Project Management Templates Building Teams

Build Teams with Project Management Templates

So you’re a Project Manager on a new project and you want to build a high performing team using project management templates? Excellent, this is a great goal to strive for.

But it’s not easy, especially in the project environment which has its own challenges. To do it, take these tips for…

Building high performing teams

What exactly is a high performing team? It’s “a team that exceeds the goals you set, by working hard and smart, as a group, not individuals.”

Whether you’re in IT, construction, engineering or another industry, building a high performing team is critical to success. You can do it in just 5 steps…

1) Planning

Before you hire your first person, you need to document what it is that your team have to achieve and by when. You also need to create specific Job descriptions that set out your expectations for each role and how you’ll measure their performance.

Don’t stop there. Think about the team culture you want to build, the dynamics of your team and how they should work together. Only with a personal vision for how your team will perform, will you be able to meet that goal.

2) Recruiting

Recruitment is harder than it looks. It’s easy to recruit the wrong person, and it’s even easier to build a team that don’t perform well. A candidate should only be recruited if they fit the job description, align with your personal vision for how the team will work together and they want to work in a culture that depicts your vision.

Take your time. Be swayed by your gut feel. Recruit “like-minded people”. Introduce them to high performing staff you know of and get their feedback. Be choosy. Recruit the best. If you have to pay top dollar for top performer, it will often cost less in the long run, than a cheap resource who doesn’t perform.

3) Culture Creation

If you’ve hired “like-minded people” then they will all like each other, and that’s a great start. Get them working together on tasks. Constantly change the people you peer up, so that people get to know others in the team.

If your ideal culture is “performance through achievement” then shout out loud about each team success. And if you want “performance through happy customers” then strengthen the relationship between the team and your customers. Get them socializing. Try team sports.

4) Self Motivation

A happy motivated team will always out-perform an unhappy unmotivated one. And it starts with you! Are you happy and motivated? Get on track personally by working out, relaxing after hours, de-stress and set personal goals. Your motivation will rub off on your team.

Then when you’re ready, focus on motivating your team. Use team building and group rallying exercises to get them pumped. Tell them how proud you are to work with them. Help them understand why the goals are important and how every team member contributes to them.

5) Recognition & Reward

People only respond positively to positive behavior. So you need to constantly recognize achievement when it’s due. Tell the team about an individuals success. Make them feel proud. Spread the love—don’t focus on one team or person too frequently.

And reward them when it’s due. Reward them unexpectedly as people will appreciate it all the more. Meals to restaurants, tickets to the super-bowl. These things mean a lot to staff when they didn’t expect it!

And there you are. If you plan for success, recruit a great team, build a positive culture and recognize achievement, then you’ll build a healthy project team and boost your chances of success!

And if you want your team to perform even better, download the Project Management Templates Kit now to save time completing projects.

The Customer May Not Know Enough to Completely Define the Project

Sometimes the project manager places too high an expectation on the amount of foresight and vision that customers and sponsors have. In many cases, the project manager will go to the customer looking for answers to help define the project and the customer will not have all of the information needed. This happens all the time and it does not mean that the customer does not know what they are doing. In many cases, especially for large projects, the customer has a vision of what the end results will be, but cannot yet articulate this vision into concrete objectives, deliverables and scope.

There are three approaches for when you don’t know very much information on the nature of the project.

 

Increase Estimating Range Based on Uncertainty

Based on having less than complete information, the  project manager may feel the need to guess on the details. This is not a good solution. It is better to state up-front everything that you know, as well as everything that you do not know. If you are asked to come up with estimated effort, cost and duration, you will need to provide a high and low range based on the uncertainty remaining. On a normal project, for instance, you might estimate the work within +/- 10%. On a project with a lot of uncertainty, the estimating range might be +/- 50%.

 

Break the Work into Smaller Projects

Another good alternative is simply to break the work down into a series of smaller projects based on what you know at the time. Even if the final results cannot be clearly defined, there should be some amount of work that is well defined, which will, in turn lead to the information needed for the final solution. You can define a project to cover as far as you can comfortably see today. Then define and plan subsequent projects to cover the remaining work as more details are known.  For instance, you could create a project that gathered business requirements, and then use the results of that project to define a second project to build the final deliverables.

 

Uncover the Details as the Project Progresses

If you are not allowed to break the project into smaller pieces, you should at least know enough that you can plan the work for the first 90 days. In this third approach, you plan the short-term work in more detail, and leave the longer term effort more undefined. Each month you should redefine and plan the remaining work. As you uncover more and more information, you can plan the remaining work at a more detailed level. As you uncover more details, you can refine your estimates and work with the sponsor to make sure it is still okay to continue.

