World class and industry standard Project Management services are our passion. All for the Project Management Community

<<< Show Posts >>>

The benefits of an effective project review process to improve performance

Never underestimate the benefits of conducting a review process at the end of each project. Lessons learnt are invaluable, understanding where the pitfalls can occur can save many a project manager. Normally there is apprehension in conducting a review in fear that the project failings are highlighted and this is never good for the ego. There is something therapeutic about outlining aspects which did not go according to plan and how they can be avoided in the future. There are many reasons why reviews are not held, but focussing on the negativity is not beneficial.

It is necessary to treat reviews in the same vain as any important part of the project management process.  Create policies, procedures and guidelines that recognize the phases of the review process – initiation, research and report.  Appoint and empower a review team with the responsibility to

  • Embed the capture of useful data and mini-reviews or retrospectives into the project
  • Assemble the right players (project performers, clients, functional managers and staff, etc.),
  • Collect and analyse project artefacts (for example, project status reports and notes) 
  • Create a set of interview questions for use in individual and group sessions,
  • Facilitate the sessions
  • Evaluate the findings and
  • Produce a report. 

Depending on the scope of the project and the availability of templates, the process from initiation through to reporting can take from a few days to weeks. It should be understood, that the review is part of a broader quality assurance process.  The contents of review reports are input to evaluate and improve the project management process.  Lessons learned are truly learned by an organization only when they are used to change performance for the better.

Make them happen as an integral part of the project – not just after it is over.  In other words, regularly review and adjust performance and capture lessons learned so that when the end of a major phase has completed or the project as a whole, there is a pre-existing list of lessons learned and issues to be discussed in depth and recommend next steps.

In Agile methodologies there is a review, a retrospective, after each Sprint.  This means that every week or two there is a stepping back to review and learn from performance.  A full project review takes place upon completion of the project.

One of the most effective ways to ensure that reviews are useful is to establish guidelines and provide checklists and agendas. Rather than creating yet another checklist and agenda for reviews, use one of the hundreds of templates, checklists and models, including your own project management process model.  Why reinvent the wheel?  Instead, do some research and either use an existing process description or craft one that combines the best features of several. 

Reviews can be laborious when the same exercises and sequences are repeated or when assertive individuals monopolize the review.  Participants need to be engaged to get the best from a review or any meeting for that matter. A well facilitated review will avoid simply reading through checklists and reports.  The review should be similar to a presentation.  Interactive events are presented where participants are facilitated to take an active part, sharing their points of view.   

Adding reflections on the emotional state of the project reinforces the importance of the “softer side” of projects – the interpersonal and interpersonal.  Having this as part of the guidelines for regularly stepping back to reflect makes it more likely that stakeholders will acknowledge their stress and how it affects their relationships.

Finally if resistance to reviews remains, then work to make sure that candid performance evaluation is valued and enabled by eliminating blaming and defensiveness. Add to that clear and practical guidelines, checklists and templates and effective facilitation with engaging exercises. Fold in executive sponsorship for continuous improvement.  

Hopefully, as organizations and their processes mature, effective performance reviews as an integral part of ongoing project performance improvement will become a normal.

The importance of a Project Management Office

The importance of a Project Management Office

The Project Management Office or PMO offers more than just a Governance and administrative function. It assists the project manager by providing support, developed standards, education and continuous improvement. As project managers who work in the coal face of day to day project delivery, jumping between sites, vendors, suppliers and customers. Ensuring the project is running smoothly by removing roadblocks and facilitating task completion.

So at times it can be challenge to get all the information in the field back to the home office and receive feedback. The PMO bridges the space between remote Project Managers and the home office by providing communication and collaboration support and linking those in the field with those in the office.

The PMO supports project managers by providing support, mentorship, education, guidance, and governance. Project Managers often have extensive reporting requirements that may keep them tied to a desk when they should be in the field. The PMO can step in to alleviate some of this burden by sharing knowledge and getting requests from the field to the right person in the office.

There is also a reliance on the PMO to provide reporting and documentation support, which enables the project manager to focus on the lower level requirements. To ensure there is cohesion with the PMO, it is best to ensure that at least some time is actually spent within the PMO, to ensure thorough training on all of the tools the company uses, educated on expectations and ready to go from day one.

As the PM starts in the field, the PMO should provide constant check-in and support, and if required the PM can be assigned a local mentor who provides support and guides the project manager past potential pitfalls.

The PMO also has the ability to provide Project Managers with required certified training, more than may be received in a year of employment. The scalable, flexible design of the PMO allows Project Managers to access industry standards and best practices from anywhere in the field or the office. With the backing of the PMO, Project Managers have the resources they need to implement and adhere to the highest quality standards.

