Category Archives: Planning

Having a plan vs. planning

Plan vs. Planning
Plan vs. Planning

As some of my readers know, I have combined my long daily commute with my interest in American history by listening to a biography of every U.S. president in chronological order. I listen more for leadership reasons than political.

I recently finished Dwight D. Eisenhower’s biography.  While Ike was seen by many as a “retiree president” who primarily golfed his way through two terms, he actually used his military knowledge for a lot of behind-the-scenes foreign policy diplomacy.

One of the more interesting quotes he is known for is, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

I found that to be very enlightening from a military perspective. The man who masterminded D-Day certainly had a plan. But he knew that there were many things that would go wrong and situations that would change.  He knew as soon as execution began, situations beyond his control would immediately cause them to deviate from the plan.

But the process of planning includes considering what can go wrong and establishing alternatives. That provides the indispensable aspect of planning.

Planning in project management

This is just as true in project management as in the life or death world of the military. Every competent project manager knows that every project needs a project plan. And every project manager knows that as soon as the plan is done and the project begins, deviations begin rearing their ugly heads.

That’s where issue and risk analysis come into play. In addition to developing a detailed project plan, project managers should do extensive risk analysis. This should be done early and often.

At the beginning of any project, the project manager should meet with all project stakeholders to brainstorm on any risks that could be faced.

With every risk, analysis should include the likelihood of the risk occurring, the impact to the project should it occur, and mitigation plans to avoid the risk, deal with the risk, or accept the risk.

This type of planning allows for many deviations in the original plan. The project manager knows how to deal with those deviations and what to do when they happen.

You can’t think of everything

I’ve experienced pushback from people in the past when it comes to risk analysis. They tell me that I’m wasting my time. You can’t think of every bad thing that will happen. You can’t tell the future.

True. You’ll never think of every possible thing that can go wrong. That’s not the point. The point is to think of as many possibilities that you can. Brainstorming like that and coming up with mitigation strategies will help make it easier to zig when things zag.

Mitigation strategies provide ideas that lead to mitigations for other things that go wrong. That’s where the planning is infinitely more valuable than the plan.

Being on the same page

Another major outcome of planning (rather than the plan) is the communication that it generates. Have you ever been on a project where people are asking “What are we doing and how are we going to do it?” They may look at a plan. But that may not make it clear.

When they are involved in the planning, they have a keener sense of the project purpose. They are also much more aware of how the project will be managed.

If they are involved in risk mitigation practices, they understand that the straight line of the plan, may be a circuitous path. But they know the end point will not vary too much.

Conclusion

Many project managers develop a plan and stubbornly stick to it. Their inflexibility can cause many problems for the project. They end up focusing more on the plan than the original purpose and intent of the project.

Having the flexibility to deviate from the plan can be the key to their success. The magic is in the planning, not in the plan.

What have you accomplished through planning?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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I’ve never been imprisoned, but I have been in a PMO

Project Management Office
Is there value in a Project Management Office?

After the American colonies won their independence from England in 1783, the founding fathers feared that people would like their independence too much. They debated whether to have a constitution. Thomas Jefferson was against having a constitution because he didn’t want the dogma of so many rules. John Adams (a stubborn rule follower who probably would have made a great project manager) wanted a constitution to create a framework of law.

This is the framework of the classic debate that exists in our current day between our political parties. We all seem to disagree on how much governance people need.

We face a similar debate in the project management world in large organizations. Should we have a project management office? Do we need to centralize our project management approach for a more standardized way of doing things? Or do we hire experienced project managers and allow them the freedom to do their jobs without the dogma of inflicting our standards on them.

Why have a Project Management Office?

The purpose of a PMO is to help its constituents achieve their business objectives. Those constituents are the business groups for whom you run a project. If the organization has a centralized PMO, the business goes to them and requests a project manager to execute the project.

The assumption is that if you develop a set of good standards for project management, and have all of your project managers follow them, you will be more efficient. You’ll have a team of project managers that can run a project in roughly the same, predictable way for any of your business constituents.