This last approach uses an Agile philosophy. Agile projects are generally exploratory. The details of the project are uncovered as the project progresses. (There are many more differences in Agile projects, but this philosophy is one.) In a traditional project management model this would also be known as ‘progressive elaboration’ – which also means more details are uncovered as the project progresses.

Proper Timesheet Management

Four Responsibilities of Executives on Projects

A Primer on Processes and Templates

Recipes for cooking are a beautiful thing. A recipe tells you the ingredients and how much of each you should include in whatever you are making. It then describes what you need to do to these ingredients in order to make a dish that is not only edible, but tasty as well. It’s great that someone else has already spent the time in putting together a recipe to follow that nearly guarantees success each time.
To a certain extent we use recipes in our profession as project managers. The recipes we follow are the processes and templates that guide our projects to success each time. How can you put a process together and make the most of templates? Consider the following:
A Primer on Processes and Templates

Start with Phases

To put a process together, a good starting place is defining the major phases in which a project must go through. Think about how a project moves through your organization, and document those major steps. For example, a simplified software development approach would include the following phases: Planning, Design, Development, Testing, and Implementation. These phases are the framework in which you begin filling in details about the process.

Move on to the Outputs
The next area to concentrate on is the outputs, or end results, from each of these major phases. Ask yourself what tangible deliverable needs to be complete by the time you finish the Planning, Design, or Development phases. Focus on tangible results, or something you can see, touch, perform an action on, or feel. For example, the Planning stage is going to be filled with meetings and conversations that by themselves do nothing to move the project forward. However, the approved Business Requirements Document is an invaluable output that can propel the project forward to the next Phase of Design.

Back up to Inputs

Now that you have the tangible end results (or deliverables) of each phase defined, ask yourself what needs to be present at the beginning of each phase to create such results. Continuing with our example above, the output of the Development phase would be software functionality that can be tested. In order to accomplish this, the engineering team will need High Level and Low Level design specifications as Input. This will allow them to know not just what they are going to build, but more importantly, how they are going to build it.

Establish Conversion Activity

You now have the Inputs and the Outputs for each of the phases of your process. The final step is to determine what needs to be done to convert the Inputs to Outputs. Think about it this way…what has to be done to change the gooey mess of runny batter into a cake? You need to bake the cake. There’s your conversion activity. Likewise, what do you need to do to convert software that is ready to be tested to software that is production ready? You need to create test plans, execute test plans, and document the results.

What About Templates?

Templates are incredibly useful for all areas of process you create. You can use templates for your inputs (i.e. Business Requirements Document), your Outputs (i.e. an approved User Acceptance document from the customer) and all points in between. Create templates that will provide consistency and make it easy to transition from one phase to the next with confidence.

One word of caution when it comes to process and templates…don’t overdo it! Create just enough process and documentation around your project to float the boat. It can be tempting to have a process or template in place for every little thing. Resist that urge. Remember, too much of a good thing can ruin a good thing. Stick to the recipe and you’ll be able to guarantee consistent results time and time again!

Manage Political Problems as Issues

The larger your project gets, the more you will find that the issues you encounter are political in nature. “Politics” is all about interacting with people and influencing them to get things done. This can be a good thing, a bad thing, or a neutral thing, depending on the tactics people use. Let’s consider some examples of how utilizing political skills might be good, but can also be bad.

  • You are able to move your ideas forward in the organization and get people to act on them (good), by currying favor, suppressing other opposing ideas and taking credit for the ideas of your staff (bad).
  • You have an ability to reach consensus on complex matters with a number of different stakeholders (good),by working behind the scenes with people in power, making deals and destroying people who don’t get on board (bad).
  • You receive funding for projects that are important to you and to your organization (good), by misrepresenting the costs and benefits, and by going around the existing funding processes (bad).

The point of the examples is to show that influencing people and getting things done in a company is a good thing and “office politics” can have good connotations or bad.

Dealing with office politics is not a standard project management process. However, once the politics start to impact the project adversely, the situation should be identified as an issue, since it is a problem whose resolution is outside the control of the project team. You can’t utilize a checklist to resolve political issues. Political problems are people-related and situational. What works for one person in one situation may not work for another person in the same situation because people, and their reactions, are different. Identifying the problem as an issue will bring visibility to the situation and hopefully get the proper people involved in the resolution. Keep three things in mind to manage a political issue.

  • Try to recognize situations and events where politics are most likely to be involved. This could include decision points, competition for budget and resources, and setting project direction and priorities.
  • Deal with people openly and honestly. When you provide an opinion or recommendation, express the pros and cons to provide a balanced view to other parties. Make sure you distinguish the facts from your opinions so the other parties know the difference.
  • If you feel uncomfortable with what you are asked to do, get your sponsor or your functional manager involved. They tend to have more political savvy and positional authority, and they should be able to provide advice and cover for you.

