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Looking Back and Looking Forward to Improve

There are many New Year celebrations – Tet, Rosh Ha Shona, and more. Why not make every day the beginning of a new year?

But now we are here celebrating the Western solar new year. We are reminded to enjoy the moment, reflect on the past and visualize a healthier, happier, more productive, and peaceful future.

 

Time to Reflect and Plan

Now is a traditional time for looking back, remembering the past, and looking forward, resolving to make a “better” future. In project management this is quality improvement through assessment, control, improvement planning, and follow through.

As individuals, we make resolutions to improve by giving up bad habits and cultivating positive behavior. We resolve to stop overeating or drinking and to exercise more, or to take that course that will lead to a new career, or to be kinder and more understanding and patient.

But many resolutions last a short time because we don’t follow through.

On a team or organizational level, do you make resolutions and follow through with them? Do you reflect and plan as a normal ongoing process, or is it a once-a-year event?

 

Quality Management

Among project management’s principles is assuring quality by critically assessing performance and planning to improve. Dr Deming’s PDCA cycle: Plan, Do, Check, and Act is one way of looking at the improvement process.

Reflect and resolve once a year and you are certain to miss a lot of opportunities to improve performance and wellness. Build PDCA into your normal way of doing whatever you do and you will reap the benefits of an ever-improvising process.

 

Learn

This article reinforces the message of my October article, “Learn from the Past to Perfect Performance, “Learn from experience. Set aside time for reflection, learning, and making the intention to perfect the way you live and work.”

Improvement is cyclical. It is ongoing. It continues as long as the target process or product lasts. The target process may be your own project management process or a new process resulting from a project. Here the focus is on the project management process.

 

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PDCA

The PDCA cycle is an improvement model that uses a scientific method:

  • Plan – propose a change,
  • Do – implement it,
  • Check – measure to see if the intended goals are achieved,
  • Act – decide whether to adjust by taking appropriate action in another cycle, or to standardize and stabilize the new process.

You decide to standardize and stabilize changes to your process when you have achieved planned benefits. Then you start a new cycle based on your new standard.

 

The Standard

You may or may not have a standard to start with.

When a new process is being designed and implemented the standard is a set of expectations. For example, you expect to complete 90% percent of projects within 10% of the original planned time and budget.

If you have done performance measurement you may know that your current standard is 40% of your projects meeting that expectation. If you do not have an objective sense of your past performance, you are at a disadvantage, but all is not lost. Chances are there is a subjective sense that you are not satisfying stakeholder expectations. Too many projects are delivered late and overbudget.

Part of planning is to set an expectation, a standard or benchmark to use as a target. You determine your goals and set the standard for measuring or checking the effects of your efforts. Research to determine if your goals are realistic. Make sure you are setting a realistic expectation about how long it will take to achieve your goals. Assess risks.

 

Plan to Achieve Goals

With realistic goals in mind, you plan the way you will meet them. To do that well, you have a decision to make. Will you refine your existing process or start from a blank slate?

How unstable and undefined is the current process? Is documenting it worth the effort or is it more effective to find a good model and adapt it to your current conditions.

In the realm of project management, don’t try to invent a brand-new process. You would be reinventing the wheel. Instead, take the time and effort to find a suitable model or models for the kind of projects you perform. If you have multiple project types you may need multiple defined processes, some agile, some more structured.

 

Cause Analysis

Look back to see why you are not meeting stakeholder expectations. Sep back and candidly assess causes. Are schedules and budgets dictated from above or are they the result of actual planning based on expected resources and conditions? Are projects initiated without regard of their impact on ongoing operations and other projects? Are estimators and/or performers in need of training or better tools or both?

Looking back at causes and on the state of the current process often causes conflict and resistance. Performers and project managers may be attached to the way they have been operating.

For example, they may be happy not to have to follow a defined process. They may not have knowledge of or may be in denial regarding the perceptions of stakeholders. They may be threatened by criticism and resistant to change.

Tread carefully to manage change in a way that engages and motivates the people who will have to go through the transition and live with the new process.

 

Do

This is where follow through comes in. Educate, train, and implement change. Treat it as you would with any project, with care to support the people involved.

 

Check and Act

Realize that the new or changed process is not complete until you have checked to see if goals have been met. This is quality control and testing.

If you have done it well, the planning has left a standard, a benchmark, to measure against to determine if your efforts have achieved what you intended. Check often during the life of the improvement process.

Based on your findings decide and act. You may decide to continue, with or without changes to your goals, methods, or both. Or you may decide to stop, standardize, and stabilize the process.

