Tag: Project Management

How to Create an Action Plan

How to make an action plan

An action plan is a proposed strategy or course or action. Specifically, in project management, it’s a document that lists the steps needed to achieve a goal. That is, an action plan clarifies what resources you’ll need to reach that goal, makes a timeline for the tasks to get to that goal and determines what team members you’ll need to do it all. The information from the action plan will assist in the creation of Gantt Charts, project schedule or plan. So what are the fundamentals in the creation of an action plan, the following are a few tips on how to build one.

Commence by creating a simple template to save time. The template should consist of action step, due dates and resources who have been assigned the task. It is best to use a tool to keep you on task. By using a tool, a specific online tool that everyone’s using, then everyone has access to online and real-time data.

And number three is you need to on board everyone into the tool, so that it works for everyone and not just a few people. By having everyone committed to using the same tool, then you ensure that you have real-time data that everyone can access.

The fourth one is to set up alerts that work to help you become more efficient. These could be things like tasks. By having alerts on when tasks are added or changed, it helps you become more efficient in what you’re doing, helps other people on the project be alerted to the changes. Also, when milestones are completed, that way, everyone knows when major tasks have occurred or completed on the project.

And then notes. Notes are great for collaborating on tasks or even documents, such as a requirements document or some other documents that are important for the project.

The following are some considerations;

Number one: focus on the priorities of what is due now. That way, people, or team members, don’t get overwhelmed by looking at all the things that are done, but they get focused on “Let’s get these completed now.”

Number two: mark completed tasks as completed. That way, you don’t have to keep looking at the same tasks. They’re already finished, done, completed. Get them out of the way, so you don’t keep looking at them.

Number three, assign someone to every task. Be sure that you know who is accountable for every task. And that way, if you have questions, something’s not getting done, you know who to go to.

Lastly discuss pending or late tasks, ensure that you find out when there are barriers or reasons why some things aren’t getting done. Sometimes they need you and your help to get things done.

So, these are the fundamentals and a few tips to help you make your action plan. And if you need a tool that can help you manage and track your action plan, then review our software tool reference page.

PRINCE2 Process: The Reigning Project Management Methodology

We continue our series on PRINCE2, as previous posts covered PRINCE2 Fundamentals and roles. This post is concerned with the 7 phase processes of PRINCE2.

The 7 phase process of PRINCE2

The PRINCE2 process is broken up into 7 (surprise!) phases:

1. Starting up a project

  • Someone submits a request for a new project, called the project mandate. The project mandate is very brief, covering only why the project is necessary and what it will ideally accomplish.
  • Someone assesses every project mandate to make sure the company is capable of taking on the project.
  • If approved, the person who initiated the project then submits a more detailed project brief, which covers the actions, resources, manpower, etc. needed to execute the project.

2. Directing a project

  • The project board reviews and evaluates project briefs based on business justification and viability for another round of approval/disapproval.
  • The project board decides what it needs to do in order to organize and execute each approved project, and what/how they’re going to delegate to the project manager.

3. Initiating a project

  • The project manager creates the Project Initiation Documentation, including a comprehensive project plan and baselines for 6 performance targets: time, cost, quality, scope, risk, and benefits.
  • Initiation documents are sent to the project board for approval. Once the board is confident in the project plan, they give their approval once again and work begins.

4. Controlling a stage

  • The project manager breaks down the project into smaller “work packages” and passes them off to team managers and teams to complete.
  • The project manager oversees the progress of work packages during each stage and steps in to help overcome roadblocks or correct any mistakes, if necessary.
  • Team managers coordinate detailed daily work and act as the link between the project manager and individual team members, helping to make sure everything goes according to plan.

5. Managing product delivery

  • The project manager checks progress against the project brief and makes sure deliverables meet PRINCE2 quality expectations.
  • The project board evaluates completed work packages and either approves them or requests revisions/changes.

6. Managing stage boundaries

  • The project manager and project board review each stage to make sure the project is progressing according to plan and meeting project assurance requirements.
  • At each review, the project board decides whether to continue with the next stage or to abandon the project completely.
  • Project managers hold a retrospective with the project team to record any lessons learned and improve the next stage.

7. Closing the project

  • When the project is complete, the project manager wraps up any loose threads, including PRINCE2 documentation, outcomes, and reporting.

Types of PRINCE2 documentation

Throughout the 7 stages of PRINCE2, records are kept so the project stays organized and on track. These records are also used to report to the project board, check deliverables against quality requirements, and improve future work processes.

  • Business case: Detailed description of why the project is needed and its expected benefits to users and the business.
  • Risk register: Lists the probability and potential impacts of risks and opportunities.
  • Quality register: A running log of quality checks that ensure deliverables meet expectations.
  • Issues register: A list of problems and concerns from project team members.
  • Lessons log: Notes on lessons learned to apply to the next work stage and/or future projects.
  • Daily log: A daily diary written by the project manager that reports activity and progress.

