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Category Archives: Planning a Project

Brainstorming Importance in Project Management

The concept stage is such an important phase of a project to clearly define the project’s goal and verify the project is worthwhile of perusing further, feasible, and have significant savings over the costs, before an investment is made and fails without providing any value-add.

Terms:

  • Brainstorming: Pull together a variety of different people with different experiences and backgrounds to come up with several different solutions to a problem and helps to increase the optimal solution for a given project
  • Winnowing: It’s allows good to have the type of person that pokes holes into everything and provides facts that clearly and obviously show that the project will not work or is not worth doing so all view points are put on the table for discussion.

Concept Stage Process:

  1. Define the problem you want to solve/project idea
  2. Find a comfortable meeting environment ready for the team discussion
  3. Assign a note taker
  4. Set a time limit to brainstorm ideas and suggestions
  5. Write down all ideas that are mentioned
  6. Categorize/Condense/Combine/Refine/Organize Ideas to a more polished list/set of actions
  7. Assess/Analyze Effects or Results of Ideas
  8. Rank/Prioritize all options
  9. Determine if project is worthwhile to complete
  10. Agree on next actions/timescale/responsibility

Tips:

  • Provides the opportunity to make sure everyone is on the same page, so there confusion and misunderstanding if and when the project proceeds further as you have built the foundation of the project with everyone’s input
  • Include all stakeholders in the brainstorming phase, as a consensus may be made on one solution on a project, but having nit-pickers also in the room can uncover issues early on before later that may be deal-stoppers

Project Continues to the Analysis Stage If:

  • Confirmation from the team there are no project deal-breakers
  • All stakeholders are committed to supporting the project
  • Project value exceeds its projected cost
  • Resources on this project are better used on this project than any other activity the company could do with that time and money it will take

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What Tips Do You Have In Regards to Brainstorming?

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Planning Saves Time & Helps Prevent Issues

Have you heard of the 1:10:100 rule before? Well, this rule relates to the cost to fix a deficiency that can amplify exponentially throughout each stage of the development life cycle. 

Breakdown of the 1:10:100 Rule:

  1. It is always least expensive to plan well and resolve all problems in the conception and planning stages.
  2. If the issue is not resolved in the planning stage, it will cost 10 times more in the building and testing stage
  3. Lastly, it will cost 100 times as much to resolve the problem when the system is in production.

Also, if you spend a lot of time in the planning stage, it not only helps prevent costs, but also reduce the time spent fixing it and delaying the implementation.  I remember spending several weeks preparing a project plan for a project that I started over a year ago and constantly updating the document throughout the project stages.  It takes a lot of time writing and updating the document, but it was so happy to have one document with all the history.  Throughout this project, I have had several different IT resources come on board to work on the development, so it was nice to be able to send them the document to each of the new resources.  They were able to quickly review the document with the history, ask questions, and catch up on the project in a rather quick manner to prevent any further delays in the project.

Tips:

  • Ask a co-worker for a project plan template or search on Google for some examples
  • Brainstorm with others when writing up a project plan, as a few brains are better than 1
  • As a project manager, take the time to properly define what we are doing and then plan well so you prevent future issues
  • Planning takes more time that you might expect, but it will reduce the project cost, time, and risk
  • Share your project plan with your project team so you can receive feedback and make sure that everyone’s considerations are taken into account
  • Constantly update the project plan so you have one document that is always up to date and has a history log

Please share your planning stories, good or bad, below!

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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Planning a Project

 

Avoiding Classic Planning Mistakes in Project Management

Many organizations start new projects with grand ideas that often seem to work, but only to make a classic mistake and deliver the project behind schedule, over budget or both.  Below are a few classic project management mistakes that occur while planning the project and some tips to help you avoid them:

1)      Overly Optimistic Schedule: Wishful thinking can lead your project to an overly optimistic schedule, which causes the analysis and design phases to be cut short, due to missing key requirements.  This can lead into intense pressure on your project team.  For example, programmers forced to complete their code in a short timeline can lead to poor code and in the end, poor results.

Solution: Do not inflate time estimates, rather clearly schedule slack time at the end of each phase to account for the variability in estimates.

