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Project Management Blog
Monday, 15 October 2007 14:55

About soft skills and project management

A key success factor for excellent project management often relies also upon the people skills of the project manager.

In order to minimize risk and ensure a successful project, project managers must not only deal with the technical project management aspects, but asses leadership skills, cultivate a motivated team, master negotiation tactics to effectively handle conflict situations and communicate effectively. Projects success can be jeopardized by things such as personal agendas, politics, poor communication and team conflicts.

And if you succeed, no matter how "good" you are,  you will never get the credit, if can’t communicate well with colleagues or clients.
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Tuesday, 28 August 2007 08:31

Get It Right or Forget It

Have you ever had a perfectionist on your team? They can be the perfect team member or a perfect pain. Here are some tips on how you can have a more perfect partnership.
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The feature story in the March 2007 edition of PM Network, titled "Bridging the Gap", is a look at some of the differences in style and communication that newer professionals and project managers have compared to veterans. I enjoyed the article and found some points to agree with and some in conflict with my personal experiences.

In the article there is a quote from Dave Davis, PMP, asserting that "the younger generation doesn't grasp the value of face time and the importance of building a team identity...They avoid social time and group meetings and end up identifying more with the tasks than the team."

Published in Blogs
Thursday, 22 March 2007 10:02

The Success Conundrum

I hope that since you are reading this, you are a project management proponent and interested in “spreading the word” so to speak.  Many of us find ourselves a lone voice in the wilderness singing the praises of project management, yet unable to make any headway. 

Why is this so and what can be done about it? How do we get those obstinate so-and-sos to listen? 

In one way we are our own worst enemy.  Our consistent success and brilliant performance is often interpreted by others as an inherent talent.  In other words, we are seen as good at project management in the same way that musicians are seen as good musicians – it’s a talent thing.   Now, not taking away from anyone’s talent, our personal attributes are not the only cause of our success – you know that or you would not be reading this.  The first hurdle then is to demonstrate that skill AND talent make good project managers, that you can learn this and be good – never as good as those of us who are truly talented, but – hey - not everyone can be the best... just us J This means that success alone can not demonstrate the benefits of project management – let me say that differently – the prevailing mindset in a capability-maturity ignorant world is that people alone create success.  

I’m not saying that a great process can overcome incompetence, it can’t.  Nor am I suggesting that you credit your achievements solely to a great methodology (you worked hard!) – so what do you do? There are a lot of actions you can take, but since I’m a PMO guy, I’ll start there.  In the case of building a PM culture, a PMO can succeed where individual achievements fall short.  A PMO is an organizational entity, and as such does not suffer from the success conundrum. 

When a PMO succeeds, the prevailing opinion will be “they must be doing something right.”  This process-oriented point of view is an opening into organizational consciousness.  If you don’t have a PMO, consider creating a community of practice around project management.  Meet with other PMs and share ideas and practices.  Publish these on the company’s intranet (if you have one).  Send emails on PM topics or print articles and pass them around. 

I’ve really had some good luck with sharing short articles and ideas via email.  In fact I just sent another one using Josh Nankivel’s article on Theory of Constraints.  The cartoon is great, and fun communications never hurts!   So that’s my first two cents, PMOs and other PM-based organizations are a great way to demonstrate and communicate the benefits of our profession, get together with your peers and spread the word.

 

Published in Blogs
Friday, 16 March 2007 14:01

How to Really Fix a Failing Project

Your project is in trouble.  You know it.  Your team knows it.  But somehow you have been able to keep it from your management.  You need a quick fix.  But there aren’t any.  What can be done to get back on track?  Since yesterday's ideas didn't help, here are some suggestions that might point you in the right direction.

Published in Blogs
Thursday, 25 January 2007 21:24

Roles & Responsibilities

ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES


PROJECT MANAGER ROLE
The essential role of the project leader is to lead the project team through the project management and team processes so that they complete the project successfully. The project leader is accountable for the overall success of the project.

  • The project leader is also referred to as the project manager. However, in a participative approach, the main role for the project manager is leadership, so we refer to him or her as a project leader. The role of the project leader is to
  • Provide direction to the project team.
  • Lead the project team through the project management process (creating and executing the project plan).
  • Obtain approvals for the project plan.
  • Issue status reports on the progress of the project versus the plan.
  • Respond to requests for changes to the plan.
  • Facilitate the team process, which is the interpersonal process by which team members develop as a team.
  • Remove obstacles for the team so they can complete the project.
  • Act as the key interface with the project sponsor.
  • Act as the key interface with the project customer.
  • Call and run team meetings.
  • Issue the final project report.


PROJECT TEAM MEMBER
The project team member has an active role to play in a participatory style of managing a project. The project team member not only provides technical expertise and produces deliverables, but he or she also helps in the planning and monitoring of the project. The project team member is accountable for ensuring that his or her work contributes to the overall success of the project.
The project team member’s role is to

  • Provide technical expertise.
  • Provide ideas that can help the team create quality deliverables, on time and within budget.
  • Ensure that his or her part of the project work gets completed on time.
  • Communicate issues back to the project team.
  • Participate in the project planning process.
  • Interface with the suppliers for his or her area.
  • Keep the boss informed on project issues, as required.
  • Keep the commitment he or she makes to the project.
  • Help to keep the project on track.
  • Provide updates to his or her resource manager on the status of the project.
  • Help to keep the team process and content on track.

