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So you think its finished? yeah right...

Trudy Robinson - Friday, April 29, 2011

It's really frustrating when you have brought together the masses, created the WBS/gantt, Issue register, Risk Register, Comms plan etc - and are tracking along ok.  You are sending out updates each week and continually ask whether there are any known issues or additional tasks that need to be dealt with.

Then of course you go into a meeting and someone tells you it's all turned to custard because there is a problem that no one is dealing with.  What can you do?  It reflects on you as a project manager, it seems you don't have your finger on the pulse and that you're reporting inaccurately.

It's not unusual - unless you have significant experience in the topic of the project, you must rely on the expertise and input from the other SMEs (subject matter experts) who are project resources.  Your best skill in this environment is getting the information out of the heads of the SMEs to ensure you have the complete picture, then you get those in the higher escalons to review and sign off on the fact that the documentation represents a complete and comprehensive review.  However, even having done this something will come out of the woodwork when it's least expected.

So, in this circumstance, you need to get to the bottom of the point that was raised:
 * is there a real issue, is it a risk, a scope change or a different view of something that has already been covered
* who should have known about it and why was it missed (part of lessons learned and ongoing improvement, not a finger pointing exercise)
* how do you get the detail required to manage it properly
* who do you need to communicate with once the detail is in place
* what is the cost in $, time and schedule impact
* does it change what you already have planned.

As projects are all about change, the need to move with the flow following clarification of something you didn't know about needs to occur.  So long as it's still in scope, you have to deal with it.  Even if it is out of scope, the need to fully detail the requirement to be put up for consideration as a scope variance or exclusion will be necessary.

Project managers need to cope with change to their expectations which sometimes includes criticism, hopefully construction criticism but not always.  Comprehensive planning and review/signoff is the best means of preventing the cause, but as mentioned this isn't always sufficient.

So you may think you've finished a task, a work package or a whole project - but it may come with steak knives so we learn to cope with the change and impact.

Happy days
regards Trudy

BAU -v- project priorities

Trudy Robinson - Thursday, April 28, 2011
It's really painful when business-as-usual (BAU) activities impact project deliverables - but unless you have a full time project team that don't have any BAU tasks, it is inevitable. 

The problem is, it's often those who cause the most delay who are the biggest contributors.

So, what can you do? 

Firstly, try to address this in your risk register at the beginning and for continual review - mitigation should include budget or whatever is required to prioiritise project requirements and alleviate pressure.  A person who is left with a full time BAU role as well as a full time project role is never going to get it all done - endeavour to second the important people into the full time project role and back fill them.  Back-filling is when their substantive position is looked after by someone else so they can focus on the project priorities.

You must also ensure the project 'priorities' are real priorities - not only important to you but critical to achieve project deliverables.  If it can wait, don't push it otherwise it can come across as the boy who called wolf.

You may also need to be seen to contribute to the grass roots type activities.  No matter how important you may think you are, at the end of the day if someone needs help data cleansing (or whatever) then so be it.  Many a time it has been that I've been able to do a mundane task faster than someone less experienced who has a thousand things to do.  Give them a hand - don't stay up on that high horse.  Obviously this is the exception not the norm but it never hurts!

Also remember that it is far easier for someone to review something rather than start from scratch.  So, get someone who doesn't know the full gammit to make a start on something important, get other input then by the time the busy person gets to it, the task will be greatly reduced.

More to come as time allows.
regards Trudy

Project Records Part III

Trudy Robinson - Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The third part of records management in projects is about those who use it.  You can have the best structure in place, but if it's not used properly there is absolutely no point.  You won't find what you need when you need it - whether it is as serious as battling a contractual issue (or whatever) in court years later, or as simple as having the transparency in place when you are audited or having the relevant information for a FOI application.

So, it must come from the top.  Agreement that there will be a centralised structure.  Agreement over who will have read, and who will have write access.  Agreement what will be saved where and who is responsible.

Once in place, you must drive the message home with team members.  No matter if a project manager is managing multiple projects - they need to save their sent and received communications into different directories under each project (not within their own comms folder/s in Outlook).  They need to save reports within the relevant project's directory structure, they need to save schedules by date again under each project.  Get over it, cope.  Build a bridge and get on it.  If they don't like it, get a bigger hammer.

One of the biggest problems now is email.  It is used as a form of informal communication but with very formal consequences.  If a team member sends out an email to a stakeholder during a project which promises something, then they leave - unless that email is recorded in the central communication directory - that promise may have you in court with no idea of what is coming.  You must you must you must drive this home.  Even if you never end up in court, any contractual disputes, affirmation of decisions made, clarification of why something has occured, who decided what when, or audit reference to ensure there is transparency and governance around a project/programme - this is why it's needed.  It's a bit like insurance - if you wait until you need it, it's too late.

