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Continuous improvement – Part 4 – Tips

find-ideas

Source: ratch0013

In case you missed Part 1Part 2, or Part 3,  don’t forget to read the articles!

To end this 4 part article about Continuous improvement, here are several tips that will help you overcome the challenges that you may meet while trying to bring change in your team or agency:

1. Create a habit out of it

Just like everyone can get stuck in the routine of doing everything the same way all the time, you can create a habit of listing ideas, grabbing feedback, or adjusting/fine-tuning anything you can.

For example, every 3 months you can set yourself a reminder to ask people if they have feedback on a tool, or ideas to improve how everyone uses it. As time goes by, pay attention to the evolution of the feedback as it may change from “Everything is great” to “I found out about a new tool…”.

2. Gain buy-in from managers

If you do not have any power to use resources to make change happen, than sell your ideas to people who do have it. If they agree and make available the necessary resources for the change, then you will obviously have a better chance of making it happen.

To gain buy-in, there are several ways to convince someone:

  • Show the monetary gain of the change;
  • Show how things can go faster;
  • Show how better quality will be produced;
  • At the same time, you can use the current situation and show how slow, inefficient, or low quality things are at the moment;
  • Show people’s feedback;
  • Show are things are being done elsewhere and the result;
  • etc.

3. Accept mistakes

One of the reason we don’t want to tackle change is because we are scared of making mistakes. The thing is, you will learn a lot from your mistakes, and what’s important is to adjust right away when it happens.

If a new process just doesn’t work, either fine-tune it, or go back to what it was. Just don’t let it stop you, learn from it and let it bring you even further.

4. Find others

Usually, you will be able to find others who feel changes needed. Discuss with them, gather their feedback, their ideas, and get them on board to help you bring that change to life.

If you think you are alone thinking things need to change, you are wrong. Although at first it may look like nobody wants things to change, a lot do but are scared or just don’t think they can have an impact. People will join in, and make sure to include them as much as possible throughout the process of the change.

5. Think small / Think big

Changes can be very small and they can also be big. Do not neglect the small changes that can fine-tune your big changes into something even better. Just like sometimes the biggest, toughest changes are the ones that are going to bring the best results.

Vary the sizes of the changes you tackle. Even a small change sometimes keeps you motivated for the next change, just like finishing a small task during your day.

6. Think of others while planning

Unless the change is only going to affect yourself, think of others when planning how the change will impact everyone. The others will make your change live or disappear, if you neglect them, they will surely make your change revert to its original state.

How? Simple, talk to them, ask them what they like, don’t like, what’s their opinion on the path your change has taken, if they agree or disagree, ask them to test whatever your doing, involve them. Avoid doing this behind everyone’s back and then imposing the change suddenly without the proper training/support; your change will surely fail and everyone will just keep doing what they were doing before.

7. Ask these simple questions: “How can we be better?” or “How can this be better?”

The title says it all; just by asking yourself (or others) this question, you can be surprised of how many ideas can come out of it.

Do a brainstorm session and use those questions to start some discussions, and you’ll see there are many ideas that will pop out.

Also, ask these questions even if things are going well; just because a tool is great or a process is going well, doesn’t mean it can’t be even better.

In conclusion

This concludes the 4 part article on continuous improvement, I hope you enjoyed. Do share your ideas or stories of when you brought change within your team.

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!

Project Manager Success Summit


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Project Manager Success Summit presentation on Continuous Improvement

Project Manager Success SummitRecently I’ve had the privilege to be contacted by Michael Charles, host of the Project Manager Success Summit, and was asked to be one of the presenters.

I’m grateful that I will be able to share with everyone about a subject that I hold dear: Continuous improvement in tools, processes, our team, ourselves.

I believe Continous Improvement is important in all aspects of our lives, but in project management, especially with IT projects, you have to evolve non-stop to follow the technology that’s growing at a fast pace.

I’m hoping you’ll enjoy! The summit is a free virtual event that hapenning April 25-27 2014 where you can to hear lots of great presenters share their knowledge, go subscribe 🙂

Hammer and nails


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4 tips to avoid building a house without a hammer

Hammer and nails

Source: ronnieb

IT projects have the particularity of having us work with nothing ‘physical’; this opens a whole new world of advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is the illusion of not needing proper tools to manage a project.

For example, you wouldn’t go build a house without proper tools, right? It wouldn’t even be possible. Unfortunately, its possible to manage projects without tools (result being debatable of course), so people go straight into it before they prepare. No matter if you managed to finish a couple of projects without so much pain, here are a couple of tips to prepare yourself before you tackle bigger projects:

1. Find a proper PM tool

A project management tool should be useful to do the following:

  • Track project information;
  • Create your project’s schedule;
  • Help communication between team members.

A ‘proper’ tool is one that can be useful to you, and saves time more than you spend trying to figure out how it works. Out of the many PM tools out there, find one that fits your needs, and avoid using one just because it has every possible functionality, it will add noise and adds a steeper learning curve, but will not necessarily be more useful.

2. Prepare document templates

Documents are used all the time in project management; they have to bring value to your project management, and have to complement your PM tool. Here are various examples of documents that can (and should) be used:

  • Estimate document;
  • SOW (state of work);
  • Meeting agenda;
  • Lessons learned;
  • Reports;
  • etc.

Again, these are but a few examples that should complement your PM tool that may take care of Risk management for example, meaning you wouldn’t need a risk register document. Same goes for many other documents that may be useful for your project.

3. Continuous improvement

The key to have great tools is not just creating/finding them and hoping everything will be perfect after that. Make sure you fine-tune your documents or how you use your tools every chance you get. It could be a simple improvement like adding a column in your Excel used to estimate projects, to completely changing how the team manages it’s tasks with the PM tool to make it clearer for everyone.

A good trick is to always have your templates ready to be opened so that when you have an idea or a project requires something your template didn’t have, you will be more tempted to update it as you go.

4. Emails are not a PM tool

Emails should be used for quick communication; to asking a couple of simple questions, to giving a quick update to a stakeholder. Unfortunately, since people lack proper tools to manage their projects, emails become the PM tool, meaning that all the project’s documentation becomes scattered inside hundreds of mails that are hopefully at least stored in a folder with the project’s name (if not all mixed in the inbox…).

This opens the door to:

  • losing information;
  • wasting valuable time looking for information;
  • A larger quantity of mails that drastically reduce people’s efficiency, not to mention that more people tend to be included in those mails, meaning that the negative effect is spread to more people.

In conclusion

Managing projects can be tough as it is, so why make it harder by not preparing? Get rid of the illusion that everything can be done easily without proper tools just because you are not working with physical elements.

Do you have any more tips to share? Or maybe a story? Share!