A picture is worth a thousand words

March 22, 2015

 Don’t get stuck on design without looking into user experience

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Don’t start refinement too early or else you may miss out best solution

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How random data can be interpreted depends upon experience and creativity

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Always remember, keep is succinct as much as possible

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Effective

Credit pictures – Internet. If any of the above shared image is owned by you, please send me complete info and source of image, I will gladly mention credit on this page.

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10 Questions to Answer When Fixing Processes

August 31, 2012

This post talks about how processes created and implemented in hurry overlook the impact on resources, and do not help in long run. Don’t panic and trap yourself in a complicated web of rules, processes and policies to prevent future happenings when something goes wrong. It becomes quite easy to show the world how well thought and fool-proof bureaucratic system we have put in place to catch problems at each level.  Management asks what checks are in place to prevent this in future, we bring up the slide that shows our safeguards, sometimes without realizing if its sustainable, what goes through such scrutiny.

The day a process failure identified in a process and gets top management’s attention, teams scramble to fix the problem immediately.  All hands on decks! Its stand-down till we fix the issue. Teams become reactive and a lot of work is put in to discover what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. This is all good but in hurry to fix the problem and report that all is good, often processes are created that add inefficiencies and add bureaucratic layers, approval processes, workflows, checklists, etc., etc.  We all know that finding the origin of the problem and fixing it there is more effective than putting a process that will catch the issue or problem downstream. 

No doubt that we need to plug the hole(s), fix the processes immediately to keep our business running while ensuring it does not happen in future.  Please pay attention to following thoughts & questions when developing and implementing a solution to fix the problem.

  1. Is team 100% reactive. Root cause analysis is there to help.
  2. Did we understand completely, problem might be the tip of the iceberg.
  3. Is it an issue or problem? What are the statistics telling?  Is it recurring problem or it was a rare occurrence?
  4. Assess the impact on system and organization. Seek external input and consult stakeholders.
  5. Discover why it occurred, could it have been avoided, if yes, then how?
  6. Is there any strategy in place through risk assessment exercise to deal with it?
  7. Where does the problem exist – people, processes, technology, data or a combination thereof?
  8. Is new process to fix problem seems kind of bureaucratic? Are you overdoing it? What it does to efficiency / performance of people?
  9. Is new process stifles creativity in any way?
  10. Are there accountablity, attitude or communication related issues present in the teams?

How Project Managers Can Help Retain the Talented Resources

January 31, 2012

Michigan Central Train Station in Detroit

Organization rise and fall based on people involved in leading, managing and supporting.

It has become a deciding factor for success in any organization to hire, nurture and retain the great talent.  Organizations have in past gone out of way to attract key talented resources from competitors.

There might be fancy deck of powerpoint presentaton produced by HR professionals on available programs to do all that, but is it the reality on ground? Is it working?  Are key people leaving organization or moving to different department? How can you ensure the success of your initiative if key talented resources do not want to stick around? As a project manager you get to see things first hand if policies or programs are working as expected.

Also, I think, it is not only HR’s function to attract and keep talented folks but project managers play a vital role in it. Job security, clarity of direction, level of engagment, opportunities available, benefits and work environment determine how talented resource make their mind up but Project Managers can also influence talented resoureces stay by  –

  1. Marketing the project, its benefit to customer and organization along with in what way it  can help resource grow professionally;
  2. Keeping the account of talent levels of each resource’s skills, background and career goals to make informed decisions;
  3. Offering or arranging mentoring sessions & directing the focus of talented and motivated employees to groom and engage resources;
  4. Delegating in light of what resources can or can not do, level of hand holding required, comfort level in taking risk for project success;
  5. Keeping the communication lines open, first listen then guide and supervise so that resource feels connected and knows he/she makes the difference;
  6. Accepting that mistakes will be made by resources, plan accordingly and anticipate to develop future leaders and managers;
  7. Finding challenging and creative assignments for talented resources so that resources can grow;
  8. Rewarding and recommending the resources in presence of key stakeholders;
  9. Giving or arranging opportunities to attend conferences, meetings and training to sharpen their saws; and
  10. Explaining how project management fits into the life cycle of product development or any project – it’s not asking for status and producing late tasks report.

This is a list of 10 points to start your thought process, please share what else should be added.  Hope to find out from your valuable contribution through comments.  Thanks for reading.


Project Risk Management 101

October 26, 2010

Risk is a future event that may have an impact on schedule, cost or scope.  It may happen or it may not.

Image Courtesy: Open Security Architecture

While Issue is a condition or problem already occurred (or will occur for sure) that impacts schedule, cost or scope.

