PM Tips: Get Smart

Did you know that good protect management can make dreams come true?

I have proven that you can use project management to literally change your life. Now I am sharing some of the tips, tricks and best practices I have learned in my project manager life in hopes to help us all manage projects better.

My goal: to create a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness!

Get Smart

One of the core premises of project management is that the craft is universal and you don’t have to have subject matter expertise to be an effective PM. Whether building software, building a bridge, remodeling your house or managing a weight loss project the same techniques still apply. You don’t need to know the subject matter to manage the project.

While I agree conceptually that the techniques still apply I disagree that you don’t need to know the subject matter. As a project manager you are simply more effective when you understand the domain in which you are working. You really would not want me managing a project to build a bridge even though I know the core techniques.

Does this mean you can only ever work in a space where you already have expertise? Absolutely not. But it does mean that, if you don’t already have expertise, you need to prioritize getting smart very quickly.

When I started my fitness project I wasn’t an expert and really had no idea how to live a fit life. But I ended up being very successful because I focused effort on getting smart. I employed the same tactics when I learned how to be successful in my day job roles in marketing, transformation, government and now healthcare. Here are a couple of practices that have worked well for me.

Onboard

Start any new project management role by onboarding with the team and stakeholders around you. Sit down with each of them for a meet & greet meeting. Get to know each of them and what they do. Ask how they each work together. Understand their vision for what good project management looks like to them. In short: rely on the experts to provide their input as a good starting place for getting smart.

Observe

After you know who the people are spend some time understanding their work first hand. Immerse yourself in the work that people are doing to be successful in the space you are trying to learn. By seeing the work first hand you will build perspective on how things work and you will get smarter. Similarly, in my fitness project, I followed people on social media and observed other people and their fitness routines to help build my own.

Read

Related to observation is reading. Read everything you can related to your project, your industry, your company and any other related topic. The more information you can take in and digest the more quickly you will build expertise in your field. Reading is important so don’t shortchange yourself on building knowledge through reading.

Mentoring

Getting smart isn’t a one time activity, you need to keep learning. One important tool to keep the learning going is mentoring. Find a mentor in your space who you can leverage for ongoing questions, advice and guidance. By utilizing an expert mentor on a long-term basis you can continue to fortify your knowledge and be increasingly successful.

Teaching

Before you know it you are going to be a subject matter expert in your space.  This means you have a new responsibility – in addition to applying the knowledge to do a good job. You are now available to be a resource to help others get smart. Be very generous with your expertise and look for opportunities to teach others. Not only will you help others get smarter but you will help further increase your knowledge.

Are you ready to get smart in a new and unfamiliar space? Apply some of these techniques and you will be an expert before you know it. That expertise will be a crucial asset to being a more effective project manager.

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in eBook or paperback. Visit OperationMelt.com/book/ for details.

PM Tips: Cheerleaders

Did you know that good protect management can make dreams come true?

I have proven that you can use project management to literally change your life. Now I am sharing some of the tips, tricks and best practices I have learned in my project manager life in hopes to help us all manage projects better.

My goal: to create a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness!

Cheerleaders

Projects are hard and stressful places sometimes. When you are deep into execution, many months into the project and are facing issues it is easy to feel like success is out of reach. This is when team morale starts to suffer and unpleasant environments can develop.

This is when one of your more unexpected roles as a project manager needs to come out: cheerleader.

In a sporting event a cheerleader’s job is to keep the energy and positivity of the fans up even during the down times in the game. When the home team is down by a bunch of points and success seems out of reach the cheerleader steps in. She (or he) will bring energy, fun and lead the fans in energy building activities.

Your role as a project manager is very similar.

When the energy is down and the team starts getting negative you need to step in and keep the energy flowing. This is accomplished through your own behavior and by identifying additional cheerleaders in the team to help too.

How do you do this? There are lots of tactics you can try but it really depends on your team.

Be positive. First and foremost make sure you are being positive. If the project manager doesn’t believe success is possible why would anybody else? Never voice negativity about the project, the team or your status. Any challenges you are facing can be addressed by your team!

Be fun. In your meetings and daily life in your project it is your job to bring the fun. This can be through corny ideas like Hawaiian shirt Fridays, innocent office pranks, starting meetings with ice breakers or anything else that lightens the mood. One thing I like to do is to insert fun memes and cartoons in slides when I am presenting. Whatever your approach just bring the fun. Take the work and not yourself seriously.