According to the Project Management Institute, PMOs are designed to:

  • Reduce failed projects
  • Deliver projects under budget
  • Improve productivity
  • Deliver projects ahead of schedule
  • Increase cost savings

The objectives of most PMOs are:

Better Governance to certify that decisions are made with complete information by the right people.

Knowledge sharing to ensure that people within the group learn from other peoples’ experiences.

Support to make it easy for project teams to do their jobs with less bureaucracy, and to provide mentoring and training for higher quality.

Standardized approach to ensure consistent documentation and management approaches are utilized.

Misalignment with objectives

One could argue that that if the above mentioned things are the goal, then a project management office is a great idea. Many PMOs that I’ve been a part of have all of those objectives. Unfortunately, their execution takes them down another path.

In one organization I was part of, there was a weekly PMO meeting where every project manager took a turn giving the status of their project. Few of the projects were interrelated. This resulted in everybody wasting everybody else’s time.

Other PMOs seem obsessed with tracking trivial administrative activities. They routinely monitor timely submission of time sheets and other reporting activities. Compliance statistics – and non-compliant team members – are customarily shared in the weekly meeting.

A common objective of a project management office is to develop a standardized approach. This generally includes any document that is generated for the project. PMOs often develop a “one size fits all” mentality and requires every project to submit all of the standard deliverables. This results in PMs focused on mounds of paperwork, taking time from value-added activities of managing the project.

The irony is that the organization that was established to reduce bureaucracy often actually increases it.

How to build a better Project Management Office

A PMO’s leadership should focus on the following practices to make sure they are providing their constituents with the best possible service offering:

  • Develop a succinct list of objectives. Work with your business customers to develop a short list of objectives. Determine what they want from a PMO and focus on delivering that to them.
  • Focus every activity to those objectives. With everything you do, ask yourself the following two questions:
    • Does this help us achieve our objectives?
    • Does it add value to our customers?
  • Communicate with your customers. Meet with them regularly to verify that the objectives are still current. Find out if there are any areas where their objectives are not being met.
  • Query your project managers. Find out if the PMs see value in a centralized approach. Make sure they understand and are following all of the standards. Make adjustments where necessary.
  • Provide training. Make your meetings count by training and mentoring the project managers. Few of them care about the status of the other projects. But encouraging them to share their knowledge and experience will encourage learning and a more cohesive group.
  • Some may complain that the PMO restricts their freedom to manage the way they want to manage. It may be that their way is not as good as the PMO’s approach. But it could also lead to a discussion that results in changing an approach, or allowing more flexibility for multiple approaches.

Conclusion

Project management offices have a reputation for not adding value. To avoid this, they should take the time to determine the desired value needed by their customers. Then, they should make sure that all of their activities are focused on delivering that value.

The members of the PMO are a great collection of knowledge. They should be encouraged to share their knowledge with each other in a collaborative approach.

The concept of a project management office is almost always to provide value. It’s the execution that often takes much of the value away.

How effective is your project management office?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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Risk Management: Three Steps

Risk Management
Risk Management

One of the most forgotten and ignored aspects of project management is risk management. The project plan and issues log get a lot of attention. And rightfully so. Those are important aspects of a project.

If you don’t pay attention to the tasks that need to be completed, they won’t get done. And if you don’t attend to issues, they result in delays and cost overrides.

But risk management is as important as those other aspects. Risk management is like buying insurance for the project. It allows you to be more prepared for things that could go wrong on your project.

Three steps for effective risk management

Many people don’t focus on risk management because they don’t see the value. That’s because most people don’t do it completely. People spend lots of time, especially at the beginning of the project identifying risks to the project. They document the list and store it in a project repository. Little, if anything gets done beyond those efforts.

But there are three steps that need to be addressed for effective risk management. The team needs to identify risks. But there is more to it.

Step 1: Risk identification

At the beginning of the project, the project manager should work with the team to identify any risks that could occur. This can range from computer servers not being delivered on time to the risk of a hurricane, if you work in an area susceptible to that type of thing.

Once risks are listed, the analysis begins. I like to be fairly scientific about it. It try to assess the likelihood of the risk occurring. This can be stated in terms of a percentage or a High-Medium-Low designation.

