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Are you too busy to improve?


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Continuous Improvement – Part 2 – Why not?

Are you too busy to improve?

In case you missed Part 1, don’t forget to read the article!

Continuous improvement seems obvious to consider, why doesn’t everyone do this all the time?

Continuous improvement is great and should be practiced on a regular basis, but it does come with its set of large challenges:

Improvement means change

The natural tendency around change is to be reluctant.

People are scared of the unknown and this adds stress to their daily lives. If for example they are handed a completely new software to use every day compared to the old one they mastered, they may become worried they won’t master the new one, or that they won’t be able to be as efficient.

It’s also important to note that people love their routine, some more than others, and changing that can bring frustration from team members.

It requires time and it’s secondary

When it comes to prioritizing between a client project against an internal project of adopting a new process, the client project will always come first as it is considered more important.

This constraints continuous improvement a lot because it generally becomes the thing we’ll do “when we have time” and this can be very rare or even nonexistent.

It’s a long-term view rather than a short-term view

People often go for the instant gratification, and the long-term benefit is often put aside. Continuous improvement is always working more now to benefit soon or much later.

For example, if installing a new project management tool means lots hours of work transferring projects to the new tool, more hours to train people to use it, not mention the initial learning curve where everyone will be less efficient and will need constant support, this can mean 50 hours of work.

If you look at it short-term, it will look like we just spent 50 hours only to be slower. Crazy, right?

If you look at it from a long-term point of view, once everyone is ramped-up, every project going forward will benefit from the added efficiency and will be more on budget. This means you could get back your 50 hours in 2-3 projects for example, and every additional project would be even more benefit again and again.

It’s hard to know where to start

Since everything can be improved all the time, people don’t know where to start, and this infinite number of choices can make people freeze and avoid the situation completely.

No power

You may be someone with no authority inside a team, so even if you want to bring improvement, it doesn’t mean it will accepted nor that you will be able to secure the resources needed to make the change.

It can also be more challenging to have the change be adopted by everyone since they might not listen to you.

 

It’s a constant fight

Continuous improvement is challenging, and the bigger the improvement or the team, the bigger the challenge. You often feel like you have to fight your way through change, whether to create the change or to maintain it. All of this makes continuous improvement hard to adopt, but who said the best things in life were the easiest?

 

Stay tuned for part 3!

Documents


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IT projects: The challenges of documentation

To complement a previous article on 7 tips for well documented projects, here is a more in-depth view on challenges we face with documentation and how we can face them head-on.

Documents

Source: imelenchon

Laziness with updates

Let’s be honest, updating documents in not fun, especially if we update it 5 times in one day because lots of changes occur. Furthermore, depending on the available documentation (documents, software, etc.) and how fast/efficient it is to update it, we tend to justify our laziness with the fact that it wastes too much time.

What this causes is that all the documentation becomes unreliable because nobody knows what’s good and what’s outdated, so nothing will be used.

To reduce as much laziness as possible, it’s important that the documentation can be updated very quickly, without too much of a hassle. This can be done by taking into account the next items below in this article.

Too much information

Just like speaking, the document must communicate a message that must be received and understood by the receiver. If that is not being accomplished then whatever was written becomes useless. Amongst other factors, this can be caused when there is way too much information available, and people can’t find what they are looking for quickly. If someone talks a lot, and way too fast, he may have given you all the necessary information, but if you didn’t understand it, then it’s not successful communication at all; it’s the same with documents.

Imagine this scenario: you have spent hours accumulating information, and documenting everything in a nicely done 35 page document. You are so happy it’s done because this document can now be used by everyone to execute their work. What typically happens? People will open the document looking for information, then they will see that there are 35 pages filled with information. What happens then? Most of the time, they will close the document and ask you for the information instead. That is when you will go have a look, and since you need to answer your colleague, you will spend 30 horrible minutes trying to find the information, and once you find it, you will email it to your colleague. All this could have been avoided if your colleague knew how to find the information quickly.

So how can we make it better? 2 things:

  • Keep documents short and sweet: avoid long sentences when 2-3 words could be used; and
  • Keep in clean: Put aside information that is not relevant anymore and make sure only the needed information is available right away.

Scattered information

The more people are involved in a project, the more scattered the information will probably be. It could be inside mails, chat, documents, software, while speaking, etc. All this information becomes hard to find, if not lost, and the probability of error is enormous.

To avoid or reduce this, the solution is to gather information very few strategic locations and avoid duplicates of information. Whether it’s in several documents in the same folder, or inside a software; all important information should be stocked somewhere easy to find.

At the same time, avoid the previous item (Too much information), so make sure you keep everything clean when gathering everything. Keep in mind that this may use up time, especially if you are gathering information from various mails everyday, but if you compare to the time wasted searching for the information when it’s scattered, not to mention the time wasted on errors/confusion, you’ll notice it’s all worth it.

Lack of standards

Many agencies have to face this, whether there is a PMO or not, there are lots of cases where each project manager can manage the way he pleases, with some (or none) constraints like for example which software to use. However, when it comes to documents, it may be a little more loose, or they will use the same templates, but not use it in the same way.

This may create confusion and negate the possibility of developing good habits. Team members will tend to ask PMs for the information since they don’t know where to find what they since it’s never the same with the different projects or PMs.

By working with the same tools, and using same practices, people will be able to create great habits that will be timesaving. For example, if they know that the schedule is always available in a software, that all necessary milestones are identified there, and it can always be quickly opened for every project, with every PM; they will create a habit of checking the dates themselves instead of having to ask the PM 4-5 times during a project’s execution.

That’s just one example, but lots of habits can be created for the whole team in various places if documents are done the same way, and available at the same place.

In conclusion

Documentation is important for every project but it’s not always easy having the best documentation ever, and having everyone using it just like they are supposed to. Keep in mind that the more you fine-tune it, and communicate with the team to receive their feedback, the better it will get.

Have you ever faced other challenges with documentation?