A Case for Lean Project Management

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “Death by paperwork,” or “Death by process?” Better yet, have you ever experienced either of these? If you have worked for any reasonable amount of time,  chances are that you have. In this day of red tape  and CYA, paperwork and processes have become the norm and they can really kill your project delivery date. It isn’t always enough to simply schedule  time to complete these tasks. How about you look deep into these processes and determine their actual value and eliminate the ones that may be somewhat superfluous? After all, at some point, the work has to actually get done – and I’m sure you have plenty of it!

For those of you running a PMO with strict process guidance, please hear me out, but give me your thoughts at the end.

Here are a few items to consider: 

  1. Define the project type. It is important to understand what is truly required to complete your project. Software development projects differ greatly from a BYOD initiative or an infrastructure refresh project. Differences may include architecture reviews or design documents that would be appropriate for one project but not another.
  2. Consider the actual size of the project. There are several attributes that must be considered here including number of end-users impacted to size of project team and of course,  project budget and duration. A small project that impacts 100 users and lasts 3 months with a cost of $25,000 should have different document requirements than a multi-million dollar software implementation that takes two years.
  3. Determine actual requirements of the group you are working with. Business facing projects will typically have fewer process requirements than a typical IT project. At the same time, some business entities such as accounting or audit, may require additional processes. If the project doesn’t warrant a process for SOX compliance, for example, why even create a document for it?
  4. Simplify some of the documentation that you will use for every project. Project charters, for example, have a full gamut of length and complexity. In reality, the project charter really should be a simple document that gives a brief description of the project as well as a list of the high level roles and responsibilities that the PM would be accountable for. Anything else really belongs in other standard documentation.
  5. Make some documents standard. Think about a communication plan for a moment. What is defined in the communication plan? Types of communication with definitions of each as well as expectations that each project will have regarding all types of communications. When you think about it, most of these types of communications are the same across every single project. Team status meetings, stakeholder meetings, leadership meetings, status reports, RFPs, etc. will be the same. Sure there is some customization for each one based on the team and requirements, but create a well defined template that irons out each type and basic expectations. Don’t re-write every document every time.

It is time for the project bureaucracy to start swinging the pendulum the other direction a bit. It is possible and smart to cut out some of the formalities for some projects. If it is required, don’t cut it out, but make it a requirement if it has no value. Documents with little to no value that get created are simply expensive time wasters. Resist the urge to require a check box for every little thing. Here are some high level suggestions

Need to define but don’t go overboard:

  • Charter – keep it simple
  • Scope – sometimes a high or medium level scope statement is all you need. Detailed scope statements get very complex and can cause you to get lost in the weeds
  • Schedule – build your schedule so that it is manageable. You don’t need every little detail documented in the schedule. If you aren’t careful, you will spend all of your day trying to keep up with the schedule updates and changes.
  • Status reports – here everyone rolls their eyes. Often times status reports aren’t even read. Keep these simple – and automate some metrics for easy reporting. Hint: use the Unique Task ID in MS Project to export into MS Excel for simple, automated updates. You can also create categories in your financials to report high level metrics as well.

Make some plans standard

  • Communication Plan – meetings are meetings – set expectations here for all projects and stick to it. Remember, sometimes a phone call can take the place of a meeting – meetings are expensive. If you don’t believe me … do the math yourself. I find it very interesting that certain level of employees have limits on the amount of money they can approve on an expenditure but anyone can call a meeting. If you are holding a leadership meeting that runs an hour . . . it can cost thousands of dollars just to have everyone paying attention to you.
  • Change Control – Change processes are important, but are also the same for all projects in an organization. One document for every project will suffice. Simply reference that document in your project management plan
  • Risk and Issue Logs – make a SIMPLE template and follow it for every project. This also helps leadership to see the same type of information across all projects.

Of course, there is much more that can be put here, but I’ll keep it simple myself and wrap this post up. Remember, sometimes, less is more. If you are mired in process, your project is slowly slipping away, or your life outside the office is. Either way, you don’t want that to happen.

Lead lean! Lead smart! Lead on!!

Have a great rest of your day!

I value your opinion and would love to hear from you. What do you think about lean project management? Please comment below.

Find Your Purpose Today

Do you have something you’re working for?

I was walking through my office the other day after a hard meeting with a team member in which we were not seeing eye-to-eye. The end of the meeting left me thinking critically about what I can do to make that working relationship better. I was racking my brain for days about how to make it work. The end result of all of that brain racking was that I had a renewed sense of purpose. That new-found purpose actually had me feeling better about my current state of mind. I started walking through the hallways of my office feeling renewed, mentally rejuvenated, seeking answers, paying attention to others, and generally (oddly enough) feeling pretty good about myself. Had I found the answer to my question? Not at that time.

That isn’t what this is about. I’m sorry; I don’t have all the answers to dealing with employees that don’t see the world through our rose colored glasses. I sat down at my desk, realizing what had just happened. I started really thinking about what it was that was making me tick and what makes me tick day in and day out. What motivates me? What is it that drives me day in and day out?

Walking with purpose

All day, I found myself walking through the halls a little taller, my head a little higher, and my pace a little quicker. I wasn’t “puffing my chest” at the employee that disagreed with me, nor was I trying to exude superiority. This type of “roostering” has no place coming from a leader. I just…felt better. I had a mission, a goal, a purpose. That new life had me pushing hard all day long to be more productive, to find answers, and to do the absolute best I could do. It felt incredible, despite the hard conversation that sparked the whole thing.

What is it that makes you tick? Do you have something on your to-do list each day that can give you a sense of purpose?

A challenge

We need to find a reason to push hard each day. I challenge you not just to find something to give you purpose every day, but actually, schedule something. Put something on your to-do list that will cause you to think a little harder. Find something new that you can learn. Think of a problem you need to solve.

What are your thoughts on this post? Do you already have a way to give yourself purpose every day? I’d love to read your comments.

Do You Need a “Slapper”?

Sometimes, it is good to revisit a post and try to add to it if possible. Since writing a post about “telephonic” time wasters, I have found that I have slipped back into wasting time not only on my phone (which is NOT actually an Apple product, by the way) but on other things as well.

I was recently 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. Think of it, you have someone sitting next to you during the day as a paid employee, whose sole purpose in life is to keep you on track and focused on what really matters.

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; maybe I need a “slapper” for that?!?!?

People never get ahead by spending their days on something other than work related items. Sure, we might need a mental break every now and then, but that time should be used to work out or take a walk. Not only do you get in better shape, but it has also been shown that physical activity helps the brain work even more efficiently.

Put yourself on a “junk site” diet! Get off that news or sports site and get back to work! That guy noticed a 98% increase in his productivity!

What ways to you use to keep focused? Do you have a “slapper”? Post a comment and tell us of your unique ways to keep focused.

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?