Wednesday, 31 July 2013

But What's the Latest Status?

Oh the project client who always wants the latest and greatest status.  Asking for more info like you're holding something back. The same is true for your senior leadership. Either they just don't believe your reporting or they are too lazy to read anything and want to hear it from you...which may be the case - especially if they have an agenda and some questions in their head that they must get answered.

In the long run, of course, it's best to always have almost up to the minute accuracy in the project status report. I realize that's nearly impossible - and completely impractical.  But what we can do is make sure that the status report - and project schedule - is updated every week and that both contain as much accurate and up to date detail as possible when we walk into that weekly project status meeting with those two things in hand ready to drive the meeting forward.


How do we do that?  Well, it's simple, but not always easy. And there are a couple of ways to do it depending on how well your project team members communicate and how much you can trust their accuracy without asking some detailed questions to drill down to a more specific or accurate status update from them.

Option 1 - the revised status report and schedule

This is likely your easiest option - if you can trust your team to actually make status updates or revise their own tasks in a commonly accessed collaborative project scheduling tool. I did this once on a very large government project that contained nearly 8,000 tasks.  And to get to the point of that fully detailed, 8,000 task project schedule it took some serious work on the part of me and my staff and the use of mind mapping software with several peer managers on the program to get us there.  It was really more like a large program – ongoing for three years – and I required updates by peer managers (who could delegate to their team if they wanted, but they were still responsible for their updates). It worked pretty well – they couldn't all be trusted all the time, but I knew who to regularly follow-up on and who’s input my team had to closely check up on and verify. 

If this approach works, great. Just send out an editable copy of last week's status report and have them send back their revisions one day before the weekly status call with the project customer.  And do the same with the project schedule - have them make their own task progress updates and get them to you a day before the customer meeting so that you can finalize everything, ask any follow up questions you might have, and then send the revised status report and schedule off to all stakeholders for the weekly status call.

Option 2 - the internal weekly meeting

This is the option that I almost always resort to.  I call the other one easier because in a perfect world, if your team does a great job of putting in their updates, you should just have to do a quick check and send it.  Sure.  Just like my kids don’t take care of the house quite as well as I do because they don’t own it – I do.  Yes, the PM owns the schedule, the status report and everything about the project.  So, if you want to make sure that you’re sending out the latest and greatest status information right before the weekly status call with that very demanding project customer, then this is the way you’ll likely want to go.  

Every week I conduct an internals status meeting/call with my team.  Usually it’s the day before the customer call.  I use this opportunity to verify where I think everything stands and to go around the table and get updates, issues and concerns from everyone.  Then, that evening I make sure that the project status report, the project schedule, the resource forecast, the issues and risks lists, and the budget forecast shows everything as up to date through that day.  That’s the best I can do and all anyone can really ask for.  And, when speaking in reality, this is the easiest option – at least for me. Again, because no one truly owns it like the project manager and no one cares about it nearly as much.

Summary

Our project clients deserve up to date project information. Some are demanding and some are pretty disengaged.  But at least when we sit down with them on a weekly basis we should be able to guarantee that the information we are reviewing is 99% accurate to that moment in time.  It makes for more productive meetings, increased customer confidence and participation, and far fewer ‘takeaway tasks’ from the project status call than if you walk in with many outdated piece to the project status puzzle.


Brad Egeland is an IT veteran of 27 years having worked as an application developer, manager, project & program manager, consultant and business strategist and is the author of BradEgeland.com


When Egos Collide – Part 2 – Gain Respect or Replace Resources

In Part 1 of this two part series on dealing with egos and problem resources on your projects, we discussed the need to take charge of the project early on and show your team that you are in control.  And after establishing that with your team, you must continue to maintain control…it’s definitely an ongoing process and – sometimes – battle.  We even discussed getting them engaged at the outset by utilizing mind mapping software to get them intricately involved in the project goals and direction as a way of overcoming some of the ego and conflict issues that might be coming to light.

In this Part 2 we’ll examine the need to be respectable, gain their respect, and then maintain your credibility with them throughout the engagement.  And if that doesn’t work, as a last resort you may need to make that unfortunate move to replace one or more resources on the project.


