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How To Manage Your Project In A VUCA Project Environment

Projects were never simple.But they seem to be getting less so. Not only is the external environment more challenging, but we now have to balance the traditional need for rigor, which predictive methodologies give us, with the new desire for agility, and all the options for Agile Project Management.Welcome to the VUCA WorldThe acronym VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. It was originally applied to the 21st-century military theatres of operations. Now, the old-fashioned war movie simplicities of friend or foe no longer seem to apply. These are environments where the rules seem to change rapidly, along with the technology, the tactics, and the politics.Does that sound familiar?Those of us who are fortunate to work in a safe project environment of a modern office, factory or warehouse don't put our lives at risk whenever we come to work. But we do still have to deal with the impacts of constant change, shifting priorities, and flexible allegiances.So, what can we do to cope? I’d like to make a few suggestions.A Compelling CauseThe benefit of a well-defined project is that it has a single, compelling goal to drive you. Where you can separate bigger, more complex projects into a number of smaller single-goal projects.Use these goals as your anchor, to remind you what you need to be doing and why. Build stage gates into your projects, and at each one, actively review the project goals against business needs. Because, in a volatile world, your priorities may change.The GembaThe Gemba is a Japanese concept of 'the place where it happens'. In military jargon, we have the ground truth. Yet too many project managers spend their time in meetings or, worse, behind a screen.To help cut through uncertainty and ambiguity, physically go to where people are working on your project, the problem is occurring, or to your stakeholder’s office.Strategic NetworkingProject allegiances may shift, but long-term alliances make you stronger. They create political flexibility and provide emotional support.Go beyond simple stakeholder engagement and amplify your project performance by building collaborative partnerships. But remember, in a volatile and uncertain environment, you will need to constantly invest in maintaining the quality of these relationships.Powerhouse PeakProject managers typically thrive under pressure. But, under too much pressure, even we can crumble. But equally, without enough pressure, we easily get bored and inefficient.The Powerhouse Peak is the sweet-spot between boredom and overwhelm. Get there by designing your work so that it:Has clear and worthwhile outcomesStretches you to your limitAllows you to monitor progress and quality as you goThe Best Thinking Mode for the TaskThere are different thinking modes and you need to choose the right one for each situation. Before jumping in, reflect on which is the best:Sometimes you need to respond quickly and instinctively. If the situation is complex but you are familiar with it, intuition will guide you well.But, for less familiar situations, intuition will often let you down and you need the rigor of careful consideration.Always carve time out of your week for half an hour of quiet thinking time. There you can access your deep insights and creativity.And sometimes rational thinking is not enough. You need to open yourself up to people’s emotional responses and call upon your empathic understanding of the situation.Constructive ConductThere are two priorities only in project management:Delivering your projectDoing so in an ethical and accountable mannerEverything else is tactical. So, what matters when you are under pressure is not blind adherence to petty rules. It’s an iron commitment to the principles and values that make-up you, your organisation, and what you stand.Treat people well, and do what is right for them. When you behave compassionately and constructively, you’ll earn the loyalty and commitment of your team. That’s worth far more under pressure than any number of rules.Horizon ScanningBe a Meerkat. From time to time, they stop what they are doing and put their heads up, stand on tip-toes, and scan the horizon for dangers or opportunities.Do the same. Make time in your day for a systematic inventory of your project and what is around the next bend. Building an awareness of your environment will prevent you from being caught out by the volatility and uncertainties of life.I like to inventory what I call the SPECTRES of the future:Social changesPolitical pressuresEconomic forcesCommercial considerationsTechnological shiftsRegulatory regimesEnvironmental factorsSecurity prioritiesPowerhouse Project Management ModesWhen shift happens, and one of your SPECTRES looms on the horizon, you need to respond appropriately. There is no single style of good project management. Instead, you need to pick the right one for the circumstances. Which of the six Powerhouse modes will you choose to deploy:Calming and decisive leadershipExploration to resolve uncertaintyLock in certainty with a clear processSteady problem resolution with fix-it modeDirect activities to avert danger or a crisisWhen others know what to do, support themThe following diagram best explains how to harness a VUCA environment for the best outcomes.CuriosityIn a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, you can never afford to stop learning. Otherwise, before you notice, you will be unaware of the new things you need to know and understand.At least once a week, take a step back and reflect on what has happened. Make time for reading and conversations. Continuous learning and growth is the mark of a true professional, and this has one thing at its heart: Curiosity.The Powerhouse Loop: The Ultimate Success SystemOne simple cycle keeps your work on track in uncertain times: The Powerhouse Loop.Identify your opportunities, analyse them, put in place a plan, and take action. Then identify your progress or setbacks, analyse them, make a new plan, and take more actions.The Powerhouse Loop never ends: it articulates the secret to success in anything: 'intelligent persistence' - keeping going through adversity, adjusting where necessary, and stopping when it no longer makes sense.This is how to do projects. It’s at the core of traditional, planned project management, and it is at the heart of the Agile approach to projects too. This is the key to staying adaptable in a VUCA project environment.
How To Manage Your Project In A VUCA Project Environment
Mike
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How To Manage Your Project In A VUCA Project Environment

