Help! My Project is Falling off the Rails

It’s all too common a tale. Your project was going well then something happened… a vendor let you down with a delivery date, there were problems around commissioning or testing, or the end product, whatever it is, simply does not work. This bump in the road may not always be the fatalistic thing it appears to be at the time. In fact if your project has gone well and you’ve zoomed though the various phases it may be the perfect time for some backwards and forwards looking assessment. If your project is a long one, through many months or even years, I might be bold enough to even suggest you may get an better end result for the chance to stop for a moment and take stock.

How can that be? Well, you have to fix the problem sure, but a savvy PM will be doing some other activities here too:

  • Of course rectify the issue… speak to your vender, organise a technical specialist, re-test. A no-brainer really but in parallel to that review your schedule. In my view schedule management is the number one tool of your trade as a PM. What does it tell you? Is this a critical path issue? If so can you benefit in some way from the delay?
  • Ask yourself what you know now about the impact of this project that you didn’t know at the beginning. Under no circumstances should you be looking to increase the scope at this point (unless the client/sponsor states there is an obvious need) but you can use this new knowledge in your change management plan if you haven’t already. Are there other projects in the organisation that are now underway that have a similar characteristics or audience, can you share resources along the way?
  • Write or talk face to face with your sponsor about the nature of the problem and the impact of the delay. Mary organisations will have a formal mechanism or project management methodology for this but perhaps surprisingly many don’t. The importance of communicating shouldn’t be overlooked in the panic to get back on track. It also doesn’t hurt to include any additional value you may be able to add because of the delay.
  • Ensure there are no surprises to any of your stakeholders including end users. Again, where there is a formal project control structure this may be taken care of. Where there isn’t it can solely be the job of the PM to ensure all involved understand what’s happened.

Often a well managed project that has incurred some delays will not be seen as a project failure. Perceptions of project failure arise when stakeholders don’t know what is happening or why or what the impact and cost will be.

In a nutshell, communicate often and well. Your project will be back on track in no time and crucially, seen as a success.

This is a guest post from author Louise Gardner of http://www.pledgeconsulting.com.au/ .

7 Hints You’re Overdue For Project Management Software

Companies are focused on growth out of necessity. However, sometimes they reach a milestone and look back with dismay to find their workflow hasn’t grown along with them. The needs and demands of a growing business are incredibly complex and challenging, which means that tools made for their specific industry can’t keep up the pace. So when is the right time to look into project management software for your team? If you spot any of the following seven telltale signs, it might be time to determine which software meets your collective needs.

Communication Looks More Like Litter

Piles upon piles of sticky notes, stacks of well-loved notebooks and inboxes overflowing with “Re:re:re:re Monday Project Meeting” subject lines are all examples of ineffective communication on a growth scale. If you need to sift through previous notes each time you need a piece of information, or worse, confuse one set of data for another in the fray, you’re cruising towards a problem. Project management software will help you establish discovery and communication paths to prevent mistakes or wasted researching time.

Your Inbox Feels Like Quicksand

If you sit down in the morning to “just respond to that one email” and suddenly look up to find it’s lunchtime, your email inbox is ruling your work life. Multiply that obstacle by each member in your team and you have a huge waste of time cutting into your resource budget. Project management software streamlines your missives into a single cohesive dashboard and clarifies the questions that usually result in that same “Re:re:re:re Monday Project Meeting” email we’ve already given the side-eye to.

Projects? More Like Piles!

It’s not unusual to work on more than one project at once, or to juggle a few sub-projects, but that doesn’t have to mean losing the entirety of your “desk real estate.” If your projects are turning into looming towers (both mentally and physically) of paperwork, folders and notebooks, you’d be far better off with a digital, tab-based system. Project management software makes it easy to switch back and forth between projects as needed, reducing confusion and frustration.

Any Delegation Requires Aspirin

Even on great days, project management can feel more like herding cats than leading a team, but sometimes even that gets out of hand. If you wince at the thought of following up, or find yourself taking on heavier workloads because it’s “not worth the hassle” of assigning various tasks manually, you definitely need software for project management.

