90 Percent

Project management, productivity, change management, and more!


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New look, new name

Welcome to 90 Percent, the new look for this blog!

The name is inspired from the common saying that project managers communicate 90% of the time which felt right for this place.

Hope you like it.

I also would like to extend an invitation to anyone who wants to write some articles and have them shared here, with full credit of course! Don’t hesitate to use the contact form and let me know you want write articles on anything related to project management, productivity, or change management.


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Project management trend: Collaboration

Trends-2014

Source: Efi

There are several trends in project management that will only get stronger in 2014 (resource management, distributed teams, cloud, agile, etc.), but one that I particularly thrive to bring forward is ‘collaboration‘.

All trends are important, but this one is my personal top priority, as it affects the whole team’s synergy, and a project manager doesn’t get anything done without its team.

More and more tools are available to help teams collaborate by making project information available to everyone, and adding options that simplify communication. For me, this is more than just about the tools, it’s about the team itself and how they work.

Working together rather than in silos

Typically, everyone works in their corners, and when their part is done, they would give it to the next one who would then do their part, and so on. Collaboration is about everyone being “together in this”, and working together while one part is being done. This means that the team is updated with the status as it goes, and are able to participate in each step to share their opinions pro-actively rather than at the last-minute when they receive the done work.

A typical example, is when design is approved, and only than can the tech team flag that half of it cannot be done but by now, it’s too late! Collaboration means involving the others while design is being done so this does not occur. Collaboration tools ease this by helping everyone to communicate and keep track of comments, discussions, and decisions.

This brings teamwork to a whole new level, which is important for the sanity of any project. But all this extra communication needs to be managed by the project manager, who can only go so far with mails, and Word documents scattered on the agency’s network; these tools help the project manager do this, and lets the team communicate amongst themselves rather than putting everything on the PM’s shoulders.

Bigger sense of involvement

As team members are more and more collaborating through every step of a project, it gives everyone a bigger sense of involvement and commitment. This adds motivation to get the work done, and done properly. It also helps everyone feel part of the team, which improves teamwork and moral.

All this reflects positively on the projects.

Live updates

All that communication can add delays to your project, but not anymore; everyone can be updated live on every step. Whether it’s an updated schedule, or a new decision taken concerning the design, no one has to find out ‘by chance’ that they’ll need to deliver something next Monday.

All those updates can also be communicated and tracked easily without having 150 more mails in the inbox.

Sharing of files

Simple yet useful, files are being shared all the time, especially if you want the others to have a look at the work being done. Sometimes, it can hard to find the right files at the right moment, and it gets worst as the project progresses because more files will be available, and more version of each files.

This creates confusion and frustration in a team. Great online collaboration tools will make sure files are categorized, versioned, tagged, and in the end, easy to find. Sharing files and receiving feedback can become easy, and help out the team all the way to the end.

Everyone can pitch in

As everyone is involved more and more, the whole team can pitch in improving how it works. This is where it can get very interesting; everyone can improve their communication, their work, their habits simply by discussing and gathering feedback.

Continuous improvement is always important, and a must in a competitive environment where everything becomes bigger except budgets & schedules.

In conclusion

Collaboration is very important and tools are making it easier and easier. Teams must embrace this and work tighter together more than ever, there is no more excuses!

What is your favorite trend coming up in the future? Share!


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5 tips to handoff your project to someone else

Leaving on vacation and need someone to take care of your project? Want to make sure you come back and it’s not wrecked?

It all begins with how you handoff your project; the more you guide your colleague properly, the higher the chance he has of properly maintaining that project.

1. Quality over quantity

If you swarm your colleague with 50 pages of document about EVERYTHING, chances are he will be lost more than useful, or he will take control of your project very slowly, which will affect your project. Don’t forget, he as to pickup an ongoing project in one day, something which you may have gradually learned/planned in 1-2 months.

Guide your colleague with easy “next-step” lists. If documents must be read, guide him towards specific parts of documents, or even better, create a cheat sheet of those documents. For example: “read page 2 and 6 of document X right away”.

