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Change: Before, During, After

Source: jscreationzs

Source: jscreationzs

When planning to move forward with a change that will impact your colleagues, it is important to remember that you must manage what comes before the change, during the change, and after the change.

Before

Before you proceed with changing a process, a tool, or anything else, you have to keep in mind that the more informed the others are, the better. In times of change, people need to feel safe in what’s coming and the more unknown their is, the less safe they will feel. Therefore, explain the reasons of the change, the plan, and how they will be supported not only throughout the change, but after.

Make sure people can ask questions or talk to someone to express their concerns or their ideas. How you communicate with colleagues at this stage will give them a first impression on what’s coming, and you want to make sure they have a good first impression in order to reduce resistance.

Another important aspect to plan before the change occur is training the other, and prepare the proper documentation for them (i.e. tutorials). This could range from preparing them on how a new process will work, to teaching them how to use a new tool.

During

While you are in the midst of your change, this is where many questions will come up since people will start to be actively affected by the change. It’s also when the most frustration or confusion can rise so it’s important to make sure people know they can contact someone who will give them prompt support.

There is also a time where you might need to adjust your change (change the change!). With more people coming onboard, you may find out that there is a flaw in the process that needs to be tweaked, or the tutorial created wasn’t as clear as you thought. Adjust this immediately, people will appreciate that these are being adjusted to accommodate them or improve what is happening.

After

Once the change is completed, a bad habit is to think it’s all over and you can “let go”. That is far from true. Even with a proper training and several questions answered, people will need a good amount of support for a while, and it’s important to still give prompt support as it happens. Fortunately, as time passes, support needed will reduce.

Lastly, like any project, it is a very good practice to have a lessons learned meeting and assess what to improve for next time. It’s also very important to gather feedback from the others to find out how they thought the experience was and how it could be better.

Where to start?


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Continuous improvement – Part 3 – Where to start?

Where to start?

Source: Stuart Miles

In case you missed Part 1 or Part 2, don’t forget to read the articles!

So you want to tackle continuous improvement, you have many things that could use an efficiency boost, you have people willing to help… So where do you start with all this?

Treat continuous improvement as a project

It’s the same core idea as changing a website, it’s a project! So if you keep this in mind, you will have an easier time figuring this out. Just like you would with your project, start planning.

First you would normally gather your client’s needs. Here, your clients are probably your colleagues, or maybe even just you. You need to gather requirements and create a list of all the ideas to improve anything around you.

To help you, gather feedback and ideas from others, don’t limit yourself to your ideas only. Although I’m sure you have many great ideas, you will find that most ideas you will want (or need) to fight for will come from others.

From there, just like managing a project and it’s many tasks, you have to prioritize, and assign people responsible for those tasks.

This can be tricky if you have no authority or power inside the team. If this is the case, than gaining managers’ buy-in can prove to be very useful. Show them the list you made and explain how it can positively affect the team to improve certain aspects of your daily lives.

This buy-in will help obtain the resources needed to make the improvements.

Once improvements have been clarified and resources are available, set objectives of when they can be done, just like you would when managing your project. Here, you’ll want to create a schedule. Note that it’s not impossible that creating the schedule may come before finding resources, this can actually be a tool to gain buy-in by showing that the change can be done within only one month for example.

By the way, as the work gets done, you will probably have to adjust that schedule too, just like you would a normal project, maybe even more, as mentioned, it will often be pushed aside by other projects that are considered more important, so you have to work around that. It’s nothing new in the project management world, so adapt to the circumstances, do your best, and keep communicating to your team until you are all done.

Also, you can even throw-in some risks management in all this, just like any projects, there can be risks that could be mitigated. For example, the new tool you plan to use could have a similar functionality to the old one but with a very distinct difference that may frustrate your team members; so mitigate the frustration by making sure to point it out in training and showing how to use it differently as opposed to letting them hit the issue and complain.