Meetings Devour Your Time

Meetings are necessary and expected through the course of a project, but if your hour-long 3:00 pm brainstorms constantly end up stretching to 4:30 with little progress, it’s time to call in the digital calvary. Mini-meetings between key players can often get more done in shorter amounts of time, ensuring that your team is back at their desks when they need to be. Software dashboards make it easy to coordinate schedules, monitor progress and communicate one-on-one for more efficient communication.

Your Team’s Motivation Seems to Evaporate

From an employee standpoint, nothing saps energy more consistently than having to sit through (or in) endless meetings that don’t involve their responsibilities, or inclusion in a perpetual “Reply All” email chain that discusses project problems that were fixed long ago. Inefficiency spreads like a virus in a busy office, and if you’re struggling to complete your tasks in a timely manner with minimal waste, you can be sure your team is experiencing the same thing. Introducing project management software sends a clear message: we have a plan, we’re all going to follow it, and here’s how we’re going to do it.

You Aren’t Sure Where You Stand

This may be the biggest red flag of all. If you need to frantically “check into a few things” in order to give a clear answer on project progress, you don’t really know where your team is, in terms of the project. Consistently using a dashboard keeps you on-target as a manager, and keyed into important project developments as they happen. This reduces stumbling in front of clients or C-suite executives, and ultimately makes you a better professional with better results to offer.

About Umesh Lalwaniumesh-lalwani-blog-author
Previously founded and managed Assigncorp, an IT company for 15 years. The company grew to USD 13 Million a year. Umesh has a passion for understanding individual tendencies and team dynamics towards collaboration and getting things done.To learn more visit http://www.grapple.co/

Cultivating a Robust Organization: 5 Stages of the Innovation Process

Most business leaders recognize the value of innovation. In a study from consulting firm Accenture, 93 percent of executives surveyed said that their organization’s long-term success depends on developing new ideas. However, only 18 percent of leaders believed their company’s innovation efforts delivered a competitive advantage, despite an increase in business investments for innovation.

Why are businesses unsuccessful with innovation? Accenture notes that only 46 percent of companies had an effective and holistic process for new products and services. And according to an exploratory study of more than 30 companies in the United States and Europe, researchers found that companies generally lack a process to guide innovation.

In too many organizations, innovation occurs by serendipity rather than by deliberate management. Without a process to understand, stimulate, and analyze innovation and an organization’s strengths and weaknesses around innovation, most companies rely upon serendipity.

Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice

Backed by an effective innovation process, managers can advocate for and help create what researchers in the Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice study call robust organizations. These companies “have found a recipe for sustainable innovation programs rather than mere spurts of innovation,” and the study defines specific stages that are most common to sustained, successful innovation.

1.    Idea Generation and Mobilization

New ideas are created during idea generation. Mobilization occurs when the idea is moved to a different physical or logical location, such as an outside firm or another department.

Inspiration for a new idea can originate from an improvement of an existing idea, or something from scratch. The Atlantic explains how Apple waited three years after MP3 players were introduced to create the iPod, which was attractive, intuitive and offered capacity for up to 1,000 songs. Conversely, the invention of Scotch tape was a brand new idea. Priceonomics tells the story of Richard Drew, a college dropout who joined 3M, saw a need for a type of tape that wouldn’t ruin paint on cars and overcame hurdles to complete his invention.

As a result of Drew’s work ethic, 3M provides employees with time (15 percent of their workday) to explore ideas outside of their work assignments. Other organizations have followed this model, and robust organizations in general provide employees with the time and resources to innovate. According to Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, managers must emphasize innovation to the right extent — “overemphasizing need will cause some employees to leave for more stable jobs,” while “not emphasizing it enough will decrease urgency and idea generation across the board.”

2.    Advocacy and Screening

Not all ideas are worth implementing. Advocacy and screening help evaluate an idea and measure its potential benefits and problems. From there, a decision can be made about an idea’s future.

