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.

PM Tips: Be Ready to Tell Your Story

Last week I talked about telling the story about what project management is but the need for good storytelling doesn’t stop there. A good project manager needs to continually be telling the story of their project.

Why Does Your Project Exist?

Similar to last week, the first step to telling your story is to create your definition. This time the definition is about your project versus project management as a whole.

Create a vision statement for your project. You need a basic statement that describes what the future that your project is creating will look like. The vision statement should be something short, clear and motivational that your team or anybody else can easily understand.

For example, if I was going to create a vision statement for these PM Tips emails it would be something like:

PM Tips is a weekly articles series that shares practical tips on how to manage projects better in order to help grow better project management skills that empower people to make their goals come to life.

Build Your Elevator Speech

Just like last week’s tip the next step is to be ready to tell your story. It is time to build your elevator speech. In case you don’t remember, an elevator speech is a quick, prepared statement that you can deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator between floors.

Convert your vision statement into an elevator speech that you can comfortably deliver to anybody.

Always Start with Vision

Finally you should remind your stakeholders of your vision often. By continually recommunicating your vision statement people will have a clear understanding about what your project is and why it exists. The more that people understand the value of your project the easier it is to get resources including the most important resource of all – support and advocacy!

  • Each presentation that you give about your project should feature the vision statement prominently.
  • If your project team all sits in one place together you may want to enlarge it and put it on the wall.
  • When you give updates in leadership meetings you will want to start by reminding people of your vision.

Seize every opportunity you have to tell your story. Repetition is key.

Are you ready to tell your project’s story?

Why am I sharing?

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!

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: Be Ready to Tell Our Story

After fifteen plus years of managing projects in various capacities one consistent theme that I have observed is that our craft as project managers is very misunderstood. I was recently reminded of this fact when I published a book that describes an unconventional application of project management. It seems that words “project management” conjure up many images in people’s heads. And seldom are they the images we want them to have.

We can’t really blame people for not understanding our profession and, in many ways, we have done this to ourselves. With our PMBOKs, our waterfalls, our backlogs, our burndowns and our PPM tools we have created quite the layer of jargon and complexity that obstructs the view of the basics of project management. So people don’t understand our profession and can sometimes start to question the value we bring. Not good!

The good news is that we can fix this! Plus fixing this gives us an opportunity to reiterate our value to our customers, stakeholders, teams and to ourselves. But this is going to take some forethought and some storytelling.

The solution: be ready to tell our story. At every opportunity we need to be able to explain “project management” in a way that resonates with people. Here’s how to do it.

Define Project Management

Start by creating your own definition of what project management means. It needs to be a definition you believe in because you need to be able to confidently explain it to others. Plus it is great to have some diversity in our definitions instead of everybody memorizing page twenty-seven from the PMBOK. (Please don’t fact-check me on the page number.)

Here is my current version of my definition of project management: a structured approach for defining and achieving goals.

Pretty simple, right? Simplicity is important if you want people to understand our profession. It is great that we know terms such as “temporary endeavor” and “progressive elaboration” but that doesn’t help people understand what we do. Plus our jobs are pretty complicated so why bring extra complexity to the definition?!

Build Your Elevator Speech

Once you have a definition of project management that you are comfortable with you need to be ready to tell your story. If you have a definition and aren’t ready to share it you may miss your opportunity. Or when you try to share your message will be eclipsed by a plethora of “umm” and “ah” in your delivery.

You need an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a quick, prepared statement that you can deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator between floors. Prepare how you are going to explain project management to anybody with whom you happen to have an audience. Make sure to practice a few times before show time; you want your elevator speech to just roll right off your tongue and sound completely natural.

By having this go-to way of delivering your message you will be ready to do so at a moments notice.

Tell Your Story Often

Now that you have your definition and are ready to share it, do it!

Find any opportunity you can to tell our story. When someone asks you what you do for a living that is a great opportunity. At project kickoff meetings is another good time to remind people of what project management is so they understand why you are there.

Believe it or not one of the most important times to tell our story is with your friends and family. Your closest circle of people want to be understanding and supportive of you but they need your help. By helping them understand what project management is you are helping them be more supportive of you.

Are you ready to tell our story?

Why am I sharing?

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!

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: Brand Your Project

Is your project going to last a while? Is your project important? Do you want your project team to connect with the project? Of course!

Brand your project to help keep your team engaged.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of branding. The original brand was a mark stamped onto the hide of livestock to mark it as your property. But this concept has grown to apply well beyond the livestock world. In today’s marketing world a brand can be defined as follows – borrowed from BusinessDictionary.com.

Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. 

In your project a brand will usually consist of a memorable name for your project, it might include a project logo and maybe even a tagline. The goal is to give your project an identity that resonates with people and isn’t boring.

There are several benefits to branding your project:

  • Make it easier to remember. Giving your project a brand helps it stick in people’s minds and can help connect it back to its broader purpose. Just think how some of the most popular brands in the world resonate in your brain just from a slogan, a tagline or a logo. Three small words “just do it” immediately make you think of one of your favorite shoe (and more) companies.
  • Make it fun. My apologies if this hits too close to home but most of our project names are boring and make me want to run the other way! Project names such as “time and attendance management phase 3” don’t really resonate or inspire. Branding your project gives it a name that sticks and doesn’t make you want to fall asleep. And when the work is more fun people enjoy it more.
  • Give the team a sense of belonging. Finally a brand establishes a broader purpose for your project. This broader purpose is something that you team members can connect to and gives them a feeling of belonging. When a project becomes more than just a set of task list items it is way more engaging. This is one of the keys to establishing and maintaining team engagement.

The next time you are starting a project that needs an engaged and passionate team to get it across the finish line consider giving it a brand. At a minimum giving your project a meaningful name and a logo will help make it something bigger than just a list of to-dos.

Why am I sharing?

Did you know that good Project Management can make dreams come true?

I have used project management to literally change my 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!

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.