Project managers need to be able to manage dependencies because otherwise project delivery is at risk. If you don’t know what items your project relies on from other projects or teams, you can’t plan and manage that work. It falls outside of your project, but not your sphere of influence and it’s important to control dependencies as far as you are able.
Of course, some dependencies also fall within your own project: these are the ones that other project managers are relying on. While your project might be able to succeed regardless of the situation with these tasks, the business as a whole requires you to work with other projects and take a holistic view of how all projects fit together.
The first step in being able to manage something is being able to identify it. A workshop is a good idea: invite other project managers from your programme or department and work together to see how your projects interact. Your programme manager, if you have one, will be in a perfect position to facilitate this discussion. However, many project divisions don’t have programmes structured like that, or you may believe that your project has dependencies on or with a project that falls outside of the programme. So ask around widely and involve the necessary parties.
You can discuss dependencies within your project at a scheduled team meeting. Get your team together and talk about how their tasks relate to one another. People should be clear about what role they have in ensuring tasks are delivered on time, especially when other people are waiting on them to complete their work. Read more »
When you are really busy, where should you focus your attention as a project manager? It’s unrealistic to think that you can achieve everything. If you are anything like me you’ll have a really long To Do list and no real chance of getting it all done by the end of the month, let alone the end of the day.
Prioritisation is the answer. It’s the only way that you’ll get what needs to happen done while not letting anyone down. When you have to decide between project activities, these are the essentials: communication, risk management, team management and scheduling. If I have to decide what to drop on any given day, it won’t be one of these.
Project management is probably around 80% communication. You communicate with your team, with stakeholders, with your project sponsor, with end users, with other departments and subject matter experts and professional groups outside of your company such as government and regulatory bodies. In fact, you never stop communicating: there is always someone who wants the latest status report or the chance to stop you in the corridor and ask for an ad hoc status update.
The best way to manage your communications is to have a clear plan (you can read 7 steps to a good communications plan here). The benefit of having a good communications plan for your project is that it automates some of the thinking, leaving you to get on with the doing. Spending time on your project comms plan upfront will save you lots of time later, so it’s certainly a task worth doing well. Read more »
Value management is something that project managers should be aware of. In fact, the Association for Project Management in the UK has a specific interest group dedicated to value management. It’s a structured approach to defining what value means to a business and that’s essential to make sure that projects are aligned to strategy. A value management framework should give you the ability to define what your company needs, any problems and opportunities and then take these and review what the right solution should be.
Sounds difficult? The main problem with value management is that it’s subjective. And that applies whether you are dealing with what the company values as a whole (like “we value environmental credentials”) or at a project level (such as “As your sponsor I value quality over budget on this project”). Different people will have a different view of what is important. At corporate level you would expect there to be some kind of agreement and strategic take on what the company values – that’s essential as it can help prioritise projects (criteria around value should be part of the project selection process). But at project level when you are dealing with a number of different stakeholders it can be difficult to get agreement about what’s important. Read more »
I’ve read How to be a Productivity Ninja this year in a bid to become more productive. The author, Graham Allcott, shares some strategies for making the most of your time, one of which is the CORD model of productivity. I think this is a great tool for project managers so here is a brief explanation of what it is all about.
C: Capture and Collect
In this step you capture all the stuff that you think you might have to do, or useful notes. In the project environment, that could be notes from a chance conversation in the corridor with your project finance manager, or the minutes of your project board meeting. It could also be emails, post, things that come up from phone calls or ideas that you get in the shower about how to deal with that difficult project risk. Anything, really.
Got any presentations coming up? Sometimes it feels as if I’m constantly giving presentations, to different stakeholder groups and individuals. What matters during a project presentation is that you meet the objectives for the presentation so that your audience – whether that’s one person or 1000 – go away knowing what they need to know and having their questions answered.
If you are new to giving stakeholder presentations on your projects here are some tips to help.
Know your audience
You may have heard this before, but it is really important. An audience of senior managers isn’t going to want to know about the issue with the code you found last week or how the construction contract is working out. They will want to know what it means for them and their teams in terms of sales, customer service and the big picture. They want to know what they have to do now to take advantage of the new project deliverables and how to help their own staff through the changes.
On the other hand, an audience of end users will want to know exactly how their work processes will change as a result of your project and you’ll probably get a lot of technical or functional questions relating to their day-to-day work.
Focus on whatever is important to your audience and make sure you anticipate the kind of questions that they will ask. Read more »