One of the biggest advantages for the joint processes of advocacy and screening is refinement. If the idea has potential, discussions and arguments help enhance it. The study in Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice mentions how this stage prepares an idea for upper management, which can call for a different approach. Because idea generators don’t always have the skills to advocate for their ideas, managers working with the idea generator can facilitate, encourage and support the person.

Companies looking to build a robust culture can establish a few best practices for this step. First, employees should have plenty of avenues to receive advocacy and feedback. Second, organizations must understand the difficulties involved with evaluating truly innovative ideas. Third, organizations need to build transparent evaluation and screening protocols.

3.    Experimentation

The experimentation stage tests an idea, such as with a prototype or pilot test. Researchers in Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice carefully note that “Experimentation does not test an idea’s objective merits, but the suitability for a particular organization at a particular time.” Some ideas “might be ahead of their time or beyond the present capacity of the company … [they] may be set aside into an idea bank or idea library for development at a later time.”

Experimentation can remain continuous or exist in spurts, as advocates and screeners reevaluate an idea. Sometimes, experimentation leads to new ideas due to information that is gathered on the results and the overall feasibility of the original idea. Time is crucial in this process; individuals must be given adequate time to run the experiments. As refinements and evaluations occur, they must be given enough time to reflect on the experiments.

Many businesses experiment with new products and services, such as grocery stores. One innovation came in 2007, when Amazon tested its grocery delivery service in certain Seattle suburbs. After this successful experiment, Amazon Fresh expanded to Los Angeles, San Diego and New York City; New Jersey and the United Kingdom are the latest locations Amazon has targeted.

4.    Commercialization

Commercialization aims to create market value for an idea by focusing on its potential impact. This step makes the idea appealing to the audience, such as by packaging an idea with other ideas, clarifying how and when the idea can be used, and using data or prototypes from experiments to demonstrate benefits.

An important part of commercialization is establishing the specifications of any given idea. “The promises and potentials of the earlier stages of innovation must be discarded so that the actual benefits of the new innovation can be perceived and communicated,” researchers wrote in Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice. Once an idea is refined, it can appropriately target and meet the needs of the audience.

Commercialization is the stage of the innovation process when the focus shifts from development to persuasion. After the idea is clarified and a business plan is created, it will be ready for diffusion and implementation.

5.    Diffusion and Implementation

“Diffusion and implementation are two sides of the same coin,” researchers wrote in Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice. Diffusion is the companywide acceptance of an innovative idea, and implementation sets up everything needed to develop and utilize or produce the innovation.

Diffusion happens at all levels of an organization. This process is often aided by knowledge brokers, who are effective at presenting an innovation by using their awareness of “the specific content and application into which an idea, product or service can be inserted.” As a result, knowledge brokers are able to assist with rapid implementation.

The use or application of the innovation should be demonstrated by the end of this stage, along with acceptance of the innovation. For the innovation to succeed, it will need the proper resources, a marketing plan for customers and an open culture with strong advocacy. Also important to diffusion and implementation is the opportunity for future ideas; this final stage allows the organization to determine the next set of needs for customers. Receiving feedback, in addition to indicators for success metrics and other benchmarks, enables the organization to stimulate the innovation process once again.

Innovation and Business

Innovation poses challenges. If one step of the process is weak or if a company lacks a systematic process for accepting and nurturing innovative ideas, the organization will rely on serendipity. But with the right approach, mindset and resources, a company can reap the strategic benefits of growth.

Managers play a vital role in an organization that meets the challenges of innovation. In Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, the study outlines key areas where managers can assist with the process of innovation.

