Project Communications

Project communications are perhaps the single most important aspect of your project management plan. It is also one of the most overlooked from a planning perspective. This could be because project managers have a tendency to think they know what to communicate to whom and when. The truth is, communication is something that has to be talked about and planned in advance.

The PMBoK Guide – Fourth Edition (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge) breaks communications management down into five sub categories:

  1. Identify Stakeholders: Identify all people and organinzations that will be impacted by the project as well as their specific involvement and impact on project success
  2. Plan Communications: Determine what each person or group actually needs to be made aware of and in what form. For example, you will perhaps send daily detailed communications to the project team via electronic communciations, but only a weekly wrap up via staff meeting to a project sponsor or executives
  3. Distribute Information: This means that you actually do what you said you were going to do in the previous item.
  4. Manage Stakeholder Expectations: Pay attention to your stakeholder’s needs. You don’t want to give them too much or too little information. Give them only what they need which may mean removing or even add to the information identified in step 2.
  5. Report Performance: Periodic analysis of baselines versus actuals during the project. This includes analysis of performace, risks and issues, work completed, upcoming tasks, summary of the approved changes, and others.

Communication is a critical piece of the project health. We are always communicating with our teams and other stakeholders. If we neglect to plan the communciations up front, it is almost guaranteed that something will get missed. When things get missed, we lose out on opportunities to make vital corrections, learn of a new direction, or even a pat on the back every now and then.

I know I have simplified things a bit, especially as they relate to the PMP exam, but for daily business, these are the basics. Sometimes, the projects are small and greatly simplified. This doesn’t mean that these steps should be overlooked. It merely means that the steps are that much easier to follow.

Happy Communicating!

The Project is Done . . . Now What?

It has been 18 long months since this project started, and now it is done with just a few small details waiting to close out. There is only one remaining question, now what?

There is one thing that I’d like to focus on for this post, the closing meeting.

After so many days and weeks and months on this project, it seemed anti-climatic to just end the project by simply stopping work. Besides, I would not be doing my part to really wrap it up the right way. So, I invited all 25 team members and other stakeholders to a long, but not grueling, meeting to finish things up. The agenda looked like this:

  1. Welcome
  2. Project Overview (we also had a pot-luck to break it up a little during this time)
  3. Accomplishments (including value adds)
  4. Lessons Learned
  5. Awards
  6. Final Thanks

Now this meeting lasted all morning, but after 18 months, 3 more hours was not going to hurt anyone and produced a GREAT pay-off. One important note is that I ended the meeting on-time. What was so great about it? Well, for one, everyone got to see what the team accomplished in a relatively short amount of time for the work that we did. Also, they got to see what their “extra” efforts did to produce values added that were unexpected. Lastly, and almost most importantly, was the lessons learned portion of the meeting. Beforehand, I had asked everyone to brainstorm lessons learned, including the good along with the bad. What we found out were some things done very well, and some things that will actually result in some departmental changes.

Lastly, I took a little time and fewer than $30.00 US and created a little momento of my own appreciation to each and every team member for their individual contribution. It was small, but the entire team walked out with their heads held high and a small token to remind them of what they accomplished.

It is important to hold a project closure meeting with the entire team. It is important to recognize the projects celebrations as well as what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. Most importantly, it is critical that you show your team appreciation for what they’ve accomplished. Your people are the ones who make you and your projects successful. I spent just over a dollar a person and it made them smile. It doesn’t take much, just some thought and a little time.

Congratulations on finishing your project on-time and under budget!! Now go wrap it up and put some closure on it!!

Are you Trustworthy?

Are you trustworthy?

Sounds like a simple question to answer doesn’t it? For some, it is simply a matter of whether or not they can go into a convenience store and not swipe a piece of gum or a candy bar. Trustworthiness goes far beyond of being mature enough not to steal.

Trustworthiness is sometimes called by other names, but it really boils down to one word as the root: TRUST.

