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August 18, 2010, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.

From the Editor

Carl Pritchard isn't quavering on the sidelines. He looks risk right in the eye and decides, "Is this something I should be afraid of?" His column this week explores how you can make the same decisions, whether it's for your projects or for yourself, and why it's not necessarily cold or oblivious to do so.

If you decide to move ahead, you need the right tools to make things happen, risks or no. This issue highlights the 10 project documents we would never go without, as well as our monthly course on how to get the right team to get there, and blogger Morley Selver's advice on coming up with an estimate that makes sense. This is also your last chance to sign on for Kent McDonald's August 24 webinar on Project Planning from an Agile Perspective (worth both PDUs and ACP Contact Hours). Keep calm and carry on!

Featured Article

Scared Yet? by Carl Pritchard

Carl Pritchard From political showdowns to summer drought to violence overseas to violence in our own backyards, there's a LOT of scary stuff going on. It seems all but endless. But it's notable that we go on about our daily lives, both personal and professional, coping with the pressures these various and sundry risks create. The last time that I wrote here, I wrote about paranoia and the fact that sometimes others really are out to get you. This time, I'd like to talk about the brighter side -- moving forward in an environment of adversity.

In the aftermath of events like 9/11 or, more recently, the Oslo tragedy, many individuals choose to be active. They choose to talk about the need for intervention by one entity or another, and call for some type of action to be taken to prevent such events in the future. Others take time to allow the initial shock to wear off and simply move on.

The latter sounds like a cold approach. It's not. It is a calculated approach. We need to make the conscious decision as to when and how we're going to react. And there are cues when it's time to refuse to be scared »

Premium How-To Course

Getting the Right Project TeamPREMIUM

Presented by Cinda Voegtli, founder and CEO of ProjectConnections.com

Premium Course Now that you have a project, how do you get the right team? Don't fall into the trap of thinking about names. What you should be focused on is the roles, skills, and availability required to get the project done. You don't just want committed team members -- you want committed team members whose managers support their commitment. This course will help you identify a strong, cross-functional core team for your project, along with any other resources you'll need, and to make sure the team has the skills and experience needed to get the job done. Don't wait to see who gets assigned. Take the lead on your project staffing, and avoid costly staffing conflicts and oversights. 1 PDU. Learn More »


Webinar: A Simple Approach to IT Process Management

Plan to Re-Plan: Project Planning from an Agile Perspective
Wed, August 24, 11:00 a.m. Pacific (2:00 p.m. Eastern)

Kent McDonald Agile teams plan a lot more, and a lot more often, than you probably think they do. Their techniques can be an important tool for any team, regardless of the project environment. This webinar explains the various levels of planning that occur in organizations using agile approaches. When these different planning levels are used together, they help projects deliver value, reflect and adapt, and exploit change for competitive advantage. $39.95, 1.5 Category A PDUs, 1.5 PMI-ACP℠ contact hours. Learn More »

September webinar: Delegation skills for busy managers
October webinar: Change management for busy organizations

10 PM Documents You Can't Do Without

We would never do a project without at least the documents listed below. Even if you're only jotting notes on the back of a napkin, they'll ease your work and guarantee better results than just winging it. Want proof? Check out the case study for one non-project that accomplishes everything in these documents on just a handful of pages.

Have a Vision - Project Definition - Vision Document - GUEST
Bring clarity with a simple document capturing team agreement on why you're doing the project, what the customer needs, and the overall scope. Easiest/fastest way to complete it: Draft it yourself first, then review and update it in a room with whoever is paying for the project and the most important project customers.

Get a Good Team - Team Roles and Responsibilities List - PREMIUM
Who's testing? Who's writing the documentation? Who has to agree the project is done? Make sure you identify all the skills you'll need to get things done. Easiest/fastest way to complete it: Draft the list, then show it to other team members and ask, "Who are we forgetting? What work did I leave out and who do we need to do it?" (See our downloadable course this month for more on putting together the best possible team.)

