Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues
Linda Agyapong
Joanna Newman

Past Contributers:

Jorge Vald├ęs Garciatorres
Hajar Hamid
Dan Goldfischer
Saira Karim
Jim De Piante
Geoff Mattie
sanjay saini
Judy Umlas
Abdiel Ledesma
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Alfonso Bucero
Kelley Hunsberger
William Krebs
Peter Taylor
Rebecca Braglio
Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL

Recent Posts

Do You Understand the Critical Path Method?

Find Purpose to Unlock Exceptional Performance

What is project success?

Predicting Performance: There Must Be a Better Way

Driving Diversity of Perspective

The Benefits of Sprint 0

Categories: Agile, Project Planning

By Christian Bisson, PMP

As most of you know, scrum works in iterations called “sprints” that can vary in duration depending on the product. However, there is some debate about what people call a “Sprint 0”: a sprint used for planning or prework deliverables that will help launch Sprint 1.

There are no one-size-fits-all ways to work, but personally I believe Sprint 0 is necessary in many cases. Here’s why:

A Minimum of Planning

One big difference between waterfall and agile is how planning works. Waterfall tends to focus a lot (sometimes too much) on planning, while agile tends to be the opposite. For most projects with lots of unknowns, planning too much will be a waste of time because the project will evolve and most of the work done in advance will be wasted. That’s why you plan as you go in agile.

However, when you start a product from scratch (e.g., a website, software, etc.), there are many decisions that will affect the entire product development — some of which can block developers from coding on day one. For example, what is the best programming language/framework to use? Teams need development environments amongst several other tools. This setup can use up a lot of time and prevents work from gettting done if nothing is available. Sprint 0 becomes crucial to give the team time to prepare so they can code properly from the start.

Sprint 0 helps with that by providing a first iteration that allows the team to plan enough for Sprint 1, whether with analysis, wireframes, designs, etc.

Team Orientation 

Chances are, the team has never worked together before. The Sprint 0 approach can help the team set up and get to know each other, which will help them at the sprint planning of Sprint 1.

Other factors to consider are estimating tasks, timing of ceremonies, understanding everyone’s role and so on — all important elements that make or break a team’s efficiency.

It’s also a perfect opportunity for the scrum master to get the lay of the land and identify where to focus first to help the team.

Many would argue that value should be delivered at the end of a sprint.  And Sprint 0 does not offer that to the stakeholders, which is true. However, not much real value will be delivered from a Sprint 1 that is wasted by the complete lack of preparation!

 

What are your thoughts on Sprint 0?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: April 13, 2018 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Award Winning Metrics For 2018

 

Award-Winning Metrics For 2018  

by Kevin Korterud

What are the best metrics for determining if a project is about to experience schedule, budget or quality slippages? These metrics are best categorized as delivery volatility metrics.

 

Executives already know when a project is in trouble — they are more concerned with those projects whose trajectory is on a currently unseen course to trouble.

 

PMI offers guidance on project metrics to help detect delivery volatility, such as the Cost Performance Indicator and Earned Value Management. While project reporting will likely have one or more of these metrics, I got to thinking what other metrics would indicate the potential of delivery volatility.

 

An additional complication is the various approaches used today, including agile, waterfall, company custom, software product, service supplier and regulatory. These can all generate their own set of metrics.

 

While pondering this question watching TV one evening, I noticed a multitude of movie, theater, television and music award shows that tend to occur this time of year. A characteristic of these shows is the numerous categories that are awarded to nominees — Best Supporting Actress, Best New Pop Group, Best Special Effects and so on.

 

As I was organizing my thoughts around metrics, I figured: Why not use award show categories to help shape an answer on which metrics would best suit early detection of delivery volatility?

 

As the Master Of Ceremonies for the 2018 Project Metrics Award show, here are a few of the winners:

 

 

  1. Best Supporting Traditional Metric: Schedule Performance Indicator (SPI)!

 

As our projects become more complex and more numerous, the ability to deliver on a set schedule becomes more important. The SPI has the great benefit of comparing actual and planned progress in an objective manner: earned value/planned value.

 

The true power of SPI comes into play when selecting a method for earned value accumulation. Assuming work plans are at a level of granularity where task progress can be measured within a two to four week window, a conservative earned value scheme such as 0%/100%, 25%/75% based on task start and completion is a very objective means of calculating progress.

