Be Clear About Your Assumptions

Assumptions: we all make them.  Some times stated. Sometimes implicit. Occasionally, utterly unaware that we made an assumption. They are in all projects and can be found in all project planning decisions. If we don’t make assumptions we can’t plan – uncertainty will get in our way. Read more of this post

Welcome to 2012

Well it seems so odd to finally be in 2012!

I spend a lot of time in London and the pre-Olympic theme in many places has lulled me into a dream-like state of it already being 2012. Now it really is 2012. That got my attention: something has changed and yet nothing has changed.

Christmas was also a reminder of the truth behind “culture shock”. I hear change specialist worrying about culture shock for big changes in organisations or moving teams to new locations. However, the biggest shocks I see are when people arrive somewhere after being away. How many of us expected our parents to be the same with other children as they were with us or return “home” after a long trip  expecting to be treated to the same reception as we used to get only to find things have changed? We may have changed but so has own old home and the people in it. The behaviour is not what they expect it to be. That can grab our attention too.

That grabbing of attention makes me stand still for a moment to work out where I am,  what I expected and how to reset my expectations to deal with the reality.  That is fine if I have that time to spare.  If my project doesn’t have that time, I need to be better prepared.

In projects, you can prepare people and help them be ready for a change but if that change doesn’t meet their expectation then there will be a shock. Managing stakeholder expectations of the changes your project plans to make needs to include two-way communication to discover what they think it will be like and correct any misunderstandings. It is an area of change that, with a little more understanding of the people concerned, can show lasting results.  A little research will uncover assumptions and associated risks.

My new year wish for project managers is that your people are healthy in terms of change, your projects are wealthy or at least appropriately resourced, and you grow wise in terms of risk management.

Happy New Year

What are we trying to achieve?

Setting the objective for a programme or project is something that some managers and organisations give too little analysis. The instinct is to say “make me widget X” or “make this new organisation structure happen”.  That simply defines the solution that seems obvious at the time. For some projects that is enough but for many that is like saying “go to Plymouth” without say why or what you need to be ready to do when you get there.

For a project team to be successful, it helps to know what the end state needs to be and why you need that end. Read more of this post

Short-term delay can have long term impact

In the mad rush of ideas that some managers get over the holiday season , some will have decided to cut costs in their operations. In doing so, they will have chosen short-term delays for projects that don’t bring a quick return.

I’ve even seen blogs and advice from management consultants specifically saying things like, “Defer discretionary projects which are not able to make acceptable cash returns in the short-term”.

That is the wrong message because it looks at projects in isolation from each other and the organisation. Read more of this post

Business Case: Benefits and Costs

A business case is the statement of benefits and costs that is used to measure just how viable a programme or project is for the organisation.

In the early steps of a project, there will be a need to do some work to look at the options for the project’s approach and ball park costs. Sometimes, this will  be a considerable amount of effort and it will be assumed that the project has entered its planning phase. The project will come to the attention of an auditor, quality manager or PMO professional who will say that work should not continue as there is no business case for the project. They are right but about the wrong thing. 

Read more of this post