2)      Failing to Monitor the Schedule: As the project manager, if you do not receive regular report progress from your team members, no one knows the current project status and also, to see if the project is still on schedule.

Solution: Require the team members to honestly report the progress (lack of or progress) every week.  There should be no penalty for reporting a lack of progress, but there should be immediate repercussions if the team member provides misleading information/status on their work for the project, as this can have a serious effect on the project’s success and deadline.

3)      Failing to Update the Schedule: When some part of the schedule falls behind, a project team often thinks they can make up the time later by working faster.  Unfortunately, most of the time you cannot.  This is an early warning sign that the entire schedule is too optimistic.

Solution: Immediately revise the schedule and inform the project sponsor of the new end date.  Another option would be to use time boxing to reduce functionality or move it into future versions.

4)      Adding People to a Late Project: When your project misses a crucial task/milestone, the project manager is sometimes tempted to add more people to the project team in an effort to help speed it up and get the project back on course.  By adding more to your project team, it can actually make your project take longer due to the increase coordination challenges to meet and time required to bring the new team member(s) up to speed on the project on what has already been done and what needs to be done.

Solution: Revise the project schedule, use time boxing, get rid of bug-filled code, and add people only to work on an isolated part of the project.

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 What are some mistakes you have made in the planning phase of a project?

 

Monitoring & Control of a Project

In order to manage a success project, monitoring a project is an important step, even though monitoring some projects can be quite a challenge sometimes.  Below are a few tips that may help you to monitor and control your project:

 Project Control Success Tips

  • Use the project plan as your primary guide for coordinating your project
  • Consistently monitor and update the plan and send updates to your team members on a regular basis
  • Get involved in all steps of the project, such as brainstorming, testing, and implementation.   I enjoy sitting down with several of my team members and watch them perform the steps they do for my projects, so I can learn and see if we can increase any efficiencies or find better processes to be used in the project
  • Adapt the project schedule, budget, and/or work plan as necessary to keep the project on track
  • Document the project progress and changes and communicate them to all of the team members

 What Should You Monitor in a Project?

  • Check on the status of work being performed compared to the plan
  • Check on the Volume and Quality of the work getting completed
  • Costs and expenditures changes throughout the project, compared to the plan
  • Attitudes of the people working on the project and others that are involved or effected by the project, including your end user (customers and management)
  • Cohesiveness and co-operation of team members

What Should Monitoring Accomplish?

  • Communicate/Inform project status and changes to Project Team Members & Management
  • Provide a justification for making project adjustments
  • Document  all of the changes to the original plan to each of the changes that occur throughout the project

There are a few methods I use when communicating the status of the project to management or my team members on the project which I manage, which are:

  • Weekly Status Reports that are completed by all team members to identify the progress and problems  easily and early
  • Project Review Meetings Periodic meetings with the key team members, not just managers and supervisors to get together and resolve issues.  Frequency of these meetings depends on the size and nature of the project and problems experienced. 

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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Planning a Project

 

Expect the Best, Plan for the Worst, and Prepare to be Surprised

One interesting stage in the planning life cycle of a project is planning for and anticipating the unforeseen when things may not go as expected.  This type of planning is called “Contingency Planning” and plays an important role in any task when the results and outcomes cannot be absolutely guaranteed.  It is difficult to think of everything possible thing that could go wrong and prevent these roadblocks before they occur, therefore, it becomes quite an art to the profession and many times is learned through experience managing projects overtime.  An example of a simple contingency plan for a fried breakfast would be to plan for the possibility of breaking the yolk of an egg, in which case an additional resource (eggs) would need to be budgeted for and available if needed.  Another plan B option would be to prepare some hash-browns or bring fruit and yogurt in the event that any of the diners don’t eat eggs. 