Projects were never simple.But they seem to be getting less so. Not only is the external environment more challenging, but we now have to balance the traditional need for rigor, which predictive methodologies give us, with the new desire for agility, and all the options for Agile Project Management.Welcome to the VUCA WorldThe acronym VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. It was originally applied to the 21st-century military theatres of operations. Now, the old-fashioned war movie simplicities of friend or foe no longer seem to apply. These are environments where the rules seem to change rapidly, along with the technology, the tactics, and the politics.Does that sound familiar?Those of us who are fortunate to work in a safe project environment of a modern office, factory or warehouse don't put our lives at risk whenever we come to work. But we do still have to deal with the impacts of constant change, shifting priorities, and flexible allegiances.So, what can we do to cope? I’d like to make a few suggestions.A Compelling CauseThe benefit of a well-defined project is that it has a single, compelling goal to drive you. Where you can separate bigger, more complex projects into a number of smaller single-goal projects.Use these goals as your anchor, to remind you what you need to be doing and why. Build stage gates into your projects, and at each one, actively review the project goals against business needs. Because, in a volatile world, your priorities may change.The GembaThe Gemba is a Japanese concept of 'the place where it happens'. In military jargon, we have the ground truth. Yet too many project managers spend their time in meetings or, worse, behind a screen.To help cut through uncertainty and ambiguity, physically go to where people are working on your project, the problem is occurring, or to your stakeholder’s office.Strategic NetworkingProject allegiances may shift, but long-term alliances make you stronger. They create political flexibility and provide emotional support.Go beyond simple stakeholder engagement and amplify your project performance by building collaborative partnerships. But remember, in a volatile and uncertain environment, you will need to constantly invest in maintaining the quality of these relationships.Powerhouse PeakProject managers typically thrive under pressure. But, under too much pressure, even we can crumble. But equally, without enough pressure, we easily get bored and inefficient.The Powerhouse Peak is the sweet-spot between boredom and overwhelm. Get there by designing your work so that it:Has clear and worthwhile outcomesStretches you to your limitAllows you to monitor progress and quality as you goThe Best Thinking Mode for the TaskThere are different thinking modes and you need to choose the right one for each situation. Before jumping in, reflect on which is the best:Sometimes you need to respond quickly and instinctively. If the situation is complex but you are familiar with it, intuition will guide you well.But, for less familiar situations, intuition will often let you down and you need the rigor of careful consideration.Always carve time out of your week for half an hour of quiet thinking time. There you can access your deep insights and creativity.And sometimes rational thinking is not enough. You need to open yourself up to people’s emotional responses and call upon your empathic understanding of the situation.Constructive ConductThere are two priorities only in project management:Delivering your projectDoing so in an ethical and accountable mannerEverything else is tactical. So, what matters when you are under pressure is not blind adherence to petty rules. It’s an iron commitment to the principles and values that make-up you, your organisation, and what you stand.Treat people well, and do what is right for them. When you behave compassionately and constructively, you’ll earn the loyalty and commitment of your team. That’s worth far more under pressure than any number of rules.Horizon ScanningBe a Meerkat. From time to time, they stop what they are doing and put their heads up, stand on tip-toes, and scan the horizon for dangers or opportunities.Do the same. Make time in your day for a systematic inventory of your project and what is around the next bend. Building an awareness of your environment will prevent you from being caught out by the volatility and uncertainties of life.I like to inventory what I call the SPECTRES of the future:Social changesPolitical pressuresEconomic forcesCommercial considerationsTechnological shiftsRegulatory regimesEnvironmental factorsSecurity prioritiesPowerhouse Project Management ModesWhen shift happens, and one of your SPECTRES looms on the horizon, you need to respond appropriately. There is no single style of good project management. Instead, you need to pick the right one for the circumstances. Which of the six Powerhouse modes will you choose to deploy:Calming and decisive leadershipExploration to resolve uncertaintyLock in certainty with a clear processSteady problem resolution with fix-it modeDirect activities to avert danger or a crisisWhen others know what to do, support themThe following diagram best explains how to harness a VUCA environment for the best outcomes.CuriosityIn a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, you can never afford to stop learning. Otherwise, before you notice, you will be unaware of the new things you need to know and understand.At least once a week, take a step back and reflect on what has happened. Make time for reading and conversations. Continuous learning and growth is the mark of a true professional, and this has one thing at its heart: Curiosity.The Powerhouse Loop: The Ultimate Success SystemOne simple cycle keeps your work on track in uncertain times: The Powerhouse Loop.Identify your opportunities, analyse them, put in place a plan, and take action. Then identify your progress or setbacks, analyse them, make a new plan, and take more actions.The Powerhouse Loop never ends: it articulates the secret to success in anything: 'intelligent persistence' - keeping going through adversity, adjusting where necessary, and stopping when it no longer makes sense.This is how to do projects. It’s at the core of traditional, planned project management, and it is at the heart of the Agile approach to projects too. This is the key to staying adaptable in a VUCA project environment.
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How To Manage Your Project In A VUCA Project Envir...