So, encouarge team members to include themselves on distribution lists so when they receive their own emails that they've sent to a group, it will remind them to drag it out of their mailbox into the relevant communications directory.  Prompt them when you're copied on communications to check that they've saved it where necessary. 

Check where they're saving draft documents.  NOT in their personal directory - always in their project directory.  I can't emphasise it enough - if most organisations managed the HR element of records management, the big software companies who tout records management software wouldn't have a saleable product.

Check that team members use links to the centralised structure rather than attachments to an email.  This not only means the right file is in the correct place before distribution, it also reinforces the stakeholders who follow the link to the project/programme area.  Of course if a stakeholder is external to an organisation they would require an attachment as they wouldn't be able to follow the link.

Include records management in your team member KPIs.  Don't mention it then forget about it.  Make it an every day, every step of every process occurrence.

Drive it home until you can rely upon it.

When it's in place, your records management strategy becomes a reliable tool.  And I promise you - it will save you pain.


Project Records Part II

Trudy Robinson - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Filesureis basically a method of records management applied to electronic intellectual property using software that everyone already has – (Windows Explorer/Mac directory structure etc).

You may have experienced going into an organisation where an individual can’t find the latest version of a particular safe operating procedure, or can’t find a file because someone is away – etc etc.  All the reasons why the likes of Microsoft are pushing Sharepoint, Xerox and all the other big companies are spending a lot of money of developing software tools to manage this. 

Filesure was aimed at getting organisations organised so that no matter who creates what when and for what purpose, it is owned, used, easily found and managed by the organisation.

It is based on files being saved based on their purpose rather than who created it – which is what 99% of organisations do (directory structure based on org structure – fails every time)!

So, as in any business activity, in projects and programme management it is all about consistent, clear structure and naming conventions.  This is how I structure a group of projects under a programme:

Programme Management directory (anything that affects multiple projects).
Subdirectory * Communications (at programme level)
Subdirectory * Programme Admin (budget, Terms of reference, Programme Mandate, etc)
Subdirectory * Meetings (Programme Agendas, minutes)
Subdirectory * Reports (weekly, highlight reports)
Subdirectory * Registers (issue, risk, project lists, contact/stakeholder lists, workshop attendance records, decision register etc)
Subdirectory * Schedule WBS (programme work breakdown structures, gantts, timeliness)
Subdirectory * Templates & Forms
Subdirectory * Support Docs (documents to support the programme but not generated by the team - provided from outside)
Subdirectory * Decision Records (some people call these option papers, those docs sent to project/prog board for decision)
Subdirectory * Test management (test plans, uat etc)
Subdirectory * Products - deliverables (products/deliverables by the programme/project)
Subdirectory * HR
Subdirectory * xx archive xx (never delete anything, just move it here)

Project Name (to be duplicated for each project
Subdirectory * Communications (for this specific project - save fom outlook here)
Subdirectory * Project Admin (budget,  work package documents, scope)
Subdirectory * Meetings (this project Agendas, minutes)
Subdirectory * Reports (project reports)
Subdirectory * Schedule WBS (project work breakdown structures, gantts, timeliness)
Subdirectory * Support Docs (documents to support the project but not generated by the team - provided from outside)
Subdirectory * Decision Records (some people call these option papers, those docs sent to project/prog board for decision)
Subdirectory * Test management (test plans, uat etc)
Subdirectory * Products - deliverables (products/deliverables by the programme/project)
Subdirectory * xx archive xx (never delete anything, just move it here)

So, the principal is that you do not create subdirectories. You don't need to.  Use a naming convention to segregate your files.  Too much to go through in a blog so you can contact me if you need to.  But, the principal for most of this is to give a file a name that will never change OR precede it with yymmdd.  So, the following

110411 - Program Highlight Report.doc
110418 - Project Team Report.doc
110427 - Project Team Report.doc

The above shows that on 2011, April 11 a program highlight report was recorded.
On April 18 a project team report was completed, together with another one on 27th.
The benefit of recording yymmdd at the beginning of each file is that they sort into chronological order - Date Modified doesn't enable this as it depends on the date it was changed, not the date of the report.  Also, if you put the date at the end of the file name, not the beginning, it sorts by the first word.  I could explain the ASCII sort sequence but it's all too hard here.

Keeping the full gammit of reports is necessary for historical reference.  An outdated draft work package may not need to be kept, so it is moved to the relevant xxarchivexx directory.  Never delete anything, just move it.  It'll save your skin more often than you realise.