 I use contingency planning in several aspects in my life, whether it is planning for what to pack for a trip in case we go out to a fancy restaurant and need to dress up or if I get a stain on my outfit to planning for an event where I don’t know the final count that are attending where I am preparing the meal for all that attend and need to make sure I have enough food for everyone.  My mind seems to always make a checklist and I continue to go through what-if scenarios, but as humans, we cannot plan for everything that could happen as something are out of our control.  When unforeseen roadblocks appear, I tend to think of different solutions and resources that I can utilities to resolve the issue, talk with others that may have experienced similar situations or can help guide/brainstorm a solution with me.  I think it is best to remain as calm as possible and breakdown the issue if the unforeseen issue is a large roadblock in the project, so others working on the project don’t overly stress and therefore add extra stress to your plate.  Things happen that will require you as the project manager to react to and handle, so remember to “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised,” as Denise Waitley once said. 

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Planning a Project

 

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If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

The beginning stages of any project may not be the most interesting or fun part in the project management life cycle, but is such a fundamental process to the overall success of managing a project.  The first steps I take in managing a project is specifying the fine details of the project and determine the business value so the project can begin on the right foot.   Some of the steps I take during this initial stage in the project life cycle process are:

1)      Describe the purpose, aims, and deliverables for the project.

2)      Determine the parameters, such as timescales, budget, range, scope, territory, authority to make decisions.

3)      Determine who will be involved and the way the team will work.  Set the frequency of meetings, decision-making process.

4)      Establish the “break-points” at which to review and check the progress and how the progress and results will be measured.

5)      Define what is the current process/solution used today vs. what this project will hopefully achieve in the end result. Developing a flow chart, something visual always help everyone understand the whole project to gain the best input to help find the best end results in a project.

6)      Put together the right team and get the expertise you need.  A suggestion would be to use a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) which a results-oriented family tree that captures all of the work of the project in a very organized way. You can Google this diagram for further information.

For each project I management, I create a project specification document that contains the title of the project, table of contents, executive summary, current process, proposed end process/result of project, implementation process, project timeline, and list cross-functional team members.  While I may not have all of this information for my first initial cross-functional meeting to go over, I have a start to handout to the team.  This provides structure, like an agenda, where I can simply insert content and organize the project so it can be manageable.  Some items to avoid that can result in failure in a project are:

  1. Scope-less is hopeless. If you don’t decide fully define the scope of the project to determine what you are doing, you’ll end up just throwing money at a problem.
  2. Focus on time and cost, not quality.  Make time to check on the quality of the work so people are not cutting corners, so you implement a good end product.
  3. Know the right thing to do and not taking time to analyze problems. It is important to listen to experts and the needs of your customer.
  4. Don’t thank the team, just push them harder. It is important to acknowledge the hard work your team members are doing so they know their work is appreciated.
  5. Don’t waste time with planning, people ought to know what to do.  It is important to plan as people don’t know what they need to do, unless you list out each person’s tasks to complete in the project.
  6. Avoid big problems. It is important to acknowledge all problems, small and large.  This will help reduce or eliminate the number of fires that need to be put out in the end implementation of the project.
 
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Posted by on February 20, 2011 in Planning a Project

 

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The 5 Process Groups

single phase

I currently work at a large gaming organization in Nevada, where in the last couple of years I have taken on managing the pricing for new and used slot machine and option pricing, and most recently, managing new incentive promotions and programs.   While this has been an interesting and challenging role, I really have enjoyed working with the cross-functional team members, looking for several areas for improvement, and ways efficiencies so we can implement these projects in a faster pace.

Through my experience in managing projects, I begin my second blog discussing the 5 process groups used in project management.  Each of these processes can be expanded into further detail, which I plan to do as I continue my blog, but wanted to start with introductory piece to get you started:

  • Initiating-START: Defining and authorizing a project or project phase
  • Planning-PLAN: Devising and maintaining a workable scheme to ensure that the project addresses the organization’s needs
  • Executing-DO: Coordinating people and resources to carry out the various plans and produce the products, services or results of the project or phase
  • Monitoring and Controlling-CHECK & ACT: Regularly measuring and monitoring progress to ensure that the project objectives are met
  • Closing-END: Formalizing acceptance of the project or phase, closing out contracts, documenting lessons learned
—Project management can be viewed as a number of interlinked processes.  —The PM process groups do not occur sequentially, but rather they overlap.  Example:  Monitor and Controlling Processes are performed throughout the project’s life span.

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Planning a Project

 

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