Standardizing and stabilizing the process does not mean that your improvement work is done. You have just set a new standard against which to measure performance and go into a new PDCA cycle.

If you have done the improvement job well, future changes will be tweaks rather than major changes, though as new technologies like AI are introduced, more radical changes may be needed.

 

It is always a new year. Look back at what you have done, how successful it has been, and what you can do to make it better. Look forward to plan check and act.

 


Related articles:

Learn from the Past to Perfect Performance.
 https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/learn-from-the-past-to-perfect-performance/#:~:text=To%20optimize%20performance%2C%20learn%20from,intentions%2C%20performance%2C%20and%20goals
The Key to Performance Improvement: Candid Performance Assessment
https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/the-key-to-performance-improvement-candid-perfromance-assessment/
Achieving Quality Performance and Results
https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/achieving-quality-performance-and-results/

Narrowing the Talent Gap

How to be a front-runner in the race for talent

The talent crisis is real. Projects are at risk. It’s time to make talent a strategic priority.

 

As a result of economic growth and increasing projectization, the demand for project managers is expected to soar in the coming decade. At the same time, the collective impact of demographic trends, retirements, and cultural shifts in the workplace, will create a shrinking talent pool that is insufficient to meet demand. The Project Management Institute (PMI) and PwC’s latest global research indicates there is a lack of awareness, or perhaps some complacency, among project-based organizations of the risks that lie ahead, and the potential detrimental impact that the talent crisis will have on projects and their ability to meet strategic goals in the future.

Successful projects are a key driver of global economic growth. As more and more industries become projectized, the demand for skilled project managers is expected to soar in the coming decade. But at the same time, aging populations and declining birth rates in many countries are shrinking the size of their workforces. According to PMI’s 2021 Talent Gap: Ten-Year Employment Trends, Costs and Global Implications report, the global economy will need a total of 25 million new project professionals by 2030. To close this gap, 2.3 million people will need to enter project management-oriented employment (PMOE) every year just to keep up with demand.

 

The talent gap is being exacerbated by the post-pandemic ‘Great Resignation,’1 which has seen workers quitting their jobs in droves all over the world, and it seems that the situation will only get tougher. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index2 report estimates that over 40% of workers globally are considering quitting or changing professions in the coming year.

At the same time, PMI and PwC’s latest global research indicates that talent strategies haven’t changed much. There’s a widespread lack of focus on developing and retaining existing project managers, and a lack of variety and innovation in attracting and recruiting new talent. The core problem, we believe, is that there isn’t a business case for investment in talent—one that explicitly aligns capabilities to organizational strategy and competitive advantage. The business case should describe how hiring, training, performance, and retention strategies will be aligned to those capabilities; and critically, it should use a data-driven approach to assess capabilities, measure progress, and link that to organizational performance.

Without a systematic approach and a focus on hard numbers, personal traits and behaviors will continue to be viewed as “soft” and risk being undervalued. And unless capabilities-building is recognized and treated as the central enabler of successful strategy execution, organizations will be unable to meet their goals, projects will falter, and the profession as a whole will be unable to avoid the impact of a global talent crisis. Most organizations seem unaware of the crisis, however some, albeit a minority, have begun to take action.

 

 

The Talent Gap: Facts and Figures

Project management-oriented employment (PMOE)—which includes skilled project managers and those in less formal project management roles, that encompass project management skills—makes up 3% of all global employment, equating to 90 million jobs. This is expected to grow to 3.2% or 102 million jobs by 2030. By 2030, at least 13 million project managers are expected to have retired creating additional challenges for recruitment. To close the gap, 25 million new project professionals are needed by 2030.3

 

A Call to Action

The message is clear: talent, projects, and strategic goals are at risk unless organizations invest now in building winning capabilities to gain a competitive advantage.

  • Take it to the top: Make talent management a C-suite priority, with clear alignment of capabilities and strategic priorities.
  • Follow the numbers: Use a systematic, data-driven approach to assessing key capabilities, identifying gaps. and measuring progress.
  • Reinvent recruitment: Get smarter at attracting talent to plug capabilities gaps.
  • Elevate your L&D: Invest in fostering critical capabilities, using diverse learning methods.
  • Monitor, evaluate, and monitor again: Review and evolve talent strategies in line with feedback, progress, and the changing priorities of the business.

Click to learn more about what organizations can do to minimize the impact of the crisis.
Our research points to actions that make it easier to attract, develop and retain talent, as evidenced by the strategies taken by ‘high-performing’ organizations.

