Defininition, planning, avoiding rework and getting 40% savings in projects

On my travels I spotted a hotel advertising “lounge food”. That obviously means something to them. For me, it is something to label “jargon” and wonder what they mean. Do they mean nibbles to eat relaxing on a sofa? Or would it be dainty sandwiches, cup cakes and cream teas? Are they recreating historic banquets lounging in Romanesque opulence? Is this a reflection of the modern habit of eating in front of the TV rather than at a dining table?

As project managers our use of jargon can cause issues we could avoid: “stakeholder management” is a defined process which doesn’t mean the same to some. The need for precision in language is more important in defining the measures by which you know something is complete – project or product.

What does commissioned, usable or handover mean? How do you define acceptable performance or customer satisfaction? By carefully defining the detailed qualities and aspects of what you are delivering, and how you will measure that and when. This is work that often gets forgotten in the “just get on with it” cultures of some organisations.

It is worth remembering that the Olympic development projects used a 2:4:1 approach. Two years planning and defining, four years of delivery and a year of testing. Late delivery or failure would have been catastrophic for the organisations involved, so planning was seen as vital. I know from the discussions with some of the project managers that the planning and defining was not all done first but very little was started without being fully defined (including handover and legacy). There was also very little waste or rework.

By comparison, I have worked with a number of organisations that use a ratio of 1:6:3 (and they are not the worst). Their lack of planning means they do at least 50% rework, have to spend considerably more on testing to make sure the errors don’t get out and retesting after rework. Defining what you are doing, how you test it is complete and the measures you’ll use are worth the investment; about a 40% saving on the overall cost of the project.

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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

ISO 9000 Projects – not just paperwork!

Recent events have made some organisations consider ISO9000 again as a badge to reassure their customers that they have a consistent way of doing business. It is more than a simple visit from an auditor but needs a commitment from everyone in the organisation to work in a consistent way. Read more of this post

Kanban: visualising work in progress

“I like your Kanban” I said

“My what?” was the shocked reply. Had I said a rude word?

On the wall of the office was a cork notice board on which was pinned postcard sized coloured index cards under headings. It was a visual representation of the progress of work through the business – known as kanban in manufacturing.   Read more of this post

Prioritising Projects : a project manager’s dilemma

In an ideal organisation, project managers have an understanding of the organisation’s project portfolio and don’t have to prioritize one project over another: it is very clearly led by senior management.

Some methods assume that project teams should only work on one project at once.

There is sometimes an unfortunate reality: the project manager has to make an interim decision on which to project to prioritize. Read more of this post

Communication Planning – review

You have the communication plan in place but does it all fit together? The project management team should check this part of the plan together and consider:

  • Are all the stakeholders considered in the plan?
  • Does the plan support the project team getting the information and commitment they need from stakeholders?
  • Does it fit with the organisation’s context and other activity?
  • Has risk management looked at and planned for communication activity?
  • Have the right resources scheduled?
  • Is there a training plan to make those involved more effective?

Now review the project objective and budget. Check that what you have planned drives the project towards its goal and is proportionately affordable.

Finally, schedule time for the project management team to check the communication plans again at major milestones. The plan may need to change: projects change direction, organisational contexts change and stakeholders change their views.

Planning Resources and Training for Communication

 So far in your notes you have:

  • who needs what information when,
  • how you get feedback and information from stakeholder,
  • the timing and format of the communication. 

Now we need to add that work to the project schedule and assign the right resources. Read more of this post

Planning Stakeholder Communication

The main part of the communication plan is for communication with stakeholders.

Some preparatory work is needed:

  • who the stakeholders are 
  • what information they can give
  • their areas of influence 
  • their information needs

Read more of this post

Planning Communication with the Team

Planning for formal communications with the project team might seem to pre-empt the project manager’s role.  However, deciding the frequency, style and timing of communication with the team is important.  Read more of this post

Blueprint for Success

A team at Warwick Business School has surveyed 500 above average trading performance businesses employing between 20 and 250 staff.

These business had these approaches in common:

  1. Striving for growth – seeking to increase sales
  2. Managing flexibly
  3. People planning – skill needs and focus on staff development
  4. Marketing – reach new customers with broadcast
  5. Research and development – technology, new ways of doing business
  6. Process changes – reducing costs, improving service quality

How does this apply to programme management, change management or project management?   We can use these to consider things we might need to plan to under pin the success of our projects. Read more of this post