I also like to assess the impact to the project if the risk occurs. Again, you can assign a High-Medium-Low label. You could also try to assess what the actual impact would be based on dollars, time elapsed, or lost team members. If you choose to do that, it is recommended to assign real measurable numbers that impact the project.

Step 2: Identify mitigation strategies

Once risks are identified and analyzed, you need to identify mitigation strategies. It’s one thing to identify everything that could go wrong. It does very little good unless you determine what you will do about it.

Mitigation steps generally can be broken down into three approaches:

Avoidance – What can we do to avoid this risk? If you have a risk that your servers might be delivered late, you might choose to avoid that risk by ordering from multiple vendors. If one vendor is late, you have better odds of getting your other servers delivered on time.

Reduction – If you can’t avoid the risk, you may be able to reduce it. With the late server example, you may be able to pay a premium for express delivery.

Acceptance – With some risks, it is either a very low likelihood, like a hurricane in Chicago, or low impact. For those risks, you may choose simply to accept and monitor the risk.

Step 3: Reassess

Situations continually change. It is important to reassess your risks frequently. An alert project manager always has one eye open for new risks on a project. The team should go through risk assessment exercises every couple of weeks. In weekly status meetings, the project manager should ask team members about any new risks.

The existing risks should also be reassessed. Has the probability or impact changed? Are you no longer willing to accept a risk? Perhaps new mitigation strategies are more appropriate as the project has matured.

Projects are fluid and the risks to the project continue to change. It is critical to project success to always be aware of new and changing risks to stay on top of them.

Conclusion

I’ve always considered issues as risks that came true. Although it is impossible to think of every possible issue that could occur, frequent and thorough risk analysis can help a team avoid many issues from happening. For issues that can’t be avoided, risk analysis and mitigation strategies can help the team be more ready to address them with resolutions more rapidly.

Detailed risk analysis is a great insurance policy against issues taking over your project.

How thorough is your risk analysis?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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The Skill of Categorization

Skill of Categorization
Skill of Categorization

Imagine going to the grocery store where food is just randomly put on shelves based on available space. You might find one brand of breakfast cereal in isle two, and another brand in isle seven.

Instead, the grocery store categorizes their products. The produce is all together in one area. The cereals are all in one isle and so on. It makes your shopping experience faster, easier, and more organized.

If you stop and think about it, most of what we do is based on how we categorize things. And the more logical the grouping is, the easier it is to be organized. A library categorizes books on their shelves by genre. Within genre, they generally sort the books by author to help you find a book easily in a large building full of books.

Categorization based on correlation

The important thing is to categorize based on some logical correlation. If the library sorted books by color, it would provide little to no value. I’ve never gone into the library looking for something green to read.

Poor outcomes occur when we base our categorizing on flawed correlations. There is currently intense debate regarding how to limit the inflow of terrorists. Should immigrants being categorized by the country they are from, their religion, or some other way? Racism roots from associating flawed correlations to broad categories of people.

When you listen to two opposing politicians debate, they are arguing two different correlations. Can we stimulate the economy by giving tax breaks to the rich or the poor? In fact, most of politics is a process of developing correlations based on categories. We categorize many of our political beliefs based on our income, age group, national region, religion, ethnicity, gender, and many other things. Many of these categorization have little to no correlation to the actual belief.

When I was a young boy in school, I remember my teacher dismissing us based on the color we were wearing. “Anybody wearing red is excused.” There was no correlation to that categorization. It was simply a random approach to grouping dismissal to avoid a bottleneck at the classroom door.

Categorizing is a skill when managing a project

Think about how often you categorize in your day-to-day work. You may categorize people based on their skill or work location. You may categorize tasks based on priority or urgency.

When you schedule a meeting, you have to decide who to invite. Most of us do that based on the category of people that need to be in the meeting. Do they contribute to the meeting? Do they need to be informed? The finance people get invited to a finance meeting. There should be some correlation between who you invite and why they should attend. Unless you just want to invite those wearing red.

I’ve often said that everything we do or say should have a purpose. Purpose is driven by correlation. Although there are plenty of random events, most events have a cause. Developing your skill at identifying causes and their effects means having a deep understanding of correlation.