 

About Project Management Institute (PMI)

PMI is the world’s leading professional association for a growing community of millions of project professionals and changemakers worldwide. As the world’s leading authority on project management, PMI empowers people to make ideas a reality. Through global advocacy, networking, collaboration, research, and education, PMI prepares organizations and individuals to work smarter so they can drive success in a world of change. Building on a proud legacy dating to 1969, PMI is a “for-purpose” organization working in nearly every country around the world to advance careers, strengthen organizational success, and enable changemakers with new skills and ways of working to maximize their impact. PMI offerings include globally recognized standards, certifications, online courses, thought leadership, tools, digital publications, and communities.

Visit us at PMI.org, ProjectManagement.com, Facebook, X, and LinkedIn.

 


1 The term “Great Resignation” was coined by professor Anthony Klotz to describe the worldwide increase in people voluntarily leaving their jobs from April 2021 onward, supposedly as a result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and workplace conditions.

2 Microsoft Work Trend Index. 2021. The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? Microsoft.

3 Project Management Institute. 2021. Talent Gap: Ten-Year Employment Trends, Costs, and Global Implications.

Strategies for Balancing Deadlines and Team Management in Q1

It’s common knowledge that less than half of the employees know the goals, strategies, and tactics the company has set for the year; this can result in a lack of team alignment, which will only cause further problems in meeting your goals.

Since Q4 has passed, now is the time to reorganize your strategies and give this new fiscal year of 2024 a strong start, beginning with planning your Q1.

So, let’s dive into tried and tested strategies that will ensure you have a smooth sailing first quarter and a successful year.

 

The Covey Time Management Matrix For Deadlines

Created by Steven Covey, this time management framework prioritizes your tasks and time for optimal productivity. In this modal, Covey emphasizes the need to use a four-quadrant approach that helps your business prioritize tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines based on their importance and urgency.

The Four Quadrants Explained

 

  • Quadrant 1 (Urgent and Important): Involves organizing critical tasks and responsibilities that need urgent attention to allocate the necessary time, effort, and resources. These tasks have impending deadlines, time-sensitive goals, or need alleviating immediate risk to the business.
  • Quadrant 2 (Not Urgent But Important): Involves creating plans and focusing on strategic tasks that will highly impact your business. You can identify and work on things that require additional planning and directly affect your overall goals.
  • Quadrant 3 (Urgent But Not Important): Involves minor yet urgent tasks requiring immediate assistance or attention. These tasks are usually the result of poor Q1 and Q2 planning, interrupted productivity, and distractions, so you don’t want too many of them to pile up.
  • Quadrant 4 (Not Urgent, Not Important): Involves tasks that are removable from your list of priorities to some extent, if not completely. They usually don’t take a lot of stressful work and are not directly related to your overall success or time.

 

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Team Management Tips To Ensure Success

1.    Set Realistic Deadlines

Before setting a deadline, you must gauge the complexity, resources, and scope of your tasks and the availability of team members with the necessary skills to accomplish them. You should also ensure your team explicitly understands the expectations and break down larger projects into smaller tasks to make them manageable. Use project management tools, calendars, or Gantt charts to visualize the milestones.

2.    Regular Communication

Feedback and internal communication between employees and employers help the team stay aligned with deadlines and goals. Establish regular feedback channels through meetings, chats, emails, etc., to ensure everyone is on the same page. Doing so will also allow you to resolve conflicts or issues, clarify doubts, and encourage collaboration more effectively.

3.    Encouraging Work Environment

Offer constant recognition and incentives to inspire your team to do better when a job is done well. Similarly, give the team upskilling opportunities to make them feel valued. Several online platforms offer professional development courses that teach various skills. For example, excel training with Acuity Training can help team members understand advanced features that will help them streamline their work.

4.    Be Mindful Of Your Employees

You must be flexible and adaptable with your team, especially when unexpected challenges or changes arise. Stay prepared to make readjustments and be empathetic to your employees’ circumstantial needs. To avoid major disruptions, have contingency plans, scenario analysis, and risk assessments in place.

 

To Summarize

Since the first quarter is crucial to unlock your company’s potential and set the pace for success, you must prioritize defining your objectives, using technology, encouraging collaboration, and monitoring progress. Remember that although Q1 can be challenging, it’s also the time for endless opportunities. To further enhance your team’s effectiveness in managing deadlines and fostering collaboration, consider implementing comprehensive project management training programs. These initiatives can empower your team with the skills needed to navigate the intricacies of Q1 projects efficiently, ensuring that they are well-equipped to handle tasks, meet deadlines, and contribute to the overall success of your business goals.

