Do we really plan well?

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Planning makes or breaks your project. If you still manage to make it without a good plan, you have certainly created a stress in the system through long working hours and that doesn’t make you a good project manager. You will certainly not be promised the same level of commitment next time by your team! Most of us create plans in 2 hours – Really? That’s not a plan, that’s a ‘zombie certificate’ for people who are involved in execution.

Imagine the stress during execution if a good plan doesn’t exist. We as project managers quite often miss out contingencies, scope change impact, cost and schedule estimation thru resource availability etc. How many times do we check the holiday list of project stakeholders and project teams while planning? How many of us create a proactive risk mitigation plan? Or apply learning’s from previous projects? We always work with tight timelines and forget that we as project managers have the onus of good planning and setting up (or at least facilitating) better client management processes. 70% of our time goes into issue resolution. Only if we planned better we wouldn’t be spending more than 10% of our time in fire fighting. There are various tools that can be used for planning; I favour MS Project as it’s a great monitoring tool once the plan is firmed up. There are more simpler tools as well that can be of great help.

I am not here to promote PMP but there’s a reason it mandates prior project management experience. PMP doesn’t teach everything new, we know a lot of it. However it certainly fills the gaps (huge gaps I would say) making us better project managers and asset for our organization. Remember, being PMP certified isn’t just enough. It’s the learning’s that you apply at work that enhances your profile and makes you grow as a leader. And good leaders PLAN well!!! :)

Project Management: Some ways to address the challenges & problems

Project-management-image-final An effective project manager is one who is able to deal with the problems and challenges that arise during the course of a project. Effective project managers are also able to prevent many problems from occurring in the first place. They clearly set the responsibility and accountability of each team member.This gives a clear idea to team members about what is expected from them.

 

A clear idea about expectations improves the performance of team members.

 

Many project managers, especially those working in the field of Information Technology, use the RACI(Responsibility, Accountability, Consulted and Informed) tool for delegating responsibility and accountability among team members.

  • The R in RACI is responsibility of an individual team member with regard to the work to be performed in the project.
  • A is for accountability of a team member with regard to outcomes of the project;
  • C is for aspects of the project regarding which an individual team member should be consulted;
  • I is for aspects of the project about which an individual team member needs to be informed about.

 

An effective project manager ensures that the key team members are available for the project throughout the course of the project. Such a project manager keeps a close watch on the resource availability of the project during the course of its implementation. Many times the scope of the project is changed midway due to changes in demand of the client. By scope it is meant the key deliverables of a project. The project manager should ascertain whether it is possible to deliver the changes in scope within the schedule and budget. If it is possible to do so the project manager should ensure that the changed scope is accomplished.

 

However, if it is not possible to deliver the changed scope then he or she should immediately inform this to the client and other stakeholders of the project.By being transparent in communication with the stakeholders of the project, an effective project manager can resolve a large number of problems and obstacles that come up during the course of a project. Continuous communication with team members keeps the morale of team members up. It also ensures that friction and conflicts between team members are minimized and if any such conflict arises the project manager is aware about it from an early stage.

 

Developments in Information and Communications Technology have made continuous collaboration, with team members located in different countries and team zones, possible. Project managers should use these technological developments to handle problem situations more effectively. Much of project management is after all, about dealing with challenges and obstacles.

 

Tips for International Projects!

images (5) In this age of globalization, international projects have become extremely common. Almost all Indian software and Information Technology (IT) companies have international projects. These projects have people or teams from different nations working together on the same project.A project manager needs to be careful about certain things while managing international projects.

 

The project manager should be cognizant of Time Zone differences. Different countries are located in different time zones. Online meetings and video-conferencing between team members located in different countries should be held at such a time when it is working time in all the countries in which the project team members are located. Websites like TimeAndDate.com can be used by a project manager to manage time zone differences while scheduling online meetings, video-conferencing or telephone calls.

 

Technologies like video-conferencing and e-mail have made it much easier to manage international projects. The cost of these projects has come down because the need for international travel has been cut down by tools like real-time video-conferencing, Skype and other instant messaging sites. Mind mapping software enables companies to even conduct brainstorming sessions online.Success in international projects is heavily dependent on continuous communication and collaboration between team members present in different countries.

 

A number of meetings are held regularly in a virtual environment created by internet and other telecommunications tools like video-conferencing. It is important that the project manager clearly sets the agenda of each meeting. These meetings should begin punctually. International communication through virtual, online tools is not face-to-face. Therefore it is necessary to keep such communication precise and lucid.When the project team has members from different nationalities and cultures then language problems may arise because of the different mother tongues of the team members. It is the responsibility of the project manager to take care of these problems.