Remember your why. Finally help your team keep their eyes on the prize. Always stay focused on what the goal of the project is and why you started it in the first place. Projects with a big goal help keep the team focused and the goal serves as a proverbial north star to guide the team through rough patches.

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in eBook or paperback. Visit OperationMelt.com/book/ for details.

PM Tips: What’s Changing?

Did you know that good protect management can make dreams come true?

I have proven that you can use project management to literally change your life. Now I am sharing some of the tips, tricks and best practices I have learned in my project manager life in hopes to help us all manage projects better.

My goal: to create a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness!

What’s Changing

Nearly every project is undertaken to make a change. By definition a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. So, based on that definition, a project by its very nature creates something new. The epitome of a change.

Do you know what that change is in your project?

Good project managers have a deep understanding of what change their project is making. While you do not need to be an expert in the subject matter you do need to have enough working knowledge that you know what is changing.

One of the core responsibilities for a project manager is to ensure that the project achieves its results in a playful and efficient manner. If you don’t know what is changing you won’t be able to help steer the journey and you won’t be able to help get your stakeholders from point a to point b. If your stakeholders don’t make it to the finish line with you, you will likely fail to achieve your objectives.

Here are three quick steps to help you know what’s changing.

Map the As-Is

Start each project by making sure that the team understands the “as-is” environment. Often times this means that you will need to map and document the current state processes, even at a very high level. Just make sure it is sufficient to ensure that the project team knows the what things are done today.

Mapping the as-is process doesn’t need to be the role of the project manager. In many projects, particularly technology projects, the team will include a business analyst who will take the lead on documenting the as-is processes. Alternatively you may want to leverage a subject matter expert (SME) from the impacted area to document their own current processes. If none of these people are present or if your SMEs don’t really know their current processes (more common than it should be) you may have to lead the way.

You might catch a lucky break and the current state processes may already be documented and you won’t need to map them in your project. When this happens you may want to insert a brief step in your plan for “as-is process validation” to make sure that these previously documented processes are still accurate. In many ways a flawed understanding of the current state is worse than no understanding.

Regardless of the approach you take just make sure that your team (and you) have a working understanding of the way things are done today.

Define the To-Be

Once your team has an understanding of the way things are done today it is time to design the future, or to-be, process.

Spend some time as a team, making sure each stakeholder is represented, mapping out the future process together. This is a good time to use sticky notes and a big wall. Walk through a day-in-the-life in the future. Who does what? Where are the handoffs between people? What are the outputs of each step? What tools will be used along the way? How will the process and outputs be measured and monitored? How will quality be managed?

Get the full process up on the wall and then on paper. Once it is on paper you may need to insert some iterative review and adjustment steps. You may also need to have the future process reviewed and signed-off by your project sponsor and other organizational leaders.

You want to make sure your to-be process is right because it will become your blueprint for the future.

What’s Changing

Finally it is time to compare your as-is and to-be process to identify what is changing.

When reviewing and comparing the processes make sure to catalog every difference between the processes. What are the new steps? What steps are no longer needed? Where are individual responsibilities changing? Where has new evaluation criteria been inserted? What new tools are going to be in use?

Make sure that your team has identified all of the changes because these will likely define/refine the scope of your project. Along your journey each one of those processes need to be thoroughly thought out, designed, implemented and the change adoption needs to be managed. If you miss a step it could mean that your project fails to achieve its objective.

As a final step in the “what’s changing” identification you need to revisit the storytelling that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Make sure that you can explain what is changing in a simple and understandable manner. Build your elevator speech so you can explain it to others and then do so often. The more people understand what changing and why it is changing the easier it will be to ensure your changes get adopted.

That’s it! If you apply these three basic steps (which will require time and effort) your team will have a clear understanding of the work they need to do. Plus, by knowing what’s changing, it will be a heck of a lot easier to complete your work breakdown structure so you can get to a detailed project plan. And that is a step that we all would like to make just a little bit easier.

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in eBook or paperback. Visit OperationMelt.com/book/ for details.

PM Tips: The PM’s Most Valuable Tool

Did you know that good protect management can make dreams come true?

I have proven that you can use project management to literally change your life. Now I am sharing some of the tips, tricks and best practices I have learned in my project manager life in hopes to help us all manage projects better.

My goal: to create a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness!

The PM’s Most Valuable Tool

I am starting a new project management role today and plan to spend most of my day relying heavily on the most valuable tool a PM has at his or her disposal: listening.

Project management is about bringing a structured process to setting and achieving goals. For this to be successful you need to understand what people are trying to accomplish and the factors that may aid or limit success. This is not possible without listening.

