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Leading the Project? Define Your Charter to Support High Performance

Leading the Project? Define Your Charter to Support High Performance
By Art Petty

Effective leadership is a critical success factor for projects of all shapes and sizes.

And breathing is good for living.

It’s hard to argue with either of these statements, nonetheless, too many project managers deeply skilled in the mechanics of their vocation fall short on learning and practicing the soft-skills critical for high performance team development. When project fail…and too many do, there’s a safe bet that people-related issues are key contributors to the initiative’s demise.

Great project managers define their role beyond the project mechanics liberally. Working with team members at the front-end of the project to define the role and accountabilities of the project leader is a great practice that improves the odds of team success. The development of a Project Leader’s Charter is a simple, powerful technique that helps everyone involved gain a clear, consistent and comprehensive view of the leader’s role. Read the Complete Article

How to Kick Start Your Project Plan with Learning Objectives

How to Kick Start Your Project Plan with Learning Objectives
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

A learning objective describes what training participants should know or be able to do at the end of a project management training course that they couldn’t do before. Learning objectives are related to a participant’s performance. Each individual learning objective should support the overarching benefits (goals) of the course, that is, the thread that unites all the topics to be covered and the skills participants should have mastered by the end of the course.

There are many different models for writing learning objectives. A simple, yet effective approach focuses on objectives that speak to the knowledge and skills training participants will learn in the class:

  • Each objective usually starts with a verb and is specific in scope.
  • Each learning objective must be measurable through some form of assessment.

Developing a Training Course – It’s a Project

The funny thing is that developing a training course is very much a project. Read the Complete Article

How Do You Know that Your Project Plan Is Fully Baked?

How Do You Know that Your Project Plan Is Fully Baked?
By Kiron D. Bondale

“It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.”

No, it’s not “What is the Matrix?” but rather, how do you know when your team has done enough project planning to feel confident that commitments can be made to your customer?

Isn’t there an app for that?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was the equivalent of a meat thermometer that could let you know if further planning is required or if you are at risk of realizing business value shoe leather?

There is no expert system which codifies the shared knowledge of the world’s project management experts to help you know when enough is enough. The essence of projects is uncertainty, and it is that uncertainty which stymies the best efforts of project teams to find the sweet spot. Read the Complete Article

Six Degrees of Separation Between Good Projects and Bad – Bad Statement of Work (SOW)

Six Degrees of Separation Between Good Projects and Bad – Bad Statement of Work (SOW)
By Sean kenney

If you read my last post, you know that I have 6 things that I believe have the largest impact on success in client projects:

  1. Bad Client
  2. Bad Statement of Work (SOW)
  3. Bad Requirements
  4. Bad Process
  5. Bad Leadership, and finally
  6. Bad Resources

In this post I will address the 2nd item, Bad Statement of Work (SOW).

I have been on many projects in my 18 years as a software professional and I have seen many statements of work. Some have been very clear and concise and other have been downright appalling.

I have 5 general rules when writing/reviewing statements of work:

  1. Don’t do it all by yourself
  2. Be SMART
  3. If you don’t want to put scope in, you should put it in.
  4. Read it assuming that you are the client.
  5. Have someone else read it.
Read the Complete Article

Planning from Left to Right

Planning from Left to Right
By Kerry Wills

With most projects, we get handed a date that we have to work towards and told to make it work. I call this managing from “right to left” which means we start with the chronological end dates (on the right side of the Gantt) and try to work backwards. This works sometimes as once in a while we get lucky and are able to make it work. But because complexity and size of programs has grown exponentially, it is more likely that this method of planning doesn’t work and inevitably results in one of two outcomes…

  1. The date gets met but because of rushing, quality suffers and there is a lot of fallout.
  2. The team gets to a point where it is not possible to meet the schedule and scope winds up pushing out.