Implementing a PMO has the capacity to bring in both expected and unexpected efficiencies. While more efficient project management can certainly be expected from the additional reporting support, PMOs can also prompt an overwhelming change in the atmosphere of everyday work, spurring a greater sense of connection between the home office and remote workers. The PMO can give field workers a renewed passion for growth that allows the project management teams to tap into existing staff and allocate more bandwidth to mentoring co-workers and building relationships within and increasing the overall capacity of teams.

The PMO has dramatic, positive implications for customers as well, as they experience increased communication on individual projects and better understanding of overall priorities and project status updates. Since the PMO provides reporting support, customers can expect to receive project updates that include their specific metrics, requirements, and measures of success, leading to increased transparency and greater customer satisfaction.

Project Management Process Flow Chart

A flow chart in project management is a visual representation which assists in understanding the methodology used to manage the project. The diagram shows the interdependent and parallel processes over the course of the project’s life cycle.

Project managers use a flow chart to offer a clear picture of process and to find ways to improve project efficiency. A flow chart displays graphically the project’s objective and seeks to more logically order the activities therein. But, a flow chart can also help with monitoring progress and even status reporting.

The project management flow chart is one of the many tools needed by a project manager to control the project. With the right project management software, management can be even more productive and efficient.

Project Management Process Flow Chart

A flow chart outlines whatever is required for the project to be successful. A flow chart can be just for the initiation process, for example, which would start with the initiation and flow to the project charter, it’s approval and whether that approval is given or not. That would then lead to two different streams: if the project charter isn’t approved, either adjust or cancel the project, which leads back to the initiation at the top of the flow chart, or it terminates in project cancelled. If the project charter is approved, then the planning process can continue.

The planning process is more complex. It starts with planning, collecting requirements and the development of scope. That can go either to project level indicators or a project scorecard, both of which lead to the project plan. That plan, of course, leads to resources, budgets, schedules, etc. Each of those subsets leads to another point in the flow chart, such as the communications or risk plan, which in turn flows into the change control plan and quality management. Eventually approval is reached, which leads to the executing process, or if no approval, then back to the beginning.

Executing can be a whole other flowchart, leading to the development of the project team, securing resources for quality assurance and the manner of communication distribution. Meaning there is either an adjustment, cancellation or can continue, and depending on which is chosen, it leads back to the beginning, cancelling that phase or moving on to the next procedure.

There is naturally a flow chart to note the monitoring and control processes of the project, which starts with monitoring and control and leads to an integrated change control plan. That leads to quality control, which flows into reporting risk and issues, and so forth.

Closing a project is a process, and therefore can be visualized in a flow chart. Commence with the close of the project, and then the activities that flow from that, including the verification and acceptance of project deliverables and operations, and then the transition to lessons learnt.

If preferred, the whole project process can be captured in a project management flow chart that can be used in congress with the others or as a standalone visual. This macro-flow chart would start with the whole project, leading from the project creation, documentation, task assignments, meetings, agendas, reports, etc. Each of these can lead to its own stream, such as project creation flows into monitoring the project status, while documentation leads to budget, schedule, etc.

Using a Visual diagram is important because it can aid in the understanding of complex systems, which helps easily drive projects to successful ends. As noted, a flow chart is flexible and can suit a variety of needs. In fact, a flow chart can assist, by creating a visual that helps visualise progress more quickly and intimately than a stack of documents can.

The flow chart can assist in all manner of project processes, such as the planning of a new product, documenting that process and modelling the business process for the project. It can also help manage workflow, data, the auditing process and anything else that is process-based.

Then there are different types of flow charts that can be used to diagram processes. A basic flow chart is a simple diagram that represents a series or sequence of steps that involve decision. The swim-lane flow chart breaks up the flow into columns, which is helpful for organizing activities into separate visual categories that illustrate different responsibilities or roles. Value stream mapping is a lean flow chart used to analyze and design the flow of materials and information at the system level, mostly used in manufacturing and product development. There are many more types of flow charts, but they all share certain elements, such as visualizing a process to understand that process at a glance.

Flow charts offer the visual clarity needed to make multiple processes clear and easy to communicate. They can be used to replace meetings in many cases as they clarify process. A flow chart also sequences events to reduce the possibility of over tasking teams, which saves time and resources. This leads to increased efficiency and effective analysis, which makes for better problem solving.

There is a difference between Work Breakdown Structure and flow charts. A work breakdown structure shows the tasks in a project. It is not good for showing process, like a project flow chart. A work breakdown structure is a hierarchical decomposition of the project scope that must be done by the project team to create the required deliverables.

A project management flow chart is better equipped to handle project process. They better communicate the process to everyone involved in the project and can be more effective in analysing problems. They also serve as a good source of documentation and guide through the project’s process. Flow charts even help in the debugging process and maintenance by placing effort where it’s most needed and in a more efficient fashion.

