15 Ground Rules for Project Team Management

People with diverse professional experiences and background have totally unique perspective on any issue.  When a new team is assembled for any project, its vital for the success of that project that all team member are aware of  the ground-rules for the project; similar to any sport.  You may have to read it to team and give a copy for reference.

Here is an example list that I have used for a project to keep team aligned.    Such ground-rules certainly eliminate unnecessary confusion and your business customer and team members like it defined beforehand.  Make sure, you also follow it and implement it.

  1. Project manager is the primary contact for any project related communication.
  2. All team members maintain their contact info on the team contact list with contact preference.
  3. All members attend required meetings and conference calls; if unable to attend, meeting organizer to be notified.  If key contributor is unable to attend, request to reschedule the meeting.
  4. Any planned day off or vacation must be communicated in advance to project manager so that project plan can be updated and impact to work, if any, can be analyzed.
  5. All project team members have access to project plan and  project logs (in a standard document format) and are aware of the assigned tasks and due dates.
  6. All team members are to be consulted about the reasonableness of the plan prior to management approval.
  7. All team members are required to validate their assignments and time allocated prior to the plan is baselined.
  8. All project team members have the responsibility to proactively notify the project manager about tasks, duration or dependencies they believe are missing (or any other needed changes to the plan) and confront issues directly and promptly.
  9. Project team members have the responsibility to notify any potential difficulties in meeting the schedule for any assigned tasks as soon as it is known by the team member.
  10. Each project team member is responsible for ensuring anticipated workload conflicts with other assignments are brought to the attention of the project manager.  Team members should ask for help if feeling “stuck” or falling behind the schedule instead of waiting for miracle.
  11. All team members are responsible to own, follow-up and provide updates on the assigned task (including but not limited to any identified risks, issues, changes, approvals, clarification from customer).  If any delay is observed, escalate to project manager.
  12. All  meeting minutes, key decisions, assumptions and business rules must be documented and all action items must be followed up and assigned to a resource with expected completion date. These items are usually mentioned in casual conversation.
  13. All project team members understand the scope of work.  Any work performed must be in the project plan and is in the project scope.  Anything that is absolutely needed but not part of the project plan, must be brought into project manager’s attention.
  14. All project team members confront issues directly and promptly.
  15. Only project manager submits all final deliverables to business customer for sign-off or approval.

What are other key things that you have found useful and we can add to this list?

Thank you for your visit and have a great day!

11 Principles of Leadership

 I came across 11 leadership principles of Marine Corps in Guide Book for Marines on the Internet and here is my interpretation of 11 principles.  I am interested in hearing from Marines about their leadership experience. 

  1. Take responsibility – we need to seek and take responsibilities if we need to grow; never shy away, whatever seems challenging will help you expand your perspective.
  2. Know yourself – reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses; seek improvement and understand that you can achieve only those goals that you set.
  3. Set an example– conduct your business in a professional manner; do not loose temper – small minds are bothered by small problems; not only work in your job but also work on your job as well.  Be a brand that people want to associate with.
  4. Develop your subordinates– consider this as part of your job; learn to delegate; as Zig Ziglar said “You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want“; give them opportunities to learn & grow;  guide them if they fit somewhere else.
  5. Be available – in every respect; be available to listen to problems and challenges people are facing; to motivate, to lead and to show right direction; to hear criticism; to take decisions and to act on time.
  6. Look after the welfare of your employees – the way you want your boss to look after your welfare; develop emotional intelligence; connect with people and find out what motivates them; do something that touches their lives; help them when they are in need.  Arrogance and ignorance will not take you to the top or won’t keep you there for long.
  7. Keep everyone well informed  – right communication is the key; make sure that the tasks are understood, supervised and accomplished on time and tell why you need all this done; do no assume –  aks and tell.
  8. Set goals that are achievable – always set the goals – people need to know what they are expected to deliver and by when; let people figure out how;  goals should motivate teams to act; measure the results and reward people.
  9. Make sound and timely decisions– that are aligned with the core principles of your organization and with your job descriptions; there will always be more than one right answer – choose the one that benefits the most and not only you; take decisions like a servant leader.
  10. Know your job – be technically and tactically proficient in your job; know your people; know the processes and challenges; know how can you add value to the organization or your department.
  11. Build teamwork– not all people can perform equally but they should complement each other while working towards a common goal; promote team work and diversity; shield your team from external pressure; be flexible with team.