Projects were never simple.But they seem to be getting less so. Not on... Read More

Individual Productivity : How Do You Measure It In Your Team ?

It doesn’t matter what kind of product or services a business offers, it is essential to measure the employee’s productivity or performance, and it is more important to measure accurately as much as possible. Equally important is to use accurate performance measurements, which can reveal how well your business is progressing towards its goals and targets.Measuring employees’ productivity is a bit of a challenging task. A 2013 Gallup survey report conveys the interesting fact about why there can be a fall in performance of the employees. The reason is most of the employees are overwhelmed by smartphones, social media, personal emails, and the demands of their personal lives. Most employees find it difficult to produce the best work they could give. Lack of interest towards the work leads to the low performance.Measuring employees performance is one clear way to understand how skilled, engaged, and productive your employees really are.More often than not, as an Agile coach you might have been asked about measuring individual performance. Managers are worried about not being able to detect low performers in time and think of different strategies for doing it before it’s too late. And with “too late” I mean that it had a huge impact on the project or team.Individual productivity can be measured through different strategies or metrics. If you read on, you will understand better the importance of employees productivity followed by the outcomes the team gets.What can performance metrics bring for you?Performance metrics help you to create a snapshot of a team, which can be valuable when it comes to performance reviewsPerformance metrics can be used to plan ahead, by understanding what your team is capable of.Performance metrics give you the accurate measurements of how the process is functioning  and provide a platform for you to improve further.For employees, performance metrics provide-The right feedbackHelp them understand where they stand, andLet them know areas where they can improveIt indeed gives you immense pleasure and a great feeling knowing you have strengths in a particular area.The applicability of VelocityOne of the common strategies any manager may think of is to use individual Velocity to solve this problem. And if the team is using Scrum, this idea may be rephrased as follows:“Evaluate those cases in which a team member is completing fewer story points than the rest of the team since that person must be a low performer”.If someone asked me this, my natural answer would be: it’s not a good idea!Will Velocity give you a better result?First of all, Velocity is not an indicator of performance:It just denotes the delivery rate of a specific team.It’s a team metric, not an individual one, and it serves for planning purposes. This means that any team may use it to understand how much work can be done in a specific period of time and, based on that, provide an estimate for a release date.You should also consider that velocity, as a team metric, cannot be established until the team has spent some time together. This means that, in most cases, the velocity of the first sprints of the team will NOT be high. In fact, I highly recommend setting the correct expectations in regards to this. If expectations are not correct, then for the team may seem as if they were not performing, when in fact they were just ramping up.On the other hand, measuring individual productivity by using velocity has more problems than advantages (in fact, the truth is that I haven’t been able to find any advantages so far). People may get confused by the results obtained when using this metric and the outcome may not be a good representation of reality.Why do I say this?Well, let’s say that John and Mark work in the same team and have similar experience and knowledge.John completes 20 story points and Mark only 10. This situation repeats over the following three sprints. Anyone may think that Mark is a low performer and that John is a genius! However, it may also happen that from the 20 story points that John completed each sprint, QA had detected over 100 bugs, but from the 10 that Mark completed, QA had only found 5. Now, which one is performing better than the other?For an individual, it’s not important to deliver a high productivity with a low quality, and less productivity with a high a quality adds an advantage to the employee as well as the team and the process too.This is just an example that demonstrates that velocity per se is not a good metric. Not to mention that if the team is aware that they are being measured by velocity, there is a chance that they increase their estimates to meet their goals. I can bet that you have already experienced things like this as well!We should not lose focus here. Remember that in an Agile world, what’s important is to constantly deliver value to the client: working software is the primary measure of progress.Customer is the KingWe should never ignore the importance of customer satisfaction. There are many factors that contribute to the success or failure of a business, customer satisfaction is one of them, it’s much essential to track this factor and work on improving in order to make customers more loyal and ultimately turn up them up into brand ambassadors.When you fail to care about them, in the same way, don’t have a hope or don’t expect them to care about your services or products.Forest Research declares 2017 as the year that businesses become customer-obsessed. So what is the secret?Providing “Value” to the customer.So, going back to the original problem, as a first step I would ask: what does low performer mean?We’ll all agree it may mean that:The person is not working at his/her fullest capacityThe person has not understood the vision of the projectThe person has not adapted to the team, orThe person has not been empathetic to the business needs,In this scenario, where there may be several causes for the problem, my recommendation would be that the team that is having the issue starts thinking of the big picture and work as a team.It means that the whole team is responsible for delivering value and that the whole team is committed to that. If something is going wrong with one of the team members, (and this probably implies low performance) the whole team needs to address it in the retrospective, or before, in the best scenario.Of course, the team may decide to take some metrics and use them to lead the conversation during the retrospective, metrics like: team velocity, number of bugs raised during the sprint, value added to the business, etc.Based on those metrics, the team may discuss options to improve and accelerate their process. Or, on the contrary, and in an ideal situation, the team may not need metrics since they are fully conscious of their processes and know how to constantly improve it.As you can see, if the organization is Agile, then every problem needs to be taken to the team. The team will know what to do with it. Managers will tend to ask for metrics and more metrics that help them understand the situation and fix it, but as Peter Drucker says-First of all, take the problem to the team. Then, let the team manage the problems and improve based on their own experience.And always remember, you are there to support the team and facilitate their improvements. To help them become a better version of themselves, do not become a roadblock for them.The last linesA well-measuring team productivity as well as a better handling of team results in providing a great customer service that satisfies both you and your targets as well. You get a proper revenue and make everyone happy, earn your brand name and enjoy great success.
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Individual Productivity : How Do You Measure It In...