 

The project manager should ensure that miscommunication doesn’t take place because of these language differences. If services of a language interpreter are required then the project manager should not hesitate in taking it.The national holidays in the different countries should be factored in while scheduling the work of an international project. For instance a team member present in US will not be able to work on 4th of July because it is a national holiday there on account of the country’s Independence Day.International projects offer great opportunities of learning for the project managers and team members. They just need to be managed more carefully.

 

Oobeya! Oobeya!

software-pm What is Oobeya? Oobeya is a Japanese project management philosophy. This philosophy is based on the principles of lean management. One of the key principles of Oobeya is that the project team should focus on creating top quality project deliverables.

 

Only by creating top quality project deliverables, the project team will be able to create satisfied customers or clients.Another principle of Oobeya is to focus continuously on eliminating wastages and variability in processes. By cutting down wastage and variability the lead time and costs of the project can be brought down. This is particularly important for projects which are on a tight budget.

 

The third key principle of Oobeya is continuous improvement of human resources working in the project. The people working in the project should be given responsibility and authority. They should be given the opportunity to solve problems in their area of work. The focus should be on continuous, gradual improvement in the quality of work of those working on the project.In order to implement its key principles Oobeya relies on certain tools and ways of doing things. Visual tools are used extensively during the course of the project to remind team members of the status of work, the key issues, the key goals and the problems and challenges.

 

Since the philosophy has its roots in Japan, Oobeya places a lot of emphasis on collaboration and mutual trust between team members. Team members should proactively collaborate with each other so that the challenges and obstacles can be overcome. Leadership & vision also play a very important role in Oobeya. The vision of the project leader plays a very important role in shaping the course of the project. The vision gives the idea to team members about what exactly the project intends to achieve. Leadership plays an important role in motivating team members and binding them together in a team.

 

The Oobeya philosophy is being employed by a number of businesses, especially those in the Information Technology sector, for project management. IT projects are usually headed by a lead engineer or chief engineer or project manager. Oobeya has proved to be particularly effective in engineering and technology projects.It is very important for the individual heading the project team to be aware of the key principles of Oobeya. The knowledge can help the project become more successful in achieving its goals and objectives.

 

Leadership Qualities of a Project Manager:

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Project managers today need  to demonstrate many leadership qualities. The leadership aspect becomes more important in large, complicated projects. Here is a list of top leadership qualities of a good project manager:

 

1. Project managers who are good at leadership have a vision with regard to the project. They are able to communicate this vision to team members. They are able to explain to team members how that vision could be achieved.

 

2. Good leadership in project management is often underpinned on the communication ability of the project manager. The manager should be able to clearly express himself or herself. He or she should be a good listener. Being a good listener enables the manager to explain things clearly to team members.

 

3. Effective leadership on the part of project managers requires integrity in approach. Integrity implies ethical behavior. Team members are inspired to behave ethically when they see integrity in the project manager.

 

4. Project managers who are good leaders tend to be enthusiastic in their behavior. They have a positive approach to things. Their enthusiasm and positivity spreads to the team members and results in better implementation.

 

5. In order to be an effective leader, project managers need to be competent. They should be competent enough to understand the requirements of a project. Competent managers are more successful in motivating subordinates and team members.

 

6. Project managers who prove to be good leaders are often those who delegate responsibilities to team members. Such managers are not just hands-on in their approach but also put faith in the ability of others. They believe in empowering their team members.

 

7. Leadership on the part of project manager requires the ability to handle pressure situations. Good leaders are able to maintain their calm and poise in unforeseen, contingency situations. They possess the ability to steer the ship in stormy weather.

 

8. Leadership in project management is more effective when the project manager has good interpersonal skills. The interpersonal skills of the project manager enable team building and forging of good relationships between team members.

 

9. And last but not the least, project managers who are good leaders have excellent problem solving skills. They have the ability to look at a problem from different perspectives. They are able to think creatively and come out with innovative solutions. They do not shy away from problems but face them.

 

To sum it up, in order to be a good leader a project manager should have vision, good communication skills, integrity of character, enthusiasm in behavior, competency, ability to delegate responsibility, good interpersonal skills and problem solving skills. All of these traits can be nurtured through right education, right training and the desire to evolve on the part of the project manager.

 

 

Bad Project Manager: How (not) to become a bad Project Manager

Project-Management1Project management is a critical skill. Many projects fail because of poor project management skill on the part of project managers. There are certain characteristics common to all bad and ineffective project managers.

 

One common trait observed in ineffective project managers is that they have poor communication skills. They are not open in their communication with team members. They practice what can be termed as communication-discrimination. They play favoritism when it comes to communicating. They share knowledge and information only with team members whom they prefer and like and close communication channels with other team members. This hampers effective collaboration in the project and results in its ultimate failure.

 

Ineffective project managers tend to suffer from tunnel-vision. This means they tend to focus too much on the interests of one stakeholder at the cost of excluding the interests of other stakeholders. The interests of all the stakeholders should be balanced so that project is able to achieve its goals and objectives.