We make decisions based on what we think will happen as a result. People disagree with us because they have a different set of beliefs for what will result.

For example, consider the situation that your project is running behind. You may decide that the team is spending too much time fixing issues. Someone else on the project may believe that the team is not spending enough overtime on the project.

It’s possible that either solution – or both combined – could resolve the issue. The most important point is to verify whether either of them will create a cause and effect situation. If so, determine the best solution.

Categorization should enable decision making. When categorizing anything, be certain that the categorizations are logical. Categories should be based on cause and effect rather than randomness or false beliefs. Otherwise, there is no reason for the categorization.

How do you categorize based on correlations?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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Are You Realizing Project Value?

Realizing Project Value
Are yYu Realizing Project Value

I have a lot of friends who have Fitbits. They’re those wrist watch-like things that people wear to measure their heartbeat and the number of steps they take per day. Many of them compete with each other on how many steps they get in each day.

The implication of this is that the steps are making them healthy (fit is in the name of the device after all). But they should also consider aspects such as the number and type of calories they consume. If all they measure is their steps, there’s a risk of limited health benefits.

The same goes for project managers in the effort of realizing project value. You can have all sorts of metrics and measurements, but if achieving the targets of those measurements doesn’t translate into project value, you’re likely just wasting your time.

How to measure value

Continue reading Are You Realizing Project Value?

Thinking a Step Ahead of the Project Owner

one step ahead
One step ahead of the program manager

In my early days of managing projects, the tasks ran the show. I was the man with the to-do list. I filled it out every night before leaving work. Every morning I religiously reviewed it, verified the priorities, and executed each item for a successful day.

The disappointment I felt if I wasn’t able to complete the list was measureable. It wasn’t just my own tasks that I managed that way. Every member of the team had their tasks, if not for the day, at least for the week. I felt it was my job to make sure everyone got their tasks done for the good of the project.

The tactical mind

By following that task-mastery approach, I know that I got a lot done. The team got a lot done. I felt like I was managing the project effectively by following this tactical approach. And to some degree I was. I was identifying what needed to get done and driving it to completion.
Continue reading Thinking a Step Ahead of the Project Owner

Failure to Execute – I’ve Got it All in My Head

Failure to execute
Failure to Execute

I have a friend who is a really good sales person. He is also very entrepreneurial. He has worked for other people for a number of years, but I’ve always been impressed by how he approaches his work like it is his own business. It shows commitment.

He has been talking for a long time about going out on his own. I have encouraged him. He has such a deep knowledge of his industry and a lot of innovative ideas that could help people in it.

But for years, he has talked about how he has everything in his head. “I’ve got all these ideas. I just need to get it down on paper.”
Continue reading Failure to Execute – I’ve Got it All in My Head

6 Tips for Managing Scope on a Project

Managing Scope on a Project
6 Tips for Managing Scope on a Project

One of my favorite books I used to read to my kids was The Mitten. It’s the story of a young boy walking in the woods and loses his mitten. A mole comes along and crawls in it to stay warm. Then, a rabbit sees the mitten and squeezes in with the mole. After that the animals get progressively bigger. An owl, a badger, a hedgehog, a fox, and then a brown bear all squeeze into this little mitten.

Finally, a field mouse squeezes in. This proves to be too much and the mitten explodes. Besides this being a classic tale, one of the reasons I like this story so much is because it is a perfect illustration of how scope creeps into a project. People think, “just a little more” over and over until it’s just a little too much.

There is a common term of “the final straw.” The full expression is “The straw that broke the camel’s back.” It stems from the practice of loading straw on the backs of camels. Individual straws are easy to carry. But as you load more and more, the camel’s ability reaches a limit and eventually it breaks its back. There is one straw that tips the scale to the point of being too much.

Like straws and mice, small things can make a big difference. It is a project manager’s responsibility to be a defender of the scope. There are several ways in which that can be done.

Define scope in the project charter

Project managers produce a lot of documents. Some are necessary. Others are done to please a checklist. The project charter is one of the more important and necessary documents.