 

With these conservative schemes, you capture value when the tasks have started (when resources are truly free to work on tasks) and whether the task has been completed (usually with acceptance of completion by a project manager or stakeholder).

 

Given today’s tight delivery timeframes, as well as the need to coordinate delivery with other projects, SPI is a good indicator as to the schedule fitness of a project.

 

 

2. Best Supporting Emerging Metric: Functional Progress Metrics!

 

As I shared above, there are now a multitude of methods available to run projects. From these methods, all sorts of new metrics are available to project managers to identify delivery volatility. These metrics can include completed user stories, forecast backlog, project burndown, build objects, test case performance and many others.

 

In addition to these new metrics, a whole host of new waterfall, agile and other tools have come into play that capture functional progress outside of the traditional work plan tasks and milestones. In fact, work plan detail requirements can be relaxed when these tools are used to shed light on the functional progress of a project.

 

The power of these functional metrics is that they allow the next level of inspection underlying project phases, tasks and milestones to see delivery trajectory. For example, being able to see the detailed completion progress of requirements, build objects and test cases in automated tools allows project managers to catch underlying barriers to progress before it is revealed in a work plan. 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Best Metric For 2018: Planned vs. Actual Deliverables!

As project managers, the universal outcome for our efforts is that we need to create value for our project executives and stakeholders. While activities can lead to creating value, our mission revolves around the production of deliverables in a timely manner to fulfill a project value proposition.

The inherent power in providing and approving deliverables in a timely manner is that they are completely objective means of progress. No matter what method, effort, dependencies, resources, tools or other constructs of project management are employed, deliverables are an indicator of whether you are making progress. The track of deliverables being created, reviewed and approved on schedule means you are making definitive progress toward value.

Creating a track of deliverables and their targeted completion dates with progress that can be monitored through other metrics allows a universally understood path to project completion. For example, if a deliverable has not yet been approved by stakeholders, you are making visible a potential schedule delay that would impair future work activities.  

 

To host your own 2018 project metrics award show, one does not need a spotlight or trophies. You just need to think about what metrics can serve to detect early signs of delivery volatility beyond the self-declared green/yellow/red stoplights that are typically found in project status reports.

 

If you were handing out your very own 2018 project metrics awards, what categories would you select? What would win? 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: February 17, 2018 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

A Guide to Perfect Planning

Categories: Project Planning, Strategy

A Guide to Perfect Planning

We are well aware that good planning leads to smooth execution and early delivery. Most of us, however, still fast track the planning phase and jump into execution. The result is often a downward spiral of issues, defects and rework.

So why do we do this?

I have observed that most project managers are not clear on what exactly needs to be planned. At the same time, we often lose patience because planning takes time with no quick tangible results.

Here is my road map for a successful planning process.

Step 1: Write down the business case.

If we don’t know what the problem is, we can’t solve it. As project managers, we must understand the problem that’s going to be solved through the project and what the expected benefit to the organization will be. Until we understand it, we may not achieve the solution despite meeting all stated requirements. Writing a business case is the foundation of the planning.

Step 2: Establish objectives.

A lot has been written already on setting objectives, so I will limit myself. Objectives should be driven by the business case. We should set objectives that, if achieved, ensure the complete problem is resolved.

Objectives should be:

  • Very specific so that they are easy to understand.
  • Quantifiable so that we can demonstrate the success at the end.
  • Time bound as our project has an end date. 

Step 3: Set expectations with stakeholders.

Identifying all stakeholders and understanding their requirements is important for project managers. However, this may not be enough. Stakeholders often have expectations that they may not explicitly lay out but use as part of their assessment process. My customer, for example, may set expectations based on his past experience with a previous vendor. He or she may not share it with me as these expectations are not firm and not backed by anything substantial.  The best way to reset these expectations is to set new expectations with the stakeholder. By setting these new expectations, I nullify expectations coming from my customer’s previous experience and set a fresh ground for performance assessment.

Step 4: Kick off your project.

The main purpose of the kickoff is to let everyone know about the project, what support the project needs from them, and when we will need that support. It’s also important to present our strategy, high-level plan and project needs to all stakeholders and ask them what inputs they need from us to provide required support.

Step 5: Prepare a project management plan.

