Articles (608)


Friday, 13 April 2012 19:48

Motivating and Leading Project Teams

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As a project manager, you will need to manage people to get the work done. And most of the time, the resources won't report directly to you. So you need to learn to manage without authority. Thus understanding how to motivate people is critical. Also, you will need to leverage the appropriate leadership style depending on the situation.

Typically relying on saying "because I said so" simply doesn't work. If you have kids you may have already discovered this. No expert study is required. Fear and intimidation doesn't really work either, particularly in the long run. You may already have or eventually will encounter this type of manager. They are typically easy to spot. But if you don't catch on to the numerous unsubtle clues, just look for the department with the high turnover.

Apr4_FeatKarlW_11427381_XSParts 1 and 2 of this series presented practices that are useful and effective for laying the foundation for a successful project and planning the project. In this article, adapted from my book Practical Project Initiation, I’ll suggest six good practices for estimating the work you’ll have to do to complete they project.

Practice #12: Estimate based on effort, not calendar time. People generally provide estimates in units of calendar time. I prefer to estimate the effort (in labor-hours) associated with a task, and then translate the effort into a calendar-time estimate. A twenty-hour task might take 2.5 calendar days of nominal full-time effort, or two exhausting days. However, it could also take a week if you have to wait for critical information from a customer or stay home with a sick child for two days. I base the translation of effort into calendar time on estimates of how many effective hours I can spend on project tasks per day, any interruptions or emergency bug fix requests I might get, meetings, and all the other places into which time disappears.

Wednesday, 04 April 2012 08:00

My Budget is Being Cut – Oh My!

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All too often our project budgets are being slashed, especially in the midst of our current economic crisis. This article will provide some insights and ideas on how to best manage this not-so-fun situation.  Here are 13 succinct steps to help you get things back in order after your cost target changes.

1)      DON’T PANIC!  If you panic; so will your team. 

Do you ever have those days when go you off on philosophical tangents? You know, those cold, gloomy mornings when you stare out the window, coffee mug in hand, wondering, “Does a fish know what water is?”, “Is the colour red really universal?” or “Is Robert from marketing a real person?”

We’ve all been there. The truth is it’s hard for virtual project groups to bond on a personal level with other group members…partly (well, mostly) because we may not even know what the other person looks like! Without bonding, the results could be dangerous. The University of California, San Francisco, lists some of the common symptoms of a disengaged team:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Conflicts or hostility among staff members
  • Confusion about assignments, missed signals and unclear relationships
  • Decisions misunderstood or not carried through properly
  • Apathy and lack of involvement

Companies spend a lot of time and effort establishing PMOs and devising project methodologies that enable them to deliver their strategic initiatives. Often, such initiatives span the length and breadth of the organization, are complex in nature, and are extremely cross-functional in their implementation. It is common for such projects to run across three domains: commercial, technology and support. This poses a great challenge for executives in appointing the right type of project manager to take the helm of responsibility and delivery, which naturally leads to a typical discussion about how such projects should be organized. Figure 1.0 illustrates a common project organizational chart that is used to deliver end-to-end (e2e) initiatives.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012 09:21

Not How Do You Do It… Should You Do It?

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FEATUREMar28thWe spend a lot of energy in project management circles trying to determine how to do one thing or another. In my travels to various parts of the planet, something that’s sadly lacking in many places is good judgement on whether we should do that thing.

I’ve told the story before of an engineering organization that was looking for a new timesheet system. This sounded like good news to me because our own TimeControl timesheet system is a good fit for engineering firms. However, I was less happy when I heard the reason why the customer felt their existing system was no longer able to meet their requirements.

“We’re having to do a whole manual transfer of data from that old system to our Finance ERP,” explained the technology specialist. “Because they need three rate values and our existing timesheet can send only two, we’re having a miserable time with all this manual intervention trying to get a third value stored and sent. Can you do that with your TimeControl?”

I call projects like this “a dangerous opportunity”. I inherited a troubled initiative, which not only did not know what they were really trying to deliver, but they were delivering badly.

My client contact was under severe pressure from the parent company to fall in line and develop a multifunctional enterprise computer system from scratch. Application software packages wouldn’t do because they “already looked at them”. And of course the project was “to be completed yesterday” To make matters worse, my client’s boss was an exceedingly intelligent and charismatic individual who lacked experience, yet had the dominating, strong-willed and demanding presence to prolong the project damage.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012 12:54

The PMBOK Guide ® – Is it Enough?

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Mar21_With_map_in_field_13813336_XSThere have been some changes to the PMBOK® Guide in the Fourth Edition. Since the PMBOK® Guide is an ANSI standard, PMI must assess it every 4-5 years to determine if an update is needed” (Cyndi Stackpole).

The increasing acceptance of project management indicates that the application of appropriate knowledge processes, skills, tools and techniques can have a significant impact on project success. The PMBOK Guide indicates that subset of the project management body of knowledge generally recognized as good practice” (PMBOK Guide ®3rd Edition, 2004).

It is clearly stated that the PMBOK Guide® is a subset of the project management knowledge and the field of project management, like many other professions is too vast to be captured in a single book or guide.

Monday, 12 March 2012 16:50

The Kaizen Project Manager

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Project managers have the difficult task of bringing together a team and delivering something exceptional, often within a tight timeline and budget constraints. In these pressure situations, project teams need to be able to perform together as optimally as possible. While newly formed teams often need time to establish their rhythm and develop efficient processes, even an experienced team with several projects under its belt can probably find ways to make their work get done more efficiently. With the seemingly constant demand to find better ways to do things, how can a project manager properly invest time to get a team to perform better?

Tuesday, 06 March 2012 12:45

How to Manage the “Bad Apple”

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Hanging_Fotolia_4097682_XSEvery fall, my family and I plan a trip to visit one of the many apple orchards in southeast Michigan. Our day is spent on a tractor, going to the many fields of trees to pick some of the finest apples in the world. We fill our basket full of good, fresh apples. In choosing our apples, we generally will pick the best-looking apples. These apples are mostly on the tree and in some cases they have already fallen to the ground. Any blemished or bad apples we will not pick.

After carefully picking our apples, after a few days we discover some apples are going bad. If a decaying apple is left in the same position and allowed to stay with the other apples, it will affect the apples around it and they will start to deteriorate. If not careful, you could end up with a bunch of bad apples.