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Co-written by Richard Larson

Small projects have unique challenges over larger ones. Because they're small, it's tempting to skip the planning process and start executing the work. This phenomenon is especially true if projects perform tasks similar to previous work, which in turn leads to a natural tendency to skip planning and to start doing the work. Then, essential steps are sometimes omitted, done out of order, or done later than desired. Likewise, costly mistakes can occur when risks are missed by executing too soon. A small project that isn't planned enough can also ignore critical stakeholders, causing both resentment and rework.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012 11:49

Project Management Leadership: Get in the Game

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Feature Apr25 35368388 XSProject managers and sports are so intertwined that you hear common sayings like the following:

"That's a slam dunk!"
"Just pass the puck (or "give me the ball"), I'll put it in the net!"
"All I needed was a decent set up, and I could have slammed it home!"
"Who dropped the ball?"

Athletic team leaders and project managers share common attributes. The following three sports roles will get you thinking about how skills can carry over from the court/field/ice to the project room.

Volleyball Setter: Fixing the Problems

"You touch every other ball and, if you screw up, you only have one more person to back you up. You can't go hide in the corner." - Kerri Walsh, Olympic Gold Medalist
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 09:29

5 Essential Elements of a Successful Project

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Projects come in all shapes and sizes from small, simple ones to larger and more complex projects. Whatever the size or type of project, there are 5 essential elements that you must get right in order to achieve a successful outcome.

Whether your project is about improving an existing product or service, managing change or implementing a new system, the same basic considerations are required when managing projects. Get these right and you will manage a successful project. Get them wrong and your project will be thwarted by challenges, issues and problems.
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 09:47

Doing It Right Doesn't Mean Doing It All

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At the conclusion of a recent project management class, a student sighed heavily and noted that, "If I did all of this stuff, my stakeholders would shoot me."

I hear this sentiment often from students who are new to project management or working in organizations that are new to project management. 

Many of the business analysts, project managers and organisational leaders we work with lament their inability to appropriately communicate and influence the stakeholders with which they work. Needing to get a point across or to inspire the required action, they spend significant energy trying to share their passion or urgency for attention to the business matters at hand. Often it falls upon deaf ears or becomes lost in the tsunami of information we all have to handle.

Typically their messages are not wrong or misplaced and their sense of need is quite real. Why then do so many of these communications fail to achieve the desired result? Are they failing  to utilize the right vocabulary for their target audience?

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.