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Why the Sheepdog Analogy?

A Project Manager is a necessary evil. Why? Well, the PM doesn't produce anything - write code, lay concrete or whatever. However, don't have one and see what happens!

Always telegraph your Punches as a Project Manager

Sometimes as a Project Manager you need to throw a "Project Manager punch" but not a literal one please!

Isaac Newton's contribution to Project Management

Newton's laws, especially his first law of motion, should be as important to a Project Manager as it is to a Physicist. Why?

O Sponsor, Sponsor! wherefore art thou Sponsor?

You are given a project to run. Amongst your early questions should be, "who is the Sponsor?"

Always remember the Human side

It is very easy to get hung up in the technical and management side of Projects and forget that they need to be delivered by human teams. So "Always remember the human side" is the key phrase!

Why writing a Project Status Report is not a chore

I've met several Project Managers who view writing any Project status report as a chore. I think the opposite.

Planning is the key Project Management discipline

I have been asked a few times, "What are the top xx things to focus in on as a Project Manager? If pressed, I always fall back to Planning

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Isaac Newton's contribution to Project Management

Newton's laws, especially his first law of motion, should be as important to a Project Manager as it is to a Physicist. Read on for the explanation why?
Sir Isaac Newton

Organisation Change isn't easy

Project Management is typically all about introducing a change to an organisation. If the end deliverable of the project necessitates a change to human behaviours / business process or if the Project Manager needs to introduce a change to working practices within the Project team, then Newton's first law of motion should be considered.

Remember Humans are typically set in their ways

Humans are typically set in their ways and so will probably need some sort of force or other coercion to adopt the required behaviour or process. I have therefore adapted Newton's 1st law of motion as follows - People tend to continue travelling in the same direction.....unless acted on by an external force. This can be illustrated by this "flock of sheep" cartoon below:
Newton's First Law of Motion - Project Manager version
So give consideration to what the "force" is going to be within your project to achieve the desired behavioural change. A carrot and stick approach is often adopted. 
  1. Consider what Training is required.
  2. Consider giving incentives for examples of good behaviour - this can be as simple as praise or can involve financial rewards
  3. Consider what sticks will be applied if the wrong behaviour is seen, from "Naming and Shaming" through to a negative effect on an individual's performance within the business HR process
So thanks to Newton, we have a good prompt for how best to introduce change within an organisation.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A Resource Plan? Better think "Establishing your Project Team"

Your Project isn't going to deliver it's objectives without establishing a good team with the right mix of skills, experience and structure. This post deals with the planning considerations when Initiating the project. Although you might call it a Resource Plan, it is much better to get into the mindset of establishing your Project team. You also need to start considering a number of human factors, a topic I have addressed in another post.
Establishing a good Project team with the right mix of skills, experience and structure

Resource Plan - Existing resources, new resources, third party organisations or a mixture

When you Initiate a project you need to understand any resourcing constraints / assumptions such as "you will utilise the existing team augmenting as necessary". Utilising existing team members offers some benefits (organisational domain knowledge, often proven skills) but also some risks (do they retain BAU responsibilities which might mean they are not allocated to the project work as planned?)

Then as you undertake Planning and Estimating you will start developing your Resource Plan. I typically use the same spreadsheet which will eventually drive the required budget.

If you are using temporary resources (e.g. contractors) you need to establish recruitment time into planning. Normally rolling off such resources from the Project is fairly straightforward and dictated by contracts established.


Third party organisations may need a longer lead time to negotiate and agree contracts. Hopefully the organisation already has the relationship established (e.g. a master contract) because if you need to search the market first this will be additional time. Third party organisations typically allow some more resourcing flexibility during Project execution (maybe less recruitment headaches) but beware the danger of meeting the "top team" during pre-sales discussion only to be faced with the fresh faced graduates when the list of names for the Project execution comes through :-)

Attitude, Skills, Knowledge and Personality

Attitude, Skills, Knowledge and Personality all need to be considered in building the Project team and I have put them in the order of importance to me - I would rather have someone with the right attitude who will go the extra mile above someone with more skills but clearly there is a balance to be struck! Undertake a SWOT analysis of the emerging team definition and consider how you are going to address weaknesses you see?

Project Organisation

With small project teams (ideally located in one site) you can manage everyone directly. With bigger teams or ones spread over different sites and/or with 3rd party suppliers, you need to introduce a team structure with team leads in particular areas who you can interface to and they manage their teams.

Consider your span of control, the number of people who you can directly interface to will vary with project but I personally doubt you can be fully effective with more than around 10 people to interface to and that is when they are all in one office.

I would recommend that:
  • you define roles and responsibilities for these team leads having clear accountabilities
  • you document this structure in the Project Definition along with the wider Project Organisation (Sponsor, Project Board etc)

Conclusion

You can have the best Gantt chart in the world but Projects are delivered by people organised into a team structure to deliver effective results. So give this a lot of consideration when Initiating a Project.

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