  • Managers need to pay constant attention to operational details of innovation projects. Managers should keep an eye on how their projects are doing, and, to ease the burden of this task, they can establish a learning-focused environment that encourages employees to explore and generate new ideas.
  • Managers need to be clear about how ideas are selected and evaluated. Clear-cut protocols are a feature of robust organizations, and these protocols help managers keep their focus on the processes of robust innovation.
  • Managers must quickly respond to external constituents and provide their opinions for experimentation. The right questions can help guide this process to make it effective and relevant.
  • Managers need to pay attention to customer desires and perceptions. Creative use of technology, such as data mining and pervasive computing infrastructure, is important.

Managers can help establish a culture of innovation. An open and supportive environment can lead to organizational success, as well as recognition and professional growth for employees who offer contributions. Aside from building an innovative culture, managers can help an organization and its employees in other areas. At Rivier University, the online MBA program allows students to expand their knowledge of core business concepts — such as project management, organizational dynamics, accounting and more — to develop a better understanding of the industry and how to be successful.

Ready, Set…Reach: Business Management Goals

As trends and business objectives and strategies shift, it seems that businesses are constantly changing their dynamics and operations to increase efficiency and decrease costs, as well as overhead. As a result, the demand for project management skills, as well as a PMO has increased significantly. Here are some ways that aligning project management with business management can streamline operations and increase efficiency, without the cost.

Ready, Set…Reach. First and foremost, implementing project management strategies can help businesses not only define their goals but execute strategies to reach them and in a timely manner. Project managers and even PMOs have the ability to look at a business and objectives from a different light, as this can sometimes be difficult for entrepreneurs who are whole-heartedly invested in their entities.

Project management teams will be able to define business objectives, set quantifiable and qualitative goals, deadlines, assign tasks to accomplish each milestone, recruit resources and suppliers, and even manage budgets.

The 4 D’s. Regardless of project size, subject, and complexity, project managers can implement the “4 D’s” to any business management project. The four D’s include: Define, Design, Develop, and Deliver. Project managers or a PMO can define business goals and objectives, put together a strategy or production plan to meet them, execute action items and monitor activities to reach those goals and objectives, and then finally “deliver” the outcome.

Boost Performance. Finally, recruiting a project management team can assist entrepreneurs and businesses to boost performance. Performance is based on and measured by data analytics today. How quickly can teams acquire data to measure performance and strategize accordingly is in big demand today. However, working with a project manager or PMO can make all the difference. Executing a plan to reach business goals and objectives, and properly aligning business management with project management can certainly boost performance, reach goals and objectives, and strengthen the organization as a whole.

Project Close-Out. Some businesses might think that recruiting a project manager or project management team, or even outsourcing to a PMO can be costly. However, project managers are bred to work within even the tightest of budgets. A good project manager will work to ensure that a project is completed and delivered within budget constraints but without sacrificing quality. This can certainly be a challenge, but it is entirely possible with the right resources and experience.

Finally, a project management team or PMO can work with any business or entity on aligning business goals and objectives in order to launch a new product or idea, restructure teams while increasing work flows and productivity, rework a marketing plan, or even reorganize and reposition an entity in order to reach goals and objectives. Regardless of the entity, product or service, or project complexity, aligning project management with business management is the answer.

How Project Managers Maintain Their Mental Health

It’s no secret that project management comes with its challenging and stressful days. From putting out fires to problem-solving to a phone that never seems to stop ringing, it’s a wonder some project managers keep from tearing through the hallways screaming.

The truth is, project management isn’t always as easy as it looks. And for those project managers who are really good at keeping a sane, calm demeanor, are probably wreaking havoc to their mental states.

So how do project managers keep a straight face, tackle problems, and stay calm on those days when all hell breaks loose? Here are some tips to help project managers stay great project managers and also maintain their mental health.

Stay Calm. First and foremost, no matter what the job throws at you, it’s important to remember to stay calm. If necessary, take a walk to calm down and take a breather. Most project managers can’t fathom walking away or taking a break from a problem once it arises, however, most would also agree that allowing time away from the issue allows project managers to regroup, collect their thoughts, and address the problem from a calmer state.

