Focus on Outcomes

Traction Tips

A weekly action idea to improve traction on your important initiatives by Stephen Wise.

 

The new and wonderful musical, An American in Paris, is doing the rounds. It weaves multiple love stories with a Jazz and Ballet fusion leading to true love outcomes.

Milo falls for Jerry, who’s in love with Lise, who is engaged to Henri. Lise shares mutual affection with Henri but falls in love with Jerry. Jerry’s friend Adam is also falling for Lise. Lise the ballerina, is oblivious she is the focal point of all the story lines. Despite the complications, true love wins out in the end.

In the opening scenes of the musical Jerry sets his strategy to find and win Lise. However he gets lost, becomes indecisive, and is distracted by other interests.

Has this ever happened to you in business? Getting lost in the details, uncertainty over the correct next step, or being distracted by new opportunities schweizer-apotheke.de?

Unfortunately, I see it every day.

So, here is my guaranteed formula for success.

1. Focus on driving the outcomes
2. Accept Uncertainty
3. Agile Mindset

Focus on outcomes

Craft a hi-level plan. List the activities required to achieve the desired outcomes.

Accept Uncertainty

Accept uncertainty. Our ability to achieve goals proscribed in the plan can vary significantly.

Agile Mindset

Re-work your plan frequently.  Consider changes in the environment and your leanings along the way. Switch around your priorities. re-evaluate desired outcomes to reflect new realities.

Weekly Traction Action

Fuse the improvisation of Jazz with the perfection of Ballet to manage your corporate outcomes.

Your weekly action:

1. Ensure all your desired outcomes have an accessible, hi-level, end to end plan.
2. Schedule regular times to evaluate whether you are on track and make course corrections to get back on track.

I recommend or implement these actions all the time on client initiatives. Hopefully, it will work to improve outcomes for you too.

I love Email

Please send me an email and tell me about if you have success or trouble with this action. I’m always interested to see what can happen out in the wild.

 

Stephen Wise

Integration Professionals

https://IntegrationProfessionals.com

Re-Frame Project Success for the Strategic Business

Project success is most often measured by answering two questions. (A) Did we meet the schedule goal? And (B) Did we meet the budget goal? A good indicator project success will improve over time is periodic review of the Time and Budget Dashboard by management. This approach is valid but not sufficient for framing project success over the long-term.

Time and Budget Dashboard Integration Professionals Stephen Wise
Time and Budget Dashboard

It is very common that once a project is closed, it falls off management reporting dashboards. This is a serious mistake! Strategic success is dependent on the outputs of the project, not the inputs of Time and Budget.

The outputs / benefits of the project are measured after project close and take the dimensions of customer satisfaction and business success. It will take several months or quarters after the project is finished until customer satisfaction can be measured. It will take even longer until business success can be measured.

By re-framing the measurement time-horizons for projects and their outputs, we can provide more effective visibility and accountability at the management level for the strategic success of projects. The re-frame is to include medium-term and long-term results as part of project tracking and reporting.

Team success

can be measured in the Short-term. That is Time, Budget and other metrics such as scope, quality, stakeholder engagement, and others.

Customer success

can be measured in the Medium-term. Customer success is the metrics that indicate how well the product is meeting actual needs and how well the product is providing customer net benefits.

Business/Strategy success

can be measured in the long-term. Business success is the metrics that indicate how well the overall strategy is benefiting the enterprise, such as market development and risk profile.

Measurement Time Horizons Integration Professionals Stephen Wise
Measurement Time Horizons

Organizations have made great strides implementing project methodology and management reporting on time and budget. However a systemic flaw is introduced by reporting only short-term project success measures. There is correlation between success in short-term and success in the long-term but there is more to the picture.

We need to re-frame and extend the time horizon for tracking project success to include medium and long-term measures. By linking Customer (medium-term) and Business (long-term) actual measures to project reporting we will gain improved insights on the projects that have either advanced or held-back the realization of strategic objectives.

Stephen Wise
http://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com/

Earned Value Management – turning on the headlights

Earned Value – Why do I need it?

