Project Management

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from RebelsGuideToPM.com.

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What’s happening in Q3?

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What’s happening in Q3?

Quarter 3 of a calendar year is July, August and September. Your business year might not follow the same quarters, but wherever you are in your business year, it’s probably the right time to be looking ahead at what needs to come next. Here are 3 focus areas for Quarter 3.

3 focus areas for quarter 3

Forward planning

Begin strategising and planning for high-priority projects in the upcoming quarters. That might look like warming up stakeholders, seeing who is going to be available to work on upcoming projects, doing some light discovery work or pre-initiation investigation, especially on the areas that are likely to take the most time such as procurement and contract negotiations, or getting suppliers to submit security information and forms, or the RFP process. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything!)

Involving the team in these discussions can help maintain their focus on future goals and the bigger picture, while hopefully getting you a head start when you come to get those projects going in earnest.

Process optimisation

There’s never a right time to optimise processes, in my experience. The process is in use and it works, so often it feels better to sort out something that is broken, or that is strategically important. But those inefficient processes contribute to low staff morale and wasting time, month after month, so it’s worth scheduling some time to put some effort in. Each quarter, tackle one point or a couple of points, and soon you’ll build up a momentum and improvements.

So how do we do this? Analyse the project management processes and methodologies. Look for inefficiencies or bottlenecks in workflows that could be streamlined for better performance in busier times. I would look through the lessons learned from recent projects and see what’s highlighted there that could be improved.

Ideally, you’d do a full analysis of all possible problems and highlight one or two from the priority list, but in reality that’s a load of work before you see any improvements. A better option might be to just trust your team. If they are telling you that the change control process is a pain in the behind, just focus in on that for now. Improve what is causing people the most headaches, and trust me, they’ll have an opinion on what that is if you ask them.

Tool use

Do a quick review of who is still using the project management software tools you have. People move on so it might be time to claw back licences from users who are no longer in the business or who have changed roles. And other people might benefit from having the licences.

On the topic of forward planning for the quarter, look at what projects are coming up and whether your current licence package is adequate. You might need to add in more licences if you’ve got more projects or more stakeholders needing access to the tools.

If you foresee a need to add in more users, it might be worth scheduling the training for them now so they can hit the ground running when they get their own account.

What else would you be doing at this time to feel prepared for the upcoming months ahead? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on: June 11, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Navigating the Summer Slowdown: Maintaining Momentum in Project Teams

Categories: Goals, Leadership, Scheduling, Teams

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re seeing the beginnings of a long-awaited summer. I seem to have been affected by the change in season this year more than ever before and I can’t tell you how glad I am to have longer, lighter evenings.

Image credit: ChatGPT

However, the summer days come with a different kind of challenge for project teams. I’d rather be in the garden redoing the rockery than behind my desk in a stuffy office, and I’m sure I’m not alone. How do we keep project teams engaged and productive during the summer months, when vacations and a general slowdown in business activity can impact momentum? And when our momentum might be waning as well?

Here are some tips to share with your team.

Flexible scheduling

Now is the time to be as flexible as possible with work arrangements, especially if your team is in a location where it’s only likely to get hotter (and they don’t have air conditioning). Maybe team members could start earlier or work later into the cooler evenings, taking a Spanish siesta-style approach to the working day.

Remote working is your friend – no one wants to be stuck in a tube or on the metro on a sweltering day.

Fill the slump

Many clients – and even internal customers – might be slowing down work requirements because their core team members are taking a summer vacation. If you’re finding the team with less to do at this time of year, use the slower period for training, team-building activities, or focusing on long-term strategic projects that require deeper thinking and planning.

Perhaps now is the time to get your PMP® certification or take the next professional development step in your career. Or simply organise a step-a-thon: we did one at work recently and the competitive factor was a great motivator for getting out at lunchtime (although most of my steps were done on the spot marching! Still, it all counts!). It was also a team challenge that we could all do independently and remotely.

Get mentoring

Have you thought about mentoring? Set up some mentorship pairings within the team or organisation. Summer slowdowns can provide the perfect timing for these relationships to develop without the pressure of project deadlines.

Carry out mid-year reviews

There’s still work to do, even if it seems like everyone else is out of the office! Schedule your mid-year reviews for the team, or if you don’t have direct reports, make the time to write recommendations and feedback for the colleagues you have worked with and send them to the relevant managers.

Health checks and audits

Not got a team to check in with? Why not check in on your projects instead?

Use any time you have to review the progress and health of ongoing projects. Identify any areas for improvement, risks you might have missed first time round, or changes needed. This could involve revisiting the project scope, timelines, and resource allocations. And most importantly, keeping your records up to date. Forgot to log that change? Do it now before someone asks you about it!

It might feel luxurious to have a slower period – and I know you might be reading this thinking, “What is this slowdown she is talking about?” I have felt that each year gets faster and faster, but I remember back to working in France when Paris emptied during August and I still feel certain industries and locations have seasonal ups and downs.

If summer isn’t your slower period, why not put these ideas to one side for year end or whenever your team has its slower point. They will still be worth doing then too.

Posted on: June 06, 2024 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Quarterly review time: How was your Q1?

We’re almost at the end of quarter 1, so it’s time to reflect on how the first 3 months of the year. Here are some suggestions on what you could be doing now.

Reflect on personal goals

Did you set personal New Year’s resolutions? I’m not a big fan of resolutions as I think we can start new habits whenever, and January is a particularly bleak time of year in this part of the world, so not necessarily the best time to be trying to do new things when all you want to do is huddle under a blanket with hot chocolate.

However, maybe you did set some personal goals for this year, or a word of the year. How are you doing with that? If you’re doing well, how are you going to maintain that momentum? And if things haven’t started out as well as you would have hoped, how are you going to make the next 3 months any different?

Reflect on professional goals

This is also a good point to reflect on professional goals, like earning a certification. I have talked to people who wanted to achieve something (like sitting an exam) and then found the year has gone by so quickly they haven’t managed to make any time for it.

If the first 3 months of this year have sped past without you making up much ground on your professional goals, take a look at how you can break those down into smaller, achievable chunks and schedule the time to do the work.

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Reflect on your objectives

The professional development and performance management process in many organisations requires setting objectives at the beginning of the year. If you have had objectives set, it might be too early to have really made much progress towards fully achieving them.

However, you can make sure that you are clear about what they are, when they have to be achieved by, and what you should be doing to complete them. For example, schedule time for any courses you need to take, or block out some time to review progress monthly. If necessary, book quarterly reviews with your manager or mentor to go through the objectives and refresh them – I recommend getting these in the diary now as people’s calendars fill up remarkably quickly.

You might find it helpful to print out your objectives so you can carry them round with you or have them pinned up next to your desk. Then you’ll be able to check in regularly and remind yourself of the progress still required.

Another thing to start doing is making a note of the actions you have completed that count towards your performance review at the end of the year. Will you really remember what you did in February when you sit down with your manager in December or January next year? Probably not. Use this time (and block out an hour in your diary once a month) to update your objectives with a progress report.

Save any nice emails or examples of evidence you can use to show that you have achieved the objectives.

Get ready for quarter 2!

Next, put some time in your diary to do the exact same exercise in 3 months, when quarter 2 comes to a close. Regular reviews are an easy way to stay on top on your objectives – or at least identify where you are not able to meet the targets, giving you the chance to put plans into action or change them before it becomes a problem.

Posted on: March 18, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
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