Trust encompasses reliability, accountability, integrity, and others. Basically, what it boils down to is:

  • Are you going to do what you said you are going to do?
  • Did you do what you told me you did?
  • Are you reporting accurate numbers?
  • Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing?
  • Are you the same person outside of the office as you are at the office?
  • Do you own up to your own mistakes?
  • Do you correct those mistakes?
  • Do you show up to work on-time or early?
  • Do you expect the same for yourself as you do for your team?
  • Do you bill your clients accurately?

So, I ask you again, are YOU trustworthy? It isn’t too late to make a change and correct anything you are doing wrong. Fix it now and become the leader you and others want you to be. You will be amazed at the change in your team’s attitudes!

I’m proud of you for making a difference!!!

What Do You Look For?

Selecting a Project Leader can sometimes be a daunting task. Sure, their resume looks great and they interviewed well, but what are you looking for most when hiring a new project leader?

Please take a moment to answer the poll below. Pick what you look for most when selecting a new leader and comment with any discussion.

[polldaddy poll=5861511]

Your Project Team Does Matter! and so does their experience

As a project manager I deal with a diverse set of team members that are not under my immediate supervision. By this I mean that I am a project manager, and not a functional supervisor. When I need team members for a project, I pick from a pool of employees with available time. One of my current projects employs approximately 20 team members. One team member specifically has had a few personal hiccups (extreme life events) causing missed work and on some days poor performance. This particular employee, however, is a 9 year veteran of our organization and a superb performer (normally).

The problem comes in when this individual had a conversation with management about some needs and individual consideration. During the conversation, she was continually denied simple requests that were not out of the ordinary. When inquiries were made after explaining the value she provides, it was stated “it doesn’t matter if you’ve been there 1 year or 9.”

Damaging words!

The truth is, it DOES matter. Losing this employee would cause a backlog in development. Not just a backlog of a single person, but it would take two to three people to develop as much as this employee does. The experience and knowledge she has is not interchangeable with just anyone, let alone a new person or someone here for only a year.

This kind of statement WILL destroy workplace morale. This employee then came out, continued her work as normal, but subsequent conversations quickly turned to that statement. Now many employees have heard it, including veterans of 20 plus years. It is no longer a single employee that feels an “inch tall” but an entire department. With current lay-offs, it has everyone looking over their shoulder, including top performing veterans that should have nothing to worry about.

Words like this kill relationships with top employees. These relationships are hard to build up to begin with and are even harder to rebuild once they’ve been told they do not matter. The truth is, they DO matter and so does the experience they bring in. Take care of your top performers and build up your sub-par performers. Who cares if they’ve had a rough year (medical, death in family, or even other personal matter). Be compassionate at the very least. Take care of them and they will take care of you. Don’t let that experience walk out the door over careless words.

Invest in your relationships.

What’s on Your iPhone?

Sometimes, it is good to revisit a post and try to add to it if possible. Since writing this post, I have found that I have slipped back into wasting a lot of time on my phone (which is NOT actually an Apple product, by the way). I was inspired by a guy that hired a “slapper” to keep him motivated and focused. What a concept! I wouldn’t actually do this, but I fully understand why someone would want to.

Here is the article from Yahoo: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/guy-hired-someone-slap-him-015800416.html

How much time do you spend on something other than work related items? Do you find yourself testing the company proxy servers and filters for something you can do to pass some time? Reading about college football is a nemesis for me so I have to focus more intently.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on time wasters. Recently, I downloaded a productivity app for my phone and was quickly informed that I was running low on space. How could this happen? I decided to look through my applications to see what was filling up my time.

OOPS

I wish I hadn’t done that! I was almost ashamed of what I saw. Three versions of angry birds, Farkle, paper toss, air hockey, and others.

Having these games on my phone themselves do not indicate any real harm. In fact, they can be a good reset for your brain from time to time. What I realized, however, was the amount of time my copies of these apps represented. Time wasted losing brain cells when I should have been writing you.

I do not actually know how much time I’ve lost. What I do know, however, is that I will be deleting anything that might cause me to waste that time again.

What is eating your productive time?