Keep Emotions out of It. Try to keep the intense emotions out of every situation. Even if a customer or team member is heightened emotionally—or calls you screaming—it’s extremely important to remember not to respond negatively and take it personally. There’s a reason he or she is upset; therefore, the best approach is to listen at what their true concerns are and address them accordingly. Sometimes negative emotions are just a cry for help.

Communicate Clearly. One way to address that upset team member or screaming customer is proper communication. After practicing active listening and really hearing another individual’s problems or concerns, it’s the project manager’s chance to effectively and clearly respond to his or her concerns, show compassion, and provide and offer solutions and/or problem-solve as needed.

Before offering or providing solutions, it may be necessary to take the problem down a notch. For example, it may be necessary to smooth over the conflict and take down the tone and language by showing some compassion and understanding for an individual’s concerns. You don’t have to agree with what the individual might be claiming, but you will have to deal with it. And it’s best to deal with it from a less emotional state.

There are also a number of stress-reducing strategies project managers have perfected over their time and experience in the field. The above tips will certainly help keep a project manager from blowing up, jumping out the window, or doing or saying something he or she will likely regret, which never ends well…for anyone.

Finally, if you are a project manager that is easily overwhelmed or faces difficult projects, customers or team members on a daily basis, then it’s important to remember to stay calm, keep emotions out of a conflict, and practice active listening and effective communication. Not only will this reduce the intensity of a particular conflict or problem, it will also help project managers take control of the situation and manage it effectively.

How to Manage Projects in a Changing Business Landscape

The world of business and project management has drastically changed over the last several years to a decade. We mostly have technology to thank for this. As we’ve discussed, technology has played a huge role in how communicate, manage teams, how we conduct business, and how to improve customers’ experiences.

While there is a great deal of flexibility and convenience that comes along with technology, it can also complicate things if project managers and entrepreneurs aren’t careful.

Here are some tips on how to remotely manage teams to the best of your ability, how to take advantage of technology and really make it work for you, and how to better serve your customers and boost your value proposition.

Don’t become antisocial. First and foremost—as I always say—is communication. Communication is the heart and soul of any relationship, both personal and professional. However, for project managers and entrepreneurs how manage teams remotely, communication is even more important since you don’t always have the opportunity to speak to and see your team members face-to-face every day.

While communication should be enhanced when working with remote teams, sometimes working remotely can cause us to become, well, a little antisocial. Don’t be that guy or girl. Be proactive in your communication and establish and execute a good follow up system. Teach your team members to also be good communicators.

If you require additional help with your projects and managing your teams, taking a project management course could also be a good idea. There are plenty of training courses available nowadays – both online and in a more traditional, classroom format – and many companies, like Activia Training, offer courses on various levels, from complete beginner to a more advanced level.

Do become organized. If you are a relatively new project manager or entrepreneur, you are likely going to learn real quick that organization is incredibly crucial to the success of your team, projects, and even to your success as a project manager or entrepreneur.

The first step here is to find the best way to organize yourself. This could mean making to-do lists, templates, spreadsheets, visuals, etc. You name it. You can certainly get tips from other colleagues or team members, but ultimately, the best approach to organization is to find out what works best for you to stay organized and run with it. Team members also take great comfort when their leaders are organized.

Don’t avoid conflicts. Conflicts are often uncomfortable for humans. In fact, most will avoid them at all costs, particularly those who struggle with confrontations. However, dealing with conflict also goes along with communication.

No, it may not always be easy, but dealing with conflict in the best manner possible can actually be best for a functional team. It can also boost morale. Team members should feel like they can address issues, brainstorm, and propose solutions in a team environment without negative conflict. Remember, conflict doesn’t always have to be negative; and it’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it.

Do use resources when and wherever possible. While project managers and entrepreneurs often feel like they have a lot of responsibility and a great deal on their shoulders—and often times, they do—they aren’t totally left to the way side. There are a number of tools and resources available to assist project managers, entrepreneurs, and teams on managing tasks, projects, budgets, schedules, and customer expectations. Today, many online project management collaboration tools are available that can facilitate project monitoring and tracking.