Making the change is half the work

As you work improving something, one important thing to keep in mind is that releasing a new tool, changing a process, or adjusting anything can be relatively easy; the next big step is maintaining it, which means, plan for what happens after. This includes training team members, giving support to the team who needs to adjust, or even having to make changes to adjust to feedback or issues faced.

The change/improvement cannot be simply “released” hoping that everything will go perfectly, it must be supported and maintained just like you would a mobile application for example, and you need to “fix bugs”.

So again, threat all this as you would when managing a project. Here, you would manage stakeholder expectations, plan maintenance, plan post-launch fixes, etc.

An important thing here is too always keep gathering feedback and improve the change with it (yes, you will need to change the change!). Mobile apps developer use the precious feedback given in the app-store and update their mobile application accordingly; this makes their app much more popular amongst the users. Here it’s the same thing, don’t think feedback was important only before the change, it’s just as important after as it will help people keep the change rather than requesting to go back to what it was before.

 

Stay tuned for part 3!

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!

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Continuous improvement – Part 1 – Summary

Graph

Source: twobee

In April, I had the chance to be invited as one of the presenters of the virtual event called Project Manager Success Summit. I had selected a topic that I feel strongly about; Continuous improvement of tools, processes, our team, ourselves.

For those who missed the event, I’ll be sharing articles around the subject in the next weeks.

So what is it?

Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes, without an end.

For me, it’s more than that, it’s a state of mind, a “will” to always challenge how things are currently done, how a team currently works, how we currently are, in order to always bring in more the next day.

It’s embracing changes, and also thriving to be out of our comfort zone.

Where can we apply “Continuous improvement” inside an agency or a team?

Continuous improvement can be applied everywhere around us, here are a few examples:

  • Assessing/fine-tuning our processes to make them more efficient;
  • It can also be about creating templates, improving those templates;
  • Install or change tools that are in place for ones that will make everyone’s life easier.
  • It’s about the people too: it’s about assessing the efficiency of a department, a team, or individuals; finding what could be improved to make each of them better for tomorrow.

Depending of the agency and its size, it can be challenging to bring changes, it’s more than having a “Lessons learned” meeting after a project, it’s about looking at everything that’s around us, everything that’s being used, everything that’s being done, and asking ourselves “how can it be better?”.

How can it affect project management?

Project managers are involved in all aspects of a project in order to bring it from its planning state to its closing state. This means that wherever there is improvement, their projects will be more efficient going forward.

In other words, continuous improvement affects project management everywhere.

It can be directly, for example:

  • Improved tools and templates that project managers use on a daily basis means higher efficiency from them, increasing the probabilities of bringing projects on schedule and on budget.
  • Tools, used correctly, can improve overall communication, and as we know, project managers communicate about 90% of the time; this means that any improvement to what tools are used and how we use them as a team can have a major impact on project managers’ daily lives.

In can be indirectly, for example:

  • If a department has improved the technology they used to create their part of the project, it will bring more success to the project, and potentially raise chances to be on budget.
  • If overall communication between different departments improves by adjusting a few processes, it simplifies a project manager’s daily life where facilitating communication is something that be a challenge sometimes.

 

Stay tuned for part 2!

Surprised


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What’s scope creep and tips to avoid it | Part 2

Surprised

Source: grietgriet

Scope creep is a very important subject, something every project manager is challenged with.

In my previous article What’s scope creep and tips to avoid it, I listed a few tips to help people face those challenges, and that article was very popular, so I thought it would be great to add more to it and focus on the team:

Scope creep can be 100% an internal issue, so watch out!

Often we are under the impression that scope screep is something we forgot, or something the client asks for and we have no choice but to accept for whatever reason. But, you know what? Sometimes, it’s simply an internal thing.

Often, what will happen is that scope is defined in a certain why, and then, from there, you will create the estimate, and work will get started. Everything goes well, and as you discuss with team members, they sometimes casually mention some stuff like “Yeah once that is done, we’ll need ‘this’ done and then we’re good” or “we need this because we have ‘this’ and ‘this’ to do”… All the while in your mind you are telling yourself: Where does this all come from?