“Leadership is intangible, hard to measure, and difficult to describe. It’s quality would seem to stem from many factors. But certainly they must include a measure of inherent ability to control and direct, self-confidence based on expert knowledge, initiative, loyalty, pride and sense of responsibility. Inherent ability cannot be instilled, but that which is latent or dormant can be developed. Other ingredients can be acquired. They are not easily learned. But leaders can be and are made.” – General C. B. Cates, 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps

Thanks for reading and welcome your input.  Have a great day.

Changepoint and PPM

Last week I completed Compuware Changepoint training. I had read earlier that Changepoint is in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant (leaders) for PPM tools.

Changepoint is a web based tool for project and portfolio management.  The tool enables leadership make right decisions based on dynamic metrics of various initiatives and what value these initiatives add; and realignment of IT efforts with business strategy and vision.  Tool is very intuitive and scalable. 

In Project and Portfolio management, complexity is the key factor that makes changes difficult and time consuming. Just imagine multiple projects going on in  your organization with resources scattered around the teams (or Globe) and you are tracking the progress and reporting the metrics to the upper management.  Management wants to see  report on  status of all the projects underway, return on investment for each project, supply and demand, resource utilization, change management, issues and risks to the projects, etc. to make informed decision on project priorities, strategic planning and funding.

Changepoint makes all the aspect of program management easier by effectively managing your projects and applications, resources and client relationships.  You can find out more at Compuware website.

Disclaimer – I am a Compuware employee and opinions expressed here are my own.

Project Management – Useful Links

We learn a lot from the Internet these days and rely on up-to-date information.  Personally, I’ve learned a lot from my fellow bloggers and other websites on Project Management to stay ahead of the curve. 

There are many other on-line resources but  I would like to share following list of blogs/websites that I frequently visit and would like to thank for their time and energy for sharing knowledge and doing the great service to on-line community.  Thank you and keep up the good job!

  1. http://www.betterprojects.net
  2. http://www.pmhut.com
  3.  http://www.thepmpodcast.com  
  4. http://herdingcats.typepad.com
  5. http://www.ravensbrain.com
  6. http://pmcrunch.com
  7. http://www.allpm.com
  8. http://www.amakar.com
  9.  http://leadinganswers.typepad.com

I hope you will also bookmark these sites and learn about the profession. 

Thanks for visiting and have a great day!

Capture Planning Assumptions

Your boss approaches you and tells that workplan is very good but customer wants to know how can we deliver the project sooner than promised?  Now you have to come up with a new workplan or make some adjustments based on new findings.  You put your thoughts together and go on to make changes/update and deliver the final document with required changes. 

And then your boss asks, why this task is due this particular day and why are we taking this long to complete, etc., etc…

You might have answers for most of the questions your boss has asked but it is of prime importance that you document all the assumptions you made while planning, does not matter how small or evident those assumptions are.

I would capture following –

  • why are you making these changes or what is the objective and if these objectives are aligned with customer expectations;
  • what are high-level or global assumptions for the plan being put in place (standardized assumptions);
  • why making change to time/scope/cost;
  • what are risks that can derail the work;
  • what are the opportunities that you are counting on;
  • who are the critical resources you have based your work on;
  • what exceptions from standard process did you make;
  • what compromises are built into the plan;
  • what is the impact on existing process (if any);
  • for budget tail of it : dollars spent per month; and
  • what are the key milestones.

I hope these are the basic questions that we should be able to answer from a Project Management perspective when talking about assumptions.  Let me know what your thoughts are and what else could be added to the list?

Thanks for reading it, appreaciate your feedback.

Choosing Team Lead

“People acting together as a group can accomplish things that no individual acting alone could ever hope  to bring about.” – FD Roosevelt

Each team members has unique work style, personal goals, skills, background and experience.  Each team member’s unique qualities and different attributes make a team complex unit where conflict, confusion, criticism will grow and finally bring the project to failure  if team is not led the proper way. 