In this context, by quality, I also mean accuracy. Guiding your colleague towards a document that’s not updated will result in your colleague not trusting (so not reading) available documents. Or worst, he will read them, and manage your project with outdated information, which could damage your project. So make sure you update documents, or tell your colleague not to read them, and give him the needed information instead.

Result:

  • Your colleague picks up your project faster;
  • Less “training” time occurs on your project’s budget;
  • Fewer errors;
  • Sentiment of trust/control from your colleague;
  • Overall team stress/moral will be in a better place.

2. Transfer your ‘radar’

In this context, by ‘radar’, I mean, what you know to pay attention to. They may be details, but details that will make a difference in the outcome of your project. For example, it could be a colleague in the team that is always late. It could be a deliverable that has a very important element to verify before sending to client because it was requested as something very important. It could be anything, but it’s probably not written anywhere, or if so, it’s information hard to find.

Even if the information is found or transferred, if it’s not made clear that it must be in your colleague’s radar, then he might not think that it’s as important as it really is.

For example: “Before sending document Y, make sure to verify Jim’s text, he always makes horrible typos and the client hates that regardless of the quality of the document’s content.”.

Result:

  • Everything you thought was important will be checked just as if you were there;
  • Reduces chances of errors.

3. Clarify expectations

During transitions, there is nothing worst then unclear expectations which results in one person thinking the other will do it while the other thinks the same thing. The result is that no work gets done.

During the transition, chances are the team will communicate to both to make sure the message gets across, by mail for example. For each of those messages, it’s important that you tell your colleague if you’re taking care of it or if you’re trusting your colleague to do it. That way, expectations are clear, and if your colleague doesn’t feel comfortable to take care of the request, he can communicate so, and you can help him in doing so.

Expectations towards the team is important too, as I mentioned, they will probably communicate to both, or even only to you, so it’s important that the team knows they need to communicate to your colleague directly.

Result:

  • No request will be left unattended;
  • Information will be sent to your colleague and not to you only;

4. Follow-up

Project management can be hard as it is, and no matter what we think, it’s harder when it’s a project handed off to us rather than one we are in control since the beginning. Therefore, it’s important to do a couple of follow-ups if you know a milestone is coming or something specific must be done.

For example: “We’re suppose to be sending document Z tomorrow, was it verified today? Let me know if you need help”.

Result:

  • That follow-up may grab something that was going to be forgotten;
  • Your colleague will appreciate the backup;
  • This can prevent the feeling of projects being “thrown” to your colleague’s face rather than handed off.

5. Be available

Questions will come, and it’s good that you stay available to answer those questions or even help your colleague in the transition. Depending of circumstances or project, it may be good to be available for 1-2 weeks.

In conclusion

Handing off projects to other project managers is not easy, and our initial reaction is to “get rid of it”. Put yourself in your colleague’s shoes, and do it the way you would want it done to you. Your colleague will appreciate it, and the project will not suffer during the transition.

Let me know if you have more tips in the matter! Or you may want to share stories of how you were handed a project.

Rusted wheel


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4 ways processes can prevent efficiency

Rusted wheel

Source: dhester

When working in teams, especially as the team is bigger, processes are what guides everyone, and helps everyone work together towards the same goal.

But have you ever felt as if the processes in place seem to add complexity rather than help? Here are some ways this might happen:

Who does what

Processes is not only what should be done, but by who, and sometimes, that’s just no clear enough, which creates expectations that are not met, therefore confusion, frustration, and conflicts rises from this.

In a struggle to get this clear, sometimes so much detailed/granular instructions will be given at the same time that people will get lost or confused in it.

Billable VS Non-billable hours

Tracking productivity by calculating & monitoring how any hours each spend on projects VS hours spent on internal tasks is important to make sure people are working on what brings in the money.

Non-billable hours include anything that’s not going to get a bill out of the door, meaning amongst other things: working on tools, template, processes, or any other ‘internal’ work. This is as still very important work since it affects all the work that’s going to be considered ‘billable’.

If no importance is given to those non-billable hours, then everyone will avoid to contribute on any of the above elements, and nothing will get fixed or improved.