The project charter defines the purpose of the project and how it helps the organization achieve their overriding strategy. An important section of the charter is the definition of scope.

The scope definition should provide some high level detail about what types of functionality will be completed as part of the project. An important aspect of that is listing things that are specifically out of scope for the project. This sets distinct expectations and removes as much ambiguity as possible for the business stakeholders.

Require succinct requirements

In most projects, business requirements are defined by business analysts. It is important to ensure that the business requirements they define are complete and succinct. There should be as few loopholes as possible.

In an organization where I once worked we had a term called “spell checker.” Assume that someone asked you to design a spell checker for a word processing package. You define a simple application that will go through a block of text and identify any words that do not exist in the internal dictionary.

When you present a demo of the product, the business is disappointed. They wanted it to provide correction recommendations. They wanted thesaurus capabilities. They wanted you to check for grammatical errors.

In your mind, a spell checker is simply that. Software to check your spelling. The additional items they wanted are additional functionality outside of just checking spelling. If they wanted that, they should have asked.

When you review business requirements, consider how you would implement it. Are the any open questions? Are there any gaps? Are there any broad terms like “spell checker” that could be interpreted in different ways?

Business analysts are the liaison between the business and those who will implement the project. They have the responsibility to make sure both parties are aligned with the right terminology.

Get sign-off from business

When business requirements are complete, they should be reviewed by the business stakeholders and approved. The review should be done formally with a physical signature or an email that documents the version of the requirements being approved.

In the future if there is any difference of opinion with the requirements, there is an official, authorized version that everyone uses as a source document.

Think like a lawyer

Lawyers take a lot of criticism. Some may be warranted. Nobody likes when a lawyer defends a criminal and gets him off on a technicality. He murdered someone, but since they didn’t read him his rights, he walks free.

But lawyers aren’t paid to do what’s right morally. They are paid to defend the law. If they have been hired by a criminal, the lawyer’s job is to use the laws to protect the client to the best of his ability. The lawyer’s job is not to judge the client.

Once the business requirements have been approved by the business, those requirements are the law. The project manager’s job is to implement what the requirements dictate. If the business decides later that they want additional functionality, it can’t just be squeezed in like a field mouse in a mitten.

The business may argue that the functionality they are requesting is absolutely necessary for them to do their job. The project manager’s job is to protect the scope of the project. If the business needs it that bad, there are other means of including it that don’t introduce additional risk of squeezing it in.

Develop a strong change control process – and follow it

The most effective way to handle those new requests from the business is to establish a process to manage change requests. When a new request is identified, complete a change request form that details the change and provides an estimate for the work.

Additionally, the impact to the project should be provided. This will indicate whether the project timeline is affected, more people will be needed for the project, or whether the additional work can be absorbed in the current project plan.

Never say “No.” Once you have identified the impact to the project, present the change request and its impact to the project to the business. In most cases, the business is financing the project. Impact to the project implies additional cost. If the change is large enough, it may include adding resources and extending the timeline on the project.

The project manager should develop multiple options, if possible. Those options should be presented to the business owner to allow him or her to decide. Would you like to pay to bring on additional resources? Would you like to extend the project? Would you like to add this functionality and remove some other functionality to make time for it?

Develop a collaborative relationship with the business

Often, the project manager and business owner develop an adversarial role. The business owner wants as much functionality at the lowest possible cost. The project manager is often held responsible for getting the project completed on time and within budget. But she is also responsible for completing the project to the business’s satisfaction.

It is important that both the business owner and the project manager work collaboratively toward the goal of adding business value. If both teams work toward a balance of providing business value while managing scope and delivering a project within the planned parameters, both groups can succeed.

Be their adviser, not their adversary

How good are you at managing scope on a project?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Project Management Planning Considerations

Project Management Planning Considerations
Project Management Planning Considerations

My wife and friends ridiculed me a few years ago for using a Microsoft Project plan when we moved. But I got the last laugh. Every detail was covered and the move went smoothly. I’m also very organized. The hooks in my garage are labelled so that each garden tool is put in the appropriate place. Okay, maybe a bit too organized.

