10 Tips To Rescue A Problem Project

Tip 1: Be open to the possibility that the project is failing. It is natural for project managers and project teams to have a task-oriented focus. And, most project methodologies anticipate project difficulties and provide monitoring and controlling processes for change, issues, and problem management. However, the resulting mindset for the project effort can often be singularly focused on getting the project back on track to the exclusion of any real consideration given to the fact that the project may very well be failing. Be open to the possibility that the project effort could be failing.

Tip 2: Recognize early warning signs. Early warning signs, both good and bad, exist in all projects. Early warning signs can be seen in just about every aspect of the project effort such as the attitudes of the parties involved in the project effort, the performance of infrastructure, systems, tools and machinery, and internal and external factors that can impact project scope, timing, and risk. It is always easier to get projects back on track that haven’t drifted too far off course. Recognizing the project early warning signs helps to prevent projects from failing.

Tip 3: Beware of the last mile syndrome. Often times, project managers fall victim to the “last mile syndrome.” That is, it takes ninety percent of the project time to finish the last ten percent of the project scope. This can occur for many reasons from poor project requirements and scope planning to ad hoc development rather than process-oriented iterative development. The end result often is the extension of the project for just one more month, and again, and again. If you are still waiting for your last month, look in the mirror and admit you have a problem.

Tip 4: Admit you have a problem. Many project organizations continue with failing projects instead of taking action, corrective or termination, early. Often, project managers are skilled at managing project difficulties and have the confidence to think that they can project manage their way out of any bad project and in many cases they can. However, if you don’t get people to recognize that there is a problem then rescuing the project is going to be very difficult. When you identify the reluctance to admitting there is a problem, then rescuing the project becomes much, much easier.

Tip 5: Pause the project. Pausing the project creates an opportunity to regroup, establish a new plan, and restore integrity to the project baseline. By continuing a failing project, you are likely to burn time and money against the project not knowing where you are truly headed or if you are on the path to completion. Pausing a project does not need to be difficult or scary. To pause the project, you may need someone with enough vision, clout and security to say, “This project is not on the right course.” Some people might think the ship is sinking and want to flee the project, but most will eagerly take advantage of the opportunity to get things back on track.

Tip 6: Audit the project. Even an experienced project manager can have great difficulties delivering a difficult, complex project. And often, organizations perform project management in an ad hoc manner without any processes or policies in place to help the project manager and all those involved in the project effort to ensure the integrity of the project. After pausing the project, assemble the appropriate members of the organization to conduct a project audit. The purpose of the project audit is not to place blame or to fix or re-baseline the project. Rather, the purpose of the project audit is to first find out the root causes for why the project is failing.

Tip 7: Assess the effort to complete the project. Restore the integrity of the project by assessing the effort, both schedule and budget, to complete the project. Often, when initially estimating projects, many project managers use intuitive estimating; they estimate from gut feel and personal opinion rather than from historical estimating experience. Intuitive estimating may work with smaller projects; however, larger projects require experienced-based estimating. If possible, enlist the aid of someone who has experience performing the particular project tasks in order to get realistic estimates. Additionally, establish and maintain a historical estimating database within the PMO so that future projects can be estimated more accurately.

Tip 8: Validate the business case for the project. Ask yourself, “Is it worth continuing the project?” It is possible that the project is no longer important or a priority for the organization. Additionally, external factors such as new technologies and alternative solutions may render the initial approach of the project obsolete. Before proposing that the project be restarted, validate the project’s business case.

Tip 9: Submit the project to governance. From a business perspective, determine if at this point in time the project still makes sense to pursue and if the project is an appropriate use of the resources of the company. Look at the value of the project and compare it to other competing project alternatives and initiatives. Perhaps previously the project was a priority, but now the project scorecard may rank quite differently. Use the governance process to gain formal understanding, approval, and support for the project.

Tip 10: Restart the project. Now that you have a new and approved project plan and new estimates, re-launch the project. Have the executive sponsor for the project communicate to the team how important the project is and take steps to ensure that the project team is prepared and mentally positive about restarting the project effort. Be mindful of all of the past project difficulties and be prepared to deal with potential roadblocks.

Advertisements

Top 10 Tips For A Good Project Management Survival

Projects are high risk, high return ventures. They can revolutionize the way organizations operate and project success often leads to praise and promotion. But failure can be expensive and embarrassing. Below are 10 essential tips for your project survival.