I believe that realistic plans go from “left to right” and are based on practical start dates combined with effort/duration which then predict the end dates. Read the Complete Article

To WBS or Not To WBS

To WBS or Not To WBS
By Bob Overstreet

To WBS or not to WBS, that is the question

Whether ’tis nobler in the project to suffer

The slings and arrows of precise task tracking

Or does anyone really care…

First, my apologies to William Shakespeare…

In ‘traditional’ waterfall project management methodology a Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS) can be a valuable tool, it captures relationships between tasks and activities and can speed up work in finding a task in a big project.

But using a WBS is a “Tree in the Forest” sort of thing. Over the years I’ve run into many project managers that always break every component of the project down into work packages. Creating project plans that are hundreds, and even thousands of lines long. They see the tree, and even the grass, but may be missing the forest.

Why use a WBS? A good reason is that’s its organization of the project leads to better understanding of the critical path, how work is impacting other work. Read the Complete Article

The Failure of Planning

The Failure of Planning
By Rick Riebesell

Despite readily available research and experience concerning the benefits of planning, few business managers use the planning process effectively. Nowhere is this better seen than in the business that has evolved from startup to profitability. In this situation it is typical that the founders of the business are struggling with the transition from being the productive element of the business (the doers) to being the managers of the business (supervisors). Often the roles and duties are confused, and planning, both strategic and operative, is not effectively communicated.

If the virtues of planning are well-known and constantly endorsed, why is the planning process is not more frequently effective?

The initial reason for ineffectual implementation is there is an overemphasis on creating the writing. It is essential that the plan be written and distributed. Too often, too much time and too many resources are allocated to the creation of the writing. Read the Complete Article

Workflow Definition and Golf: Beating Estimates

Workflow Definition and Golf: Beating Estimates
By Frank Mooney

I enjoy the game of golf despite not being very good at it. Due to circumstances and connections, I had the fantastic experience of being a caddy for a professional golfer during a tournament. During the round, he asked me what I did for a living. After some conversation about my background as a managed services consultant, he looked at me and said “We have a lot in common in that we are both trying to beat estimates”. He then went on to point out that golf was the only sport that provided everyone with an estimate… par. It became a joke for the rest of the round as we tried to determine how to beat the “estimate” at each hole.

Much like calculating par in a round of golf, workflow definition is a disciplined estimation approach that incorporates checks and balances to verify and validate the expectations that are supported by customized estimation models and the quality of work being performed. Read the Complete Article

Plan for Progressive Elaboration

Plan for Progressive Elaboration
By Kevin L. Smith, MBA, PMP

A critical element of any project is understanding the business goals and objectives. Developing the solution to satisfy those goals is the responsibility of the project manager. While senior executives generally have a clear view of the business goal, they rarely have a clear understanding of how the solution impacts all stakeholders. Ideally, creating a complete set of requirements early in the project would enable better planning, more accurate cost estimates, and shorter delivery cycles. However, depending on the complexity of the solution, identifying the detail of the requirements upfront would be time consuming and would cause significant delay.

To overcome this stagnation, project managers should introduce the technique of progressive elaboration early in the project-planning phase. The progressive elaboration process allow projects to be initiated with a broadly defined scope and can continuously build upon the scope as more detailed and specific information becomes available throughout project execution. Read the Complete Article

To “Project Plan” or To Not “Project Plan”, That Is the Question!

To “Project Plan” or To Not “Project Plan”, That Is the Question!
By Chrisitan Bisson

Project management plans are more often than not, either scattered documents/emails, completely not existent, or too huge. The result: it’s not being used properly, or not even useful.

Let’s have a look why, and what we can do about it:

Scattered documents/mails

A project plan is actually a combination of several subsidiary plans, carefully stored/combined so it’s easily found/accessible. If all those documents do not have a common location, then they will tend to be scattered on a network, or locally on someone’s computer. Even worse, the information will be scattered through mails that the team will waste time finding again and again.

What’s important is that everything is combined, whether it’s inside one document carefully tailored to the needs of the project, or several documents well stored in one folder, each well named and identified by version. Read the Complete Article

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