To paraphrase the words of the Project Management Institute’s standard, when I rely only on a project schedule of tasks, finish dates, and % complete, I will not know where the project is or where it is going. I will simply know where the project was supposed to be and where it is supposed to be going.

What is Earned Value?

Earned Value Management (EVM) is a technique that looks at the relationship between a) actual cost expended, and b) actual work completed, and compares this to c) original budget and work timeline.

More formally, the three data points you must understand and memorize are:

a)      Actual Cost (AC) – What amount of resources have been expended to complete the work at a given point in time.

b)      Earned Value (EV) – Snapshot of work completed at a given point in time.

c)       Planned Value (PV) – The Baseline – How far along the project work is supposed to be at any given point in the project schedule gutepotenz.de.

How do I implement Earned Value? (My cheat sheet below)

 

Step 1 (Planning)

  1. Create a Work Breakdown Structure.
  2. Ensure all tasks on the schedule are assigned.
  3. Estimate time to complete each task.
  4. Determine how you will determine that tasks are complete as the project progresses.

 

Step 2 Periodic monitoring

  1. Obtain cost and / or hours expended.
  2. Obtain status on task completion.
  3. Forecast Cost and Schedule performance.

My usual workflow is to enter the planned and actual data into MS Project and then export the time-scaled data to an excel chart. An excel chart (example below)  isn’t required, but I highly recommend it as a support to your table of data – a picture is worth a thousand words.

S-curve

 

Combine the data into actionable forecasts

By using Earned Value techniques, you use Project Management discipline to provide key feedback and forecasting to the project team and executives. See four sample questions and formulae below.

EVM formula table

Limitation

Earned Value is not sensitive to the quality of the deliverables. You can be near the end of the project and forecast on budget and on schedule even if the deliverables are poor and the customer will not accept the final product. The expectation is that the PM is using other tools and techniques to manage and control quality.

Stephen Wise

http://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com/

http://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com/Twitter

Turnaround: Leading a Project Recovery

It’s true! Most every failed project had an earlier phase as a troubled project. I will look at techniques a Project Manager can use to gain control of a troubled project and lead a turnaround.

Does this sound familiar?

  • The volume of identified defects has swamped testing or development or change control.
  • No-one on the project team has a firm view of when the project will be finished.
  • The budget is red and no-one knows how much additional work is still required.
  • The customer is losing confidence and showing signs of buyer’s remorse.
  • Team members are working excessive hours of overtime, email wars are breaking out, and personal relationships are unraveling.
  • The Executive is no longer on the same page as to the status and outlook for the project.
  • Vendor contractual misunderstandings are emerging and creating additional challenges.

If you have a troubled project, crisis is imminent and your world needs to change. Sooner rather than later management will request increased and more detailed updates. Customers, team members, and other internal stakeholders, such as audit, will soon be checking old project emails and asking additional questions.

Now is not the time to become defensive. You are the Project Manager, and now more than ever, the stakeholders need you to lead them through the turnaround steps to project recovery.

Step 1 – Initiate Recovery

  1. Seek guidance from the project team, business owner, and corporate methodology on an appropriate approach to initiate recovery planning. This step shouldn’t bog you down. Equally important as the guidance gained, is the communication you share with the stakeholders. That is, “You are leading the team into project turnaround and recovery mode.”
  2. In order to understand the status of the project and the nature of the recovery required, interview key stakeholders and analyze key project documentation such as project org chart, Charter, Work breakdown Structure, Issue log, Schedule (planned and actual Activities, resources, assignments, timing, and costs), and Change Log.
  3. Ensure the Project Team and executive reflect on the status of the project as measured against the business case benefit. Many events have occurred since original assumptions and it is possible that changes in market needs, technology, and enterprise risk, et cetera, render the existing project as unviable.

A very common mistake is to rationalize the continuation of a project due to the vast money and effort expended to date. Never use the amount of time and effort spent to date as a reason to continue a project with a broken business case – the money that has been spent can’t be recovered, however, it is possible that additional money about to be spent could be re-allocated to bring relatively more benefit to the organization.