The reality is, no every team member will be “connected” to the budget as you are as a project manager. This is completely normal because they are focused on their own role and you should be focused on yours. The impact of this is some small tasks (or bigger) will be neglected in the documentation or even in the estimate but here and there you will find out that it MUST be done.

Why? Well, it varies; it could be a client expectation not shared with you, it could be a technical requirement mentioned absolutely nowhere…Or something else!

Regardless, this is tricky, but there are things you can do to help prevent this!

Focus on the long term

So, when it happens and you are “stuck” with the request, you may think this is the end of the world, your project is going bad because of it, and nothing can be done; whether this is true or not for your current project, you can focus on the long-term, which are your future projects. How? Well, by discussing a specific issue and adjusting for the future.

For example, if client expectations around different deliverables were not clear and were “implied” somewhere, talk to the person responsible of managing the client and explain the impact of those expectations being “hidden” from you. The thing is, that team member may have the best intentions in the world towards the client, but he may not realize the impact of the added work. So, the best way to make him understand is to explain gently to him the impact by showing underage caused by the added work he didn’t share in the beginning.

Manage team expectations

We’re always talking about managing the client’s expectations, but what about the team’s expectations? There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling team members that anything other than what’s inside the estimate will NOT be done so “be careful”.

However, it’s very important to consider that whatever you say “will not be done” may be an absolute “must” to your project. This means you have to use a specific vocabulary with your team.

Try using:

  • Are you sure we included everything we need for the project?
  • This here is what we’ll be doing, we won’t be able to afford anything else, are you sure it’s accurate?
  • Are any other client expectations forgotten here?

Avoid:

  • We won’t allow anything else than what’s included here
    • what may happen is that some “things” will come up that will literally prevent your project from being functional if it’s not done and you won’t be able to tell your client you “forgot” this
  • Saying nothing
    • people may think whatever they are holding back is “implied” in the documents

Manage team expectations… again!

Repeating myself? Well there is more to it than what’s above!

Scope creep can surprisingly be with team members spending more time on certain tasks because they thought they could so they made the design or the feature “more awesome”. It could be considered gold plating in a way.

You have a tight budget? Poor or no contingency? Well, tell your team! As much as they are not “budget focused” as you are, if they are remotely committed to the project’s well-being, if they understand the budget being tight or being in a horrible shape, there is nothing wrong with letting them know and reaching for their cooperation.

This will have a huge effect on how they make decisions or how they plan their work.

For example, a designer may take less time to search for a “miracle” image for his design and settle for one that’s just plain great. A developer may take half the time to code a certain feature because he’ll plan his code a different way.

Regardless, your team must know the situation and they will take it into consideration before taking more time than planned to do the work.

In conclusion

As you can see, the way you communicate with the team can have a tremendous impact on how scope creep affects your projects. Take the extra time to your team members, even if it’s too late for this project, it may be very positive for future projects.


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5 tips to help make changes happen

Bringing change is always a challenge. The human reflex towards changes is pushing-back due to being scared of the unknown it may bring. This constant resistance could bring a halt to even the best of ideas if they are not shared appropriately with other.

From changing software, to changing process, to anything really, changes are a challenge, especially when dealing with a large team.

Here are a few tips to help with that:

1. Explain why

One of the top reasons people are not motivated to change is not knowing why the change is being done in the first place. Not only that, this demotivator is often worsened by giving other limited information because “They don’t need to know everything” which brings frustration and can even damage the trust they have in you.

Changes have reasons, and people who are affected have a right to know why; let them know and you reduce a lot of resistance right at the start.

2. Provide relevant information

First, avoid drowning the others with too much information that they will simply disconnect or run away from whatever you are trying to bring into their lives.

You may be passionate about what it is and the fact that you can make it happen, but giving everyone so much information about it will just scare them, not to mention the waste of time for you since people will probably not listen/read most of it.