Late and Over Budget Projects: No Simple Answers to Complex Questions

Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Some simple answers may be true, but most are not. Human systems and relationships are complex. When problems, issues, or questions arise, don’t be satisfied with simplistic answers that assume that there is a single cause that if eliminated will resolve the problem or answer the question.

That is not to say that there are no simple solutions. There are but applying them is not easy. They require adapting the solution to the situation at hand and overcoming obstacles to its application.

 

Examples

For Example, on a personal level, the answer to “How can we live a life of wellness?” is simple, accept things as they are, do what you can do, and let go of the things that get in the way. The same simple answer applies to the problem of chronically late and overbudget projects.

But, accepting and letting go into a solution is not so easy. Accept and let go is often the last thing we want to hear when we are trying to resolve the issue of late and overbudget projects.

 

We need to answer the question, “How do we break the misunderstandings, cultural conditions, and habits that keep us from accepting and letting go?” The answer depends on the nature of the people involved and the environment. You must get down to the specific causes of the problem, assess them,  decide what to do, and do it.

When you do take action be realistic. Do not expect miracles (they might happen but let them be a surprise rather than an expectation). The more complex the situation the greater the probability of having to refine the action over time until an optimal solution is found.

 

Predictability – Complex vs complicated

Before moving on let’s be clear about what a complex situation is. The situation is the system, state of affairs, or circumstances within which the issue occurs. When the system consists of many interrelated parts and the parts act independently from one another the system becomes emergent – we don’t know how things will turn out until they turn out. In other words, complex systems are not predictable. Systems in which humans interact with one another in a changing environment are complex.

Complicated systems, on the other hand, also have many parts but their relationships to one another are clearly defined and coordinated. For example, a jet liner is a complicated system. Removing unnecessary elements, you can know what will happen when the pilot flies the plane. Complicated systems are predictable.

Systems can be understood by breaking the system down into their parts. This “decomposition” makes the number and type of intersecting elements – people, expectations, departments, technology, processes, rules, interactions, objectives, predictability, cultural norms, etc. As this is done the degree of predictability of the system becomes obvious.

 

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Late and overbudget projects occur in a system made up of several departments within client and provider organizations. Multiple projects are occurring simultaneously. Departments may have conflicting objectives. There may be insufficient coordination – for example an ineffective portfolio management process. Expectations may be unrealistic. Communication skills and emotional intelligence may be primitive. Hierarchical relationships may get in the way of effective communication, decision making, and planning.

In a complex system, aside from the probability of unpredictability, it is not possible to accurately predict the outcome of a simple solution like the implementation of a new and wonderful project and portfolio management tool set and simplistic training in scheduling and budgeting. Without going further into the causes, we can predict that the solution will not solve the problem – projects will continue to be late and overbudget.

 

Why do we seek simple?

If we can predict that simple solutions to complex problems will fail, why then apply simple solutions?

One reason we do it is because we want certainty. Simple solutions often come with the promise of a quick and definitive fix at low cost. Often, we do not want to or can’t spend the time and effort to understand complexities and determine root causes. Even when we do spend the time and effort, we might find that the causes are too embarrassing to bring to the surface, or we might think they are not actionable. For example, the cause of the problem of late and over budget projects might be a combination of sales efforts that set expectations that cannot be met, poor estimating and scheduling, senior management or clients who won’t listen to reason.

 

It reminds me of a story:

A man, Nasruddin, is crawling around under the streetlamp in front of his house. His neighbor comes over to help. The man is searching for his dropped key. After combing the area under the light, the neighbor asks, “Are you sure you dropped it here?” Nasruddin says, “Oh, I dropped it over there by the door. But it’s dark over there, we’d never find it there.”

So, someone comes up with the idea that a new project management tool and some scheduling and estimating training for the project managers will solve the problem. That makes everyone, except, maybe, the Project Managers, happy. The salespeople are off the hook. Senior management can keep on doing what they are doing, and they are happy that they won’t have to deal with the complexities of making meaningful change.

 

The Bottomline

The simple solution is to accept the situation as it is – look at it objectively, accepting all its flaws, and with a realistic understanding of it, and then figure out what to do to eliminate the obstacles to resolving the problem. With obstacles, like fear of making meaningful change by confronting powerful stakeholders, out of the way, a workable, yet probably imperfect, solution can be found. When the solution includes ongoing assessment and refinement, it is as perfect as it can be.

