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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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Team player… or not?

TeamWhile you work with different teams during your career, you will notice some people are more concentrated on their own outcome rather than the team’s. It may not be apparent at first, or it might be completely obvious, but here are some ways to spot someone who isn’t much of a team player:

 

1. Finger pointing

This one is easy to notice; a team player will say “we made a mistake”, “we should have done this differently” but someone who looks out for themselves will not want to be part of whatever seems negative and will rather point fingers or look for someone to blame: “he made a mistake”, “I don’t know why we did it that way, I was just following what he told me”, etc.

2. Weird/unclear communication

A team player will always keep in mind his team when communicating, meaning he was asses how he should communicate which type of information, and will carefully select each word to avoid interpretation. In other words, a team player will put himself in the other’s position.

Now, someone focused on themselves will not be able to put themselves in the other’s position, this means they will communicated in any way they feel appropriate for them:

  • Using the wrong tool for the specific type of information (chat, email, PM tool, etc);
  • Communicate out of context: They can’t necessary understand the fact that you are not in their mind, and cannot put themselves in your place, so they will send you half the information, thinking that you will understand because they do;
  • Will throw all information so they can say “I told you….”: Whether it’s while talking, chat, email, you will get splattered with information, and if you miss anything, you are sure to hear to infamous “I told you that….”;
  • Simply not informing the team: If they have the information, then it’s good for them, so you may have to grab the information yourself.

3. “It’s not my job”

Role clarity is very important, and focused on their own roles will of course give a greater outcome to the project. However, it may happen that sometimes people have to go beyond their role for the good of the team. A team player will jump in anytime, he will even offer to do a task that’s not his to do.

Here, it’s relatively easy to spot a non team player, since you will probably hear something like:

  • It’s not my job;
  • I could do it but it shouldn’t be me;
  • I have the information but I shouldn’t be the one communicating this;
  • etc.

4. Can’t admit errors

Teammates will often apologize for mistakes, or at the very least admit they were wrong; but someone looking out for themselves will simply not unfortunately.

Luckily, it doesn’t mean they don’ know they made a mistake, which means they might still learn from it, and avoid repeating it next time. To help out, without being guilty of item #1 above, you can suggest how the team can learn for next time by saying “we” instead of “you/he”.

In conclusion

People who are not team players are concentrated on themselves, therefore it can be tricky to work with them when their role is needed inside the project. It can impact the project in a negative way, but, if the outcome of the project affects how they will look in font of others, it may also have a positive impact on the project since they will make sure to look good.

If you think you are a team player and you are guilty of what’s above, you may want to start being careful, it can drastically change how your team looks at you.

Are you working with people who aren’t team players? Share your stories.

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What do you bring to the table?

table

Source: photojock

Everyone is unique, our personalities, mixed with our environment, and everything that as been part of our lives in the past forge us to be who we are today. Many people have similarities of course, and those similarities are easily found at work when many share the same role. For example, working in a PMO with several project managers, it’s safe to assume you are not the only one who is organized (I hope so at least).

So when these similarities make you ‘blend in’, how can you become indispensable? How can you bring something different, something unique? In other words, what do you bring to the team that others don’t?

It can be anything

Let me re-use my example above; you are a project manager amongst others in a PMO, you are organized, you communicate well, you are pro-active, basically you are a typical ‘good’ project managers, just like your colleagues. You want to stand-out, but short of ‘being more organized’, you have no idea how you can achieve that.

You have to think outside the box, and avoid limiting yourself to ‘project management stuff’ because you are with project managers.

Amongst other things, you can try to mix things up with typical ideas from other roles For example, typical creative team will brainstorm using different methods to do so, and that is how they will most likely find their great idea. Project managers however, will tend to discuss in a more linear way. So how about bringing to the PMO to use brainstorms more often to find solutions to problems, or to find a new way to work?

By bringing in new ideas to the table like this, you will stand-out, and those ideas can open doors to other ideas. There are many other ways to stand-out: bring a positive energy of driving forward continuous improvement, encourage discussions on specific topics, get people to share more, etc. All these things can make you different, whether or not you are the very best project managers in every way, and it will make you indispensable.

One important rule, although very obvious, is that it must be unique, it must not be something that others do too, or you simply blend-in again.

Step out of your comfort zone, or not…

If you are lucky, your personality will let you bring a lot to the table while staying in your comfort zone, meaning, it will be easy for you and it will come naturally. Also, if you happen to be different from the team, right off the bat you may be able to bring lots to it.

It may not be the case for everyone, some may have nothing to bring ‘naturally’, or what they can bring is already there. The only way to stand-out will have to get out of their comfort zone. You know what? This is great because it opens new doors to become more, to surpass yourself.