Listening is about more than sitting quietly and waiting for your turn to talk. It means truly seeking to understand what somebody is saying. Be curious, ask good questions and continue to dig deeper until you have a full understanding. Demonstrate to the other person that you care and have a genuine interest in what they have to say.

When you listen and build a better understanding you will be surprised just how quickly good solutions emerge.

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in eBook or paperback. Visit OperationMelt.com/book/ for details.

PM Tips: It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over

Did you know that good protect management can make dreams come true?

I have proven that you can use project management to literally change your life. Now I am sharing some of the tips, tricks and best practices I have learned in my project manager life in hopes to help us all manage projects better.

My goal: to create a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness!

It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over

I am wrapping up the final week of a year-long project this week and it is a good reminder about what “done” means in project management. All too often we get done with implementation and then we are on to the next project. This leaves some important things left undone.

The role of a project manager doesn’t end with implementation.

After implementation is complete and all deliverables within your project plan have been delivered is when the closure phase of your project happens. The purpose of the closure phase is bring the ride to a full and complete stop so to speak. This is where you tie up all of the loose ends and recap the project.

The closure phase is very important so please don’t skip or shortchange it. In fact this phase is as important to the success of future projects as it is to the project you are closing. Make sure that your closure includes these three high-value steps.

Conduct a Lessons Learned Exercise

Whether you call it a “lessons learned”, “hindsight” or “retrospective” it is important to spend some time with your project team reflecting on the journey you are ending. Think back through the whole project and identify what went well that you would want to repeat in future projects. Figure out what didn’t go well that you would like to avoid in future projects.

A less traditional item to include during your lessons learned it appreciation. Give your project team members an opportunity to voice their appreciation and gratitude for each other’s contributions. It is way too easy to move onto the next stressful project having never thanked each other for our contributions. Let’s remember that project team members are human beings and take a minute to celebrate that humanity.

Finally is an often overlooked component of lessons learned exercises: action planning. I have seen many lessons learned meetings that produce a ton of great output. Unfortunately that output often just disappears with the project never to be seen again. By taking a few minutes to plan how to convert those lessons into actionable steps you can help ensure that the lessons from your project will be used to make the next project better.

Produce a Project Closure Report

Once you have your lessons learned identified and documented it is time to share them. The lessons learned should be included in a final project deliverable: the project closure report.

A project closure report is used to recap the events and achievements from your project for your sponsor and other key stakeholders. This report should include the following:

  • A recap of what the objective of your project.
  • Any changes that were approved and implemented.
  • The actions taken to achieve your objective.
  • A recap of key delivery metrics including scope, schedule and cost performance.
  • The recap of lessons learned and the recommended actions to activate those lessons.

The delivery of your project closure report marks the formal closure of your project.

Pro tip: keep your own copy of each of your project closure reports. These reports are good reference materials for you for the future. These reports will help you build and apply your own best practices in future projects. Plus these reports are a good tool when updating your resume in the future.

Archive Your Project Documentation

Wait… don’t run away from this project yet! There is one more important step and that is to clean up your mess.

In any project you are likely to produce a ton of documentation. Some of this documentation is valuable just during the project and has no lasting value. This information should be properly disposed of in order to eliminate the digital clutter that each of our projects tends to create. The more clutter exists the less valuable the important documentation will become.

The next category of project documentation is the items that have long-term value to the people in charge of maintaining the deliverables from your project. These documents should be transitioned to some location for long-term storage in partnership with your project stakeholders.

Finally some of the documentation has value as part of the historical record of your project. These items support a concept I like to call “project archeology” where somebody is trying to recreate the history of the project you are closing. This happens in support of analytics and reporting, as a starting point for similar projects in the future and sometimes as an audit or compliance activity. Make sure to organize these “historical record” documents in an efficient, logical manner to help future archeologists when they start their digs.

Important note: archive with care. Make sure that you are aware of all organizational policies related to document retention and archiving. Some organizations are governed by very strict policies in this space and you absolutely don’t want to violate those in your zeal to leave a tidy digital environment.

When you are approaching the end of your project make sure that you don’t implement and run away without closure. The project closure phase is a good way to effectively wrap-up the work of your project and to make sure that your team and your stakeholders are ready for the project to cease to exist. It is also a good time to remember the advice you learned as a kid and clean up after yourself and put your “toys” away.

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in eBook or paperback. Visit OperationMelt.com/book/ for details.