It doesn’t matter what kind of product or services a business offers... Read More

Project Management Methodologies: Evolution and Benefits

Over several decades, projects have been initiated or undertaken due to market demands, business needs, at the behest of customer request, technological advancements and to comply with regulatory requirements. As enterprises approach some degree of maturity on managing projects, it becomes necessary for streamlining and standardizing the way these projects are executed, be it product development or providing services.Multiple project management methodologies were followed and in fact, newer methodologies have evolved lately and have been adopted by organizations depending on the degree of cultural challenges and resistance exhibited by the people. We will look at some of the key project management methodologies followed in today’s world.WaterfallThe first formal description of the Waterfall model is often cited as early as 1970 in an article by Winston W. Royce, although he did not use the term Waterfall in that article. It was the first process model to be introduced and is simple and easy to understand. Waterfall method has seen an abundant usage in projects where the needs or requirements are well understood and do not change much over time. It follows a linear development by phases with clearly defined stage gates and review processes. Each of the phases is cascaded down and will start when the defined goals are met by the previous phase and signed off.The phases are-Requirement Analysis: - User requirements are gathered through workshops, elicitations and business rules, schemas are definedSystem Design: - Blueprint of the system is charted.Implementation: - Developing the actual product or software happensSystem Testing: - Proving that the software works through unit/integration testing and fixing defects that come out of it.System Implementation: - Productionizing the softwareMaintenance: - Operation, maintenance of the production software.The main advantage of this model is, it allows for segmenting the work like departments and manage them easily. This model also faced some major criticisms which even led Royce to change his view towards Waterfall. It is less costly to change requirements during the design stage and it is more expensive to adapt to changes when construction has already started. This method does not also provide a working version software to client till production and there is no provision to improvise design of the system midway as there is no feedback mechanism.The Waterfall  methods can be adopted on a fixed scope and fixed pricing contracts where the clients don’t expect the requirements to change frequently over time. It would also be beneficial if the project team is also experienced in this type of plan-driven heavy-weight approach to deliver quality products. The performance of the project is measured based on the delivery date and the budget utilized.AgileIn 2001, a lot of practitioners using Extreme Programming, SCRUM, DSDM, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal and Feature-Driven Development convened in Utah ski resort and were sympathetic to the need for an alternative to documentation-driven, heavyweight software development processes. As a result, “Agile Manifesto” was signed paving way for Agile Software Development. It is an umbrella term for several iterative and incremental development and some of the popular include Scrum, XP, Crystal, DSDM, FDD, and Lean."Walking on water and developing software from a specification are easy if both are frozen."- Edward V. BerardThe fundamental difference between Waterfall and Agile is that Waterfall  delivers product increment at the end of the project but Agile emphasis on delivering smaller increments more frequently through multiple iterations. Agile harnesses customer’s competitive advantage and proposes process that accounts changes even late in the game. This is achieved through adaptive planning and evolutionary design. The client is also involved throughout the development process unlike Waterfall  method and feedback is received in every iteration through a feedback loop and the product is improvised based on the feedback. But can all projects be executed in Agile? The answer is no, as each project is unique and if the scope of the projects is clear like still water and does not change over time, executing those projects