I’ve always been organized. And I’ve always been a planner. I’ve been called anal retentive and geeky. Those terms don’t bother me. I like being organized. I like knowing where everything is when I need it.

Being an organized planner comes in handy when managing projects. Of course, there are a lot of other skills involved in order to be a successful project manager, but one of the biggest factors is the ability to plan.

According to Wikipedia, planning is the process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal. If you are managing a project. Your project objective is your desired goal. Being able to state that objective clearly enough for all stakeholders to understand is one of the first aims of the project.

Once you have that objective defined, you need to figure out how to get there. It’s like saying you want to go to Napa, California for vacation. Great. Let’s go. Do you know how you will get there? Do you know how long it will take? Do you even know where Napa, California is?

The three components of success for any endeavor are (1) the creativity to come up with a unique and usable idea, (2) the ability to execute the idea into action, and (3) the ability to sell the idea to potential investors and consumers. The second part, execution, requires detailed and competent planning in order to complete anything well.

Project management is the execution of that idea. The project manager has to implement a focused plan to get the job done. There are several project management planning considerations for the project manager to address.

Preparation

When you first start a project, it’s easy to be gung-ho and chomping-at-the-bit excited just to get started. Let’s just start working. It’s like the vacation. We’re going to wine country! There will be beautiful, winding hills and lots of wine to sample. Let’s just get into the car and start heading west. What could go wrong?

You could run out of gas at Omaha. You could end up in Seattle. You could get lost, meandering around the countryside, never reaching your destination, until your vacation time runs out and you have to go back to work.

The biggest part of planning is preparation. For a long trip, you would probably determine how many miles separate your home from Napa, CA. A good planner would determine how much time and gas it takes to drive. You might look at the weather forecast and determine appropriate clothes to pack for the trip.

If it’s a long trip, you might look into other options. What are the flights available and how much do they cost? Is taking the train or a bus an option?

A project manager should prepare for a project in the same way? How much work is involved? How many people and what skills are needed? What are the options for executing this project?

Like a long trip, a project has many aspects to consider when preparing. The more things you consider, the more prepared you will be.

A Project Plan

Project Management Planning Considerations
Project Management Planning Considerations

Once you determine everything you need and the appropriate approach for your project, you need to put together a plan. Let’s say you have decided to get to Napa by driving so you can enjoy the countryside. The trip will take several days. So you map out the route you will go and make hotel reservations at appropriate distances.

A project needs to have a plan that details how the project will reach its objective. A detailed project plan will map out the tasks to complete and will identify who is responsible to complete the tasks. Periodic milestones should be identified to verify for all stakeholders whether the project is on track.

Time Management

If you take a long road trip, and you want to make the trip as much fun as the destination, you might allow extra time to see some points of interest along the way. Each day on your trip, you will plan how much time you have to reach your day’s milestone destination. You know how much time you have for other stops.

In order to stay on schedule, you know the approximate amount of time you have allowed for each stop. This allows you to see the sites you want to see, and helps you reach your milestones on time.

When managing a project, it is important to plan tasks that need to be done by day and by week. An agile project will plan sprints of 2-4 week durations. Each team member has their daily plan, which is usually posted on a wall. On more traditional projects, every team member has their work planned in a detailed project plan. The project manager will verify each person’s progress on a daily or weekly basis.

Managing the time on a project allows the project manager to plan tasks and verify whether the team members are on track for their tasks in order to stay on track with the plan.

Scope Management

Project Management Planning Considerations
Project Management Planning Considerations

On a long road trip, you have a planned destination and some planned sites along the way that you would like to stop and see. You have a week of vacation. You plan to get home on Sunday in time to go back to work on Monday.

While you’re on your way, you learn about another site you would like to visit. It’s an hour off the highway you are traveling, and it should take a day to really enjoy. If you and your family are going to fit that into your schedule, something is going to have to give. You can cut another day’s excursion out of your trip, or reduce your stay at Napa by a day. Alternatively, you could extend your trip by a day. That would get you home on Monday, causing you to spend more money and another vacation day.

Having all of your day trips and your duration at your final destination planned out allows you to make decisions. When an unplanned activity comes along, you can compare its priority to that of the planned activities. You can more easily decide whether you’d rather do the new activity and reprioritize others.

