The 3 Things That Transcend All Project Approaches
Human Aspects of PM,
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Categories: Agile, Best Practices, Change Management, Communication, Complexity, Facilitation, Generational PM, Government, Human Aspects of PM, Innovation, IT, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Mentoring, New to Project Management, PMOs, Program Management, Project Delivery, Project Failure, Stakeholder, Strategy, Talent Management, Teams
by Dave Wakeman
Recently I had the chance to engage with Microsoft’s social media team about some of the issues I have been covering here. Their team brought up a question you may have asked as well: How do you differentiate between “digital” project management and project management?
It’s an interesting question, because I firmly believe all projects should be delivered within a very similar framework. The framework enables you to make wise decisions and understand the project’s goals and objectives.
I understand that there are many types of project management philosophies: waterfall, agile, etc. Each of these methods has pros and cons. Of course, you should use the method you are most comfortable with and that gives you the greatest likelihood of success.
But regardless of which project management approach you employ, there are three things all practitioners should remember at the outset of every project to move forward with confidence.
Every project needs a clear objective. Even if you aren’t 100-percent certain what the “completed” project is going to look like, you can still have an idea of what you want the project’s initial iteration to achieve. This allows you to begin work with a direction and not just a group of tasks.
So, even if you only have one potential outcome you want to achieve, starting there is better than just saying, “Let’s do these activities and hope something comes out of it.”
Frameworks enable valuable conversations. I love talking about decision-making frameworks for both organizations and teams. They’re valuable not because they limit thought processes, but because they enable you to make decisions based on what you’re attempting to achieve.
Instead of looking at the framework as a checklist, think of it as a conversation you’re having with your project and your team. This conversation enables you to keep moving your project toward its goal.
During the execution phase, it can give you the chance to check the deliverable against your original goals and the current state of the project within the organization. Just never allow the framework to put you in a position where you feel like you absolutely have to do something that doesn’t make sense.
Strong communication is the bedrock. To go back to the question from Microsoft’s social media team about digital vs. regular project management: the key concept isn’t the field or areas that a project takes place in.
No matter what kind of project you’re working on and in which sector you’re in, the critical skill for project success is your ability to communicate effectively with all the project stakeholders.
This skill transcends any specific industry. As many of us have learned, it may constitute about 90 percent of a project manager’s job. You can put this into practice in any project by taking a moment to write down your key stakeholders and the information you need to get across to them. Then put time in your calendar to help make sure you are effective in delivering your communications.
In the end, I don’t think there should be much differentiation between “digital” projects or any other kind of projects. All projects benefit from having a set of goals and ideas that guide them. By trying to distinguish between different project classifications, we lose sight of the real key to success in project management: teamwork and communication.
What do you think?
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by Lung-Hung Chou
For practitioners who manage the construction of green buildings, projects can be complicated by different environmental standards around the world.
Taipei, Taiwan-based Sinotech Engineering Consultants, Inc. (SEC) set out to solve this problem by customizing a Building Information Modeling (BIM) software application used in the engineering and construction industry.
To help its project managers execute a project to build a new research and development building in Taipei, the organization incorporated environmental standards and concepts, along with a work breakdown structure (WBS) and critical chain approach to project management, in innovative ways.
Let’s take a closer look at this project, which PMI’s Taipei, Taiwan chapter recognized with a Project Management Benchmarking Enterprise Award.
A Solution for the Entire Life Cycle
Sinotech’s custom BIM application didn’t only collect different environmental standards for building construction that might apply to the project at hand. It also allowed standards to be applied at each stage of the building's progress from design to completion.
This means that during design, planning and construction phases—and even demolition and disposal—project managers could find the relevant standards and incorporate them into blueprints and project plans. For example, because the research and development building sought U.S. Green Building Council’s Gold LEED certification, the team imported into their plans the standards upon which that certification level is based.
Sinotech’s custom BIM application allows managers to comprehend all applicable environmental requirements throughout the entire life cycle of a building.The idea was to help project managers consider all green standards early in the project so they could be translated into specific design, planning and construction requirements.
This would allow architects and engineers to know—even before a single brick or slab of concrete was laid—if a building would meet a targeted environmental certification. If it wouldn’t meet the certification, inexpensive design changes could be made—and expensive changes after construction was underway could be avoided.
With all design and construction team members given access to the relevant information about green building standards, the custom BIM application strengthened communication—helping teams catch problems early in the project.