Another negative effect this can have is how people enter their time; since non-billable hours have no value, people who need to work on internal stuff will be reluctant to do so, or even worse, they will enter their time in projects so that they seem to work on billable tasks. This adds a whole level of lying and deceiving that you want to avoid.

Tools

Sometimes it will be part of processes to use specific tools, whether it’s because of reporting, or more typically, because ‘people are used to it’. These tools are not always the best, and when forced to use them, will only slow people down, reduce motivation, and even completely prevent some to do their job.

Inappropriate for certain projects

Big chain of processes can be great and even absolutely necessary for big projects, or projects with typical deliverables. However, when you are tackling smaller projects, or retainers, well then processes should be adapted. You don’t want to spend your whole budget on internal processes and have nothing left to do the work!

Pointing


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5 tips to delegate appropriately

Delegating is a skill that can be a very important part of your role, or it can simply be useful when you need help. Regardless, there is different ways to do it, and here are some tips to do it right:

1. Give a heads up

Depending of the environment where you work, people may be busy on a regular basis. They plan their time, and commit to deliveries all the time according to the tasks they have. If you do not give a prior notice, and delegate at the last-minute, they may not be as capable of committing to your request, or they may have to break other commitments.

Let them know before that you will have a request for them, and give them a high level idea of the request or time required so they can add this to their list of tasks.

2. Avoid barking orders

Delegating may very well be expected of you because of your role, or it might be because you need help. No matter the reason, respecting your colleague by asking them nicely is simple, and makes all the difference in the world for your colleague’s moral. A higher moral will raise motivation which also raises chances that your request is done properly in time.

So instead of “Do this!”, how about a “Could you please do this?”. And no reason not to add a smile on top of that 🙂

3. Explain why it should be done

There is nothing that de-motivates more than not knowing why you are doing something. You question the request, you complain about it, you slow down or switch to another task, and it will probably not get done properly.

When you send someone a request, how about a simple explanation of why it needs to be done, and why it’s urgent, or important!

If you send your request saying it may be a good chance to obtain a new contract with a client, they will take it more seriously than just sending them “Do this report”.

4. Give clear expectations

This is important in all the communication you have at work, but when delegating, if you want to raise chances of receiving what you need, then it is important that your expectations are clear. If your colleague is guessing what needs to be done, chances are you will not receive what you needed.

For example, if you ask for a “maintenance report” for the client, well you may receive an Excel spreadsheet with hours per role (designer, developer, etc.). However, it’s not what you wanted to send, you wanted to send a PDF file listing tasks with hours spent for each. Well, simply state it, it doesn’t take much more time to tell, and will prevent wasted time from your colleague, and even yours.

5. Give a due date

Give a measurable due date, is it in 3 hours? Is it for tomorrow end of morning or tomorrow first thing in the morning?

By the way, ASAP is not a due date! Everything should be done ASAP, it’s like saying everything is ‘high priority’ which means that nothing is high priority.

If you don’t give due dates, don’t expect to have it done exactly when you need it. Furthermore, the team will have a hard time prioritizing all their tasks and confusion may rise.

In conclusion

If you delegate properly, you raise the chance of receiving what you need, so there is no excuse not to do it, and people will respect you for doing it properly.

Do you have any more tips to share?


2 Comments

Back off! 3 things to consider when pressuring team members

Covering eyes

Source: hotblack

In project management, we often (maybe too often) have to work with tight schedules, surprises, scope creep, etc. What happens, especially when less experienced, is that we become stressed, and will transfer this stress to the team members through pressure.

Is that good? Sometimes, it can be, in others, it’s not. There are several things to consider:

1. Dosing is important

Too much pressure is never good, but the right amount can give your team members the boost they need to get the job done. Make sure everyone understands what needs to be delivered and how important it is, but use that opportunity to motivate them that can do it, rather than what’s going to happen if they fail. If you stress them too much, their productivity will diminish, and some may even not be able to work at all.