in Agile would be an overkill.The most common Agile methodologies that are widely used and gained popularity are Scrum and Extreme Programming. Scrum focuses on shorter iterations called Sprints ranging (generally) 2 weeks to 1 month and emphasis on delivering shippable product increments every sprint. In Scrum, design is emergent and evolves over a period of time. The Scrum framework consists of Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team.Product Owner: - Responsible for the product vision and building the product right. A good product owner should prioritize requirements and is empowered to make decisions about the product.Scrum Master: - Serves as servant leader, helping team members work together cohesively, removing impediments to progress, facilitating meetings and discussions.Team: - Cross-functional and responsible for who will work on which tasks, which engineering practices to be followed necessarily to achieve project goals.Extreme Programming created by Kent Beck also advocates frequent releases in shorter development lifecycles. The most common elements of XP are pair programming, code review, test-first development, continuous, collective code ownership, metaphor, coding standards, refactoring, simple design, and frequent customer collaboration. The idea is based on the benefits of traditional software engineering practices when taken to extreme levels. Sometimes Scrum will also employ some of the engineering practices from XP like refactoring, simple design, TDD etc.Agile harnesses customer’s competitive advantage by welcoming requirement even late in the development. The Agile methodologies will be most suitable for time and materials contract where the time and cost are fixed but the scope changes frequently based on customer needs. The performance of the Agile projects is measured based on the value delivered to the customer.KanbanThe Kanban methodology (originated from Toyota Production System) as formulated by David J. Anderson is also incremental and evolutionary like the Agile methodology and recommends system changes for organizations to function optimally. Kanban mainly focuses on delivering continuous flow of value to the clients and it accomplishes it by placing constraints on the system.It is based on below core principles,Visualize the workflow: - Ability to see all the work items of each otherLimit WIP: - Balances the flow of work items on each lane to generate optimal outputManage the flow: - Pull the items from backlog (instead of push) when each work item is finished thereby enhancing the flow of values quickly.Make process explicit: - Clearly define process and socialize with the team.Feedback loops: - Encourages standup meetings (10-15 minutes), reviews to incorporate feedbacksImprove collaboration: - Teams achieve continuous delivery through shared knowledge and collective understanding.Kanban is more useful when the priorities changes frequently and it also balances demand against the throughput (cycle time and lead time) which guarantees the most valued features are being delivered to the client. Similar to any of the Agile methods, this method is highly responsive to changes. It also maximizes the amount of work not being done by eliminating waste and activities that don’t add value. Scrum doesn’t allow changes mid-way during the sprint, but Kanban can help in adding or removing backlog items any time during the project and helps in continuous delivery.Kanban is used widely when there is a continuous stream of work and tackling a small number of tasks fluidly and concurrently. It is also suitable for time and materials contract similar to Scrum Framework.ConclusionThere are many more project management methodologies followed in the industry and each project may demand specific methods to be successful. Now hybrid models are getting evolved like a mixture of Waterfall  and Agile that gives the flexibility to pivot and use the best methods for a specific aspect of the project. Regardless of what method has been employed to successfully complete the project, there is also going to be a need of tools as well along with process models that are flexible enough to allow to collaborate across the enterprise and deliver projects.
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Project Management Methodologies: Evolution and Be...

Over several decades, projects have been initiated or undertaken due t... Read More