If the business case is broken, recovery is not possible, and your job as Project Manager is to ensure an updated business case is approved or the project is stopped.

Step 2 – Planning Recovery

Assuming that the Executive, Sponsor, and Project Team are in agreement with implementing a project recovery, it is time to gather the stakeholders in a series of planning sessions. It is crucial that all stakeholders are represented in the re-planning exercise and that they are representing their relevant departments in committing to the new estimates in the plan. The Project Manager has several levers available to make change over the original project plan. I recommend working each of the three levers below.

  1. Reduce Scope
    Facilitate review of the incomplete scope elements by the team. Identify and validate dependencies, resource requirements, and alignment to the business case. Request or impose a haircut to the scope of the project.
  2. Increase Schedule
    Seek deep clarity on the reasons and alternatives to any “drop-dead” dates articulated by stakeholders. Review duration estimates and resource leveling for the remaining work. It is common for team members to underestimate overall time required and to spread individuals too thin across numerous tasks.
    Unless the customer is willing to accept reduced deliverables, avoid planning backwards from a “drop-dead’ date as this is likely one of the factors that sent the project schedule into trouble in the first place.
  3. Increase Productivity
    Tailor the approach to meetings, documentation, bug tracking, task assignments, and overall communication for ways to make it easier to get the work done.
    A caveat – if the team is working on the wrong things or running into problems that impact others, now more than ever, it is up to the PM to surface these things and help to resolve. Now is not the time to tailor your approach by skipping status meetings or decreasing PM follow-up activities.

As an output of the re-planning exercise a new plan must be built. To ensure the new plan will not fail, it must have buy in/commitment from all appropriate stakeholders; and it must be maintained and updated rigorously by the Project Manager.

Step 3 – Execute the Plan

Over and above the tremendous efforts from those doing the work, the success of the recovery depends on the persistent monitoring and tracking of the agreed recovery schedule and issue log.

Avoid the noise – a good PM must repeatedly step-up and exert pressure to steer the team away from the many potholes that seem significant but in actuality, are not really blocking the path of the project. Conversely, the PM must be prepared to step outside their own comfort zone to influence stakeholders for the sake of the project when tasks are slipping or issues aren’t being resolved in a timely fashion.

The essence of project recovery turnaround is to demonstrate leadership and renew the team with a refreshed analysis of the situation, a re-invigorated sense of purpose and shared commitment, and a clear and detailed plan to reach the end of the project.

Finally, I note that I have not addressed reporting and metrics unique to project recovery. This will be covered at a later date.

Stephen Wise

Integration Professionals

http://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com/

http://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com/Twitter/

Six things I must do to bring value. Part 2 of 2.

4. Use Earned value to track schedule and budget progress against plan.

Consider that the “Must finish on time” 6 month project you are leading has burned up 80% (5 months) of the calendar.  You request an update to senior executives where you report that the team has determined that they need an extra month added to the schedule to finish the project. Some time later, the project finishes after a total of 10 months.

Did something unexpected cause extra delay?
Could you have provided a more accurate forecast during your executive update cialis preise deutschland?
Consider that:

  1. Team members, usually under subtle and not-so subtle pressure, consistently underestimate how long it takes to get things done. As an aside, in my experience, the most common source of the underestimate is changing requirements, unexpected complications, and lack of available folks to do the additional work.
  2. Given the chance to re-plan the project, the team looks only at the amount of work remaining, ignores the leanings from the start of the project, and bakes in the exact same underestimates in the re-plan.

Earned Value is the single most powerful Project Management principle in the entire PMBOK; it provides unbiased status of current state and forecast of future impact to schedule and cost. It is also the most underused key concept by Project Managers. In a nutshell, Earned Value provides an independent Project Management perspective to the following questions:

  • Are we ahead or behind schedule?
  • When is the Project likely to be completed?
  • What is the remaining work likely to cost?

It isn’t unusual, that it is not appropriate to report and discuss Earned Value metrics to management. That’s not a showstopper, because the information is still highly valuable and actionable by the person most accountable to take the required day-day actions to ensure project success – the Project Manager.

