In This Issue:
From the Editor
Decisions, Decisions, by Kent McDonald
Featured Blog: Lessons from a Hurricane Part 2... by Cinda Voegtli
Critical Success Factors for Enterprise-Wide Project Management by Jerry Perone
The benefit of the doubt by Alfonso Bucero
- Honey, I Shrunk the Methodology
- Don't Try This at Home, Kids!
- Give me a T! Give me an E! Give me an A!... ah, forget it
- Been There, Done That
- I Did It My Way (and you will too)
- What If I Buy You a Doughnut?
Featured Bundle: Project Status Reports
November 12, 2008, sponsored by Project Management Institute, Inc.
From the Editor
Teamwork is one of those fluffy words that inspires a lot of eye rolls among jaded project veterans, even though we all know that it's critical to getting anything done. It's probably because of all those float trips and sharing circles. Mind you, we're not knocking float trips. But to really inspire teamwork we have to give our people the right tools and the right information, learn to delegate, and reward them for work well done. That will build a stronger team than any spontaneous stage dives off the conference room table.
Speaking of teams, we thought it would be a good idea to let you get to know the Project Practitioners blog team a little better, so we're introducing a couple of bloggers in more depth this week. We'll continue to do that over the next several months, to make it even easier for you to get to know who's talking and see what they're saying. Plus, Kent McDonald also shares his advice on how to make more informed decisions, and Cinda continues her essay on Lessons from Hurricane Gustav.
Decisions, Decisions, by Kent McDonald
Recently I worked on a project at a regional insurance company to implement a specialized call center. We were partnering with a small company that specialized in running these types of call centers. They were very good at what they did, but they were small, and our contract was considerably larger than any they had before; our volume stressed their technical capabilities, especially with respect to transferring data back and forth for operational and analytical purposes.
Some on our team were concerned that the vendor would not be able to complete the necessary integration work in time, which meant that while they could operate the service, they would not be able to provide sufficient analytical data. We had a decision to make. We could trust the vendor to deliver the necessary functionality by the due date and be in a sad state if that did not happen, or we could add additional work internally to produce the necessary analytical data. We were still not sure if we could even do the work internally in the desired time frame. We were still three months out from the targeted implementation point, but there was a burning desire to make a decision NOW!
Did we really need to make the decision right then? Could we trust the vendor to deliver? Are there ways to gather more information to allow us to make a more informed decision? Read more »
Featured BlogLessons from a Hurricane – Part 2:
The fastest way to competence, judgment, and confidence, by Cinda Voegtli
Remember what it feels like to not know (or at least not be SURE you know) the right way to do something—how to get started, how to use the tools, how to deal with issues that arise? I'll bet new project managers often feel that way; I know I did. Are we helping them get started effectively in their new roles? Not always. I recently experienced anew what it feels like to be totally new and uncertain at something, and I didn't like it—until I unexpectedly got the chance to get better fast just because of how someone worked with me.
I flew home last month to Louisiana to help my parents deal with the overwhelm of disruption and details from damage their home received from Hurricane Gustav over Labor Day weekend. The first major chore when I got there was to help my dad build a wall in front of his garage—the garage door had been mangled by the 100 mile an hour winds and removed. Now Hurricane Ike was about to come through, and the opening had to be boarded up fast. It was to be a simple wall of a 2x4 base plate, 2x4 top plate, and 2x4 studs set perpendicularly then big sheets of plywood nailed up onto the studs.
Although everything we did was simple conceptually and common sense, I immediately experienced the angst of doing something new (and in a time-pressured, stressful situation to boot!). My dad, on the other hand, has been building things his whole life. He knew exactly how to go about it, had all the tools at his disposal, got to work. But I sat there waiting for instructions, feeling unsure of myself. Although I've used a drill to hang curtain rods and other such isolated tasks, I had never built a wall. I was not sure how to deploy the simple tools of drill, nails, hammer, etc. to "do this right." So I did nothing until instructed. And when I did each thing he asked for, like using the drill and screwdriver attachment to set my first stud, I felt like a slow, butter-fingered idiot.
But over time an interesting thing happened. Read more »
Jerry Perone was one of our first weekly bloggers, and we're glad to have him. Jerry, who specializes in troubled project recovery, is widely travelled and brings a wealth of project management experience to the discussion. His blogs center on improving project management practice throughout the organization—aiming for what he refers to as "transformation"—and he'd like it to be an interactive journey. His most recent entry, highlighted below, identifies four critical success factors for bringing about that transformation. See if you agree.
Critical Success Factors for Enterprise-Wide Project Management, by Jerry Perone
In my very first blog I told you that I would focus on enterprise-wide organizational improvement. So, this week in that regard, I thought I would outline for you some of the critical success factors if you and your organization are serious about enterprise-wide project management implementation and improvement. As you read my list you may be struck by the absence of certain items like buy-in, portfolio, methodology, tooling and others. In my opinion these are components of the organizational change project plan but not the critical success factors. We will talk about each of those in later blogs along with all the other work streams that will be addressed. The key critical success factors are:
1. There must be a champion. Someone must be identified to lead the effort who has the vision, the power and the authority to make it all happen. To implement a well defined and managed project management system inside a medium to large organization is no easy task. Leadership, management, business and facilitation skills are required. The champion must have the skills, the charisma, to bring top executives together, to create a common set of objectives and to establish an effective steering committee which will stay in place during the entire campaign. The champion must have expert project management subject matter and sales skills. The champion must have large scale program and project planning skills. The champion will be in effect the General Manager for the effort and will ultimately be accountable to the people in the organization. Read more »
Alfonso Bucero is a prominent PMI leader in Spain, with decades of project management experience and a dedication to "passion, persistence, and patience" as keys to project success. Alfonso doesn't hesitate to call them like he sees them, and his blogs provide a window into project management on the continent. His passion and enthusiasm are infectious, and we're very pleased to have his perspective on the site. In this recent post, Alfonso gives us all a reality check about our desperate need to delegate.
