I don’t use mind mapping software often because I nearly always have a notebook and pen with me and prefer to take notes that way. I also ‘think in lists’ rather than visually so mind mapping isn’t a natural structure for me to use. I have sat next to people at conferences who have mind mapped a presentation instead of taking linear notes like me and it is fascinating to watch.
However, recently I’ve been looking into it more. I have less time available (doesn’t everyone?) and it is more convenient to take notes directly into a software tool so I don’t have to retype them when I get back to the office or out of the meeting. And running workshops really does need some kind of mind mapping tool when you are trying to generate ideas from the people in the room. So I’ve been considering why I would use the modern type of mind mapping product and come up with these 5 reasons. Read more »
If you’ve been working as a project manager for some time, you’ll probably remember the days when all your project team sat together in the same office. In fact, you may still have that, especially if you work in an Agile environment. There are certainly plenty of benefits of having your team around you.
But for many project managers, that isn’t the reality any more. Project teams are increasingly split and project managers have to manage their resources from wherever they are in the world. Add to that an increase in people with flexible working options, the requirement to work from home or from the road and you’ll realise that it’s essential for project managers to be able to collaborate effectively with their team mates, regardless of location or time zone. So how do you do that? Here are 5 easy ways to collaborate with your colleagues.
1. Share your files online
Online document storage has to be the easiest way to get everyone using the same files and to avoid miscommunication. Don’t waste time looking for the latest copy of the project plan or hunting through emails for the most recent version. Store everything online and then the whole team will be able to see the latest revision of your plan.
With everyone being able to see and work on the latest version you’ll save time and stop some of the general queries that project managers have to deal with every day. A tool like Seavus Project Viewer, which enables cloud-based online document sharing, will help with this.
Your project team doesn’t collaborate, the business users don’t know what’s going on and the project is still being reported as ‘green’ with no issues. If this situation sounds familiar then you really need to get a grip on team collaboration as soon as you can, as that lovely ‘green’ status won’t last for very long!
Here are 3 ways to improve team collaboration on your project.
1. Integrate, integrate, integrate
Don’t expect your team to go to lots of different places for their project information. Choose a planning solution like Seavus Project Viewer v10 which integrates with Google Drive and SkyDrive. It also has the ability to import and export from Microsoft Sharepoint and all of this means that it’s possible for your team members to have one central system from which they access all or the majority of their project information.
This will avoid them having to log in to email for some documents, a shared network drive for others, then accessing an online site for more data. Having it all accessible through one central interface ensures that the team saves time and that they are encouraged to work together.
On a technical project, it would be nice to think that we could swap out resources at any point in the project to meet whatever need arises on our engagement. We all know that requirements change, or a change order comes up that necessitates a different skill set than what we might have available to us at the moment.
Does your project suddenly need a database expert on the spot? Bingo! You get one at the spur of the moment. You and I both know that isn’t going to happen. And even if you can get that database expert for two weeks starting three weeks from now when he frees up from his current project assignment, you’ll have to perform some on boarding work to get the resource up to speed on the project, the requirements, the customer, and anything else relevant to the work they will be performing. Likely, you’re going to need them again later in the project during some user acceptance testing (UAT) support period or for final testing of the solution before deployment.
Utilizing your existing team
So, how do you solve this urgent need cost effectively, time efficiently, and without disrupting the flow of the project and the chemistry of the current project team and customer relationship? My suggestion is to look at your current project team. Your project is already staffed with capable technical resources who have connections within the organization. And, chances are, they have at least some minor gaps in their workload – at least times when they aren’t quite as busy as others. They are already assigned to you so they aren’t going anywhere. And they are already both intimately aware of the project requirements including the current technical need at hand AND the project customer and their wants, needs, and quirks. They may not be a database expert, but neither am I and that didn’t stop me from performing database work during one intense two week onsite session at a customer site to help get us through some current issues. As long as they have access to in-house company staff for some question and answers, minor direction or mentoring, and problem resolution, you should be able to fill the need perfectly with someone the customer knows and is already comfortable with.
And one more thing…even though the project resources are usually not my direct report resources, I consider their personal development and well-being to be at least partly my responsibility while they are serving on my project. If someone on my team is up to the task of taking on this role and wants to do it to grow their skills and I believe that they can do it productively for the good of the project while still handling their other assigned tasks, then I’m definitely in favor of it. If shifting some project tasks around is necessary, that’s fine as well as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the budget, schedule, or customer satisfaction.
Sometimes we get too caught up in ‘roles’ and ‘skill sets’ while looking at project resources as warm bodies that are filling these project needs. In reality they are human beings and seasoned professionals who are more often than not looking for opportunities to grow, acquire new skills, add to their resume and make work even more interesting by adding a new twist like this. As project managers we need to recognize this and look first to our current project team to fill this periodic need in order to be both good stewards of our project budgets and to give our team opportunities for new experiences.
PMI’s latest research, Why Good Strategies Fail: Lessons for the C-Suite, was recently published. The report was developed with The Economist Intelligence Unit and it looks at the gap between strategy development and strategy implementation at global organisations.
We all think that having a strategy is a good idea. Even the smallest businesses have a business plan. So the finding that 88% of executives believe that delivering on strategic plans is important does not come as a big surprise. What is interesting, though, is that the study uncovers that many organisations aren’t achieving their strategic plans, and one of the main reasons for that is because executives in the C-suite (that’s Chief Executive Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Financial Officers and so on) don’t engage with the strategy.
The gap between strategy and implementation
Over 60% of the people who responded to the survey said that their companies find it hard to bridge the gap between strategy formulation – coming up with the good ideas that make a strategy – and the day-to-day implementation – carrying out projects that deliver on that strategy. That’s a big disconnect between the people who come up with a strategic direction for the company and the people who actually carry out the initiatives – mainly project managers and operational managers.
Over 40% of strategic initiatives carried out in the last 3 years did not succeed, according to the PMI research. That’s a lot of projects that are failing. Strategic initiatives aren’t always in the form of projects, although they are a lot easier to track and manage if they are consistently managed through a portfolio or program structure and led by an experienced project manager.