PRINCE2 in project management

Interested in learning more about project management? Check out our Project Management Certifications, your ultimate introduction to the fundamentals of project management, curated best practices and resources for project management beginners, all in one place.

MAKING THE MOVE INTO PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Taking the first step in any career is never an easy task, and this certainly applies to the Project Management discipline. The following are some observations made when making the transition into such a challenging and rewarding profession.

1. Choose the right organisation and the right job scope.
If you are taking your first step into Project Management, it’s very unlikely that you will land a role immediately. Most Project Management professionals establish their career in operational roles, with a certain amount of exposure to various projects. Hence, it’s really important for you, as a starter, to choose the right organisation, and a job scope that will give you good exposure. This will enable you to transition into Project Management gradually. The organisation should ideally run lots of projects and allow you to work with different people.

2. Take the opportunity to assess your suitability.
Once you have gained some exposure to projects you should take the opportunity to assess yourself as well. Make sure you can say “YES” to the following questions as well. These are the key questions that will tell you if you are ready for a career in Project Management.

  • Can I communicate well with different people?
  • Do I have the interpersonal skills to deal with different types of stakeholders?
  • Can I work under pressure to meet tight deadlines?
  • Do I have plans for all my activities, priority lists for my tasks, and targets for my performance?
  • Am I a detail-oriented person?

3. Get qualified!
In the Project Management discipline, recognised qualifications are just as important as experience. You will improve your credibility and reputation within the organisation by demonstrating your willingness and ability to learn, your level of commitment, and your passion for the discipline. The Association for Project Management (APM), APMG-International, and Project Management Institute (PMI) are the three most important bodies offering globally recognised qualifications such as APMP, PRINCE2, CAPM, PMP, PgMP, etc. They will offer an excellent grounding in best-practice project management methodologies and principles that you can apply in a wide variety of workplace scenarios. The type and level of qualification will depend on your experience, the expected performance and the scale of the projects. They can range from introductory to very advanced level. Do some careful research and decide one that perfectly aligns with your needs.

4. Continue learning and create your own opportunities.
Professional development is a never-ending journey. For any project that you work on, be it big or small, the key thing is to keep learning. Lessons learned from one project will be a massive benefit on another. You will find out that the best project managers are those who know how to identify problems that they encountered in the past, admit them, and figure out how to eliminate such issues moving forward.

5. Raise your profile.
Finally, make yourself known to the managers as well as HR by continuously showing your desire, your goals and your competency. This will make sure that when a good opportunity comes, or there’s a need for a bigger challenge, you will be among the first to be considered.

The Project Management profession is very rewarding, especially if you get a sense of fulfilment delivering a concept into practical working outcome.

Project Management for Start-ups & Entrepreneurs: A Quick Start Guide

Project management can appear very formal to an outsider.

That’s because project management maps out a specific, seemingly inflexible, process for initiating, monitoring and closing a project, all according to an established methodology. And if you’re an entrepreneur or working at a start-up, the rigidity of these project management systems can feel constraining. Still, the need to have a framework around which to focus your team and resources is critical to any business success.

However strict and formal project management might appear, it can be adapted to fit your situation. There are many different methods, approaches and project management software, depending on your industry and type of project. Plus, there are new ideas coming into the fold all the time, including hybrid methodologies that get the best of both worlds.

So, how can entrepreneurs and teams get the most out of project management, regardless of their start-up environment or business life cycle?

Start with a Vision

First, to use project management effectively, you must begin your project with a vision. You need to have some clear idea or goal that your team can focus on. To get somewhere, anywhere, there must be a destination. This destination must have a specific outcome that impacts your organization or those you serve.

Start-ups and entrepreneurs often try to do a million things at once with limited staff, so crafting a vision is essential for ensuring project success. Well, how do you establish your vision?

Be Specific

You need to spend a bit of time and energy thinking through what you want to achieve and what impact you want to have. It isn’t enough to say something like, “We want to grow our business.”

To give projects a sense of purpose and focus, you’d need to take this general idea and sharpen it. You’d say something like, “We want to grow our business by 10% this quarter by creating a new service line for our existing customers.”

This is a pretty simple example, but it drills down from a vague idea to a specific set of goals. This applies to any type of business, because all projects need to have focus, regardless of the industry.

Make a Plan

Once you have your goal or your outcome in place, the second step in implementing project management is to create a plan. A pothole for projects is not following the plan you made to complete the project.

However, sticking too closely to your plan can lead to another problem: a project plan that locks like handcuffs around the team, not allowing the team to have any flexibility in the way that they tackle the job or approach their roles.

Stay Flexible

As an entrepreneur or start-up, you must be comfortable with change. Change happens, and when you’re blazing a new trail, being able to pivot is key to success. Whatever plan you create today is only a starting point for where you are going to go in the future.