Display respectability

Sometimes all you have to fall back on is respectability and credibility. Take it and run with it. But just putting it out there won’t always do the trick. I’ve managed to immediately garner support and respect from an otherwise unruly and somewhat rogue development resources on projects just be letting them know that I was once a developer and a manager of many development resources. But that will only work some of the time.  Other times – you’ll need to display that expertise or knowledge…which is more the norm. You’ll need to be able to talk the talk technically and walk the walk to get their following and respect and compliance. Call them on some estimates, show knowledge where they aren’t expecting it. Surprise them. And then be consistent so they know it’s not a fluke.  

Replace resources

As a last, last, last resort you may have to replace a resource or two.  Did I mention this needs to be your very last resort?  It will probably get the job done. It will remove the big ego or egos from your project that were causing conflicts or hindering your project leadership. The problems though are probably obvious. You will have lost credibility as a strong leader.  That credibility will be lost both with your remaining project team members AND your senior company leadership (PMO Director and above, most likely). It’s not a good place to be in…you cried for help.  If the problem resource wants off the team, let them. But try not to be the one to demand a replacement for a resource you just can’t handle…unless you can definitely document how they were truly hurting the project as a whole and the rest of the team…and possibly even the customer (because that’s big with senior management).  And, if you lose one or two resources this way, then keep in mind that you’ll also need to replace them. Bringing on new resources and getting them properly and productively up to speed while maintaining customer confidence and satisfaction is tricky and it is not a sure thing. It can take considerable time and budget and it can definitely adversely affect the project’s chances of success.

Summary

All these things are aimed at gaining and maintaining respect and control.  That’s by far the best route to take when you’re dealing with egos that are clashing with you or each other and you’re trying to stay at the helm of the ship.  The last resort, of course, is to get rid of the resource problems.  But that leaves you without the resources you needed and now you have to replace them.  Plus, you had to call in help…and that can be damaging to your reputation as a leader.  Again, do that as your last resort.

Version 5 - "meets the highest standards"

The release of Version 5 last month has been the catalyst to one of the busiest periods for us since we first released the product back in 2001, we would like to thank all of our customers, partners and industry experts for their response to the release. 

Record numbers of you have been upgrading and the great feedback continues, Philippe Boukobza, the author of the Visual-Mapping.com blog has said “…If what you need is a solid Mind Mapping Productivity Tool, MindGenius 5 meets the highest quality standards: excellent User Interface, integration with Microsoft Office, lots of useful templates, Presentation Mode, Brainstorming Mode and dedicated 100% compatible iPad App.” 

See this month’s second newsletter article “Is everyone a Project Manager?” for feedback from one of our customers. 

We have more industry expert reviews in the pipeline and if you would like to share your thoughts and uses of Version 5 we would be delighted to hear from you. 

If you are interested in upgrading to version 5 but haven’t had the time to review it yet then you still have time to register for Thursday’s “What’s New in Version 5” webinar at 4pm GMT, 11am EDT. If you can’t attend the session, please email info@mindgenius.com and we can arrange a bespoke session for your team or send you a link to the recording. 

Once again, thank you for your support and on-going enthusiasm for MindGenius.

Is Everyone a Project Manager?

Most of us don’t have project manager in our job title but that’s not to say we aren’t involved in managing projects. Personally on a day-to-day basis, I have to manage website updates (such as the recent rebrand for Version 5), allocate tasks and actions to colleagues, prepare and implement marketing campaign plans, and supervise social media and advertising plans. I have never received formal project management training and would never describe myself as a project manager but managing projects is a key part of my role. Far from being an unusual way of working, when I look at colleagues and friends, everyone seems to be working like this and it seems that most people in business also work on projects and have increasing project management responsibilities. 

And while most organizations provide their project managers with tools and the formal training on both the recommended methodologies and the use of those tools to enable them to successfully manage their projects, outside of formal project management, workers are generally not provided with exposure to such things. Often the result can be that inconsistent and inefficient approaches to project management across the business are developed. 

These 'project managers’ in all but name are regularly in and out of projects and require a simple solution that doesn't require re-training each time they return to or begin a new project. Using MindGenius in this way provides a simple cost effective project management tool that users can adopt as a way of working throughout the project lifecycle. 