In many I.T. projects,  Project Manager (PM) has a team leader who assists him or her in coordination of work, driving the team effort, listening and resolving team issues, guiding in making the appropriate tactical decisions, and above all providing expert advice on subject matter, among others.  Synergy and cooperation among team members are the key things for success of the project and for that,  a good team lead should be in place.  If you got a weak team leader, team will not perform and you will be spending all of energy in team issue management.  As a PM, you need to understand that your team leader should –

  1. understand the whole project along with project objectives and goals;
  2. be expert of the overall process who can guide team members;
  3. be able to handle pressure and conflict situations;
  4. understands the team dynamics and works to promote productive working conditions;
  5.  be a good team player and can get status of work from team members;
  6. be capable of resolving minor issues without your involvement;
  7. be able to negotiate and communicate with technical as well non-technical people involved;
  8. be proactive with qualities of a mentor and a coach and
  9. able to provide realistic and accurate feedback on time.

Hope this helps in making you decide whom to choose to lead your team.  Let me know what else can be added to the list.  Thanks for reading and have a good day.

Scheduling & Three Types of Tasks : MS Project

If you are new Project Manager or new to using MS Project,  when putting workplan together one of the question you may ask is – what type of task should I choose?

MS Project has 3 options –

  1. Fixed Duration;
  2. Fixed Units;
  3. Fixed Work. 

The choice will decide how MS Project schedules the work, in other words, which one of three remains fixed and other two change.  To make things easier to remember, Duration is in days, Work is in hours and Units are resources.  And formula to keep in mind is ‘wud’ i.e.   w(ork) = u(nit) * d(uration).

Summary table – Left green column is task type in MS Project; top red column is what we change; blue colums are rescheduled by MS project.

 

Change Duration

Change Unit

Change Work

Fixed Duration

 

Reschedules Work

Reschedules Units

Fixed Units

Reschedules Work

 

Reschedules Duration

Fixed Work

Reschedules Units

Reschedules Duration

 

Basically, 1day duration has 8 hrs of work with 1 unit or resource working 100%.

Continue reading “Scheduling & Three Types of Tasks : MS Project”

Fast, Cheap AND Good

Good, Fast or Cheap

Can’t pick any two? You also need all three – fast, cheap and good? 

It has been very commonly used set of options in I.T. when offering an alternative or usually when dealing with issues from outsourced service.  Someone will come and say – “Pick any two!” 

Sometime ago I was involved in a project where we had to pick any two options and it was very hard to leave out the third one.  Many times we had to leave ‘cheap’ and other times ‘fast’,  for us ‘good’ was essential and paid the price accordingly.  We had to compensate for third left out option through continuous improvement.  I kind of thought that this is the  dilemma every one will be facing.  But it is not the case as I am finding out.  Things are getting better.

Continue reading “Fast, Cheap AND Good”

Intro to Earned Value Analysis – Part 1


We got to measure the progress of the project and report it to upper management along with controlling it.  Project might seem progressing well, tasks completing on time and we are spending money for that.  Earned Value Analysis (EVA) gives us an integrated view of cost and schedule performance.  Lets go over some basic definitions in this post.

There are three basic things that we need from project plan – Earned Value (EV), Planned Value (PV) and Actual Cost (AC).

EV  – Budgeted value (in $ or hours) of work performed a.k.a.  BCWP
AC– Actual value (in $ or hours)  of work performed a.k.a. ACWP
PV– Budgeted value (in $ or hours) of work scheduled or planned a.k.a. BCWS

These three key values enable us to calculate Cost Variance (CV) and Schedule Variance (SV).  This variance gives us info on if we are on track.

Cost Variance CV = EV-AC
(i.e. budgeted cost of work performed minus actual cost of work performed).
Positive variance means we are below budget and Negative variance means over budget.

Schedule Variance SV = EV-PV
(i.e. budgeted cost of work performed minus actual cost of work scheduled).
Positive variance means we are ahead of schedule and Negative variance means behind schedule.