But you still need to have a plan that starts with the end in mind. Where are you going? When do you need to get there? What kind of resources do you have or need? What other factors are involved in getting this project completed?

So, the plan is important but can change. To schedule your plan, make a project timeline with milestones, or major phases of the project, to break down the steps or tasks you’ll have to take to complete in order to finish the project in the time allotted.

The greatest gift you can give your team is the gift of flexibility in reaching the goals and milestones. As stated above, in too many instances, we can create plans that are rigid, which pin us to one path.

Flexibility is important for your team, because if they are working hard and intelligently, the solutions and actions that they take might not be obvious and should be allowed to evolve with experience.

Execute the Project

Now it’s time to move the project to the execution stage. This means turning your team loose on the project.

Often when people and organizations are not hitting peak performance, they skip the first two steps and jump right into this stage of project management. The problem with that is that they fail to ask themselves, “Why?”

For example, if you want to mock up a new feature, have you asked yourself: “Why do I want the new feature? Why do I want to create a new product? Why am I doing a mock up and not something else?”

Don’t Waste Resources

An inefficient organization (and start-ups can’t afford to be inefficient) can spend a lot of time expending resources on things that never should have received valuable resources in the first place. That’s probably the number-one takeaway from project management: do the due diligence of asking yourself the where, what, why, when and how before beginning any project.

As far as the actual execution stage of the project, if you’ve created a thorough plan and worked backwards from a deadline to create a realistic schedule and task list, everything should be in place to start and proceed on track. Of course, you’ll want to monitor and report on the project progress to make sure you’re hitting your benchmarks.

Monitor Progress

How will you measure your success against your milestones and schedule? Ask yourself these questions: “Are the plans and milestones still relevant to achieving the goal or outcome? Are we on, ahead or behind schedule? Is the outcome still relevant to our business or are we just completing what we started?”

You should be constantly asking yourself and your team these questions until you have hit your goal. In addition to asking such questions, you should be monitoring KPIs and other metrics throughout the project. A project dashboard can be a huge help when it comes to tracking metrics on a daily basis.

Know When to Fold ’em

One roadblock that start-ups and entrepreneurs encounter is the unwillingness to recognize and accept sunk costs. By this I mean, if your goal or outcome isn’t relevant anymore, but you’re so far into the project that you won’t let go. You think it might have a negative impact on the team.

The best thing to do is to quit things that need to be abandoned. Knowing when to quit is a bit of an art. If you struggle with it, read Seth Godin’s book The Dip. He writes about knowing when to quit and when to stay the course.

Wrap It Up

Finally, you should wrap up the project. At this point, you should have achieved your outcome and have something significant to show for your time and resources.

Archive Your Documents

Collect the lessons learned in a framework that you can use for future projects. Note things that worked and things that didn’t. Spend time thinking about schedules and resource usage, making notes of what you expected and what actually happened.

You might want to collect your communications schedules, reports and other documents that you can use to create templates for future projects.

Lessons Learned for Future Projects

Creating a resource that helps you accelerate the kick-off of future projects is the key to ending a project well. Depending on your nature and your organization, these documents collected may be complex, or they may be loose.

Again, the important thing is to make sure you have collected things to look for and things to avoid so that you don’t have to relearn everything every time you start a project.

I think if you can think of your projects as four simple phases, it will make it easier for you to use project management principles and this will allow you to not only make project management something you can add quickly, but effectively as well.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups need nimble software to plan, monitor and report on their volatile projects. Projectmanagementcompanion.com has many cloud-based project management solutions to choose from that offer real-time dashboard and an online Gantt charts, giving you the flexibility you need to respond quickly to change. See how they can help your project by taking a free 30-day trial.

4 Keys to Driving Employee Engagement (Infographic)

By Emily Bonnie, 15 August, 2017

Nobody works 100% of the time. We all take breaks, whether it’s time spent browsing the web, socializing, grabbing a snack, or even napping.

70% of employees are disengaged at work, which is currently costing American companies up to $550 billion annually in lost revenue.

So how do you fight disengagement and keep your team motivated and focused? Try these four proven techniques to wake up your workforce:

4 Types of Effective Employee Motivation

  1. Intrinsic: Invest in your employees’ professional development and education, and assign tasks that help them learn new skills and apply their interests to their work.
  2. Extrinsic: Offer rewards and other perks, such as flexible scheduling, to create stress-free work environments.
  3. Personal: Get to know and show respect for your team.
  4. Peer: Tap into people’s generosity and competitive nature to help them work harder.

employee-engagement-in-the-workplace

What’s keeping your teammates’ heads out of the game? This infographic by CompanyFolders explains what turns employees into disengaged drones, and what you can do to bring them back to life.