5. Hold regular status meetings.

  • Hold Weekly Status Meetings: Less frequent, for example, every two weeks, is too long because if key people miss one it is a month until you are together again. More frequent and not enough will have changed resulting in meeting churn.
  • Standard Agenda and Meeting materials: That is, status late and upcoming activities, review new Issues, Risk Log updates, and potential Change Requests. Ensure that all “Work breakdown Structure” stakeholders are represented at the meetings.
  • Issue Agenda/Pre-Mail / Minutes: – That is, issue the agenda and meeting materials at least 24hr prior to the meeting.

 6. Escalate unresolved Issues and significant Change Requests to the management team. 

  • “Unresolved” – Don’t escalate until the Project Team has reviewed the issue without success.
  • “Issue” –  Ensure the item being discussed is within scope of the project and is impacting success, if not, note it for later discussion.
  • “Significant Change” – a) Establish risk and impact thresholds, below which, the project team will “adjudicate” change requests internally without escalating, and above which, will always use the agreed change management process.
  • “Escalate” – Advise the appropriate stakeholders quickly as a courtesy and to ask for help.

There you have it. I support and subscribe to PMBOK, ITIL, Agile et cetera, and the more I learn about each one, the more similar and complementary they seem to me. However, as a Project Manager working with diverse clients and changing needs, the above six are my must-haves in order to provide value-add as a Project Manager.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave comments if you feel strongly about anything.

Stephen D Wise
http://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com/

 

Look for a future drill-down on Earned Value.

Six things I must do to bring value Part 1 of 2.

Six things I must do to bring value. Part 1 of 2.

Even in tight times, when the number of resumes floating around has risen dramatically, many Project Management Office (PMO) leads are still saying there is a shortage of talent. “Get me a good Project Manager”, they say to the headhunters.

I take it for granted that good managers are great leaders and excellent communicators. What are the differentiators that make a good manager a good Project Manager (PM)? I believe there are six things a PM must do during the planning and execution of a project in order to bring value as a Project Manager: 

  1. Create a Work Break Down Structure.
  2. Determine which tools, methodology, and documentation will be used on the project.
  3. Facilitate the creation of an appropriate schedule and save the baseline.
  4. Use Earned Value to track schedule and budget progress against plan.
  5. Hold regular status meetings.
  6. Escalate unresolved issues and significant change requests to a
    management team.

1.     Create a Work Break Down Structure.

The 100% rule is the key. The rule is, ‘At any level of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), the entire scope of the project and all deliverables is captured 100%.’  To create the WBS, I engage potential participants using pre-mails and then hold a group session with a large white board, all stakeholders represented, and lots of post-it notes.

I like to stop at only three or four levels deep into the WBS – but this is really the call of the team members who are doing the work. After the meeting, MS Visio Organization-Chart helps to quickly show the WBS graphically on one page. This page gets tweaked as necessary and is dragged to every meeting I attend. I use this tool to manage scope creep, engage stakeholders, accept deliverables, and avoid gaps in accountability.

It’s the one Project Management tool I can’t live without – it becomes the entire project on one page edmedicom.com.

2.     Determine which tools, methodology, and documentation will be used on the project.

Every new project is mashup of culture and organizational objectives. A good PM uses diplomacy and leadership to follow the norms that have been set and break the rules when the situation calls for it.

Usually it’s not up to the PM to determine, between PRINCE2, PMBOK, Agile, SDLC, and CMMI. Whatever the methodologies employed it is the PM’s responsibility to ensure the approach is communicated to the team and guidance on how to implement it appropriately is available.

My goal is that issues related to the tools, methodology, and documentation float to the background as the team presses ahead with work at hand.

3.     Facilitate the creation of an appropriate schedule and save the baseline.

A good PM will facilitate team creation of a schedule that documents a) activities that must be completed, and; b) name of the one person responsible for providing status updates.

My rule of thumb is that an identified task that takes longer than 2 weeks should be broken down into smaller pieces and a task that takes less than 2 days is too detailed – but this is the team member’s call as they own the schedule, not the PM.

When the team agrees that the schedule drawn up is doable, save a copy, this is the (first) baseline.