February 2, 2012, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.
From the Editor
How do you know when you've crossed the line from postponing decisions to belaboring them? It's usually a good hint when there are more open decisions than open tasks. Options have value (as Kent McDonald has reminded us several times), but so does progress. This week, Geof Lory encourages us to strike the right balance, and we're advancing the cause with a few decision-making and -guiding tools for team members, project leads, and senior PMs. Plus, in our Career Corner, you'll find tips and examples for building a great WBS -- and coping when it bears no resemblance at all to the actual project work.
Decide to Decide
The ability to make solid decisions, both business and technical, is one of the most important skills teams and organizations can cultivate. On every project, we make countless decisions -- some small, some with far reaching impact. While many different decision making styles and protocols can be used to fit varying situations, high performing agile teams are characterized by a collaborative and speedy decision making process even when dealing with ambiguity.
by Geof Lory
Find out how Geof's teams balance speed and certainty »
For Team Members
Build a case, then make it. It's as simple as that. But when the issue is big, expensive, or unpopular, it can still be intimidating. We find a little structure helpful to get your arms around the problem.
Root Cause Analysis – PREMIUM
Are you sure you've found the problem, and not just another symptom? A methodical approach to the search for a root cause takes time at first, but it will save time, effort, and probably money down the road.
Recommendation Template – PREMIUM
Craft an organized, well documented recommendation to proceed with a given business solution or alternative. It includes all of the key components needed to make an informed decision about whether or not to endorse or approve the recommendation.
For Project Leads
You need to be sure the team has had a good opportunity to make the best possible decisions, and that they don't forget what was decided and why. These tools will help.
Review Meeting Planning Worksheet – MEMBER
When you're planning a review meeting for your project, at any phase, you need to be sure it will really accomplish what you need it to. This worksheet provides a format for planning those reviews, and highlights any pre-work that may be necessary for a successful result.
Recording Key Project Decisions – PREMIUM
If you've ever found yourself or your team wondering what you actually decided about that feature weeks ago (or hours ago!) you need a list like this one. Several different formats are included in this file, plus tips for maintaining this critical aspect of project history in common project software tools.
Do your managers know how to handle uncertainty in the project environment? Start by ensuring everyone has a clear vision for the project, then match the method to the madness.
Project Vision Example: Defining a Software Release Life Cycle – SPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until February 16, 2012
Sometimes, it's easier to show people an effective project vision than describe one. This example from a medium-sized product development company shows how to create a guiding document that helps the team make decisions and guides activity, instead of weighing everyone down with a lengthy manifesto.
Spiral/Iterative Project Phase Approach – PREMIUM
When you aren't ready to go Full Agile, but your project doesn't cooperate with the usual waterfall methods, an iterative development model can help teams cope with uncertainty while maintaining control. This example comes from an actual project. It's a great model for using time-boxing to plan and execute a project.
Managing Projects under Uncertainty – MEMBER
Set your teams up for success by matching the project leadership styles to the kind of uncertainty driving the project. This presentation is from a session at the IEEE International Conference on Management of Innovation and Technology in Singapore. Great for helping project managers see how to adapt their style to the project's needs, or even for guiding selection of the right manager for important efforts.
What does it mean to put together a really good project schedule? It's one of the more frequent questions we get, along with requests for examples of various kinds. Examples can provide great fodder for sanity checking our own work, or springboard for projects in unfamiliar domains. But the real career differentiator is coping with the inevitable differences between the perfect project schedule and the decidedly imperfect reality of executing it. This week, we decided to share some examples to help you build a fantastic schedule, along with Kimberly Wiefling's thoughts on how to cope with the knowledge that it was outdated the second you hit the Print button.
WBS and Gantt for a USB Development Schedule – PREMIUM
This WBS provides an example of an early cross-functional product development schedule. This particular file (which has been altered to preserve confidentiality) was produced very early in the planning process, as a guide for rough planning. The manager used this rough version to elicit more detailed information from the product development team in order to create a more detailed schedule.
End of Execution Phase Checklist – PREMIUM
Just as with your project's deliverables, the best project schedule is the one that helps you accomplish your goals. This checklist (one of a series) provides a good review of the activities and deliverables that should be completed by the end of your project's Execution Phase. It will still help when you're hoping to transition into Approval and Delivery, of course, but it's even more helpful if you start by looking at a list like this, adjusting for your project environment, and then building a schedule that will allow you to go down the list when the last item is complete and say "check, check, check, check-check-check, moving on!"
Why Schedules Are Always Late and What to Do About It, by Kimberly Wiefling
Five reasons your projects always seem to be late, and five things you can do to make this one different.
Premium How-To Course
Dealing With Schedule-Killing Scope Creep
Presented by Cinda Voegtli, ProjectConnections CEO
There you are just trying to get it all done -- on an already tight schedule, most likely -- and here comes yet another "must have" requirement, yet another cool thing we need to add. At this rate, you're pretty sure the team is never going to be able to get it all done. But it's an executive request, so I guess we'd better just do our best, right?
Wrong. This mini-course explains how to spot dangerous scope creep before it derails your project, how to deal with those "must-do" executive requests, and more. Cinda's practical, get-it-done tone emphasizes controlling the project while sounding proactive, in charge, and business-minded instead of petulant, obstructionist, or resigned. The goal isn't to refuse all changes; it's to make the right decisions about changes, no matter who suggests them. 1 PDU
Learn more »
Sinikka Waugh is leading several sessions in the Des Moines, Iowa area in February. In a move that we promise was not orchestrated, one is "You Decided to Do What?" billed as "a careful look at how impact analysis and decision-making tools can be used for good, and not evil." ($69, February 15, 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.) Other sessions include User Stories on February 21, and Business Analysis Fundamentals on February 28. For more information, call 515-964-6402 or email email@example.com.
Carl Pritchard is spending several days in the Big Apple in February, but he'll also be the speaker at PMI NSA on February 8. For more information, contact Carl at www.carlpritchard.com.
Blogger Morley Selver is in Calgary, Canada February 22-24 for his Fundamentals of Project Management Workshop. For more information, see the course page on the PEICE website, or Morley's most recent blog entry, "Due Diligence." If you're not into snow, cold, and poutine, there's another session in Houston, Texas March 7-9.
Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing
Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »
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