If you feel good about what you are doing, how you are influencing and how you are getting things done, then you are probably handling office politics the right way. If you feel guilty about how you are treating people and if you have second thoughts about the methods you are using to get things done, you are probably practicing the dark side of office politics.

Four Responsibilities of Executives on Projects

Four Responsibilities of
Executives on Projects

An executive has administrative or supervisory authority in an organization. That authority is used in a number of ways on projects. An executive is typically responsible for the Business Case of a project, which is used to determine whether the project should even be started. Once the project is approved they can impact the success of your project in four key areas.

1. Sponsorship and Funding

Every project within a company starts with an idea. It’s hard for that idea to go much further without backing from the right person and some money to make it happen. An executive can provide the sponsorship and funding your project needs to get off the ground. They are responsible for signing off on the project charter, which describes the project, gives you the authority to manage and, most importantly, allocates the necessary funds to keep it alive.

2. Escalations and Resolution

The second role an executive plays in your projects is to be the go-to person when unresolved problems surface. An executive needs to be on the escalation path, and more importantly on the resolution path of your projects. There are going to be times when others are unresponsive to the project’s needs, or in a dispute about the best direction to take. An executive can use his position to break through these bottlenecks. Here’s a hint: shorten the escalation process as much as possible. Rather than go through a gradual escalation of layer after layer of management, take it to the highest level of management and get it resolved in a fraction of the time.

3. Monitor Projects

Executives sponsor and fund projects. They should also be interested in how the project progresses. They should be interested in ore than when the project starts and when it finishes. They should monitor the project. This includes reading and understanding status report, approving major deliverables and being involved in gate reviews. Of course, the projects that are of interest will vary based on the level of the executive. Senior managers should monitor the larger and more strategic projects. Middle managers monitor more tactical projects.

4. Coach Project Managers

Let’s face it: despite the stereotype, most executives are talented, skilled, and experienced people. Tap into their knowledge. You’re going to run into rough patches on your projects from time to time or will need to make decisions when answers are not so obvious. Sit down with a respected executive and bounce some ideas off of them. At the very least, they may validate that you are on the right path or give you the encouragement you need to keep going. More often than not, they will provide you with a fresh perspective to help make your project a success.

If you want to benefit from the value an executive brings to project management, it’s up to you as a project manager to optimize their role on your projects. View them as another resource you need to bring your project to closure. Who knows, with such a great track record of project success, you may end up sitting in the corner office yourself!

Create Schedule Management Plan

Create Schedule Management Plan

The Schedule Management Plan describes the process used to develop and manage the project schedule. Not all projects need a Schedule Management Plan, but if your project has a complex schedule that requires special handling, you may find this plan helpful.

The components of the Schedule Management Plan can include:

  • Roles and responsibilities. You can describe different roles and their ability to access the project schedule.
    • Schedule owner. This is probably the project manager.
    • Who can update? Normally the project manager, but on larger projects it could be more complex. For instance, a Project Administrator might make the initial schedule updates based on the project status reports and then provide this draft to the project manager for final updates. It is also possible that team members will update the status of their assigned activities and the project manager will perform final analysis after those updates.
    • Who can read? Usually the schedule is not considered confidential – anyone can read it.
  • Update frequency. You should describe the timing of schedule updates. In many projects the schedule will be updated on the Monday morning. You should also comment on whether the schedule will be updated weekly or bi-weekly. It is recommended that you update the schedule weekly.
  • Progress feedback. This describes how the schedule feedback will be delivered. In many cases this will be in the team member status report. However, it is possible that the progress update will come during a team meeting or through an email.
  • Schedule change review and approval. This is where you define the process required to evaluate and approve proposed schedule changes. It defines the authority for accepting and approving changes to schedule. This approval process does not include internal activity deadlines. It applies to changes in the overall project deadline. It is possible that the project manager may have some discretion to exceed the deadline date by some number of days or weeks, but after that threshold some formal body may need to approve the change.
  • Tools. Describe about any scheduling tool that will be used on this project, who will have access to the tool and what various people can do with the tool (read the schedule, update schedule, etc.)
  • Reports. Comment here on the types and names of reports you are using to manage the project, who will receive them, the frequency of the reports, etc.
  • Schedule integration. Normally each project keeps an independent schedule, but in some instances your master schedule is the result of a roll-up of other underlying schedules. It is also possible that your schedule could be integrated and rolled up to a higher-level program or portfolio schedule.

We believe that these project management plans must provide value to the project manager. If your schedule is not so complex you probably do not need to create the Schedule Management Plan. On the other hand, the project manager should create a Plan if it provides value on projects with large and complicated schedules.