Positive variance (in $ or hours) is usually considered good.  But when we have to compare progress of multiple projects, CV or SV of one project won’t make any sense when compared with other projects because they could be of different size in terms of budget and schedule.  To overcome this issue of comparing different projects regardless of their sizes, indexes are used.   Instead of subtracting, we divide the same numbers.

Cost Performance Index  CPI = EV / AC

Schedule Performance Index SPI = EV / PV

If CPI  is 1.0, we can say we are on track with respect ot cost; if CPI > 1, we can say we are under budget plus better cost performance.  If CPI<1.0, we are over budget and need attention.

If SPI  is 1.0, we can say we are on track with respect ot schedule; if SPI > 1, we can say we are ahead of schedule plus better schedule performance.  If SPI<1.0, we are behind schedule and need attention.

If CV or SV is negative or CPI or SPI is less than 1.0, I would monitor the trend of CV and SV for over couple of weeks to see the trend and then take some action.  If CPI or SPI is greater than 1.5, we still need to evaluate why is it so?

We use EVA by plotting project schedule on x-axis and cumulative (weekly or monthly) budgeted spend plan according to base-lined data from project plan. 

We need to remember one thing, Garbage in, garbage out.  If project is poorly planned, EVA can not come to aid.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think, any suggestions for improvements and corrections are truly welcome. 

Trust is very important for teamwork

When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality. – Joe Paterno.

Who else can say better than JoePa?  He is absolutely correct, but key thing is outgrowing individualism.  When a team is motivated to work together, everything seems possible and there is quite a different feeling. I have been blessed to work with some of the best people who knew how to empower team and have experienced how team’s common goals produce stunning results. 

Very first thing is to cultivate the trust in the team.  If there is no professional trust among group members, team will never perform at par. 

We have to be little bit open to our team members (my own perspective). if we become totally professional by delegating tasks and demand results with ‘paid for the work done’ attitude, team will not work.  You got to use some emotional intelligence, you got to connect with the employee.

Next, you being the boss,  have to guide and empower the team.  Every team member comes with unique skills, personality, objectives, understanding.  You got to know who needs direction, and who needs nod; who needs to be left alone and who should be slowing down.  Check Situational Leadership II post on my blog.  You are the one who will make things happen through this dynamic team.

Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments how you made your team perform above expectations and what factors were important to you.

 

Quotes for managers

  1. People ask for the secret to success.  There is no secret but there is a process. – Nido Quebin
  2. Set a good example.  It will please some people and amaze the rest. – Mark Twain
  3. We don’t see things as they are.  We see them as we are.  – Anais Nin
  4. Those who lack courage will always find a philosophy to justify it. – Albert Camus
  5. The first thing to decide before you walk into any negotiation is what to do if the other fellow says no. – Ernest Bevin
  6. The more you say, the less people remember. – Anatole France.

Issue or Risk?

Budget, Scope and Schedule are three constraints a project manager has to deal with to produce deliverable.  Any one of these three is changed, remaining are also affected.

Risks and issues in a project are documented and monitored.  During the documentation phase, it becomes cofnusing when we have to classify it into either risk or issue category.  Here is the basic info on difference between risk and issue –

Risk is a future event that may have an impact on triple constraint.  It may happen or it may not.  We can plan for risk based on its probability and impact on deliverable – risks can be avoided completely, or can be minimized, or can be transferred to other party, or we can meet head on.

An issue is present problem or concern influencing triple constraints.  In other words, an issue is raised when something has gone wrong and will impact triple constraint.

A risk can become an issue, but issue is not risk – it has already happened.

Hope this helps.  Thank you for reading the post.

27-Oct-2010 : More details added in other post https://virk.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/project-risk-management-101/

How to Have Project Kick-off Meeting


Kick-off meeting is the first meeting of the project where you give all the team members good news that project is ‘go ahead’ from the sponsors and also set the tone of your project – is it going to be a success or a failure.  Many hours and days have gone into preparation before you have kick-off meeting. You have worked very hard and now have project charter and project plan is in your hands.Primarily kick-off meeting has following goals-

  1. energize the project team
  2. communicate project goals and expectations
  3. introduce team members and stake-holders
  4. highlight opportunities plus challenges and reiterate importance of project for organization
  5. provide information of processes, methodology, project plan, key milestones, etc.
  6. handout team’s contact phone numbers and email addresses
  7. present communication plan
  8. give time to attendees to ask questions and express views