Track Actions to Completion - Action Item List Formats - GUEST
Dash off all the emails you like, but what gets tracked gets done. These simple formats keep things organized so you don't need to dig through your inbox for task ownership and deadlines. Bonus points: Use the list as a springboard for creating your team meeting agendas; your meetings will move faster and take less prep work.

Fast, Good, Cheap: Pick 2 - Project Flexibility Matrix - MEMBER
Even on a small project, you'll have to make some choices; and the shorter the project, the less time to stall. This matrix will help you manage and record tradeoff discussions. Easiest/fastest way to complete it: Get your key stakeholders into a room or on a call and ask them to pick between two factors at a time. Most people will say that all three are important, but if forced to choose they'll be able to decide between, say, scope and schedule. Do that twice, then pick between the two winners and rank accordingly.

Know the Risks - Risk Assessment and Mitigation Tables - SPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until September 1, 2011
Luck favors the prepared. Tackle risk head on by thinking about it and monitoring it, even on small projects that seem like sure things. Remember, listing risks is not the same as managing them. Easiest/fastest way to complete it: It's not worth rushing this one. Pick the form or two that best suits your situation and think it through with the team.

Get Buy-In on the Plan - Milestone Table with Driver Tasks - PREMIUM
The most critical component of any plan isn't the document. It's the agreement of team members and stakeholders on what must be done when, why, and how you'll measure progress. Streamlined tracking keeps your driving tasks highly visible and shows how they relate to critical milestones. Small projects will probably be most interested in Format 2, which includes space for completion criteria and success factors so everything you need is in one place.

Mind the Money - Project Budget - PREMIUM
Even small projects need at least rudimentary budgets. Without them, you run the risk of spending a lot more than you anticipated (or can easily justify). The examples in this file take only a page for simple projects, and provide expansive tracking examples for less simple ones. Easiest way to complete it: As soon as you start outlining scope, add your high-level driver tasks in the left column to ensure that all project work and associated costs are included in your estimates.

Keep Meetings Efficient - Team Meeting Agenda - PREMIUM
Good meetings can make a project, and bad ones can break it. Break the mold. Create usable agendas that emphasize work, not status updates, and then stick to them! Easiest/fastest way to complete this document: Consult your Action Item List if you've started one, and start with any group work you see. Distribute it before the meeting so attendees can include any group work they need to bring. Review the compiled agenda to be sure the meeting makes sense.

Measure Success - Project Overview Test Plan - PREMIUM
Even if your project doesn't require testing in the technical sense, you should still plan to "test" your deliverable against the customer requirements and original vision. This template helps you plan those measurements and decide who will make them. Bonus points: If you're running a small technical project that does require testing, this may be the only test document you need; just keep it updated as the project progresses.

Report Progress - Project Status Reports - PREMIUM
Why kill yourself writing reports no one has time to read? This template provides several formats and levels of detail for summarizing and communicating project or portfolio status at a more useful level. Small projects will probably most appreciate the one-page document formats for getting the true picture for a project at a glance.

Bonus Example: Even If It's Just the Back of a Napkin ... - Adapting PM Templates to a Mini-Project - MEMBER
We said any project, and we meant it. This case study is a fun take on what project management looks like when applied to something most people wouldn't even think of as a project, and proof that it really can be done without going overboard. Check out the included sample documents for proof that you can manage your project and your team without anyone being the wiser.

Project Practitioners

Do You Always Under Estimate Your Projects?, by Morley Selver
I got a request the other day looking for someone to do a workshop on estimating. Some engineers were interested in what projects really cost and how are these costs developed. It sounded like they were doing the estimating and were always wrong. If you do not understand what goes into an estimate and the process involved you will always end up with a poor estimate. In this article I want to give them, and you, the detail that goes into an total installed cost (TIC) estimate for a complex project (multi-disciplined project). This is an estimate that covers the on site field work as well as the engineering and owners costs.


Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing

Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »

Not sure if corporate terms apply to you? Check out our licensing terms at the top of our Terms of Service page, in refreshingly ordinary, everyday English.


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