Project Management – The Key Skill of Analytics

Analytics has been around ever since human race learned calculations but it has picked up steam in last few years owing to the hype and powerful marketing done by major internet firms.The term analytics refers to the ability to analyze something and to derive meaningful insights out of it. The insights need not be limited the in count or to a particular field. The insights can vary in size, number or in their relevance for the audience. In fact, if done beautifully, the insights can even lead to another discovery or an opportunity for further analytics.For example: the most recent escalation of one of the social media giants with regard to leaking users’ data to one of the analytics firms in Cambridge highlighted this field much more albeit through negative publicity.It seems that the firm was using this data and its analytics capability to help its customers fine-tune their marketing and advertising campaigns for political benefits. The ethical and lawful discussions on this matter will take a long time to settle down.But this episode does show us that analytics is a capability that has immense power to decide our future course of action and it should be used diligently and wisely.This is where Project Management becomes an important key skill for Analytics. That also explains why the new-age IT professionals are taking up project management courses like PMP to validate their skillsets.Why Project Management?Project management is a field dedicated to managing all the aspects of a project, program or key initiatives. If we consider Analytics as one of the projects within a company where, let’s say, we have been assigned a team.Now as a project manager, you will be required to manage the team dynamics, team communications, setting the team goals, understanding goals of business owners, governing ethics and rules of the game, punishing the culprits and rewarding the good players of the game.And the bottom line will rest with the Project manager, like it did with Mr. Zuckerberg.How to use project management skills for Analytics field?If you have been assigned as a project manager for the analytics project, immediately your goal should be multi-fold.1) Constitute the team in next few days: Any more delay in this matter will make it difficult for you to develop and deliver high-quality insights in time. Because as clichéd as it might sound, developing key insights by looking into data is no child’s play.2) Assign following roles within the team: Your team should have following members, and  their responsibilities should be clear to them.Data gatherer: This person will be required to gather the data relevant to your project from all the required sources.Data validator: This person is responsible for making sure the data collected is in a good state to be consumed and is not incorrect. For this, the person will need to use various data validation programs and methodologies, before he/she confirms the data is consumable.Data organizer: Once you have the data collected, reviewed, validated and ready to be consumed, you need to organize it. Either in form of database tables, or queues or in plain simple excel but you need it organized. And in not only in 1 view or format but in multiple formats. But the key ingredient of delivering an insight comes from the ability to view the data from multiple angles and views; which views and angles will suit your needs best is decided by none other than a data scientist.Data scientist: The person everyone looks up to, the person who gets the maximum respect in Analytics project is a data scientist. This person supposedly knows all the algorithms, data crunching models, views and possible depictions of data. The Data scientist will guide your data organizers and programmers on the actual technical on the ground needs of the project.Programmers: Sharp technical people who know how to code and do it fast. Time is money when it comes to analytics.And some key people with good skills in talking to the data: None other than the project manager himself is best suited to play this role; as long as he/she is comfortable in working with data. I think this is given by default that any good project manager worth his/her salt is able to play with data and talk to it. Still, some people have an uncanny knack of going one step beyond and have the data talk to them. This is where no mathematical model or algorithm will help you. This knowledge and insight comes from observation, communication and being aware of the circumstances driving the project. And who else to have these things better under their control than the project managers themselves?Meet with key business owners of the project and understand their goalsExplain, iterate and re-iterate those goals with your teams especially data organizers, data scientist and programmersStart planning insight development and views on a unified dashboard for everyone to see.These are the top 5 work items that any project manager should do in order to have a working analytics project.3) Tying the loop:Needless to say, ensuring team respects the rules of the team, the correct hierarchical order is set and most important ethics are maintained whereby no consumer data is compromised, leaked or misused is again one of the most important responsibilities of a project manager.If the project manager is juggling multiple responsibilities in the team then the above can be delegated to an additional members known as team moderator.What a Project manager possesses that a Data Scientist can never have?Data scientists are a respected lot. They command respect and have authority wherever they go because they have the tools and techniques to bring out the best of data hidden under the layers of algorithms.But still, there is something a project manager that can make or break the insights that are going to come out of Data. And extra something is: Intuition.This intuition is what tells a project manager whether he should stop now or should the team dig deeper to gain more insights. This intuition is what tells the manager that a particular dead end in analytics [and you will encounter many in the journey] could be another opportunity for a breakthrough.This intuition is gained by the project in the following manner:Through experience. Nothing can beat experience. The experience of dealing with data is very critical here.Through observations. Observing the surroundings. Observing how data and systems interact with each other under different circumstances go a long way in developing the art of understanding data.And finally, through communication. In this case, communication with the business owners. For example, your team might be delivering a lot of insights by reading the data. And they could be right. But if this is what your business owners want then what use will those insights be off? So communicating frequently and keeping everyone on the same page is very important here.Final wordGaining insights from data through Analytics is not only science but an art, as well. It is a beautiful symphony that when played right, makes the data start unfolding itself in front of you without much effort; leaving you with treasures to be enjoyed and delivered.
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Project Management – The Key Skill of Analytics

Analytics has been around ever since human race learned calculations b... Read More