The challenge is to courageously speak truth to authority, to accept the way things are, and let go into an ongoing performance improvement process to get them to where you want them to be.

 

Best of PMTimes: Keeping on Track – 14 Project Management Tips

Project management always involves significant challenges on the way to success.

 

Keeping the project on track, managing resources, maintaining a positive atmosphere among team members, and adhering to the budget are the main struggles every project manager faces.

Success is a cumulative notion: in other words, a supervisor has to keep monitoring and directing every single aspect of the project. A rigid timeframe further increases your many duties. Although there is no panacea on how to become project manager guru, the following tips can help you achieve triumph.

 

1.   Study the Project Inside Out

A supervisor must be the most knowledgeable member of a team. This doesn’t mean that he has to be an expert in every aspect. Those who are true professionals in narrow fields can provide this kind of specific expertise. The manager’s duty is to know all the organizational details, including stakeholders’ interests, weaknesses and strengths, goals, objectives, and foresee any potential force measures.

 

2.   Define the Project Requirements

Project manager responsibilities are directly connected to finding a way to achieving their goals and objectives. To avoid a lack or excess of resources, a detailed plan with set outcomes is essential. 

 

3.   Identify Milestones

Milestones help to track your progress. They must be clear and present a rigid timeframe for achieving specific goals. Furthermore, they’re an excellent means of demonstrating your performance to your clients. This way, an ordering company won’t lose itself in conjectures or constantly disturb you to ask how the process is going.

 

4.   Set Up Daily Goals

 

Daily goals are an effective way of managing your workflow on a day-to-day level. Precise tasks for each team member to remove any uncertainty. You can work out your goals each day for a week and shift them if necessary.  This gives you time to concentrate on more urgent issues.

 

5.   Develop Professional Competence

The supervisor’s duties include everything from planning, scheduling, and budgeting to managing stakeholders, a team, conflicts, and risks.

The details vary depending on the industry. For example, working for a printing company like fortunavisual.com is different than working for a tech start-up. You can sign up for project management courses. However, the only valuable specialists are professionals in narrow fields. This knowledge can be gained through practical experience or an additional study of your chosen industry.

 

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6.   Maintain Effective Communication

Communication is key. A supervisor must build a rapport with his/her company’s stakeholders, team, and contractors (if there are any). Alongside this, his/her duty is to establish an open dialogue between team members. Honesty, respect, and impartiality are three things to always bear in mind.

 

7.     Support and Empathy Are Crucial

Rigid deadlines, an unexpected force majeure, and demanding clients provoke stress. This affects everyone in a team. Breakdowns are inevitable if each member doesn’t feel valued. Mutual support and empathy in communication help to maintain team spirit when fighting against oncoming hardships.

 

8.   Track Time

Meeting deadlines is almost as important as the quality of a product. Time-management is one of the most essential project manager skills. Certain platforms and apps can save the day when it comes to tracking time. With these apps, you can track not only the workflow timeframe but also how much time your employees devote to a task. In case they exceed the set limit, optimize your operations.

 

9.   Learn Your Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Every team has strengths and weaknesses. Project management success requires compensation of weaknesses with strengths. A well-selected team and mutual support are key to maintaining the balance.

 

10.                 Don’t Neglect the Software

Humans make mistakes. Technologies help minimize them. Project management software helps to keep track of progress, delegate tasks, and build effective communication and organization. For example, efficient teams usually use apps, such as Dropbox or Workfront, for sharing files.

 

11.  Always Assess Risks

Risk management is one of the primary responsibilities of a supervisor. Knowing the potential pitfalls helps you prepare for a fight or avoid one. Keep in mind: this process is continuous. New risks may arise as you continue working.

 

12.  Work Out Standardized Templates

Standardized templates are critical project management tools and are a decent basis for project development. A fully thought-out system, methods, and processes can be adjusted if necessary. It allows you precious extra time for dealing with urgent issues and working on the product itself.

 

13.  Carry Out Regular Tests

Leaving the testing phase for the closing stage of a project is a bad idea. It’s much easier, faster, and cheaper to fix a problem once it’s been identified. Later on, it can be hard to detect where exactly the mistake lies.

 

14.  Reflect on a Project

The regular analysis contributes to a deeper understanding of the project’s specifics. Analysis should be both general and precise. In other words, every single detail must be subject to the supervisor’s criticism and evaluation. Nonetheless, you’ll be able to clearly see how it influences the overall progress and the final product.

A successful project relies on many different things working, such as effective team collaboration, narrow-field-expertise, communication with everyone involved, and proper organization. 

 

Published on: 2020/07/15