I would do following extra things to make sure kick-off meeting sets positive tone –

  1. print the hand-out material a day before, also check for meeting room projector etc.
  2. have some project related posters and famous positive quotes posted on the wall
  3. invite one or two senior managment  people to talk about project’s importance
  4. have kick-off meeting around 9 AM (start of the day is better)
  5. block enough time for this meeting (time for refreshments, presentations, questions and answers)
  6. set date of kick-off  meeting and notify all members at-least a week ago
  7. offer light refreshments at the beginning of the kick-off meeting
  8. do not sit and just talk, look and feel energetic
  9. have your project plan and other documents (that you plan to hand out) reviewed well in advance by subject matter experts for accuracy
  10. make sure meeting conveys the message and people walk out with motivation

Are there other key things? I will be interested to hear.  Hope this helps and good luck with your kick-off meeting. 

10 Steps of Project Success

Whenever IT project failure is talked, people refer Denver Airport project that failed big time and costed a lot.  I have also seen project that failed or cancelled or shrunk.  Why is it happening when so many intelligent people are working and we know all the ingredients of project success. 

Here are some commonly known factors needed for project success –

Continue reading “10 Steps of Project Success”

Importance of TimeOut

We have seen in various sports when a play or a pass is not developing the way expected or falling out of bound, timeout is called.  After timeout, team regroups and turns the outcome for that instance or break the momentum of the opponent team going for score. It give opportunity to re-focus, re-think and re-group.

Continue reading “Importance of TimeOut”

The 4 Disciplines of Execution

Execution of ideas/goals makes the real difference.  Any one can set goals and objectives but when it comes to implementation, it is totally a different game.   You might have seen excellent concepts being converted into highly visible projects and later the project being cancelled or product being shelved.  Its all how you execute.  As Will Weider said in his blog – I am surrounded by people with good ideas.  I need more people that implement them well.

I just finished another audio book by Stephen R. Covey – The 4 Disciplines of Execution.  This book talks about prioritized goals and how to achieve results with excellence.  It is important that team is involved in the development of important goals and methodology of measuring the goals.  The best ideas come not from the leaders, but from the interaction of the leaders and the front line. These are 4 disciplines –

Discipline 1 – Focus on the wildly important (goals) 
Discipline 2 – Create a compelling scoreboard
Discipline 3 – Translate lofty goals into specific actions
Discipline 4 – Hold each other accountable – all of the time.

Continue reading “The 4 Disciplines of Execution”

Situational Leadership

I completed Computer Based Training – “Situational Leadership II” developed by the Ninth House.  I was amazed with the technique used to give lessons; it kept me involved till the end and I did not feel disconnected or bored.  It is kind of movie that you watch and your decisions dictate the way story develops.  Decision taken can result in getting job done or getting you fired.  This training is based on Ken Blanchard’s leadership model and teaches how to increase team productive with proper leadership style by providing right amount of direction, support, or coaching.

Continue reading “Situational Leadership”

You had problem pronouncing long Indian name?

You might have seen that some Indian names are little complicated to pronounce (particularly by our American and Canadian fellows – may be Europeans too). 

Now-a-days, Indian names are very common in workplace as offices are quite diverse and multi-cultural.  Some have changed their long (or complex to pronounce) Indian names to short ones, the same way William is Bill, Robert is Rob etc. 

In this funny clip,  a guy from America or Europe goes to (may beSouth) India to work (where long and complex names are common).

Someone forwarded me the link to this video clip on Indian Names (probably from a UK TV show).  It’s quite humors, please take it that way.

 Have a great day!

Positive Thinking..

I spent some time over the last few months  reading book and listening to audio CDs on positive thinking (attitude).  The one was “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Vincent Peele.  I liked so many things described there.  I have tried to implemented it in my life and work.

By thinking positively, things are more interesting and joyful for me.  Energy level remains high.  Some incidents or issue may trigger negative thought, may be I naturally monitor my thoughts, I am able to swith it to positive side or give it a positive spin. Continue reading “Positive Thinking..”