Project Management: Act On Action Items After Team Meeting

Invariably, all team meetings start with the promise to achieve the mighty goals and a zest to have the decided action plan followed up; only to have zero or little progress even after substantial time passes by.There is something in those confines of the meeting rooms that brings the best of ideas and enthusiasm to make a difference in everyone. But as soon as the team walks out of that door, back to their desks or an informal tea break after the meeting, all the goals, visions and action plans fall by the wayside and life returns back to the same old way of working.Invariably, again, there will be some members in the team who would wonder about what really happened to that action plan that was supposed to make the project shine again and to remove all the blockers; only to be silenced by the non-response of majority of the team.More or less, the response will end with the generic statement that the Manager was supposed to revert with something on some item and there has no update ever since. All the while, the manager is awaiting inputs from the team itself.Have you ever faced such scenarios in your projects and team meetings? If not, then wonderful. Please leave a comment at the end of this blog and share your best practices with us audience unless they consist of corporal punishment for defaulting members. Not a bad thought, though but it will not work in a democracy and even lesser so in a professional environment.So how do we really ensure that team actually owns up to the action items and acts on it towards tangible outcomes after the team meeting?If you have also experienced this same feeling, then do read on.Been there and done that“Been there and done that” syndrome belongs to those conditions where we have tried to break the logjam of above problem by assigning ETAs [expected time to achieve] and owners of those items. That seemed to work up until 2010.Ever since that year, I have personally noticed that even holding people accountable for action items is not yielding any action unless they are grabbed by their collars [in extreme cases and we certainly don’t want to go there].So assigning ETAs and owners of those actions is not working anymore.Some of the managers I spoke with modified this approach with a fair bit of success used to have an “action item dashboard” showing in public view such as hallway with item owners clearly called out and their current status marked by Red, Yellow and Green Post-It notes.That trick worked for a whole and it still does but there is a catch in this too.For the first few days, it triggers action on the account of public visibility and it generates public interest also especially of passersby, but then after few days it dies a natural death and nobody gives it a second thought; only to have it replaced by another action plan that came out of another team meeting.The root causesAfter having spent more than a decade in human interaction patterns and ownership attitudes, I came to a conclusion that only 5% of action items fail due to a lack of enthusiasm or interest from the team members.That puts a whopping 95% in the questionable range as to why they do not materialize.I spoke with hundreds of team members on what constitutes as their reasons for not being able to follow through on their commitments of team meetings and following are the responses, arranged in descending order of vote count. I call them “Star struck pattern for Inaction” [copyrighted and Trade Mark by Abhinav Gupta]Those action items are inherently considered secondary to the project deliverables and hence, do not get enough bandwidth.The action items have a dependency on other individual or a group to revert back and that never materializesThe action item is currently blocked due to some technical or logistical issue and to unblock it, the said team members’ needs to invest time which simply is not available at hand.The team member is not able to understand how completing the assigned action item will help deliver the end goal, so the sense of urgency is not clear.The action item is theoretical and not feasible in the real world. So not following up on that.It requires the person to go out of his or her comfort zone and that is not going to happen sooner.The above 6 reasons contribute to 95% of action items not materializing out of team meeting. The remaining 5% can be accounted to the “3-Lack Syndrome” [copyrighted and Trade Mark by Abhinav Gupta]:Lack of interest in the action item itselfLack of Interest in the overall well-being of team, project, company or societyLack of Empathy since the problem does not affect them; yet!The proposed solution to this problemIt took me more than 5 years to fine tune this approach into something that delivers sustained output and results irrespective of project domain, team personalities, and action item variations.But before I start delving deeper into the solution, let us understand why the said approach works with better odds than other approaches.See, there is an underlying human tendency that evaluates the person assigning the task to them more than the task itself. If the organizer of the meeting and the corresponding person who assigned them the action items, that Is You, enjoys the trust and authority of the audience then the chances of getting the completion increases by a few basis points immediately.Then comes the second human tendency riding on top of the first one, that is, what is in it for me?Some team members are intelligent and mature enough to answer this particular questions for themselves in private. But some require a picture to be painted for them by the meeting organizer.It is important to understand that the answer for “what is in it for me?” need not be some reward or gold or money at the end of it. But a way that shows the audience that this whole exercise is going to benefit all of us and they are part of “US”.Once, these two subconscious barriers are crossed, it becomes very easy to get action items acted upon. But not entirely successful.Because one final frontier is left and that is the practicality of the action requested from the audience.Every individual is intelligent enough to understand whether something is feasible to be achieved in real time or not. Though some intelligent and bold individuals might be willing to push their efforts to achieve the unthinkable, but majority of the audience does not fall into that category.Hence it is the responsibility of the meeting organizer or the conductor to make sure that action items follow these patterns:They should be small enough to be achievableThey should follow a logical pattern of completion leading to the big picture achievementThe owners and their expectations are clearly understood along with the backup plansAnd most importantly, a personalized sync up with action item owners on a regular basis after the meeting is over.Most of us make the mistake of considering rough notes of our meeting discussion as action items and they get floated around in a Snapshot or email format to die a slow death of inaction.To get the action out of your action items, you need to understand the dynamics of the team, people personalities, goal of the meeting and your own personal investment in it.Because no one will invest their money in your project if you do not have any stakes invested in it. Ain’t it? Learn more about how you can emerge as a Project Management Professional everyone looks up to.Cheers! And All the best!
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Project Management: Act On Action Items After Team...