When Risk is realized, it becomes an issue.  It should be handled accordingly using the money set aside called Management Reserve.  A governance process is usually established to authorize the use of Management Reserve.

Risk and Issues are recorded into Risk and Issue Logs (sometimes Excel spreadsheets).  Risks are identified prior to project startup and through out the project life-cycle.  Risks are communicated to Stakeholders.  Risks when recorded should be worded such that sentences are complete and specific identifying area of impact with its  probability. Issues are prioritized and assigned.  Assigned person develops the action plan to resolve the issue.

Risk must always be assigned to someone, with a target resolution date.  Assigned person has responsibility to provide mitigation/contingency plans on how to handle Risk, if it realizes.

Severity  determines how to react to the Risk.  It can be calculated:
Severity = Probability of occurring Risk x Impact on the Project
Probability and Impact are measured in High, Medium and Low.

Mitigation plan is proactive approach; it is focused on how to mitigate or reduce the severity.  You need mitigation plan for any risk that has severity either medium or high.

Contingency plan is relative approach; it is set of predefined/contingent actions that team will take if Risk event occurs.  For any risk with high severity, you must provide contingency plan.

Four ways to handle Risks – Watch, Accept, Transfer and Mitigate.

  1. Watch – Just keep an eye (monitor regularly) the Risk but no action.
  2. Accept – Accepting the full impact  and plan accordingly
  3. Transfer – Divert the impact to another party
  4. Mitigate – Plan on how can the impact be lessened on project

Action Plan is a plan of documented actions developed in order to resolve an issue that is adversely impacting the project.  Action steps should be clear and identify outcome and deliverables from the action.

Project Manager‘s responsibility is to review the feasibility of mitigation, contingency and action plans.  Then approval is sought for the plan from governance board and then communicated to the stakeholders.  Project work plan is updated to reflect these approved risk management related changes.

Closing Risk is little tricky, mostly when risk is realized it becomes issue and risk is appropriately closed.  You need to check if this risk could re-occur?  If yes, then keep risk open and review budget for management reserve amount.  Closing issue needs confirmation that issue is resolved.  A sign-off note from customer or impacted stakeholder is also required.

Note – These are some key points that I captured sometime ago during Risk Management Refresher, hope it will help


Salience Model – Stakeholder Analysis

March 23, 2010

Who is a stakeholder? Simply anyone with a stake in the project either direct or indirect.   

PMBOK says that stakeholders for a project are persons or organizations  –  

  • who are actively involved;
  • whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of it.
Stakeholder analysis is a process of systematically gathering and analyzing qualitative information to determine whose interests should be taken into account when developing and/or implementing a policy or program. 
Remember that more complex your project is, more attention you need to pay in managing stakeholders. You can do all the right things for a project, but mismanaging a stakeholder who has power, influence and interest can cause failure of the project.

Mitchell, Agle and Wood (1997-99) have come up with stakeholder analysis model, that can help a project manager in early phase of planning process to identify stakeholder and classify according to three major attributes – 

  1. Power – to influence the organization or project deliverables (coercive, financial or material, brand or image);
  2. Legitimacy – of the relationship & actions in terms of desirability, properness or appropriateness;
  3. Urgency – of the requirements in terms of criticality & time sensitivity for the stakeholder.

Based on the combination of these attributes, priority is assigned to the stakeholder. 

Level 3
(High Priority)
7 – Definitive
Power, Legitimacy & Urgency
Level 2
(Medium Priority)
4 – Dominant
Power & Legitimacy
5 – Dangerous
Power & Urgency
6 – Dependent
Legitimacy & Urgency
Level 1
(Low Priority)
1 – Dormant
Power
2 – Discretionary
Legitimacy
3 – Demanding
Urgency

 

 Keep in mind that  –  

  • These three attributes can be gained or lost during the time period of the project, so pay attention when it happens. 
  • Level 1 (Low Priority) stakeholders can increase their salience by coalition building, politics, or media influence.
  • Power alone is insufficient to classify a stakeholder high priority; but some times it does, for example – CEO’s favorite project.
  • Stakeholder analysis requires careful planning, standard guidelines for selection of stakeholders, resourceful team members who have background information, and standard set of questions that feed into the worksheet.

More resouces on stakeholder analysis are at  –  

 References – 

  1. PMBOK Guide- 4th edition, PMI. 2008
  2. Schmeer, Kammi. 1999. Guidelines for Conducting a Stakeholder Analysis. November 1999 

Twitter for Managers and Leaders

November 1, 2009

Early this month, I spoke about PMI-GLC’s Social Media Initiatives at PMI Leadership Institute Meeting @ Region 4 (at Orlando, Florida).  I found out that majority of project managers and leaders are aware of the social media in some way but not utilizing that much. LinkedIn for networking and Facebook were two tools that most of the PMs knew and had profiles active. I am using Twitter for some time now and finding it very useful and informative.  Here is my Twitter page or follow me @kulveervirk.