2. Everyone is different

Some work great under pressure, some not. Get to know your team members and how they react, and dose pressure accordingly:

  • Some love pressure: Those who are great under pressure will be at their greatest with just the right amount of stress. This means that you can emphasize on the delivery being very close, and how important it is to be on time, but you still need to avoid overdoing it.
  • Some hate pressure: Others just don’t react well to pressure. This means that you want to avoid completely adding in kind of pressure whatsoever. However, it is still important to let them know if any deliverables are due, or if anything if late so you want to use a different approach depending of the situation: talking to the whole team at once will reduce adding the pressure on only one or two person and that will make it easier to accept, and also, the tone of voice and your body language will have a great influence on how the members will react, this is important when communicating all the time with everyone, but it is also very important to be careful when you know the pressure will make your team member go berserk!

3. Pressuring & disturbing is different

It’s easy to get caught up in asking colleagues for statuses every half hour because a deliverable is due any second or is even late, and you want them to feel pressure to get the work done ASAP. This only makes matters worse:

  • You slow down work: By asking for statuses, you disturb team members, and prevent them from working on what you want. Even if they are disturbed for 1 minute, consider that they lost 15-30 minutes of momentum & concentration depending of what they are doing. Furthermore, the time they are spending to give you a status is also time they could be spending on finishing the work.
  • You irritate: If your team members are working on a deliverable that is due any second, you can expect that they are also stressed, which means they have less patience. Asking them for statuses will irritate them more easily in these cases, and could create conflicts. Also, he will focus less on his work, and more on how you are irritating him which will reduce his productivity. One thing you always want to avoid is to stand behind them while they are rushing the work, nobody likes that, go sit down, and wait for them to come see you.

In conclusion

Pressure can add focus and speed, but can also reduce it. Be careful of how you add it, and who you are working with, everything has to be considered carefully.

If you have anything to add, don’t hesitate to share!

Mouth


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4 tips on how to make the project manager shut up

Mouth

Source: chilombiano

This article is intended to be usable by project managers so that they can send it to their team members, in hopes that it will help communication! Also, bear with me when I write about shutting up PMs, I’m a PM myself 😉

Project managers are perceived differently depending of where you work, what’s the work environment, and also what’s the project management maturity of the company. How the project manager or the team members act on a daily basis also has a great influence. But it’s not unlikely that they are seen as these little irritating creatures that sneak up on you, and are always asking questions or telling others what to do.

Well guess what? It’s their job, can you blame them? Now, how do we get them to shut up knowing all too well that they are trying to get things accomplished, and they can’t just ‘stop’? Here are some quick tips:

1. Have your work done

One thing that ‘forces’ PM to poke around with follow-ups is the fact that they want to make sure the work gets done. So, if they know the work will get done, they will simply wait to receive it.

So it’s simple, gain PM trust by making sure your work always gets done. If you are in a situation where it is impossible for you to finish what is asked of you, flag them as soon as possible (not at the last-minute!). Once that trust is gained, they will know there is no point in doing a follow-up since you will communicate with them when the time is right.

This also applies to anything you committed you would do, whether it’s simply answering an email or anything else.

2. Answer

Believe it or not, if they email you or Skype you, and you never (or rarely) answer, they will have to send you even more follow-ups, call you, or go see you in person. So if you don’t answer because you think they are irritating or ‘you don’t have time’, you’ll end up with even more noise!

If answering requires you to check something or do something before, at least give them a heads up of when you’ll get back to them, and they will stop pestering you.

3. Ask questions

Too often, when team members are missing elements, or have questions, they switch to another task (or project), and if they are asked a status of their task, only then will they flag they need something. So what happens in these cases? Well PM will make a mental note to always ask resources if they need anything because they want to avoid people skipping some tasks without flagging.

The tip is simple: if you need anything or have a question, ask! The PM will know that if you are not asking him anything, it means you don’t need anything, and he will stop pestering you.

4. Send needed info

Typical follow-ups or request for information turn around schedule, budget, scope. Meaning PM will ask you if you are on time, how much effort (hours) is still required, and if you have any questions or if anything is missing. So it’s simple, they won’t ask if they already know, so depending of the tools used within the team: update your tasks’ % complete, send them a little “I have everything I need”, communicate proactively and the PM won’t have to ask you anything.

In conclusion

It’s a PM’s job to make sure communication happens, if it doesn’t, they’ll make it happen. So communicate, and they’ll bug you a lot less!

Have any other tips you want to share?