Be sure to share relevant information that will be useful to them right away. As for all the detailed information, make it easily available somewhere and invite people to refer to it if needed.

3. Provide easy/accessible support

If the changes will most likely bring up questions or issues, then it is very important to let everyone know how to ask for help. If they have any roadblocks and no one to help them go forward, then they will abandon and your opportunity to make a change will be lost.

Make sure it’s clear for everyone who to reach and how when they need something; and make sure support is extra efficient when the change is recent, this is when people are trying to adapt and the support required will be higher.

4. Ask for feedback

It’s being done more and more; take the App-store for example and how people can post reviews, and the way it’s considered by the developers afterwards into their applications.

Feedback, assuming it’s constructive, is valuable information guiding to ways to improve given away for free but usually, it won’t be given if you don’t ask.

Create surveys, send mails, go talk to people, but go grab the feedback and avoid waiting for it.

5. Continuous improvement

Deploying a change is one thing, but maintaining it is equally important. This is what will keep it going, and will make people love it more and more.

Using the feedback you’ve gathered (see #4), you can analyze the information given and improve from there. In other words, change the change!

To complement #4 here: if the feedback is ignored, it will create more frustration, make sure you use it!

In conclusion

Changes can be very good, but the way it’s brought to others can be very bad. Assess how you bring changes to your team and identify where you can make it easier for others overall, and it will automatically become easier for you too.

Don’t hesitate to share more tips!


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4 tips to reduce reluctance with change

Stop

Source: xenia

Changes are part of life, we live them in our personal life, and in our professional life. If you work in IT, changes are ongoing, and if you don’t adapt quickly, you fall behind within months. Unfortunately, the human nature is to be reluctant to changes, so here are a few tips that will hopefully help you make changes happen:

1. Make it simple for them

No matter the change, whether it’s a new technology, a new process, a new methodology, etc., the steeper the learning curve, the fewer people will be onboard.

So how can you make it simpler? There are a couple of ways:

  • Build tutorials: Any guide whatsoever will simplify the learning curve. It can be very simple to more elaborate depending of the size of the change. Avoid anything long or boring. Go with quick and easy, like cheatsheets, or something interactive.
  • Available help: Let people know that you (or someone else) is available to help them. Obviously, make sure it’s true, and appropriate help is given when needed.
  • Plan the change: If the change is structured and iterative, people will be introduced step-by-step to the change instead of forced into all at once. That will greatly reduce the fact that people are generally scared of changes since it’s not moving too fast.

2. Show how it’s helping THEM

This tip may not apply for all the changes we want to execute, but amongst other types of changes, let’s say you would want to change a tool that a team uses for projects: The initial reaction would be that it’s either “just another tool added with the others” or “why are we doing this?” or something to that effect.

You want to make sure that people are aware of how the changes are good for THEM, not you or management, THEM. In my example above, you could tell them it’s going to make their overall work easier by having a faster tool, or that this tool has a great set of notifications that will greatly reduce the number of things forgotten.

By focusing on that when you brief the others, they will also focus on that while they are juggling their emotions towards the change. As they fight the reluctance, they can remind themselves how it’s helping them, and it will reduce complaining.

3. Ask “why?”

This tip can be applied once reluctance is being detected. It’s easy to insist on something, or even to force it on people, but by simply asking why they are reluctant, you may find out that it’s because of silly reasons, or justified ones. Once that is identified, you can work towards eliminating those reasons. You may even find out that your idea is not as good as you thought and it’s you who may have to change!

By asking why, you’ll receive valuable feedback as long as it’s constructive, which is always something you want to encourage inside your team.

4. Don’t give up

Stay positive, and keep it up. Don’t quit at the first “no” that is thrown at you. If one strategy doesn’t work, try another approach. Only stop once justified reasons have come up, then adjust yourself, and try something else!

In conclusion

Changes everywhere; some like them, some hate them, and some make them happen. No matter what, there will always be reluctance, so do your best to fight it.

Share your tips and stories! I’m certain a lot of you are facing challenges with changes inside your teams.