The Project Management Connection
By adopting a work breakdown structure (WBS) for all the different standards involved in any given building management project, Sinotech integrated into its BIM system an understanding of project management.
This meant that standards would directly correlate to the work packages required to meet those standards. With complicated environmental standards translated into concrete goals and work packages, managers and workers can avoid being overwhelmed by different levels of requirements and complicated information for each work item.
SEC also built a critical chain project management approach into the application. Suppliers and subcontractors, and the resources they require across the entire supply chain, can be efficiently scheduled in accordance with their cost and co-dependence by integrating an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system into the BIM system. This helps building projects move closer to lean construction.
The End Results
For green building standards to deliver their financial and environmental benefits, they have to be incorporated into every stage of the project.
By facilitating that process, Sinotech brought clear value to the organization’s project. As planned, the new research and development building in Taipei’s Neihu Light Industrial Zone obtained green building certifications including Gold LEED level and Taiwan Architecture & Research Center’s Intelligent Building Silver level and Gold EEWH level.
| In a traditional lessons learned session that is conducted face-to-face, project managers know each person who is present and his or her role on the project.|
But technology today affords us the luxury of being able to do many things online -- such as holding a lessons learned session. We can engage with people across the country or someone who may be sitting right next door. Regardless of where someone is located, we must maintain a cordial and professional manner when we interact online.
When you have dispersed project teams -- and even sometimes otherwise -- getting people to stay focused and not be disrespectful to others in a lessons learned session is a challenge.
To overcome this, set the rules for participating in the session. Make sure participants understand them and agree to them. These rules should include:
When you maintain control of the meeting and employ general courtesy, it keeps the discussion flowing and ensures everyone gets the information needed about lessons to be learned.
How do you maintain control in lessons learned sessions?
| The structured approach of project management can add value to operational IT departments. What makes this work is the approach that the project management office (PMO) or the project management team defines in its project management methodology for release of the systems into production environments.|
Operational departments should execute with a process often referred to as "steady state transfer." This process gives the project team the opportunity to validate all the key production processes such as the support, maintenance cycle, systems restore and sanity testing, which is the basic testing of the system functionality.
Project teams launch the steady state transfer after successful tests show the systems are ready to be released into the production environment.
This validation step -- to ensure that the system processes are well mapped between various support departments -- adds value to the operations teams. The validation step is done during project execution using the steady state transfer process -- and without generating special projects.
This validation step in the project management practice guarantees process interface manuals are updated with any changes to the processes and the test results.
The operational departments work with the project team to complete this task and thus make a smooth transition into the "steady state" of operation.
What processes does your organization use to achieve the same results?
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Read more from Dmitri.
Many of today's agile project teams are distributed around the globe. While simple implementations of agile processes assume co-location, in larger enterprises, this is rarely the case. Selecting tools to assist remote communication helps, but it's not enough.
Here are some human factors to consider, beyond the tools, to work successfully with a distributed team:
Cultural differences can become apparent when working with global talent. Some people are uneasy if some social small talk is omitted as part of doing business. Some are uncomfortable if we don't simply get to the point. This affects agile teams as they implement practices such as self-organization, pair programming, and retrospectives. Remember people's assumptions can vary.
Time-zone differences can be helpful by providing longer hours of coverage. But check with your teams on when they begin and end their workday. Different cultures have different laws and traditions on when to go home. Not all people have private transportation, and not all countries use daylight savings time.
Finding teams in compatible time zones can be an advantage with more hours of coverage, if the hours and needs are remembered. Partnering with teams that are north or south of each other makes this easier because the time difference is less extreme.
Communication differences among distributed teams also require forethought. Agile teams will notice a need for engaging and informative tools in their story grooming, estimating, planning and retrospective meetings.
Telephone calls can be awkward because there is no visual cue as to who is speaking and no person to look at. Also, sound varies for each person depending on if they are in the same conference room, on a speakerphone, using a headset or cell phone. Make it a point to include people on the phone if part of the group is face-to-face.
Video conferences or webcams might be a better option. Be aware of the background so it is not distracting. Also be aware of the lighting quality and direction -- illuminating an attendee's face is better than a dark silhouette.
Spatial user interfaces, which extend traditional graphical user Interfaces by using two or three-dimensional renderings, give people someone to look at and allow positional body language and gestures to convey nonverbal information. However, be sure to allow training time for participants so they can make the most of these environments before needing to concentrate on a meeting.
By using the right tool and having the right mindset, agile teams can work together across wide distances.
How do you work successfully with distributed teams?