStep.com
Thursday, 01 February 2018 02:21

Remember these Ten Costs of Poor Quality

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2018.31.01

Remember these Ten Costs of Poor Quality

It costs money and time to build a quality solution. You may think that it is cheaper to skip many of the quality management steps, but this is usually not the case. It is important to recognize that there is also a cost to having poor quality. These costs may not be apparent when the project is progressing, but should definitely be taken into account as part of the full life cycle cost of the solution being delivered.Examples of the cost of poor quality include:

  1. Rework. This is work that is required to fix deliverables that you thought were already complete and correct. Whenever you have rework it is a sign that your quality management process is not as rigorous as it needs to be. 
  2. Bad decisions. If there are errors in your solutions you will end up making decisions based on bad or misleading information. These bad decisions could have long term consequences for your company. 
  3. Troubleshooting. It takes time to investigate to determine the cause of errors and defects that occur on the project.
  4. Poor morale. No one likes to work for an organization or a project that has poor processes or produces poor quality solutions. Costs of poor morale include increased absenteeism, higher turnover and less productivity from the staff.
  5. Warranty work. This includes work that is performed on a product or application for free (or a reduced price) under a warranty. If your project produces a product with lower quality you will see a rise in the cost of warranty claims.
  6. Repairs / maintenance. This is work that is done to fix problems after the solution goes live. Poor quality solutions usually have much higher repair and maintenance costs.
  7. Client dissatisfaction. If a solution is of poor quality, the client will not be happy and may not buy from you again at a later date. If the project is internal, the client may not want to use the project manager and team members on subsequent projects. 
  8. Help desk. Much of the effort and cost of maintaining a help desk service is required because the users have problems with project solutions or have questions understanding how to utilize the solutions.
  9. Support staff.  Much of the effort and cost associated with a support staff is needed to maintain a solution because of problems, errors, questions, etc.
  10. Mistrust. When project teams deliver poor quality products the client starts to develop a level of mistrust with the project team and the performing organization. The client starts to believe that the project organization can never build a good product and this starts to lead to a mistrust of project team skills, processes and motivation.
Quality management has a cost. There is also a cost to delivering poor quality. One of the key points of formal quality management is that if you spend quality time on internal quality management (prevention and inspection), you will save substantially on the internal and external failure costs. In fact, the savings for external failure costs can be substantial. If you spend more time focusing on building a better quality product during the project, the cost of operating the product long-term may be dramatically reduced.

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 admin@TenStep.com
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