So, I hope this helps.  It works and becomes a substantial reference tool, particularly if you ever end up in court.

Have fun.

Records Management in Projects!

Trudy Robinson - Thursday, April 21, 2011
I often have to browbeat a project team into recording project documentation the way I advocate.  It's not that I think I know it all, it's just that I haven't seen anyone have a better system, so use my way or show me a better way.

Records management in projects is a big deal.  A big part of Governance is about having a methodology, adhering to that methodology and continually reviewing and updating it. (Plan Do Check Review).

In projects, recording incoming and outgoing communications, deliverables (products), risk/issue management etc etc - it's critical.  Without the evidence, it all turns to custard on a regular basis.  Just today I had to go back to a weekly status report, a project register and meeting minutes to validate an arguement.  If this was all saved under individual people's personal directories it would be a nightmare and we, with many others, would be waiting for someone to come back from holidays to find where they'd saved something and what they'd named it.  I'll do another blog on the way I record project documentation.  You don't have to follow my way - you can use the Project Management records by knitting pattern if it works for you - the problem is that if you don't have a standard method for managing project documentation - expect a problem.  It may be now or in two years time - if you can't follow the documentation trail it will cause you pain - I promise. 

We all get enough pain without asking for more - true?

I wish you a pain free work week.

toodles Trudy

Expose yourself - ask, ask and ask again

Trudy Robinson - Thursday, October 07, 2010

I'm currently working as project manager in a state govt department assisting with consolidation of their reporting to Treasury.  As with many projects, the begining is a steep learning curve to get to grips with project requirements and outcomes.  Then standard project management strategy (Prince2 in this case), requirements workshops etc kick in.
There are several other government departments who have also consolidated both financial systems and Treasury reporting.  So of course I found contacts, rang them all up and recorded their opinions, issues they mentioned, how they went about their own projects.  I received alot of advice, recommendations and clarification.  After recording all this, I sent this around to project team members and the project board.  Someone in the department made a comment that it wasn't very 'public servant' like of me to do this - in jest of course - as I was meant to reinvent the wheel and go through it all again.
A good project manager can never know it all - you absolutely have to be open to other experience, skill, recommendations and requirements.  To know it all is to never be open to learning.  I've learned good things today, and the project can only benefit from that.  It's quite confrontational calling someone out of the blue - but it's amazing how people respond when you ask them for advice - don't be afraid to try it!
Happy days.

Where do Project Managers come from?

Trudy Robinson - Monday, May 10, 2010
I'm often asked what makes a good Project Manager, why do projects fail - why do bad project managers continually get good work opportunities and a range of other questions that are a challenge to answer.  However, there is one clear challenge that many will need to face to get into the project management field.

Project Managers that are working as project managers are often not qualified as such.  They are in the PM role because they were best in their field. So the best architect will become the project manager for the architectural company, the best carpenter will become the builder's project manager or the best designer will control the projects for the Multi media company.  This is good, but also not so good.  It means they can manage what they know really well, but they don't know what they don't know.  Many people who are already in project management roles get qualified and realise there is an entire raft of appropriate management tools and processes that they haven't been using - or if they have they haven't always known why.

When doing a PM qualification, you will often learn things you will rarely use.  For example most project managers in most projects would not need to develop a Procurement Plan.  However, if you know what one is, the purpose of it and what it can assist with - at least if you chose not to do one for a particular project, you do this with intent and not through ignorance.  You may chose, for example, to do a one page procurement summary rather than a full Procurement Plan.  But, at least it has been considered and dealt with appropriately based on the level of risk and project complexity.

Lifetime learning, it's a great cause.

Happy days

BSB41507 Certificate iv in project management

Trudy Robinson - Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Southbank have offered me a casual teaching role.  Three (3) hours one night paid per week and that's to have face to face contact, mark all assignments, create the curriculum, create the content and give feedback/guidance to a class of 24.  They're kidding themselves quite alot - however it gives me the opportunity to verify many of the tools and resources that I already have.  So, it'll be an interesting exercise.  I'll be spending alot of time focussing on project management content rather than information governance for a while.

Happy days

Presentation to Southbank Institute of Technology

Trudy Robinson - Monday, July 06, 2009
I have been asked to make a presentation to Southbank regarding the HR component of Project Management.  This is with the prospect of teaching the Project Management subject.  It took me nearly a whole day to put together an animated presentation but it may be worth it.  The plethora of project management tools and information I have that I've used it the past can be put to good use.  So, watch this space!

Happy days.