Projects have become the workflow of 21st century. Knowledge workers at all levels have quietly slipped into the role of unofficial project manage, relying on their experience and wits to get through a decent finish. It’s often like trying to fly a plane without flying lessons. As a result, the list of project failures is long, pervasive, frustrating and very costly both personally and organizationally.
4 Foundational Behaviors for Project Success
- Demonstrate Respect
- Listen first
- Clarify Expectations
- Practice Accountability
5 Processes for Project Success
- Initiate – ensure everyone is clear about how project success will be measured
- Plan – figure out what exactly needs to be delivered
- Execute – engage the team regularly to make sure they’re on track
- Monitor and Control – ensure everything is going as expected
- Close – check the results against the desired outcome
5 Process Groups + 4 Behaviors = SUCCESS
PEOPLE + PROCESS = SUCCESS
Know where you want to go.
Most important phase because everything depends on it. Make sure you identified every possible stakeholder that could be touched by the project, so you can never be blind-sided.
There’s a right way and wrong way to initiate the project. The right way is to frontload the project. The return on this investment is vast. Otherwise you end up with a lot of backloading tearing your work up and starting over again and again until the time and money runs out and you can’t deliver.
Identify All Stakeholders
Tool: Group Brainstorming
- When you brainstorm, it shows you care about their opinions.
- Creating a list of all stakeholders by yourself is fine but almost 100% of the time, you’ll forget someone.
Identify Key Stakeholders
Tool: Key Stakeholder DANCE
Interviewing Key Stakeholders
Tool: Key Stakeholder Interview
- I know this project means a lot to our organizational goals, so I want to make sure I have all the information I need from you to make it a great success
- I want to make sure I completely understand your expectations to ensure great success on the project outcome
- You play an integral part in the success of this project.
Areas of possible constraints
Tool: Stakeholder Mapping
Interviewing Key Stakeholders
Tool: Question Funnel
Open – gather information (what, when, who, where, why, how)
Detailed – probing specific information and measures of success
Closed – Elicit a clear yes or no response
Interviewing Key Stakeholders
Tool: Group Interviews
- Get as many stakeholders as you can in one room
- Set a strict time limit and keep your promise.
- Set a ground rule that no one can interrupt anyone else.
- Don’t argue with the points raised. Ask a question only for clarification. Thank the contributor and move one.
- Carefully record comments.
- Thank the group and invite them to speak 1-1 if they have more issues to raise.
- Distribute the record to everyone after meeting.
Drafting a Scope
TOOL: Project Scope Statement
Know how you want to go.
The better you plan, the more likely you’ll succeed. But don’t expect things to go according to plan. People will not do what they said they would do. Team members will miss the commitments. Stakeholders will want to change things just when you thought you’re gaining traction.
Use your risk management, communications and project road maps to stay true to your journey. As the detours come up, you’ll be in a great place to better handle them if you just wandered around back roads hoping to find your way.
Asses the Risks
Impact x Probability = Actual Risk
- Impact (5 worst case scenario, 4 relatively important impact, 2 minimal impact…)
- Probability (5 high, 3 50-50, 2 could, 1 slight possibility…)
Tool: Risk Matrix
Tool: Tame the Risk
- Transfer: Shift the risk to 3rd
- Accept: Acknowledge it and deal with it.
- Mitigate: Reduce its probability or impact.
- Eliminate: Do what must be done to make it go away.
Tool: Risk Management Plan
Create a Project Schedule
Tool: Project Scheduling
- Develop WBS.
- Sequence activities.
- Assign the project team.
- Estimate duration of each activity.
- Identify the critical path.
- Create a project budget.
Tool: Mind Maps
Tool: Post-It Note Method
- List each hiding.
- Have your team to think all activities required for each heading.
- Give each member a notepad to note each activity they can think off.
- Ask them to list only 1 activity per note.
- Ask them to stick under proper heading.
Sequence the Activities
You can’t build a house until you finish the foundation.
Another can be writing the second chapter while you’re editing the first.
A restaurant manager can’t tally the total sales until the last customer paid the bill.
Estimate the Duration of Each task
Work! = Duration
- Work is the time required to complete a task.
- Duration is the total amount of time in which the user has to complete the task.
Tool: Estimating Duration
Draw on your own experience.
- Ask a reference.
- Get advice from outside expert.
- Use PERT formula for each task.
PERT Formula (Program Evaluation and Review Technique)
Estimated Time = (Optimistic Time + 4 x Most Likely Time + Pessimistic Time) / 6
Optimistic time: shortest time in which activity can be completed
- Most likely time: completion time with highest probability
- Pessimistic time: longest time in which activity will take
Tool: Gantt Chart
Avoid bottlenecks on the critical path
- Best people. Put your most talented, trusted, reliable and engaged people on the critical path instead of the slack.
- Cross-training. Make sure more than one person can handle the critical path.
- Micro Team Accountability Sessions. Do mini check-ins as often as you can.
Tool: Project Budgeting
Budget = Hours x Hourly Cost
Alli’s hours = 40
Ali’s hourly costs = $500
Total costs = $20,000
Tool: Communication Plan
Visibility and accountability produce high-performance teams and results
Executing the project is all about engaging people. Help people invite their best selves to the party.
A successful project depends on what people – those imperfect, opinionated, stubborn biological entities.
Tool: Team Accountability Session
Tool: Holding Others Accountable
- Listen first – why the commitment was missed
- Demonstrate respect – be empathetic about the situation
- Clarify expectations – restate the commitment; update the deadline for completion
- Practice accountability – let them know the team counts on everyone’s commitments and each commitment is integral to project success
Tool: Performance Conversation Planner
IV. Monitoring and Controlling
There may be times when you feel so frustrated you want to tell people off, throw your phone across the room, or just quit. It won’t help.
When we have no control over a problem, our responsibility is to smile, to genuinely and peacefully accept the problem and learn to live with it, even if we don’t like it. In this way, we do not empower the problem to control us.
Tool: Project Status Report (RAG Status)
Tool: Controlling Scope Creep
Anything that can be changed will be changed until there’s no time left to change anything.
- What’s the intent of the change?
- What’s the impact?
- What would be required to implement the change?
- Demonstrate respect. It doesn’t do any good to badmouth who brought it…
- Listen first. Understand what and why the change is all about.
- Clarify expectations. Clarify impacts of the change on costs, timing, quality, resources…
- Practice accountability. Ensure key stakeholders approve or deny change request.
Tool: Project Change Request
Tool: Closing Checklist
Evaluate task list
Construction people call this a ‘punch list’; they walk through the building and list all the little things that need attention. A lightbulb is missing, a screw is loose, a section of the wall is still unpainted.
Same is true with your project. Principle of accountability means no loose ends.
Confirm fulfillment of project scope.
- Did we meet the goals of the project?
- Are you satisfied with the end result?
- Did we deliver in a timely manner?
- Was it worth the cost?
- Did we do a good job of anticipating and mitigating risk?
- Any ideas for improving our process?
Complete Procurement Closure
- Did all the bills get paid?
- Did all the products get delivered?
- Have you released other departments, vendors, consultants and any outside organizations from their obligations?
- Have you balanced the budget and reported gains or losses to the right department heads?
- Have all the contracts been signed, approved by your legal team and filed correctly?
Document Lessons Learned
- What was done well?
- What could have been done better?
- What unexpected risks did we have to deal with?
- How does our process need to change to meet goals in the future?