The same thinking goes for project. When you have work items planned and the business asks for new functionality, it makes decision making easier. The project is a container of X work units. The business has just asked for X+1. You can present all of the original X activities and allow them to reprioritize for the new activity. If they don’t want to deprioritize any of the activities, they have the option of extending the project if the time and budget exists. But they can’t make those decisions unless they have an original plan to compare to.

Risk and Issue Management

If you plan on taking a long trip, you probably start thinking ahead about what could happen? I could get a flat tire along the way. I’d better have all the tires checked, including the spare. I could run into some rain. I should replace the windshield wipers. There could be new highway routes, so I’ll update my GPS to make sure it has up to date information. If you plan to swim on your vacation, there could be rainy days. You may want to plan alternative activities for those days.

By taking some time to consider what could go wrong, you can take actions to mitigate it as a problem or to have alternatives.

When you manage a project, you will want to go through the same type of planning. At the beginning of the project, you should meet with a group of stakeholders to try to think about anything that could go wrong. Then you can establish a plan to avoid the risk from occurring or to have an alternative plan just in case it occurs.

Having alternative plans can help mitigate major risks on a project before they become major issues.

Conclusion

Project management is about more than just asking people if they are done with their assigned task. A major factor in the success of a project is the level to which it is planned and how well the plan is followed.

Preparing in advance and planning all aspects of the project ensures that things will be done on time and in the right sequence. A strong plan allows the project manager to make and facilitate better decisions with better information.

 “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” – Winston Churchill

What project management planning considerations do you address on a project?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

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Project Management Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving

Project Management Lessons Learned
Project Management Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving Dinner

This past Thanksgiving my daughter Emily was selected to travel to Florida for an elite soccer tournament. Because of the cost of the trip and the fact that we traditionally host Thanksgiving for my side of the family, we decided to divide and conquer.

My wife Heather, along with three other moms on the team, went to Florida with the daughters. I stayed home with our two older kids and hosted Thanksgiving.

Normally, my wife takes the lead in preparing the meal. I help out, but she’s in charge. She’s had enough practice that she just seems to know how to get everything done.

A well-defined plan

I needed to be a little more organized. You should have seen the project plan I put together for the meal. I had the list of dishes I could prepare the night before. The plan had the cooking temperatures and durations.

Each item was listed in order of when it needed to go in the oven. I had tasks for others as well. My sister Cindy would begin preparing the dinner rolls at 12:15 PM. My niece Katie was in charge of making gravy at 12:30 PM. My kids, Holly and Sam helped get the table set and water glasses filled so that we could sit down at one o’clock.

For more information, check out Project Management Planning Considerations.

Running like clockwork

I thought the plan went down fairly well. There were a few people who arrived later than expected, which slightly delayed the meal. The turkey got done a little before plan, but we let it sit and it didn’t dry out.

We sat at the table and went around saying what we were all thankful for. As we dug in, I probably had a smug little smile on my face thinking how smoothly everything had gone down.

Then somebody said, “It’s just not the same without Heather.” There was a brief, selfish moment where I arrogantly thought I had successfully replaced her. I had the plan down. It went so smoothly. How could you miss her?

A leader in the kitchen

But I quickly realized how right they were. I followed all of the same recipes she did. I planned it all out so that everything was ready when it should be.

But, in addition to her charming personality, my wife added that special something to the meal. She wasn’t just performing tasks. She was preparing a meal. She inherently knows how and when to do things and how to work with the other people in her kitchen.

Leadership in project management

Project managers experience the same thing in the business world. A project manager can list all of the tasks that get done and determine the optimal times to start and end each one. A project manager can assign tasks to others and hold them accountable for getting them done.

These are all things that a good project manager should be able to do. But a great project manager has the leadership skills to deal with the human side of things. Redirecting people when they have momentum on a different course requires diplomacy. Assigning tasks to people so they enjoy the work makes them do a better job.

My wife adds love and leadership to the kitchen for a big project like Thanksgiving dinner. Do you add the same aspects to the projects you manage?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.