What planning documents like schedule, risk register, communications plan etc. do for project executing team, project management plan does for project management team. It creates a roadmap for the project management team and provides clear guidance to prepare planning documents. For example, a risk management plan—a component of project management plan—describes a methodology for identifying risk, a system for monitoring those risk, a format for the risk register, and tools and techniques to prepare the risk register and risk response plan.

Step 6: Prepare a meticulous work breakdown structure (WBS).  

The WBS is the foundation of further project planning. And the better the WBS, the better the plan. All project team members must participate in developing a WBS with necessary and sufficient details.

Step 7: Prepare planning documents.

Now we have all the building blocks to prepare planning documents such as schedule, budget, resource plan, communication plan, procurement plan, quality plan, risk register etc. Planning documents will guide the project team throughout execution and, if meticulously prepared, guarantee project success.

Planning takes time, so consider a progressive approach. By planning the first phases and kicking it off, you may help your team produce early results and buy time for the meticulous planning required for subsequent phases.

What tips do you have for successful project planning? Please share your experience in the comments below. I look forward to reading about your experiences.

Posted by Vivek Prakash on: December 13, 2017 08:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

The Importance of Iteration

by Christian Bisson, PMP

We’ve all encountered them on a project or two: stakeholders that want everything right away.

The result of this rush is often lots of money invested, a tight schedule, negative impact on the quality and frustrated people. But, carefully planned iterations of a project can help avoid the negativities of rushed efforts.

Here’s why:

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

A well thought out MVP is the first iteration of your project. It means planning for the smallest scope possible, keeping in mind that it still needs to bring business value.

Let’s say you’re building a website. In this scenario, you’d identify the main features your website should have — based on goals — and focus on those instead of spreading the effort on all the features that might seem great to have.

There are many advantages to the MVP approach:

  • It can be deployed much faster compared to the complete scope.
  • You can monitor your project in action (ex. Google Analytics).
  • You can gather valuable feedback from people who use it.

Room to Adjust

Since you haven’t spent all the budget on the entire scope — and you now have precious data gathered from various sources — you can plan based on facts rather than hypotheses.

For example, after the MVP is deployed, you might have planned to work on a new feature. However, if new data suggests that the main feature of your project is not quite user friendly and needs adjustments, you can prioritize the adjustment and quickly add more value to your project compared to adding a new feature that might be less important.

Deploy When Ready

The MVP is only the first of many iterations. Do not fall back into the trap of building everything before you deploy your first update. Using the example above, if the first feature is actively affecting the quality of your project, adjust it and deploy right away. That way you will gain the added value of your improvement right away.

Some might argue that deployments cost money so you shouldn’t deploy all the time, and it’s a fair point. But keep in mind that the cost of those well-planned deployments are negligible compared to all the budget you can waste on a misfocused effort or a wrong hypothesis.

Taking a step-by-step approach to project management is crucial to the long-term success of projects. How do you manage the iterative or MVP approach? 

Posted by Christian Bisson on: November 04, 2017 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

3 Tips to Enhance Your Leadership IQ

By Peter Tarhanidis

The boards I serve have common opportunities and challenges revolving around promoting a brand, balancing the operating budget and growing capital. Yet, while flawless leadership is expected, in actuality it is difficult to sustain.

As I reflected on why many organizations were challenged around execution, I realized that executives must improve their leadership intelligence around three key factors to enable success:

  1. Improve speed and quality. When leaders struggle to make quick or quality decisions, it’s often viewed as not having the right team in place, or not having enough intelligence on the matter or the specific responsibilities related to the decision. One can increase cognitive abilities through investing in formal education, training and access to subject matter experts to gain the necessary knowledge.
  2. Repair team alienation and restore loss of confidence. Building trust in teams can improve leadership intelligence. Commit to a path of restoring relationships by understanding yourself and others. Assess emotional intelligence techniques to gain self-awareness and rationale for team motivation.
  3. Become aware of stakeholders on social media. Thanks to social media, a large audience judges every executive decision. Expand stakeholder relationship management to include communication and change management via social media channels. Seek out team members who are knowledgeable in social media so that they can proactively engage stakeholders and integrate feedback to reduce blind spots.

In my experience as a mentor and leadership coach, these tips can help align decision-making, leader accountability and stakeholder engagement to the needs of the customers, and improve the overall culture of the organization. As a result, the brand will come to life.

How have you improved your leadership intelligence?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: September 06, 2017 10:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)
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