In this post I would like to give my readers quick info on Twitter and how it can be used by project/program managers and leaders effectively to advance the profession, help the stakeholders and grow their personal network while learning new stuff.  Next you develop strategy to use Twitter effectively.

Some Basics:
It is evident that more and more professionals are interacting through social media tools and technologies to share the ideas and spread the word.  Social media includes blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Twitter, and many more. There are millions of people using Twitter all across the globe.

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say but keep on saying it.  – Robert Frost

Twitter is very innovative way of communicating with people you choose to communicate with.  It is inexpensive and effective way to distribute information on the Internet. Twitter allows you to communicate in 140 characters.  These 140 character messages you send or choose to read are called tweets.  In this message (aka tweet) you can include a link to any article, post, or blog.  Once you are on Twitter you will choose to follow some of the folks tweeting and you will also have some followers who are interested to read your tweets.  You can choose whom to follow or if you want to block someone from following you.  You can create lists (similar to groups).

First step after setting up your account  for a professional is to search for fellow professionals in similar profession and start following them.  There is minimal lingo involved that you can find it here to get started. Once you start following people and communicating, you are already on your way create, share and discover ideas on project management and leadership.

For Managers and Leaders:
 Twitter is excellent tool to connect to your stakeholders (provided your stakeholders are on Twitter and following you).  You can provide quick info or update about your project, product, service or initiative to your stakeholders.

For example, you have a product that tracks helpdesk tickets and you have new exciting feature that you have incorporated into the beta release, you can keep updating your followers about the progress and also provide the link to your blog when you provide some update.

If you have a flagship software or hardware product and you may have loyal following (as in case of Apple and Microsoft), you can provide info and also read what others are talking about your product and support/service.

One practical use of Twitter is by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to spread the word on health and safety; now a days on H1N1

Other best use is when you are following other professionals in your field, you can find out industry trends, what are they working on, what new things have they discovered.  If can respond to the questions that are being asked or you may have some ask for advice.

You will find and follow many industry leaders and experts are constantly tweeting and you can learn a lot from them.  For example, I follow @kenblanchard, @jack_welch, @tom_peters, @tom_peters, @Padmasree and many more whom I admire.  You may find that your boss or your CEO/CIO is also tweeting, follow him and find out what he says and asks.  Twitter also gives you opportunity to ask direct questions or share ideas.

You can use Twitter to promote your brand.  People from different walk of life might be interested in what you are sharing via tweets and learn from your experience; its nice way to give back to community as well.

There are some drawbacks as well that come with any tool or technologies.  You must be very clear about your objective while tweeting.  Always stay professional and tweet only when you have something useful to share or ask.  A nice motivational or inspiring quote is always better than saying “I am baselining my project plan 7th time in a month.”

Whatever you say (or tweet), represents you and builds your image.  You are building your network and you will get some loyal followers on the way. If you are tweeting about your organization or corporate product, make sure you are authorized to say something. 

You can receive and communicate on Twitter using your smartphone.  If you have Twitter account, you can follow me using @kulveervirk and find out whom am I following.

Thank you for reading and hope that this info will help you in some way.  Let me know what other creative ways you are using Twitter as a professional or project manager.

Useful links:
Why Project Managers Should Twitter
Twitter 101 for Business
Shorten and track your URLs


Quotes for Managers

June 24, 2008

Quotes are powerful words to stir thinking process, give new perspective on things, motivate to take action.  Here are some quotes on planning and strategy that I collected from book Strategic Management by Fred David.

  1. Like a product or service, the planning process itself must be managed and shaped, if it is to serve executives as a vehicle for strategic decision making. – Robert Lenz
  2. Strategies for taking the hill won’t necessarily hold it. – Amar Bhide
  3. Great spirits have always encountered vioulent opposition from mediocre minds. – Albert Einstein
  4. A firm that continues to employ a previously successful strategy eventually and inevitably falls victim to a competitor. – Bill Cohen
  5. Planning is often doomed before it ever starts, either because too much is expected of it or because not enough is put into it. – T. J. Cartwright
  6. Planners should not plan, but serve as facilitators, catalysts, inquirers, educators, and synthesizers to guide the planning process effectively. – A. Hax and N. Majluf
  7. Don’t recommend anything you woul not be prepared to do yourself if you were in the decision maker’s shoes. – A. J. Strickland III

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