Accountability

A while back, ok a LONG while back, I wrote a post on integrity. I am one who believes that all or part of integrity goes right into accountability.

Accountability is a word that a great number of people tend to overlook, especially those in leadership positions. This “issue”, however, is widespread to all ranks. I believe leaders should be held to a higher standard so, I want to write about it here, in that context. What does it mean to be accountable?

ac·count·a·ble [uh-koun-tuh-buhl]
adjective
1. subject to the obligation to report, explain or justify something; responsible; answerable.

Wow, that is a strong definition. It uses words like “obligation” and “justify”. My favorites, however, are “responsible” and most of all “answerable”. As a leader, I have to answer to every decision that I make. That is important to remember when making financial decisions or even when reporting project statuses to the project sponsors. All too often, we hear of leaders that seem to defy accountability. Millions of dollars are lost, misappropriated, stolen or even misreported. Some are honest mistakes, some are not so honest. Regardless of the origin, you as a leader, are responsible.

Since accountability is such an important subject; I will be writing more about it soon. Tell me what you think about accountability. What failures or successes have you seen?

Employee Satisfaction vs. Team Performance

I read somewhere that a national survey shows 31% of American workers are “happy” with the amount of recognition they are getting at work.

31%

This number is staggeringly low. There is a real opportunity here for leaders and managers to make up some ground here, AND a chance to make up with our teams!

Herb Kelleher believed that if you kept your employees happy, they would keep your customers happy, which would in turn, make your shareholders happy. It appears that Southwest Airlines is doing pretty well so I say his model works. So why is it that very few companies realize that this is the best way to go? Employee satisfaction is a term that seems to be overlooked. It is seen as an expensive, non-productive, waste of money. In fact, it is not necessarily expensive, non-productive, NOR waste of money.

Did you know that an employee wants to feel like they are doing a good job? Sure, some have flaws, but every employee has a strength. Why not capitalize on that strength and let them capitalize on it too? Take a little time to tell them when they do well. I have noticed that a 5-10 minute, positive conversation with an employee can boost their productivity by 10-15% almost immediately. In fact, I have also noticed that weaknesses get better at the same time because the employee puts more emphasis on their overall quality of work and work habits.

Sure, there are other things that employers can do to keep their employees happy which do cost money that can have a serious positive impact on productivity but these things are not really necessary. Reinforce positive traits and behaviors and you will be pleased with the results.

A pat on the back costs absolutely nothing. What have you got to lose?

Strong General Leader vs. Weak Leader with Industry Experience

I have been confronted with this question a lot lately. Is it be better to have a strong leader from outside an industry or a weaker leader from within an industry? I have an opinion on this that seems to be a bit different from the local markets, but wonder what it is like elsewhere.

In my opinion, it is much better to have a strong general leader from outside the industry rather than have a weak leader with industry experience.

Why?

Project management is project management, regardless of the type of industry that you are going into. There may be a few learning curves early on when creating cost models and other proposals, but those are learned quickly. True leadership, however, is not learned as easily.

I have seen many examples of poor industry leaders destroying projects or departments. At the same time, however, I have seen strong leaders lead projects to great success while knowing very little about the product or industry itself.

What do you think?

Project Communication

Communication is such a broad word. What exactly do you think of when you hear the words “project communication”?

Who do you think of?

There are different types of communications from the face-to-face verbal communications, to non-verbal facial expressions, to email and even project websites such as SharePoint.

What I think of is communicating with project sponsors and other stakeholders. What information do they need in order to carry on with their own daily functions? Of course, there is different communication for different types of stakeholders. For example, a project sponsor probably does not want to hear about a specific task that you are assigning another team member, nor should they. At the same time, it isn’t appropriate to submit a full financial breakdown intended for the sponsor to the whole team.

You have to come up with a communications plan. This important document in the overall project management plan is key to determining the amount of communications as well as the content and schedule of the communications that you will send each stakeholder.

Communication is vital to the success of your project. Creating a communication plan is vital to the success of your communications. Without the plan, important updates and other information can get missed or worse, ignored.