Work breakdown structures have their place in a project plan, but they are designed for a more specific task. The flow chart is a more flexible tool, but it is also an instrument for the overall process of the project as opposed to the individual tasks that make up the project.

The project management flow chart is just a map, really, a guide to how the project is going to proceed throughout the life-cycle. For the best implementation the right tools are needed. With the right PM software features, planning can be better, implementation, monitoring and closing of the project by following the flow chart. For example, with a real-time dashboard from Projectmanagementcompanion.com, a project can be tracked as it progresses through the planned flow chart.

Flow charts help with the visualization of the project, and project management software provides the tools to take those visuals and execute them as planned. Sample a project management flow chart as a template to start using it in projects.

If project management software is required to assist with the implementation of a flow chart and keep projects on track, then look no further than Projectmanagementcompanion.com, where there is a selection of cloud-based tools with features to steer each phase of a project to a successful end.

The Human Face of a Project Manager

Human Factor of Project Mangement

As organisations become more focused on digitisation for the ability to grow and innovate so an edge over competitors can be obtained. Processes are being continually refined and improved for the strategic initiatives to be executed. Hence aligning business and organisational goals to the projects to achieve this is paramount.

At the helm to achieve these changes is the project manager, assisting in guiding the organisations success with innovation, growth and differentiation. Placing emphasis on project management competency.

Recent research suggests that interpersonal and intrapersonal skills “emotional intelligence (EI)” play a more important role than cognitive intelligence, particularly in determining personal success and engagement of people in the workplace. The following Personal competencies form a basis for predicting a person’s EI (Emotional Intelligence) potential:

  • Identifying emotions
  • Evaluating how others feel
  • Controlling one’s own emotions
  • Perceiving how others feel
  • Using emotions to facilitate social communication
  • Relating to others

It can become frustrating and difficult to understand how team members feel about their work and roles on projects. Engaging team members socially can be a challenge and emotionally demanding for project managers, the truth is that many project managers struggle with the social and emotional dimensions of managing the human component of projects. Failure to recognize and improve upon emotional intelligence shortcomings dramatically increases the risk of a project manager failing in their career.

Signs that emotional intelligence is at risk and needs honing, include:

  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Inability to control ones temper or emotions
  • Refusing to acknowledge others’ points of view
  • Transferring blame and the inability to take responsibility for actions

Conversely, the following are a few signs of having high emotional intelligence:

The Project Manager:

  • Are very curious
  • Have exemplary leadership skills
  • Are in tune with their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Make helping others a priority
  • Are adept at understanding facial cues and expressions.
  • Are an excellent judge of character

Regardless of where the project manager falls on the Emotional intelligence spectrum, there’s good news. There are many options and resources available for working to increase Emotional Intelligence.

Once it is understood where in the EI spectrum the project manager is located, there is an opportunity to hone Leadership style around areas that may need attention.

An Emotionally Intelligent Leadership style will allow not only to make assignments based on the unique personalities, goals, and backgrounds of team members possess, but to understand, connect and communicate on new levels.

This progression will foster professional growth, trust and understanding and greatly enhance interpersonal success and engagement while mitigating the risk of becoming a mundane project manager.

Hiring a Project Manager, Five Interview Questions

The position of project manager within any organization, the demands on time, patience with customers, it takes a very special person. The role requires being prepared execution, accountability, and leadership ability. If you are looking for your next Project Management role, then being prepared as you would for any project is very important, how to separate yourself from others also applying for a similar role.

Being in a position to answer the hard questions, being confident and articulate when answering is very important, but how do you prepare for the interview process, which at times and depending on your character can be an arduous task.

The following is a list of five interview questions that will help you be selected as the best candidate for the position of a project manager. Some of these interview questions are sure to distinguish you from other project managers.

Question #1: If We Provide You With A New Project, What Will Be Your Approach To Manage It, And How Would You Present Results?

On the surface, it seems like a simple question. However, what works here is this – It’s a process-based question. This question is to venture inside your brain, giving you a quick peek into the kind of work culture you have experienced in the past. This is probably the best way to understand the blueprint of your ideal approach, which can help the interviewer assess whether you would blend in the organization.
The second part of the question referring to the “presentation of results,” helps the interviewer understand how you would handle a standard project delivery. The interviewer will also get to know about presentation style and the perceived involvement of different team members in the process. In a nutshell, this is the perfect open-ended question to understand a personality, work style, team management attributes, and you’re most typical approach to fresh challenges.

Question #2 – What If We Assign You A Complex Project That Is Already Running Behind Schedule? How Would You Manage It And Bring It Back On Track?

This question tests your creativity and how well you can formulate a hypothesis. Just try and understand how you plan to maintain the level of quality without creating any undue pressure on other team members. The interviewer will try to notice whether you are willing to negotiate for more time or resources with the upper management.
Not all PMs are created equal. So, if you don’t like one specific approach or the way someone handled this imaginary problem, you are welcome to move on.