Invariably, all team meetings start with the promise to achieve the mi... Read More

Key Process Groups In Project Integration Management

What is Project Integration Management?As per Project Management Institute (PMIⓇ),  Project Integration Management is the first project management knowledge area, which mainly pertains to the procedures required to guarantee that the different tasks of the project are co-ordinated appropriately.While developing a project, the entire sub-processes are integrated to form a whole project, and that constitutes the concept called ‘project handling’.  Project Integration Management consists of the 6 project integration management processes like Initiation, Planning, Execution, project monitoring and control and closing a project.  We will see the importance of project integration management processes in details.  Importance of project integration managementThe motive behind implementing a project integration management is as follows:Managing and coordinating all the tasks with processes to develop a whole project during a project life-cycleConducting a whole project in order to produce an outcome systematically as each process in the project integration management has some purpose to achieve the main project goal.As per the PMBOK® 4th edition, the processes involved in the project integration knowledge areas and steps for implementing project integration management are as follows:6 Project Integration Management processesProcess 1: Developing a Project CharterThe project charter plays a pivotal role in Project Integration Management. A project can’t start leaving this process. This process belongs to the Project Initiation phase. It defines the objectives of the project to produce a project charter. The high-level project information includes a name, description and what will be the end product. The project charter helps in authorizing the project in the enterprise to begin the next process.The table below shows the inputs, project integration management tools and techniques, and outputs of the project charter process.A project charter is a key resource of the project information. The project charter anchors the project and should include the following:Mentioning the project title and descriptionStating the business requirements and business caseListing the project targetsDefining the risksIdentifying the resources of the project and technologies neededListing the end productIdentifying the project managers and team members and adding their roles and responsibilitiesDelineating the budgetProcess 2: Developing a project planThe project plan development is the second step in project integration management. It comes under the Planning phase. It takes the output of the other planning processes to create a continuous and logical document that can be used during project execution. This process includes appropriate project planning and generating various project management plans like scope management, cost management, time management plans etc. The project plan directs the execution of the project, documenting various planning assumptions, communicating with the clients etc.  The table below shows the inputs, project integration management tools and techniques, and outputs of the project planning process.The document consists of all the project requirements to meet the end product and deadlines. The statement should include the following:Project objectivesGoalsTasksStakeholdersProject requirements listResourcesBudgetScheduleChange request processCommunication methodologiesProcess 3: Directing and Managing a project workThis is the third process in project integration management and belongs to the Execution area. In this process, the tasks are carried out as described in the project management plan and changes are made according to the project needs. During this phase, the project outcomes are generated and delivered to the stakeholders. This step mainly focuses on delivering the end product to the customers. The table below shows the inputs, project integration management tools and techniques, and outputs of the Execution process. Process 4: Monitoring and controlling a project work This is the fourth phase in project integration management. It belongs to the Project Monitoring phase. User requirements are gathered, plans are made ready and the execution starts. Still, it is not guaranteed to get the actual results as you planned, regardless of whether it is a good plan. Variations from the planned things are measured with the help of monitor and control project work process. Also, this phase includes tracing, cross-verifying, and revealing the progress in order to meet the objectives of the project management plan. The table below shows the inputs, project integration management tools and techniques, and outputs of the Monitor and Control process.Process 5: Performing Integrated Change controlThis is the fifth process in project integration management which belongs to the Project Monitoring and Control process group. You may need to do changes, due to the variations in the planned values or the customer may ask you to do some changes to the project.E.g. The customers might ask for a new requirement or they might require changes in the existing product. Such change requests are evaluated by the Change control phase by finding out the alternative solutions and its impact on the project. Perform Integrated change control phase ensures the appropriate implementation of the required changes in the project.The table below shows the inputs, project integration management tools and techniques, and outputs of the Performing Integrated Change control process.Process 6: Close Phase Close phase is the last step while implementing project integration management belongs to the Project Closing process group. Once the project is finished, this process indicates the formal completion of the project. If all the project objectives are met and the customer agrees to the final product, then that project or phase (phase belongs to a large project) can be closed declaring the project to be completed officially. The table below shows the inputs, project integration management tools and techniques, and outputs of the Close process.Coming to the Conclusion As stated above in the project integration management tutorial, we have studied all the key process groups in project integration management. Also, we have seen that all the projects require a concrete project plan to finally have the desired end product. It is up to the project manager and the project team to create one. Then the project manager must work with the project team to ensure the work is being completed as it was planned. The project manager must follow all the subsidiary project plans, such as the Risk Management Plan, the Schedule Management Plan, and the Communications Plan. Finally, the project manager must work throughout the project to control changes across all the facets of the project.There are the sure-fire ways to succeed through the PMPⓇ Certification training. The training will help Project Managers address these processes and other complex points of interest that are aligned with the same. With the right certifications, you can familiarize yourself with the project management related terminologies, learn ways to gain success in the project and know what works well and what not while implementing a project plan.
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Key Process Groups In Project Integration Manageme...

What is Project Integration Management?As per Project Management Insti... Read More