Archive for November, 2009

PostHeaderIcon The Art of Giving Thanks

It doesn't have to be complicated

It doesn't have to be complicated

It shouldn’t be hard but giving thanks to team members doesn’t always come easy to project managers. Yet those two small words “thank you” can sustain an individual’s drive and enthusiasm long after the project is completed.

Whether for overcoming adversity, going the extra mile for the customer, infusing the team with drive and energy or just plain hard work, thanking contributors for all forms of outstanding performance should be high on the daily watch-list of any project manager.

Acknowledgement should be expressed in the following ways:

Honestly

  • If it doesn’t come from the heart it won’t be valued. And mixed messages, such as conflicting verbal and non-verbal communication, imply insincerity – thanks that will be quickly discounted by its recipient.

Consistently

  • Recognizing one person’s achievement but overlooking another’s is the swiftest way to divide a team. Staying in touch with the challenges on the ground and paying attention to what’s really going on in the team is crucial.

Openly

  • There’s no point in keeping gratitude behind closed doors. Proclaim it, proudly. Thanking someone publicly, in front of the team, demonstrates how important it really is and sends a meaningful message that inspires and motivates.

A little thanks goes a long way.

PostHeaderIcon The Best Way to Identify Risks

There are several methods for identifying project risks but the best approach involves the team (at least the core team members and any relevant SMEs and/or PMO staff) and considers the following:

  • History (review past projects of a similar nature – surprising how often this is missed)
  • Context (assess the stakeholders, implementation environment and constraints)
  • Boundaries (review the project’s SOW, scope and deliverables)
  • Details (review the WBS, dependencies, estimates and resourcing)

The Nominal Group Technique

To get optimum input on possible project risks, there is no better team method than NGT. It leverages the advantage of multiple perspectives, can be done relatively quickly and avoids all the pitfalls of brainstorming, which is over-used and usually poorly facilitated. Here’s how NGT works for risk identification:

  1. Each individual reviews history, context, boundaries and details (as defined above) and writes down their own list of possible risks – i.e. with no interaction between members
  2. With the team grouped together, all identified risks are then captured by going around the team, taking the first item on each person’s list, then around again capturing the second item and so on until all items have been captured
  3. Duplicates are removed from the consolidated list and descriptions clarified as needed
  4. Each person reviews all the risks captured and the team decides if any should be removed the listing, on the basis of being extremely unlikely AND with little or no impact

Once this process is complete, the team can move to assessing the severity of the remaining risks, prioritizing them and defining response strategies to manage them.

Lots of Benefits, not much Downside

Using NGT is a great way of aligning the team on project risks. Its thorough, avoids groupthink, rapidly builds awareness, avoids jumping prematurely into risk analysis and prevents outspoken individuals unduly dominating the final risk list.

PostHeaderIcon Project or Program?

Is my project actually a program? Its a question sometimes asked by project managers unsure of whether their project has the right management approach. Oftentimes it is the lack of a clear distinction between the terms “project” and “program” that causes confusion. While “program” is usually associated with an initiative of larger scale, size alone is an inadequate differentiator – there are plenty of large projects that do not necessarily require program management practices.

The Project-Program Continuum

In reality we cannot easily draw a line between the two since the project-program transition occurs on a continuum, not a discrete point of separation.  Also, this continuum really comprises a number of parameters beyond natural considerations of size and cost – the graphic below may help to clarify:

Mapping an initiative against each of these factors may provide some guidance as to how it should be managed.  The more scores to the right side, the more likely that program planning, control and oversight methods would be appropriate.

Ultimately, a key question to ask is: “Can we obtain better control and better outcomes by managing as a program?”