The benefit of the doubt, by Alfonso Bucero
Delegating is not an easy task for the project manager but never do anything that someone else can do for you, as well or better. Delegation begins by determining all the tasks that must be performed to reach your project's goals. Then select the individual or individuals best qualified to handle each duty and empower them to do it. Finally, check results regularly to make sure the productivity goals you have set are being reached or surpassed.
These are the excuses some European project managers give for not delegating: My team members lack the experience, says J. M. Devesa (project leader of G.E. at Spain); it takes more time to explain than to do the job myself, a mistake by a team member could be costly for my project, my position enables me to get quicker action, there are some things that I shouldn't delegate to anyone, my team members are specialists and they lack the overall knowledge that many decisions require. Other comments gathered after talking to project professionals from the south of Europe were: my people are already too busy, my team members just aren't ready to accept more responsibility, I am concerned about lack of control over people performance when I delegate, I like keeping busy and making my own decisions, delegating is terrifying to me.
When you delegate, don't think of it as doing the other person a favor. The use of effective delegation will pay off for you, as project manager, and your organization in many ways. You will mobilize resources to achieve more results than you ever thought possible. You will have more time to manage your project, like planning, monitoring team members, and handling conflicts and personnel problems, that no one else can do. You will focus on doing a few tasks very well, rather than doing a lot rather poorly.
Alfonso suggests four steps for more successful delegation »
Agile CornerHoney, I Shrunk the Methodology – Agile Method Brief: Scrum – PREMIUM
If you're used to using a waterfall tome, agile methodologies will look a lot, lot smaller. Perhaps the quintessential Agile methodology, Scrum focuses on incremental, iterative development with a small, collaborative team. It's a simple but effective approach to product development, with a framework and set of simple rules that won't give paperwork-allergic developers a case of hives. But contrary to popular myth, Scrum teams still maintain control over their work, manage and monitor risks, and resolve issues without hitting panic buttons, using just this simple framework (and a lot of discipline). Just because it's small, doesn't mean it's dainty. Read about Scrum and how to implement it »
Don't Try This at Home, Kids! – Agile Method Brief: Extreme Programming (XP) – PREMIUM
The name might seem a little Gen-Y for some, but Extreme Programming is serious business. This agile methodology focuses on specific, minimal engineering practices designed to provide higher quality software for the customer, and a higher quality of life for the development team. Rather than a set methodology, XP provides a collection of good development practices and encourages the team to identify their own trouble spots and apply the practices that make the most sense for them. Read about XP and how to try it out »
Give me a T! Give me an E! Give me an A! ah, forget it. – Team Rewards & Recognition – MEMBER
Trying to raise team spirit with a lot of cheerleading? If you feel hokey about it, it's a fair bet it's not motivating the team either. This guideline provides some concrete suggestions and examples for raising team spirit and general hoopla without resorting to pom-poms and pigtails. Planning for team rewards ahead of time shows the team you're serious about thanking them (not just doing it as an afterthought) and gives you a chance to allocate time and money for the effort as well. Get the guideline »
Been There, Done That – PM Coaching Agreement Guidelines – PREMIUM
Keep your central team member in top shape with strong support by supplying coaching from an manager who's been down the road before. There's tremendous value (and comfort) for a new project manager in knowing that they've got an experienced perspective to rely on for advice and assurance. The guidelines outlined in this agreement ensure that the relationship doesn't tip too far in either direction by consuming too much of the coach's time. Get the guidelines »
I Did It My Way (and you will too) – Adapting Processes for Different Projects – PREMIUM
One size does not fit all—not even in the most well designed project processes If you want your teams to feel productive and empowered, one of the best things you can do is empower them to take control of their own processes. This guideline explains how teams can tailor your existing processes can accommodate projects of different lengths, risk profiles, complexity, without shattering the need for documentation or accountability. It includes also examples of communicating different project profiles to your teams, to help them select the right process elements up front. Give your teams a few inches, and watch them sprint for miles. Get the guideline »
What If I Buy You a Doughnut? - Change Control Form – PREMIUM
Since we're all one great big happy family here, it should be no big deal to just slip this little change in for me, right? Not so fast! Even smaller, iterative, agile teams need to keep a handle on what's being changed and why. This form is one example of how to record and track that discipline on a development team. For larger, formal teams, this can be an invaluable tool for managing and tracking project changes. Of course, for iterative groups or shorter projects it might be overboard. But even there it's still a great reminder of key information everyone should at least think about and be aware of before tweaking something just to avoid tweaking a team member. Project change doesn't have to be bureaucratic, but it should at least be conscious. Get the template »
Another day, another project, another status report. Wouldn't it be nice if there was some consistency from team to team, and from project to project? A multi-user license for our Status Reports bundle can provide a quick, easy, and useful path to the consistency everyone's looking for, not to mention saving time spent re-inventing the wheel. You'll find over 20 variations on status report formats for different situations, many with sample data so you can see the level of detail other teams and managers use. These real-world examples will make your status manageable, understandable, and presentable throughout the organization, for a fraction of the time and cost you would spend developing them all from scratch. Find out more »
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Do you work with other teams that need help with status reports and summaries? Better yet, do you want your whole organization to benefit? Check out our Project Status Reports Multi-User License bundle!
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