 

Ineffective project managers tend to have out-of-date project control books. The project control book contains up-to-date data and information about the present status of the project. Without an up-to-date project control book, the project manager fails in effectively monitoring and controlling the project. Nowadays sophisticated project management softwares have replaced project-control books.

 

A project involves coordination and collaboration between team members. During this process inter-personal conflicts often arise. It is the project manager’s job to take pro-active steps to resolve these inter-personal conflicts. Ineffective and bad project managers ignore such inter-personal conflicts and do not take steps to resolve them in a timely manner.

 

Ineffective project managers tend to be poor at risk management. They are unable to identify the potential risks to the project and do not have plans to meet the risks and contingencies when they materialize. They are often bad at managing risks.

 

Such project managers also tend to not focus on the business value that the project is intended to create. They focus only on the delivering the project within the scope, schedule and costs. Focus on the business value that a project is intended to create results in better project implementation.

 

Bad project managers tend to make too many assumptions. Their assumptions are based not on the available data and information but on personal biases and gut feeling. They are also not flexible with their assumptions and are not ready to change them when the reality turns out otherwise. Good project managers make minimal assumptions and move with an open mind and flexible approach.

 

Project Planning Step by Step

software-pm Planning is one of the most important stages in management of a project. Many times this stage is neglected and work is started without proper and adequate planning.

 
The first step in the planning process is to identify the goals of the project. Communication with stakeholders of the project is a useful exercise that helps in identifying the goals of the project.

 

Stakeholders of a project include the client, the company delivering the project, the team members doing the project and anybody else who is directly and indirectly affected by the project. Interaction with stakeholders helps the project manager understand what the stakeholders want from the project. The ultimate test of the success of a project is whether or not it is able to satisfy the stakeholders.

 
The second step in project planning is identification of project deliverables that will be required for achieving the project goals. The date and format of delivery should be clearly explained along with each deliverable.

 
The third step in project planning is scheduling. Scheduling means estimating the time and resource required for each task that will be required for completing the project successfully. A project is completed successfully when all the deliverables have been achieved within time and budget.
The fourth step in planning is to create plans regarding human resource requirements, communications and risk management. The human resource plan lays out the human resource requirement of the project; who will be the human resources that will be involved in the project and what will be their specific roles.

 

 

Communication is critical for effective collaboration between project team members and other stakeholders. The Communication Plan sets out briefly the communication channels within the project.

 

The Risk Management Plan is very important. In this plan the various risks to the project are identified and listed. An example of one such risk is unexpected shortage of a resource that is required for successful implementation midway through the project.Once the risks have been identified the risk response to each type of risk is devised. Backup plans are created and the risk management approach that will be taken for each type of risk is explained.
A detailed project plan acts as a blueprint during the implementation stage. Without proper planning a project is unlikely to be successful. However planning should not be too rigid. It should be flexible to change if such a need arises during the course of project implementation.

 

 

How to become an effective Project Manager?

microsoft-project Effective project management is one of the critical factors of success in a project. Successful project managers show certain traits and qualities that distinguish them from others. They have the openness of mind to look at issues from a variety of different perspectives.

 

This ability enables them to understand the expectations of the different stakeholders of a project.

Effective project managers continuously communicate with the client. This helps them in understanding the expectations of the client from the project. Communication plays an important role in the success of a project. Continuous communication enables project managers to make changes to implementation according to the evolving requirements of the client.

 

 

Empirical evidence shows that successful project managers are sensitive to the needs of the team members. They treat team members well and are therefore able to motivate them to give their best to the project.

 

 

Project managers need to continuously keep in mind the key deliverables that the project has promised during the course of the project. In the details of implementation, successful project managers do not lose sight of the larger picture; of what the project intends to achieve ultimately on completion.

 

 

Effective project management requires effective collaboration between team members. Where cross-functional teams are involved, collaboration becomes even more important. Good project managers therefore place a lot of value on cultivating positive relationships, which facilitate collaboration between the members of the project team.

 

 

Every project is a learning opportunity for effective project managers. They learn during the entire course of the project. This continuous learning makes them capable of serving the customers and other stakeholders of the project in a better way. Each passing project becomes an opportunity of personal and professional evolution for them.

 

 

A project requires coordination of activities across the team. Effective project managers pay a lot of attention to coordination. They are clear with regard to delegation of responsibilities and explanation of budgetary & time schedules.

 

 

Effective project managers are, almost always, good listeners. This ability helps them to understand the expectations of the stakeholders of the project. It helps them to communicate more effectively with team members and subordinates.

 
And most importantly, effect project managers always factor in the invisible, the uncertain. They are ready with contingency responses in case of materialization of uncertainties. The cognizance of the uncertainty aspect equips project managers to respond more effectively to crisis situations. It lends them flexibility in approach that is required for dealing in an uncertain environment.