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!!! :)

Mega Projects: Mega Challenges Indeed!

 

Project-management-image-finalMegaprojects mean very large projects like building of airports, Metro train network etc. It is often very difficult to assess whether a megaproject is successful or not if one goes by the yardstick of only completion within time and budget. This is because most of the megaprojects are completed well beyond their schedules and well above the budgeted costs. Megaprojects have a large number of stakeholders. New stakeholders are added as the project proceeds. The expectations of stakeholders may change during the course of the project. This results in not only changes in the scope of the project but also changes in contracts with suppliers. This in turn affects the entire cost structure of the project.

 

Megaprojects are also more vulnerable to changes in the external environment. Change in the government, change in the state of the economy etc affect the progress of a megaproject. Political intervention is often a big issue in megaprojects. A number of Megaprojects in India have gotten delayed because of political opposition to land acquisition for these projects. To sum it up in nutshell, there are too many conflicts of interest in megaprojects.
Leaders and managers of megaprojects, therefore, should declare a flexible timeframe with regard to the opening and completion a megaproject. The media monitors megaprojects and if there is delay in opening or completion, a negative perception about the project is created.

 

While budgeting for megaprojects, considerable amount of budgetary slack should be built in. This ensures that the project is able to meet unforeseen, contingency expenditures. The probability of facing allegations of cost overruns is reduced when considerable budgetary slack is factored in. It is also wise to keep the core group of stakeholders, who influence the course of the project, to as limited as possible. This reduces conflicts of interest. A hierarchal organizational structure is needed in such projects so that decision making can be quick and timely.

 

It is also advisable that managers of megaproject maintain interaction with the media. If the media has any query about the project it should be adequately addressed by the project manager. This ensures that misreporting about the project doesn’t take place. Managers and leaders of megaprojects need to have a very holistic, 360 degree view. And they need a broadness of mind and approach that can only be matched by the scale of the project that they are managing.

4 Most Popular Methods of Project Management

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In order to increase their success rate in project management, many organizations are using a very systematic approach to project management. The emergence of the Information Technology (IT) industry has led to some new developments in project management. The IT industry is highly project-oriented.

 

 

Good project managers are always in great demand in this industry.
IT companies train their project managers in some common, systematic approaches to project management like PMBOK, PRINCE 2, Critical Chain, Agile et al.

 

The PMBOK is the acronym for Project Management Body of Knowledge. It is issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and contains the project management practices recommended by PMI. The PMBOK contains a process-based approach to project management. This approach is widely used across different industries and sectors. It usually divides a project into five stages: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring & control and closing.

 

The PRINCE2 approach is acronym for Projects in Controlled Environment. This approach is about much involvement of the senior management in the management of the project. Things are not left only to the project manager and the participation of senior management is called for. Like PMBOK, it too is a process-oriented approach. It is widely used in projects that are large and complicated in nature.

 

The critical chain project management approach (CCPM) focuses heavily on the resources required for the project. The underlying belief of this approach is that if the resources required for the project are available, adequately and timely, the project can be completed successfully. The approach focuses on identifying resource constraints and removing them.

 

Agile approach to project management is very popular in technology industries like IT. The focus is on iteration (repetition until the thing is done right) and incremental developments and improvements. This approach requires capable team members who are experts in their respective areas. These team members interact and collaborate to work on a software development project or other such project. The Agile approach also relies on continuous interaction and collaboration with customers and suppliers. The iteration leads to creation of delivery cycles. The project is delivered in stages in a number of delivery cycles.

 

The approaches mentioned above are some of the common approaches to project management that are being widely used these days. A good project manager should be aware of the developments that are taking place in the area of project management. He or she should be aware of the popular approaches to project management. Project management is a dynamic field that keeps evolving incrementally.

Learning from Project Failures

software-pm Project management is not an easy thing. This is clearly reflected in the high rate of failure in project management.According to various studies on the subject, 60% of the projects fail in achieving all the goals that they had set for them at the beginning.

 

Project managers hesitate in accepting this but almost every project manager has experienced project failures of some kind.Project failures can be in various forms. It can be in the form of failure to deliver the scope of the project or it can be in the form of the project being delivered way beyond the schedule or it can be in the form of the project suffering from cost overruns. A project is said to be completely successful when it is delivered on time, within budget, and as per the scope.

 

A few simple actions on the part of project managers can increase the success rate of project management. The project manager should set out a detailed, elaborate schedule of the various aspects of the project. Software tools like Microsoft Project can be very helpful in preparing the project schedule and tracking it. The project schedule should be continuously tracked during the course of the project. The critical activities of the project should be identified. A critical activity is an activity that if delayed will delay the entire project. A project manager needs to pay special attention to the schedule of critical activities.

 

Another thing that project managers need to remember is that the cost, schedule and scope of the project are tied to each other. So if any of these aspects is changed midway the other two will also be affected. Many times project managers get ambitious and try to enhance the scope of the project midway during the course of the project without factoring in the accompanying increase in cost and schedule. Cost, schedule and scope of the project should be in harmony in order for the project to be successful.

 

Last, but not the least, collaboration between team members is one of the critical factors of success in project management. Project managers should encourage collaboration between team members. If any individual member, because of his or her skills and abilities, thinks that he or she can come out a hero from the project by acting alone then the project manager should discourage such an individual. Every team member should realize that projects cannot be accomplished successfully without collaboration between team members.Simple things that come with an eye for detail can greatly enhance the effectiveness of project managers. God, after all, lies in details.

 

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.

 

Project Managers! Have you taken care of these CSFs?

software-pm The success of a project depends on a lot of factors and initiatives taken by the project manager. Some of these critical success factors (CSFs) are outlined below:

 

The most important CSF is that the project manager should show respect for team members. Often project managers treat their team members as subordinates and hesitate in showing respect to them. The project manager should first show respect to team members and then only he or she will be able to get respect from them. Project managers who are respectful towards team members are able to motivate them to perform better. The success of a project depends on the performance of team members. When team members are motivated they are likely to perform better. Ineffective project managers often have a disrespectful attitude towards team members.

 

The project manager should take steps to ensure that the top leadership of the organization shows enough support and commitment for the project. If the top leadership doesn’t show support and commitment for the project then it becomes very difficult to get commitment and support of the lower hierarchies and team members for the project.

 

The project leader should have the ability to choose the right people for the project team. By right people it implies people who have the skills and capabilities required for successful implementation of the project.

 

The project leader should establish communication channels within the project team. The communication channels ensure effective communication within the project team. Good communication is one of the critical factors of success for any project. Often project managers fail in realizing the importance of good communication in project management. A project requires effective collaboration on the part of team members. Without effective communication, effective collaboration between team members cannot be achieved.

 

Effective communication is transparent in nature and is both upwards and downwards. The project manager also needs to maintain good communication with other stakeholders of the project, which includes the client or customer for whom the project is being done.

 

Project managers should not be negative in their approach. They should be able to see the positive side of everything. When they are able to see the positive side of even the grimmest of situations, they are able to take steps to improve the situation. Such project managers do not show the tendency of putting the blame on luck or other irrelevant external factors. They have the tendency to keep on striving until the goals and objectives are achieved. They are realistic, not pessimistic.

 

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.