 

SPONSOR ROLE

The sponsor is someone from management who has been designated to oversee the project, to help ensure that it satisfies both the needs of the customer and the needs of the organization. The sponsor is sometimes called the project champion. The sponsor makes sure that the project leader has the resources, training, support, and cooperation he or she needs to get the job done. The sponsor is accountable for the success of the project leader. What happens if you don’t have a sponsor? Then your boss or the project customer, if that customer is inside the organization, will need to act as the sponsor. The sponsor connects the project to the needs of management. It’s very risky to start a project without one. The role of the sponsor is to

  • Initiate the project by selecting a project leader.
  • Make sure that the project’s objectives are in line with the strategic direction/goals of the organization.
  • Provide overall direction to the project.
  • Make sure the team has the resources required to complete the project successfully.
  • Obtain commitment from the resource managers to support the project.
  • Review and approve the project plan.
  • Review status reports.
  • Review progress on the project with the project leader.
  • Help to remove obstacles that can’t be overcome by the team or the project leader.
  • Mentor or coach the project leader.
  • Review and approve the final report.


PROJECT CUSTOMER ROLE

A project exists to satisfy a customer. The project customer is the recipient of the main output of the project, called the final deliverable. In order to make sure the final deliverables satisfies the customer, the customer must convey to the project team what the needs and requirements for the deliverable will be. A customer can be internal or external to the organization. Most projects are done for internal customers (customers inside the organization), although the final deliverable produced by the project might eventually be distributed to or purchased by an external customer. Suppose you were working on a project to develop a new heart monitor for infants. The project customer is probably your marketing department because it’s their job to sell the monitor to the eventual buyers, the hospitals. The patients who would be hooked up to the heart monitor would be considered end users of the heart monitor product. (An end user is the ultimate consumer of the product.) Most projects are done for internal customers who then represent the needs of customers and end users outside the organization. However, some projects are done directly for an external customer. In these cases, the customer usually pays for the final deliverable directly. An example would be a project in a consulting firm to develop a customized piece of software for an external customer. The external customer would pay based on time and materials or as a flat fee for the project. Whether the customer is internal or external, there are certain similarities in the role they must play within the project:

  • Provide the project team with a clear picture of their needs and requirements
  • Review and approve the charter
  • Participate on the project team where appropriate
  • Inform the project leader of any changes in the environment that would affect the project deliverables
  • Approve changes to the project when needed to make the project a success
  • Review project status reports
  • Provide feedback to the project leader on a regular basis
  • Evaluate the final deliverables as well as the project process 

There are some additional roles that internal customers typically perform:

  • Review and approve the entire project plan (External customers usually review only the scope section of the plan)
  • Review the final status report

If you have a project with an external customer, it is imperative to have an internal sponsor working on the project. The internal sponsor’s job is to balance the needs of the external customer with the needs of the internal organization. If your project has an internal customer, the internal customer may double as the project sponsor.

 

 

Published in Blogs
Thursday, 25 January 2007 18:22

Scope Definition

Decomposing the major project deliverables into smaller, more manageable components completes scope Definition. There are a good number of outputs from the Scope Definition phases that you’ll need to be familiar with.

Scope definition is the subdivision of project deliverables into smaller (and more manageable) pieces until you have adequately identified in the work breakdown structure all the work on the project. 

Published in Blogs
Thursday, 25 January 2007 17:41

Configuration Management

Configuration management is the term given to the identification, tracking and managing of all the assets of a project; it focuses on controlling the characteristics of a product or service (also referred to as deliverables). In a general sense, configuration management consists of the following:

 

  • The documentation of the features, characteristics, and functions of a product or service
  • The applied control to restrict changes to the features, characteristics, and function of the product or service
  • The process of documenting any changes to the product or service
  • The ongoing auditing of products and services to ensure their conformance to documented requirements
  • Establishes a method to consistently identify and request changes to established baselines
  • To assess the value and effectiveness of changes
  • Provides opportunities to continuously validate and improve the project by considering the impact of each change
  • Provides the mechanism for the project management team to consistently communicate all changes to the stakeholders.

 

Configuration management activities included in the integrated change control process are:

  • Configuration Identification - Providing the basis from which the configuration of products is defined and verified, products and documents are labeled, changes are managed, and accountability is maintained.
  • Configuration Status Accounting - Capturing, storing, and accessing configuration information needed to manage products and product information effectively.
  • Configuration Verification and Auditing - Establishing that the performance and functional requirements defined in the configuration documentation have been met.

When it comes to configuration management, think paperwork. Think about all the paperwork that is involved in documenting every single component of a system deliverable and making sure that there are no changes to that deliverable, or if there are changes, that they are thoroughly documented. Configuration management is traceable. For the exam, know that all change must be screened, tracked, accepted, approved, and the development process updated thereafter.

 

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