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Project management, productivity, change management, and more!

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5 tips when resources disappear

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Source: KellyP42

Resources come and go, whether it’s just for a day when you need to get work done for tomorrow, or a week because people are switched to another project, or permanently because they leave the company, you will have to find a Plan B, even C or D!

Here are some general tips that can help various situations when resources wave goodbye!

1. Manage client expectations appropriately

If resources are switched, or even temporarily absent, chances are, your project will slow down. This means that you may not be able to meet a set deadline. Your client must know this right away, and you may not know when the deadline can be met.

In these cases, do not commit to a specific time and give yourself more time than you think you will need. Instead of “next Monday”, commit to “mid next-week” where you will have some flexibility.

Also, except if it’s a very small “set-back”, you may want to avoid spilling out the reality like “your resource got fired” or “somebody’s sick and we don’t know when he’ll be back”; that will only worry the client and bring absolutely nothing constructive so simply state that you need more time.

2. Switch resources around pro-activaly

If you need someone right away and ask who’s available, chances are everybody will be busy, and those available may not be able to take the task you need done. So you cannot surrender right away, there is often a solution when you move things around taking several projects into consideration. This means different things depending of the situation:

  • Check if other projects have more flexibility, and can lend a resource, even if that project as to postpone a delivery; or
  • Trade resources between projects so one can free another that could do your specific task;

You may have to use diplomacy, but avoid simply asking around “Do you have time?”, start with that, but if it doesn’t work, start trading!

3. Prepare a backup plan in advance

One thing you can do to plan ahead is use the “Hit by a bus syndrome“, I invite you to read my article on the subject.

4. Have your documentation simple & updated

If you are going to switch to a new resource at the last-minute, you want that resource to be up and running very fast. This means that the information you will give him must get to the point and must be reliable. Every minute may make a difference.

Avoid piling up 30 pages to read, give him only what he needs to know, go right to the point.

5. Stay positive

If you start to whine or panic, you are not going to get anything accomplish, nor are you going to be diplomatic when trying to deal resources, so stay positive and go forward.


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What’s a PMO?

PMO stands for Project Management Office. Since it’s objective & responsibilities vary from company to company, it is not necessarily easy to understand what it is.

So what is it?

The typical definition of a PMO is a group of people or department in an organization that is responsible for defining and maintaining project management standards. Note that in smaller organization, even one person could be considered the PMO.

Their responsibility may go beyond that:

  • Portfolio management: Either by participating actively to the management of the portfolio or being fully responsible for it;
  • Resource management: They may have the responsibility of managing who works on which project;
  • Actual project management: they will either manage all projects or the most important ones;
  • Documentation / templates: Can also include which PM tools are used; and
  • Project managers’ training: Making sure the efficiency of project managers satisfy the projects’ needs.

Also good to note

  • A variation called PgMO exists, which Program Management Office. The idea is the same but applies to programs instead which are groups of projects that share similarities that make them more efficient to manage as a group rather than individual;
  • A PMO can have authority within the whole organization or just a department. Therefore, it is possible to have more than one PMO inside an organizational.
  • To complement the item above, it is also possible to have a PMO that manages the departmental PMOs.

What’s in it for Project managers?

  • Great way to share opinion, and gain knowledge from others;
  • Work in an environment where project management maturity is higher;
  • Receive help if required;
  • Career opportunities can rise within the PMO;
  • etc.

In conclusion

PMO are a good sign that an organization as reached a certain maturity with project management, therefore it can be something that project managers seek when looking for a job. As long as objectives are clearly defined for it, PMO greatly rises the success rates of project overall. On the other hand, a poorly defined PMO can add useless overhead to projects, and have a negative impact.

Teamwork


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Is collaboration important for PM tools of today?

I am certain that each domain of work have their different say on this, which I’m still curious to find out about from others, but this article is going to be from an IT point of view.

So is collaboration important for tools of today? YES!

First, let’s make sure everyone is one the same page: by ‘collaboration’, I’m not talking about having a chat available so we can ‘talk’, I’m talking about everyday tools like what is used for managing projects. Collaboration is not only to share messages, but sharing everything about the project (information, dates, etc.), and being able to all work with the same elements.

So now, why is it important?

Saves time

If everyone is using the same tool together, than nobody creates their own individual version, which duplicates information, adds to confusion, and wastes time.

When the information is updated, appropriate people are notified and everyone can quickly see what was updated, rather than having to email or go talk to everyone each time something comes up.

Improves teamwork

When working in teams, collaboration is important, otherwise there is no “team”. The more collaboration possible, to closer & efficient the team will be. Imagine if everyone is aware of project updates and can easily refer back to anything, and can contribute on top of it.

This becomes even more essential when the team is bigger, as more people can contribute.

Everyone can contribute to improve

If everyone collaborates using the same tools, than everyone will have their own opinion. This means that valuable feedback can be gathered in order to improve the tools, or how they are used.

This can greatly optimize/fine tune how the team works together.

One (or few) places where information is stored

If people use the same tools, that means that the information will be less scattered. The result is that there is less confusion, less time wasted looking for information, and less information lost. Furthermore, if there are team members that are switched, previous information is not lost, and new team members can refer back to the team’s tools to catch on.

