Imagine Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark if he were “asleep at the switch.” How long would he survive? Just barely seconds into the film of course.
Fortunately, as a project manager, you normally don’t have to have the steady nerves Harrison Ford portrays so well in those steely eyes. Well, depending on your particular project, at least. Projects like that are out there. Realistic project managers know that their project life is continually presented with the unexpected, no matter how meticulously they have planned. In fact, it’s recognized that while having no plan is usually a guarantee of failure, any plan, no matter how perfect, will be continually challenged with curveballs and challenges and thus change.
You have stakeholders, managers, users, team members and so many others all wanting you to make seemingly minor changes to your project on almost a daily basis. They all seem to suddenly be your friend and looking out for your best interest. But they don't realize that the minor changes they want are actually scope changes to the project and will affect the schedule, cost or quality of the project. The best way to manage these requests is through a robust scope management plan. While we have an excellent scope management plan template available for free download, we would also like to highlight the five components we believe are key to the plan. The following five parts are key to an effective scope management plan:
The approach is an important part of the Scope Management Plan because it defines how the organization will manage the scope of a project and defines various aspects of the Scope Management Plan. Some of the information that should be contained in the approach is:
- Scope management responsibility and authority (i.e. project manager or other designee)
- How the scope of the project is defined
- How and when the project scope is measured and verified
- How changes in scope are conducted
- Who is responsible for final acceptance of project scope (i.e. sponsor or other designee)
The foundation of successful project management is the ability to communicate effectively. A large majority of a project manager’s time is spent on communications throughout all project phases. Additionally, project team members and stakeholders also share in the responsibility of communicating. Because of its importance, great care and planning must be used when developing a project’s Communications Management Plan as it sets the framework for how all communications will occur, by whom, how often, and in what methods.
- Determining Stakeholder Communication Requirements
Many projects fail because project managers and teams do not properly identify or manage stakeholders. Projects may have large numbers of stakeholders all with varying influence and interest. Project managers must take great care in understanding who these stakeholders are and what their requirements are for communication throughout the project. They may only want to be informed when milestones are met; or might wish to receive phone calls instead of emails; or want weekly updates until project completion. By understanding the communication requirements of every stakeholder, the project team can ensure they keep stakeholders involved with the appropriate level of detail and in the correct format (i.e. meetings, emails, phone calls).
In today’s world of dynamic and complex projects, a carefully developed Project Management Plan is more important than ever. The Project Management Plan is the foundation for all projects and the importance of careful and deliberate planning cannot be overstated. There’s an old adage that the more planning put into a project, the higher the likelihood of success. While no Project Management Plan can ever plan and account for every possible contingency, there are some areas of consideration that will help ensure your plan avoids some common pitfalls.
- The Project Management Plan is a Living Document
Project management planning is an iterative activity that is continuously performed throughout a project’s lifecycle. The Project Management Plan is no different. As the project moves forward and more detailed information becomes available, the project team should continue to add detail, refine project estimates, and continue to progressively elaborate until the project is complete.
Most people who have practiced project management for any length of time have undoubtedly seen examples of good and bad project managers. Successful project management stems not only from one’s individual knowledge, talent, and ability, but their interactions with teams, understanding of methodologies, and ability to use the project management tools they’ve learned over the years. Most would agree that project management is neither an art nor a science but a combination of both. While there is no perfect formula for what makes a successful project manager, there are certain characteristics that they have in common.
1) Team Builder: Successful project managers have the ability to gain consensus from a diverse group of people in order to work toward a common goal. While there is no one way to do this, successful project managers use their interpersonal skills to identify priorities among stakeholders, understand what is important, convey the importance of the project to all involved, and empower team members while gaining buy-in from stakeholders. Without collectively pulling the group together toward a common goal, the chances of a successful project are not very good.
This week we've put together a list of tips for conducting effective project meetings. These tips will help you avoid the pitfalls of a long and unproductive meeting.Before the Meeting Takes Place:
- Meeting Objective - All project meetings should have a clearly stated objective of what is to be achieved. This objective should be included in the agenda and re-stated at the beginning of the meeting.
- Time Considerations - The meeting should be planned for enough time to achieve the objective but not so long that participants lose interest. An hour or less is generally ideal. For anything more than an hour, the project manager should strongly consider breaking the discussion up into two or more meetings.
In this week’s blog we have compiled a list of what we believe are the Project Management Body of Knowledge’s (PMBOK) seven most critical project management templates. Each of these templates represents an important part of an effective and integrated project plan.
- Project Charter – The project charter can be considered the foundation of a project. A completed and signed project charter establishes the authority to begin a project to address a business need that has been identified. Great care and detail should go into the creation of a charter because of its importance. If you sacrifice quality with the project charter, your project performance and deliverables will almost surely suffer. Click Here to Download Our Project Charter Template.
- Project Management Plan - If the project charter is the foundation of a project, the project management plan is its core. The project management plan is important because it is an integrated framework which includes the management plans from all of the project management knowledge areas. It ties these management plans together into a collective whole which is then used to manage the project through to completion. Click Here to Download Our Project Management Plan Template.
In the mass of trees that is your project schedule, it’s way too easy to lose sight of the forest and veer off course while staring at the schedule. What’s a project manager to do?
Do a roadmap! Your roadmap reminds you of what the forest looks like. When you tend to veer off course, your roadmap is your guidepost.
Roadmaps are increasingly used in project management and program management. They are an incredible tool for informing your management and sponsors.
Why are roadmaps so popular? As discussed in another related article, as U.S. Army general and former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “I have found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” That really means that having envisioned the future better prepares you for dealing with it even if it presents itself a bit differently when you get there. Having envisioned it, nothing shows that future more succinctly and clearly than a well-constructed roadmap.
The Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential is widely recognized as one of the most challenging certifications, requiring coursework and years of experience in order to sit for a challenging examination. About seventy percent of those taking the exam pass. Here, we provide tips to help assure you aren’t in the thirty percent bracket. With care and diligence, you should do well, but you can’t enter the exam blindly.
Having decades of experience is not enough to pass. You must understand the examination and certainly be able to speak the underlying language. In fact, the establishment of a common language for communication is one of the prime benefits afforded by the Project Management Body of Knowledge® as embodied in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). That is, there is a body of knowledge that is described in the associated book, a key distinction.
On with the tips!
Project Management has come a long way in recent years turning a loosely-tied community of practitioners into a growing and thriving industry through governing and certifying organizations like Project Management Institute (PMI), and others. Today’s project manager can benefit from training and knowledge sharing through these organizations and their members across the industry. Project managers enter the field with much stronger preparation and training than in years past. However, as we all understand, formal training, while beneficial, cannot fully substitute for years of experience. This is true in most professional fields and project management is no exception. While there are no shortages of tricks of the trade from experienced practitioners, these tips provide both new and experienced project managers opportunities to look outside of their formal training toward more effective project management.
In the 1980s action-adventure television series The A-Team, one of Colonel Hannibal Smith’s most enduring and oft-repeated lines was “I love it when a plan comes together!” This project management insight for the ages, while seeming simple, is deeply insightful. Hannibal’s series career was a never ending string of serious challenges. Hannibal, however, always had a plan. Hannibal’s plans always worked. However, as another series character, reporter Amy Allen put it, “Hannibal’s plans never work right. They just work.”
Hannibal’s series writer may have been a student of former U. S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s management philosophy. A former general and the visionary of the United States’ system of interstate highways, Eisenhower is quoted decades before Hannibal as having said “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”
Seemingly paradoxical, isn’t it?