Tip 1: Control uncertainty. What we do not know is far greater than what we can anticipate. Be mindful that your project team may encounter something at any time that can put the project at risk. Expect the unexpected. Use controlling processes to manage issues and project changes and seek to be resilient, rather than flustered, to what life throws at you.

Tip 2: Refine estimates. Project leadership recognizes that estimates made during the first half of the project are inherently imprecise and will need to be refined as the project progresses. If necessary, establish confidence intervals for your task estimates and use “value of perfect information” analyses to establish the project schedule and manage uncertainty.

Tip 3: Frequent “Keep-Kill” reviews. The project emphasizes the importance and cost of upstream work by holding frequent “Keep-Kill” reviews. At each 10% interval of the project timeline or 25% interval, review project status with the sponsor and management authority and make a “Keep-Kill” decision. Identify failing projects early and take action to rescue or terminate the project.

Tip 4: Project Risk Management. The project practices active risk management. Continually assess and plan for technical risks, resource risks, budget risks, and business risks. Spot and resolve problems early and escalate issues when and where required.

Tip 5: Project Risk Officer. The project practices risk management and has an appointed project risk officer. The project has a top ten risks list with a risk plan and with mitigation strategies for each listed risk and risk event. A risk event database is maintained by the project office for review and use by the project organization.

Tip 6: Visibility. The project plans emphasize visibility. The project team, upper management, and the customer keep tabs on major milestones and deliverables. Dashboards and project summary reports are used and maintained to provide visibility into the project status.

Tip 7: Change Management. The project practices change management. Change requests are documented, proposed, and evaluated by the concerned parties prior to being resolved. The project manager should organize and evaluate changes in batches when possible so that the project is not distracted by a constant barrage of change requests.

Tip 8: Project Archives. The project practices post closing process archiving of the project artifacts. Past project archives can be useful for historical information and review. Project artifacts can be reviewed as part of project audit and performance scorecarding to assess whether or not estimated benefits of the product of the project were realized. Project artifacts can also be reviewed for potential reuse in support of new project efforts of similar scope.

Tip 9: Find a mentor. No employee wants to go to their manager for every problem or difficultly that they encounter. For one, there may be the perception that you don’t know how to do your job. And for another, your manager might not be able better at the task at hand than you are, though they will likely not know it and never admit it. Seek to establish a professional relationship with a seasoned expert in project manager. Ask if they would consider being a mentor to you from time to time. In addition to developing project management skills and a project management survival lifeline, you might even develop a significant and lasting friendship.

Tip 10: Are you really a project manager? Be open to the possibility that project management may not be the job or career for you. Many valued contributors arrived at project management by accident. Not everyone has the right mindset for project management, nor enjoys it. If a different job, career, or line of work is more enjoyable and fulfills your professional aspirations, then talk with your manager about making a change. Sometimes the best way to survive at something is to get out of it.

10 Tips For A Successful Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement is the ongoing effort of engaged employees and improvement teams to improve information, materials, products, services or processes. These efforts generally seek small step “incremental” improvement over time or larger quick “breakthrough” improvement and change to improve customer value and reduce non value adding activity thus reducing costs, increasing delivery velocity and remaining competitive or relative in a changing global environment.

Tip 1: Recognize the problem. For most organizations, a change in behavior does not come naturally. Though one might think that continuous improvement would be a natural mind set for an organization implementing project portfolio management, in reality few organizations have a culture of continuous not to mention processes or best practices to facilitate it. Sure, lessons learned are documented as part of project closing, but they are almost always filed away and forgotten rather than acted upon. The first step in establishing a continuous improvement mind set is to recognize the problem. That is, recognize the fact that your organization does not have or could do quite better exhibiting a continuous improvement mind set.

Tip 2: Establish an enduring culture. For continuous improvement to work, there must be a relentless focus on and commitment to getting things right. Adaptability and an action oriented leadership team are inherent components of a continuous improvement culture. Resistance to change exists in all organizations to a degree and it must be recognized for what it is, an impediment to improvement.

Tip 3: Think Kaizen and Cross the Chasm. Many people advocate Kaizen oriented thinking and behavior where continual small, incremental improvements provide tremendous benefits in performance and end results achieved over time. Others advocate a Crossing the Chasm mind set where drastic change is introduced completely replacing inefficient execution rather than slightly improving upon it. In a continuous improvement culture, there is room for both approaches. And often, after achieving the mega change that is made possible when Crossing the Chasm improvement initiatives are implemented, a Kaizen mind set is required to refine, sustain, and continually improve upon such change.