In conclusion

Collaboration in tools is highly underestimated. Sending a massive amount of mails or spending days in meetings does not compare to having efficient & collaborative tools that the whole team uses and trusts.

What do you think about collaboration with tools used today?


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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!

PMI - PMP


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PMP certification quick tips to prepare

PMI - PMPFor those who want to dive into the PMP exam and feel like they don’t know where to start once they applied, here are some quick tips to help guide you:

Avoid setting your exam date too quick

This may vary depending of how much free time you have in your schedule, but give yourself at least 2 months to study, some even need 3 to 4.

Plan your studying

You want to avoid studying at the very last minute, like most of us are most likely to do. Build a weekly study plan that includes every detail to how many pages of the PMBOK per day you’ll read, to how many quiz simulations you do.

It may seem overkill for some, but it works if you stick to it, assuming your plan is realistic towards your schedule.

PMBOK doesn’t have to come first

The PMBOK guide is great but not necessarily “fun” to read. Sometimes, it even lacks proper examples or context, and states too bluntly what should be done. This being said, although not mandatory to actually read it, it’s good to go through it once, but read an alternate book first like Head First PMP or Rita’s course. The PMBOK will then be easier to read and understand.

Do several test simulations

The more you answer questions, the better. What’s important here is to review your answers once you have your score, that’s what will help you learn.

It’s also suggested to do at least one real 4h simulation with 200 questions, so you can see when you need to rest or how long you need. After that you can adjust your speed accordingly.


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5 types of phonies to clear away from your projects

Keep out

Source: jppi

When you are looking for someone to add to your team or you have somebody “forced” into it, you want to make sure that you can depend on that person. Although some will hide very well the fact that they are not productive or simply do not have the required competence, there are some signs you can use to spot those people.

Keep in mind that these signs assumes it’s with someone you do not know. If it happens with someone you know and trust, it may very well not apply. Also, it’s important to note that theses different examples are taken from real experience, nothing is fake!

1. The one that doesn’t get anything done

That one may seem obvious at first, but what’s tricky here is that they will camouflage the fact that they did not do the job. Typical excuses will be: I wasn’t properly briefed, I needed something from someone else, I didn’t have time, etc.

The trick here is to test them with small tasks here and there, tasks that you know without a doubt that they have all necessary assets & time to do, and see if they do it without having to tell them 3-4 times.

2. The one that estimates unknown work

This one could be spotted even before you add someone to your team. The one that estimates the work, and has no idea what the work is nor does he seem to show any interest in knowing what it is either . You think it can’t happen? Oh yes it does! Luckily, this is easy to spot, and should be a deal breaker right away. Heck, I’ve even come across a whole agency who sent out estimates of projects that were still unknown!

Here is an example taken from a real-life experience: The PM got into contact with a Front-end developer freelancer for his project so he could ask for an initial estimate. He sent a JPG of the new layout for an existing web page by mail explaining that a page already exists and should be changed to the new design. The freelancer replies that he hasn’t looked at the design but it should take 3h… how can he possibly know? Well guess what, it did not turn out too well the freelancer since he didn’t know what he was doing and someone else had to pick up the work.

3. “Don’t worry answer”

This one is my favorite (although less favorite phony): the confident “Don’t worry about anything” team member. The first thing you want to do when you hear this is…worry 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, a colleague can tell you not to worry, and well….don’t worry! This particular case is for when the team member does not answer questions like “are you almost done” or “how much time do you need”, or anything similar to that. Since they don’t actually know what they are doing and cannot truly answer, they will tell you not to worry so you go away.

So if you ask questions and receive that answer, ask your questions again, make sure you get your answers. You may quickly notice that he cannot answer or the answer will not make sense.

4. CTRL-TABer

In case you do not know, CTRL-TAB (or CMD-TAB on MAC) is a shortcut to quickly switch between opened applications. Useful if you want to be productive or….if you want to switch back to Facebook when someone walks by.

If you have a feeling that your colleague’s windows changes every time you arrive at their desk, then use a little stealth to have a look at their screen before you start talking to them and they notice you. You may find out that they don’t actually work half of the time.

5. The cow-boy

I’ve had old colleagues calling them that, but it’s basically someone who can do the job very well, but he’s in it for his own personal gain, so he does what he wants, how he wants. What will typically happen with those team members is that you will receive something different from what you asked for because they thought it was ‘cooler’, or they will gold-plate your project just to try out a new framework, and you’ll be left with a dead budget.

They may be very competent, but they are very unreliable, so be careful with those. What’s really tricky is that since they are good and they are testing new technology or work differently, they create a dependency towards them since others may not be able to pick-up their work (play in their code for example). You have to make sure they are watched closely.

In conclusion

If you are lucky enough to spot them before they are added to your team, then simply select someone else. If you are stuck with this team member, than confronting them, or changing resource may be your best option.

Another trick, if you have the luxury of being able to do that, is to have these people do mini-tests before they join the team. For example, a developer could have to develop a simple login to have access to a secured page, and then you can have a look at the code. It’s a real eye-opener and can filter 90-95% of candidates before you add them to your project. Really!

One thing is for sure, don’t wait to act or to prevent, these people can have disastrous effects on your projects.

Have you ever been stuck with a phony? Share your story!

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?