Archive for December, 2009

PostHeaderIcon Three Agenda Items for a Lessons Learned Review

Every project should be closed with a proper review of lessons learned. I’m always amazed at the tremendous amount of feedback, ideas and value that comes out of a well run project closeout review session. Regrouping the team for this one final meeting is one of the most important events in the life of the project.

The agenda for this meeting – best run as a facilitated workshop – should comprise these three items:

1 – What Worked?
2 – What did Not Work?
3 – What must we Do Differently Next Time?

Structure for Best Results

Some structure around each of these will maximize the quality of the output. For example, solicit feedback with respect to specific areas, such as:

  • Categories – Planning, Resourcing, Risk Management, Requirements, Technology
  • Enablers – Commitment, Competence, Communications (see The Fifth Law)
  • Phases – Solution Design, Development, Testing, Deployment.

This provides proper focus and balance for identifying lessons learned. Also, use of the Nominal Group Technique in the workshop ensures the optimal mix of individual contributions and team discussion.

Lastly, just capturing lessons learned is only half the job. In the spirit of ‘kaizen‘ or continuous improvement, they each need to be transformed into action items for implementation, in order to guarantee future projects will use them.

PostHeaderIcon Ten Vital Items for Project Progress Reports

There are countless variations on content for project progress reports but there are ten items that should be on every report:

1 – Business Context
Why does this project exist?
Briefly summarize the desired business outcomes as a reminder to all of the rationale for doing the project – and include the names of the sponsor and customer.

2 – Objectives
What are the project’s tactical objectives?
Always keep the schedule, scope and resource goals in view. The Project Objective Statement provides a concise way of describing these.

3 – Flexibility Matrix
Which is least flexible – schedule, scope, resources?
Reflect the Flexibility Matrix on the report to remind stakeholders of the project priorities.

4 – Schedule
What is the schedule performance of the project?
Identify variance of current progress and forecasts against the baseline schedule for key milestones, phases and/or deliverables. Better yet, include performance trends over the past few reporting periods.

5 – Cost/Resources
Is the project meeting cost and/or staffing targets?
Point out significant variances with the plan such as staffing shortfalls or cost overruns.

6 – Risks
What significant risks exist?
Highlight those risks of highest severity and in particular those with high impact that may occur soon.

7 – Issues
What significant issues remain unresolved?
Identify the key issues and what is preventing their resolution.

8 – Changes
What changes have occurred?
Identify any major changes that were approved and/or implemented since the last progress report.

9 – Accomplishments
What has been achieved?
Capture the most important recent accomplishments such as completed deliverables, milestones that were met, or finished major work components.

10 – Next Steps
What major components of work remain?
Indicate what the focus will be for the immediate future and set expectations of what will be reported on in the next progress report.

Configuring these vital ten into a 1-page format is ideal for executive presentation. These items are of course in addition to the more obvious title and subtitle mentions of project name, report date and author/project manager name. (Surprising how often the obvious gets overlooked).

PostHeaderIcon Portfolio Management – Why the Long Wait?

Getting there - slowly

Getting there - slowly

It’s good to see more organizations finally getting serious about project portfolio management. But why is it taking so long? While all the process elements have been understood by an enlightened few for many years, progress in putting portfolio management into widespread practice has been disappointingly lethargic.

The reality is that most organizations have a great deal to do to make portfolio management work for them. Meaningful portfolio management standards and usable software applications have been painfully slow to emerge. In addition, several pitfalls often derail implementation efforts. Here are four of the biggest:

Lack of Ownership

Managing a portfolio is the responsibility of executives and this is a message that does not always get driven home. Portfolio management provides the crucial linkage of project work with strategy and ultimately the enabler of that strategy. It is not just another level of tactical project management. Executives have to take ownership, get firmly involved and be supportive.

Ineffective Process

In the same way as projects need some form of process to facilitate successful execution, a portfolio requires a structured methodology for establishing oversight procedures, prioritizing projects, balancing resource capacity and demand, and optimizing project funding, scoping, integration, sequencing and resourcing for strategic value. Portfolio management is a discipline.

Mismatch with Maturity

Often lost in the conversations about project prioritization frameworks and strategic alignment is the simple fact that without solid planning and tracking at the individual project level, portfolio management can never achieve its primary goals. Proper portfolio management needs proper project management.

Misalignment with Culture

Portfolio management, like project management, is scalable. It has to be designed to fit the organization’s culture and the way in which decisions are made and work gets done. Misaligning the intensity of portfolio information needs, analysis and control with a firm’s culture is a guaranteed showstopper. Each activity should not only deliver real value – it has to be widely supported.

The Good News

On a positive note, portfolio management is getting increased executive level attention. There is a realization that the option to “Do Nothing” incurs a very significant cost in unrealized strategies, overstretched and demoralized project teams, a lack of knowledge and control over what’s really going on, and dissatisfied customers. No longer can organizations afford not to respond. The call to action is gaining traction.