Tip 4: Facilitate process-centric thinking. Process-centric thinking does not have to be overly complex. Sometimes, all it takes is a thoughtful examination to uncover significant areas for improvement. Rather than tolerating mistakes and repeat errors, facilitate process-centric thinking to continually improve, correct, and overcome execution difficulties.

Tip 5: Educate the workplace. Like any other business strategy, ongoing education of the workplace is critical in establishing awareness, developing skills, and institutionalizing the needed mindset and behaviors to bring about effective change. It is no different with Continuous Improvement. Expect and overcome resistance to change with ongoing training, reinforcement of expected behaviors, and recognition of those who are learning and doing.

Tip 6: Ensure a penalty-free exchange of ideas. In many organizations, expressing one’s opinion on how to do things better may not necessarily be a welcomed activity. Management can feel threatened or pressured to act resulting in immediate resistances. And, those expressing ideas may be viewed as complainers or trouble makers. In such an environment, it doesn’t take long for the potential risks of making a suggestion to stifle enthusiasm and participation in improvement oriented thinking. Ensuring a penalty-free exchange of ideas is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver of new ideas and approaches and will ensure a safe two way exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Tip 7: Use a consistent approach for projects. A consistent and structured approach for project identification and execution will provide the organization with the ability to identify, select, and manage continuous improvement projects. The continuous improvement project process should also provide post-closing process steps to continually refine the improvement project methodology and to act upon the lessons learn from the project effort.

Tip 8: Measure performance. It is not possible to improve what is not measured. Determine in advance the approach and techniques to be used in measurements. Scorecards can be useful to monitor the key performance indicators of processes that support capability and performance.

Tip 9: Communication planning. Ensure regular communications to foster collaborative interactions among leaders, stakeholders, and practitioners at all levels. Take advantage of communications techniques appropriate for the information being conveyed. Where needed, schedule face to face meetings and where not needed, use the communication and collaboration tools and capabilities of the enterprise to keep all members updated and involved.

Tip 10: Establish core values. Establish the core values that comprise the continuous improvement culture such as a focus on supporting the customer, teamwork throughout the extended enterprise, receptivity to evolving continuous improvement concepts and tools. These core values will create a sense of belonging and a common vision for all involved.

Critical Factors For A Successful PMO

To ensure a successful startup and continuance of the PMO, the following activities should be supported:

  1. Partner with senior management to plan and dynamically manage the organization’s change from what it is now to a new, where project management (PM) is the primary means of accomplishing the organization’s strategic goals in all levels of the organization.
  2. Make sure that the management understands and accepts that the PMO will be evolving over time, on a consistent pace with the organization’s ability to manage the change affecting their PM maturity.
  3. Management is committed to ensuring the PMO is accepted and supported at all levels of the organization.
  4. Ensure that PMO implementation plan is consistent and aligns with corporate goals and objectives.
  5. Ensure the PMO implementation budget is in alignment with enterprise funding goals and objectives.
  6. Ensure deployment of resources is in alignment with corporate goals and objectives.
  7. Ensure risks associated with the PMO implementation are assessed and managed.
  8. Information, communication, and reporting structure support the EPMO implementation.
  9. Ensure the project planning execution and configuration are consistent with corporate goals and objectives.
  10. Provide personnel evaluation system that reinforces project management as a team strategy in the company’s business philosophy.
  11. Facilitate project feasibility determination and project initiation of work-in-progress and future work that is defined as “projects”. The PMO shall lead and facilitate the evaluation and feasibility of Program/ project portfolio management as it relates to strategic decision-making in support of new projects during the project initiation phase.
  12. Define PM core competencies and PM skills as a part of an internal qualification and certification process for project managers within the organization.
  13. To support the growth and development of the project team staffing, education and training.
  14. Provide a home for career path project managers and the project management support staff.
  15. The PMO shall be responsible for the determination and oversight of “special projects” that are mission critical to the strategic direction of the company or where such projects have or could have a pervasive impact on the corporate goals and objectives.
  16. The PMO shall ensure the funding gates and limits are constant with an approved schedule of values.
  17. The PMO shall lead and facilitate project close-out, lessons learned, process improvement, better estimating, building and using models for strategic decision making.