MindGenius and the templates included in Version 5 of the product will; lead the user through, brainstorming for requirements gathering, projects risks and problem solving, help them manage meetings from project kick-off to retrospectives and enable them to develop project scope and Gantt charts to manage projects to a successful end. 

While many people come to MindGenius as they have heard of the mind mapping abilities, when they start using the project management functionality, they see for themselves the results it can bring. 


MindGenius customer, Amanda O'Neil, Operations Supervisor, Gael Ltd said:

“MindGenius is used for project coordination with our larger customers and is ideal for providing project timelines, resource allocation and key milestones for each project we work on. The best thing about using it is using the map to build the project plan which is far easier than anything I have used before, and then converting this to the Gantt view which is quick and easy to do. We had one of our biggest customers Siloam Hospitals specifically ask for their project plan in MindGenius because they prefer the ease of changing items around within the project map which automatically updates the Gantt view. 

 

With MindGenius 5, the new project reports are used for review at key stages of the project to see what tasks have been completed and are ideal for giving the customer an indication on how on track we are with their project.

 

Overall being able to just make 1 change on the map which is then rolled out to the Gantt view and project report is a great time saver.” 



Attend one of our free Project Management with MindGenius webinars. Register Now

MindGenius remains the most intuitive Mind Mapping software designed for business. A free 30 day trial of MindGenius 5 is available from www.mindgenius.com.

When Egos Collide – Part 1 – Take Charge and Maintain Control

I don't know about you, but I've led quite a few technology projects with very skilled resources - some of whom carried pretty good-sized egos along with them. And yes, I'm sure that in the role of PM, I've been guilty of that as well. Probably many times when I've not even been aware - as dutifully pointed out countless times by my loving and very forgiving wife.

So, you have two, three, four or more big egos on your project. How do you manage that chemistry? And what if you’re one of those big egos? If you’re not careful, it can lead to lots of chest bumping and non-productivity. Or worse, lots of productivity but lots of misdirection leading to lots of wasted budget, wasted time, and a customer wondering who is really in charge of the engagement. I don’t think anyone wants to be the project manager leading that type of a project. We have enough to worry about on a daily basis of what could be rearing its ugly head to plague our project today or tomorrow or next week without having to worry about the petty ego issues and how our customer can be affected by any resulting infighting. It’s just not one of the risks I put down on the risk identification sheet as I start the project. I prefer to try my best to avoid it…and the best way to do that is with proper leadership.

Take charge early

First and foremost, the project manager is in charge. It says so right there in the title. Even if you’re new to the game, you have to fake it till you make it. You’ll never win over the big egos on your project just by saying, “I’m in charge.” That won’t work…I tried it early in my career and it was a big fail. The big egos will laugh and win. You have to establish control early and take charge of the engagement. Most of all that comes from being prepared. Early in the engagement – at least from my experience – you start without the full team. But you start planning immediately. Make sure that when you get your full technical team on board, that you have a good schedule in place that shows that you understand the project, the goals of the engagement and what tasks are going to be required in order to get you and your team to that end solution. Certainly, in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to build ownership of the project, work with the team and employ the use of mind mapping software to engage their thoughts and opinions on the overall project needs, goals and direction.

Maintain control

If you can have good, solid estimates associated with the tasks that you put into the initial project schedule and you have the proper tasks in place that show you know – at least in general – what it’s going to take to get the project done, then you’re showing your team that you have the project under control and you have the skills and knowledge to make good estimates and good plans for the project. 

You need them to verify and provide input, but you are the kick-starter. It’s your engagement to run and they are there to perform the tasks that you assign to them. This all sounds much easier than it actually is, but it’s the path you need to be leading them down so you get and continue to have their compliance. You’ll need to be doing this throughout the project – you can’t rest on whatever success you had with this at the outset. If egos are really an issue, it won’t go away. You’ll have to continue to show consistency with excellent performance, leadership, accurate estimates, and good decision-making. And remember, these are your teammates, not your enemies. Continue to work on building good relationships throughout the engagement…often times that is done by joining them in the trenches from time to time. Hands-on project dirty work never hurt any project manager…and it can be fun.

In Part 2, we’ll look at the need to display respectability and credibility to your big ego team members and that ever-present possibility that you may have to resort to replacing the problem resources.