Question #3 – What’s The Nature of the Communication Style with Your Team Members?

Here’s a cold hard fact. PM’s that communicate well with their team members achieve far more than the rest. The nature of this question is to help the interviewer understand whether you are aware of the importance of communication mechanisms and how that affects team members. This is a prime indicator of how you would be able to manage the difficult conversations as and when the situation arises. If the interviewer doesn’t get a satisfying response, it’s quite likely that as a candidate, you would fail to deliver in the real world as well.

Question #4 – Share Your Experience Of When You Were Responsible For Training Others On Any One Aspect Of Project Management.

They say great leaders and great trainers have a lot in common with each other. That’s not entirely difficult to understand since good project managers are also known to be the big picture thinkers that influence major decisions in an organization. Holding such an influential position, most PMs become great communicators. That’s why the art of training, coaching, or mentoring should come naturally to them. If you share an experience where you were in the position to coach one of your team members, take it as a positive signal. This means you are good at guiding other team members to success (as compared to a one-dimensional PM, known for giving orders.)

Question #5 – If You’re Allowed to Design a Dream Job, What Would You Choose as General Metrics to Determine If a Project Is on Track?

We know that managing a project involves far too many moving parts and variables. This question allows you to tell how you would design the ideal metrics and judge your ability to delegate, organize, and manage assets in a hypothetical situation. This is an excellent way to judge your domain knowledge and skills, as well.

Summary

Given that looking for, training and actually attending interviews is a time-consuming process, being ready to answer questions of this nature can help you decide if you are the best fit for the organization. Obviously, there is no right, wrong, or inappropriate answer to these questions. However, it gives you a fair idea of what an interviewer wants from the position.

Here’s a bonus tip. Don’t forget to reverse the table and allow time in the end for candidates to ask you questions. This is a great way to understand what matters to them. Their own words will also help you decipher whether they have the correct mindset to succeed as a project manager in your organization. The basic idea is to create a challenging interview environment where candidates can showcase their business acumen along with the soft skills needed for the job.

Delivering the right results with a Real Project Plan

Real Project Plan

There is a common theme when delivering a project; it requires finesse to obtain all the relevant information to ensure the information is accurate. However, there has to be a distinct separation on the information being delivered, in particular, the separation between, if it is a plan or a schedule. A plan is where the approach is mapped out to deliver versus the schedule which covers the tasks and dates. 

Depending on the size of the program it is best to use Microsoft project to build plans as opposed to using Excel. When reporting high level milestones for governance purposes Excel is an invaluable tool, but to use it solely during the delivery of a project is recipe for failure. If an Audit is conducted it can be looked upon as a violation of SDLC practices.

Strategic plans can deliver business value; the default project plan can be used as a starting point, but some things cannot be automated or standardised. These kinds of tools so only be used for reference purposes, and not as shortcuts to doing the thinking about what is really needed to execute successfully. It is a fine balance between reinventing the wheel each time and working with your own data.

Plan out the success criteria with stakeholders and craft out the high level milestones that task will roll-up to deliver the vision. The tasks must be prescriptive and should be done in short form tweet like entries. Declarative entries should be used to perform and validate. Words like Secure, Verify, Validate, Obtain, Draft, Approve and Distribute should be commonplace throughout the plan. 

Project plans which require rework have the following characteristics;

  • Task durations are greater than 10 or 15 days.  When would it be known that a 60-day task is late?  On the 61st day it is too late to affect any kind of change. Tasks that have a long duration require subtask items to allow for follow-up and remediation.  
  • Keep the schedule up to date, if all stakeholders agree to the approach and its reflected in the plan, then it should be used to manage day to day deliverables.   
  • Tasks that are past due with no percentage completed is a red flag.   Find out if teams have skipped tasks or decided certain deliverables have been deemed out of scope.  
  • Tasks are not prescriptive enough to convey work deliverable.   It doesn’t have to be overly elaborate but at least include enough information to make it reusable  

Unfortunately, Project Managers tend to get assessed on the existence of artefacts but not necessarily on the quality of products that get produced.    It is time to start looking at how project plans connect to success criteria and how the details drive the intended result.   Start performing self-checks and peer reviews and include stakeholders in the process.   Share plans with them and ask them to comment on dates and resource availability.   That is a great way to get buy-in and learn from others.

The Art of Project Management, a discipline for initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve a specific goal. A project is a temporary endeavour designed to produce a unique product, service or outcome. The end to end delivery of the project, known as the project lifecycle is affected by resource, time management and a fixed budget. The purpose of project management is to enhance a particular situation through the avenue of delivery and change. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all the project goals within the given constraints, normally defined in a user or project manual, created at the beginning of the development process. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary and more ambitious challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet a pre-defined objective.