How do you do it?

First you must know where you can focus your energy so identify what’s missing in the team. Discussions? Teamwork? Innovation? Templates?

Secondly, identify why it is missing. Is it because of lack of motivations from the others? Lack of time? Lack of clarity? Lack of experience? People scared to also step out of their comfort zone?

Third, make it happen. If innovation is not happening because it’s not clear that the team can or should, then be the driver of innovation in the team. Do not confuse with having to do the actual innovation, but if you clear the path for the others, they will see you as the leader of innovation because you made it possible! You may also need to make discussions happen, those annoying discussions the people procrastinate for various reasons, bring it back to the table over and over again, show people that it must be done.

Fall, get up, try again

Trust me, you will make mistakes! Encouraging huh? It should be 🙂

Everyone makes mistakes, meaning you will not be the underdog if you do, you will simply be human.

What’s really important is how you react after those mistakes. If you try to hide them, or blame someone else, then this is how people will see you, and standing out in a negative way is worse than blending-in. Instead, take responsibility, admit your mistake, learn from it, get up, and try again. That’s what people will remember. And you know what? That is one way of standing out of the crowd.

In conclusion

Standing out can be hard, especially if you are surrounded by qualified colleagues. It can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t. Everyone can bring something unique to the team if they want , you just need to make it happen.

How have you been able to stand out? What do you bring to your team? Share your stories!


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3 reasons to work as ONE team

Team victory

Source: gracey

All organizations are formed by the combination of many teams of people, grouped by roles, or projects. Each team’s size may vary from very few to a lot. Although these are logical ways to separate people, in can also cause those teams to work in “silos” amongst one another. Here I want to emphasis on that one unique team which is actually everyone put together into one single large team. Think about it, even if 15 teams are separated, they are still all part of the organization, that one big team on top.

For example, in a matrix style organization, where resources from several teams are used to collaborate on a specific project, people working on the same project will collaborate as they are offered the opportunity to do it, resulting in them sharing their knowledge, and growing as a team while working on the project. While that happens, the other colleagues are mostly ignored since teams are each busy with their own work, and nothing is forcing them or giving them an opportunity to collaborate.

Here is why it’s important that the people keep that one big team in mind:

1. Knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing is valuable for everyone, it gives everyone an opportunity to teach others, but also to evolve with the knowledge that others share with us. A typical scenario, as mentioned above, is that the sharing will be amongst the people working on the same project. When projects are done and new teams are created, then at some point new knowledge will be shared here and there.

However, what about the knowledge that could be shared with the others with who we have no project in common? Here is an example: A small team composed of a designer, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, and a project manager. Each of them will collaborate since they are linked with the project, but what about the sharing between the front-end developer and the other developers? Yes they may (may!) ask for help when they need it or may discuss a subject or two while eating, but no real continuous knowledge sharing will be done, so each developer will not necessary learn from others as much as they could.

It’s important to the most knowledge possible gets transferred on a regular basis, not just partially.

2. Better understanding of the organization

More often than it should, a lot of people are unaware of why certain decisions are made within the organization. That lack of understanding can bring frustration or destroy motivation, resulting in people leaving the organization.

On the other hand, if everyone is considered part of the same team, and this kind of information is shared with everyone, then a better understanding of the organization will be developed, and again, valuable feedback and knowledge can be shared. While the frustration and lack of motivation can be avoided, everyone will feel more part of the organization, resulting in higher moral.

3. Better productivity overall

If you have more knowledge shared, less frustration, more motivation, higher moral, and one big happy family, what happens? Everyone is more productive! This can result in great innovations, higher project success, higher quality in people’s work, etc.

It’s hard to say no to that 🙂

How can that be achieved?

As mentioned, people work in team-silos because they are busy and each focused on tasks at hand. The sharing done is generally limited to the opportunities they have to actually collaborate with others. This means that opportunities have to be created. Here are some examples that can help:

  • Knowledge sharing lunch: Order pizza and have one or more people take about a subject during lunch. It could be one lunch per week where people volunteer to speak, and others attend. This idea is easy to put together, and the trick is to have someone maintain the lunches each week to make sure they don’t stop.
  • Knowledge sharing meetings: Similar to the first idea, this one could be considered more formal. The idea is to have a monthly meeting where subjects are assigned to members, and they have to gather knowledge on that subject so that they can share it in the next monthly meeting. This idea is also great to “force” people to do some research they wouldn’t do on their own. Again, it takes someone to organize and control those meetings, and makes sure everything runs smoothly.
  • PMO: Although this idea can be harder to build if none is existent, it is a great example of a core management place that makes sure that knowledge, standards, and processes are optimized and standardized with everyone. I will not go into details of the advantages of a PMO, but I will at least mention that it gives an opportunity for project managers to receive valuable knowledge from the others with who they will rarely work with unless a project is large enough for 2 or more project managers to work together.
  • Centralized tools: By tools, I mean anything that can be used to execute tasks, whether it’s document templates, lessons learned knowledge, codes, plugins, etc. One way to help people share without necessarily actively talking or collaborating, is making sure everyone has access to a repository of those tools. By using the same tools, and having access to other’s contributions, learning can be done without actually using anyone else’s time. Furthermore, that gives an opportunity for people to give feedback on those tools, or improve them, helping the others who use them.
  • Activities: More used as a team-building technique, this can still be very useful to get people to play/collaborate/talk. Even if it’s outside the workplace, it will simplify all the sharing that can occur after that since people will get to know one another better. This will reduce shyness, and raise collaboration overall.

In conclusion

Working in teams is one thing, but everyone working together in one big team can have tremendous advantages. It may not be easy, and it’s important that key resources regularly manage this since it will not happen by magic, but what it will bring to the whole organization is more than worth it.

Have you ever worked somewhere where people were one big team? Or completely fragmented?


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“What’s YOUR Teamability?”; here’s mine

The Gabriel InstituteSeveral weeks ago, I attended a webinar hosted by The Gabriel Institute on what they call their “technology on teaming”, A.K.A. “Teamability”. To sum it up, they divide people into specific “roles” that people have in an organization. Those roles have nothing to do with what you do (which is what we are used to), but instead they are related to your personality. Furthermore, each role as a description on how to communicate with it, how to manage it, how to keep it happy, which type of job they should do, with what type of roles they should work with, etc. There are two types of report, one for the manager, one for the person.

My thoughts on the experience

It’s strange at first, but it’s a very interesting way of separating people and forming teams, rather than simply grouping people by what they do.

By attending the webinar, I got to do the test for free to find out what’s my “Teamability”. They give you 10 different stories, and for each, you have to read all 10 persons’ descriptions and check whether it fits you or not, or if people you know would think it fits you or not. You have to select one person for each option. Since they used radio buttons, it took me 5 out of 10 stories to figure out you could check two options for one person… First time I saw radio buttons for multi-selections… I actually wanted to change my answer when the 2nd radio got selected instead, and I couldn’t figure out how to remove any of them. Fortunately, the 5th option (None of the above) unselected the others.

Honestly, I thought the experience was boring, it’s a lot plain reading and no interaction, no pictures, nothing! The interface is very basic, and offers very little conviviality. While I was reading, I wished I could select a “maybe” option so that when all 10 descriptions were read, I could just review those, but I couldn’t, so you have to note on the side or try to remember.

If you add the outdated website that jammed the 10 descriptions into a small box taking only half of my screen’s height in which I had to scroll, none of it seemed appealing. What kept me going was to find out what the result was! Nevertheless, as I was going story to story, roughly knowing what to answer, I wondered if the result would be any good.

My result

After answering the 10 story, the following message was displayed:

Thank you for your time in successfully completing TGI TeamabilityTM. You may now close your browser tab/window.

I had no idea what to do next. Fortunately, I checked my emails and received one from them with the report attached (a clearer message could have been a good idea).

It seems I am a “Vision Mover“, here is part of the description:

You can be forceful and aggressive in how you approach other people. Once you are given a mission or decide upon a goal, you try to be very determined to reach that goal. Your job, as you see it, is to take a Vision and start the process of deciding how to get it done. It helps that you are an ‘idea person’. In the military, you could be the classic lieutenant, the number two person, the one who is responsible not for DOING the work but for making sure the work gets done. Your style is to try to work out best HOW it will get done and then attempt to make sure it DOES get done. Perhaps people sometimes get annoyed with you for being too ‘bossy’ but that is the way you accomplish your goals. The Vision Mover is very like the handle of a lever and the Vision is what is being moved.

As a project manager, I think this fits me quite well!

The report includes self-development suggestions, characteristics towards a team, best “role” to work with (the Vision Former for me), and other miscellaneous information.

In conclusion

The experience is boring but the report you get at the end is actually great. I was surprised that it described me very well when I wasn’t sure what to answer throughout the experience.

It seems that I get things done, and work well with someone who finds something to get done!

If you want to try it, I think the fee mentioned in the webinar was 80$ (US I presume), it may not necessarily be appropriate for a personal use, but for an organization who wants to fine-tune their team, or the people they hire, it can be interesting to try it.