Mistake #5: Poor quality leads to poor results

Mistake #5: Poor quality leads to poor results

Like the other common project management mistakes we have looked at, problems with quality show up in a number of areas. For instance:

  • Rework. Rework means that you have to fix a deliverable that you thought was complete. Rework is always caused by flaws in your quality management process.
  • Higher operations costs. If errors are caught within the project, there is a cost associated with correct and rework. However, quality problems may surface after the solution is in operations. This causes operations (and maybe support) costs to increase.  
  • Client dissatisfaction. If a solution is of poor quality, the customer will not be happy. If the customer has a choice, they may not buy from you again. 
  • Missed deadlines and budget. Projects that build poor quality products tend to miss their deadlines and exceed their budget. This can cause the entire business case to be less attractive.
  • Poor morale. No one likes to work on a project that produces poor quality solutions. Morale and motivation tend to go down on these types of projects.

Don’t fear. Quality management can help.

What Can be Done?

There are three main components to delivering quality solutions. 

  1. Quality requirements. You cannot meet the customers expectations for quality if you don’t know what the expectations are. Quality requirements are identified when traditional functional and non-functional requirements are gathered.
  2. Quality control activities (QC). Quality control activities ensure the deliverables are of high-quality. This can include walkthroughs, completeness checklists, etc.
  3. Quality assurance activities (QA). These activities ensure that the processes used to create the deliverables are of high quality. This can include third party audits and checklists to ensure that a process were completed.

Everyone on the team needs to have a quality mindset to ensure that work is completed with a minimum amount of errors – the first time.

Five Options for Project Start Dates

Five Options for Project Start Dates

One of the characteristics of a project is that it is a temporary endeavor. In other words there is a start and end-date. This seems simple enough until you start to try to define exactly what these dates mean. Is it after the Project Charter is signed? Is it when the schedule is finalized?

There are no universally recommended definition for either date. It depends on each organization and whether there are any implications for choosing one alternative over another. Here are some of the options for identifying the project start-date.

  • The need/idea is generated. The definition you choose can depend on what the implication is. You may choose this definition of project start date if your company is trying to focus on the time it takes between when an idea is generated until the idea is fulfilled. Your company may be concerned that it takes too long to commercialize good ideas. If your company wants to minimize this total time span between idea and fulfillment, you might go with an early project start-date definition like this.
  • A budget is approved. In this definition, an idea has been generated and the idea has made it far enough that a cost/benefit statement has been prepared. The project has also made it through the prioritization process and an actual budget has been approved. Keep in mind that the budget may have been approved during the prior year business planning process. The actual work may not start until the following year. Therefore, this definition may also start the clock too early for many organizations.
  • A project manager is assigned. This one is more common. The assumption here is that the project manager is the first resource assigned to a project. When the project manager is assigned, the project initiation and planning begins. This is the definition for project start-date in the TenStep Project Management Process.
  • The Project Charter is approved by the sponsor. In some organizations the project officially starts when the sponsor approves the Project Charter. Some companies require an approved Project Charter and schedule before the project team can be allocated.
  • The project kickoff meeting is held. Using this definition, the planning work is considered to be “pre-project”. The projects starts with a formal kickoff meeting with the major stakeholders and the project team. The kickoff meeting is the time to tell everyone that the project is ready to begin.

In some respects the exact definition of the project start is not as important as whether the definition is applied consistently. For example, if you wanted to compare the time it takes for two projects to complete, it is important that both projects use the same definition for start and end date.

Seven Components to a Risk Management Plan

Seven Components to a Risk Management Plan

The Risk Management Plan describes how you will define and manage risk on the project. This document does not actually describe the risks and the responses. This document defines the process and techniques you will use to define the risks and the responses. The information in this plan includes:

  • Roles and responsibilities. This section describes the leading and supporting roles in the risk management process. The project manager typically has overall responsibility for risk management, unless the team is large enough that this role can be delegated to another team member – perhaps a specialist. Third-party risk management teams may also be able to perform more independent, unbiased risk analyses of project than those from the sponsoring project team.
  • Budgeting. Discuss your budget for risk management for the project. Since you may not know enough to request budget for risk management you can also describe the process that you will use to determine a risk management budget estimate.
  • Timing. Defines when the initial risk assessment will be performed, as well as how often the risk management process will be conducted throughout the project life cycle. Results should be developed early enough to affect decisions.
  • Scoring and interpretation. You should define risk scoring and interpretation methods appropriate for the type of the qualitative and quantitative risk analysis being performed. Methods and scoring must be determined in advance to ensure consistency.
  • Thresholds. The threshold level is how you determine which risks are important enough to act upon.  The project manager, client, and sponsor may have a different risk threshold. The acceptable threshold forms the target against which the project team will analyze risks.
  • Communication. Describe how the information on risk will be documented and communicated. This includes the risks themselves, the risk responses and the risk status.
  • Tracking and Auditing. Document how all facets of risk activities will be recorded for the benefit of the current project, future needs, and lessons learned. Also describe if and how risk processes will be audited.