The landscape of business and project management has changed drastically, and continues to change as technology becomes more accessible and available. However, these constant changes force project managers and entrepreneurs to implement and execute changes to teams, which can involve significant changes to work flow and structure.

The Basics of Six Sigma

For many organisations Six Sigma is simply a way of striving for near perfection in quality. Technically, Six Sigma is a data-driven, disciplined approach to eliminating deviations in any kind of business or industrial process. The original idea is to aim for a “six sigma” quality level, which is six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest limit of specifications — in practice, about no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Of course this is not necessarily a suitable goal for every kind of process where people apply Six Sigma.

Compared with Lean manufacturing (the philosophy developed in the late 1980s by Toyota) Six Sigma aims to reduce variations and approach a theoretical ideal of perfectly consistent process output. Lean manufacturing, on the other hand, seeks to eliminate waste in the process itself. Six Sigma starts with the assumption that the process designer knows what the ideal final outcome is, whereas Lean manufacturing allows those on the “shop floor” to identify unnecessary steps and make improvements which management may not be in a position to predict.

Six Sigma practitioners assume that waste is proportional to process variation (i.e. defects in a product rolling off a production line) whereas Lean practitioners focus on unnecessary steps in the process which fail to add value to the final product.

The Six Sigma methodology is commonly found to have the following benefits:

– Using a self-funded way of making improvements, Six Sigma often reduces costs 50% or more;

– Six Sigma helps companies understand customer requirements better, reduce the waste chain, and improve quality and delivery performance;

– Six Sigma methodology produces robust processes and products, capable of responding to changing customer requirements, and helps use internal resources to drive improvements rapidly.

The fundamental goal underlying the Six Sigma method is to implement a measurement-oriented strategy to focus on improving processes and reducing variation. The implementation happens through “Six Sigma improvement” projects, which in turn use two sub-methodologies depending on whether they are focusing on existing process or developing new ones.

For existing processes, the methodology is called DMAIC, for new processes, the DMADV methodology is used. Both methodologies start with the Define, Measure, and Analyse steps: Define the high-level project goal(s) as well as the current process, then Measure the key aspects of the process to collect relevant data, and then Analyse the collected data to find the underlying causes of defects, preventable waste, and other errors.

If the goal is to improve an exiting process, the methodology then goes in to Improve the process using the previous analysis, and finally Control it using measurement techniques to ensure that the variations are corrected.

For designing new processes, the early Measure step focuses on measuring characteristics which will be “Critical to Quality.” Then, the Improve and Control steps are replaced with Design and Verify steps — the practitioner Designs a process according to the results of the Analyse step, and then Verify the design will work as expected.

Six Sigma implementation is handled by trained Six Sigma specialists inside the company, ranked martial-arts style from Six Sigma Green Belts to Six Sigma Master Black Belts. The Six Sigma Academy states that a Black Belt can save companies around $230,000 per each project and complete 4-6 projects a year on their $80,000 U.S. average salary.

This approach to “professionalising” quality management is a key innovation of the Six Sigma methodology. Before Six Sigma, quality management was largely the province of workers on the production floor as well as statisticians working separately in a quality assurance department. The Six Sigma belt system, on the other hand, sees a clear distinction between roles:

Green Belts are those who have job responsibilities besides Six Sigma.

Black Belts are 100% devoted to Six Sigma implementation and focus on specific projects, generally under the guidance of Master Black Belts.

– Similarly, Master Black Belts are the in-house coaches for Six Sigma implementation, devoting their full time to the process and helping ensure the process is applied consistently in different areas.

Six Sigma has attracted attention especially amongst large organisations as a result of the significant savings it achieved for companies like General Electric, who estimate around $10 billion in benefits from the first five years of their Six Sigma implementation. It was originally invented at Motorola and Allied Signal for manufacturing precision electronic devices. Now it is used in a variety of commercial sectors, from manufacturing to legal, health care, and non-profits.

How to Avoid Scope Creep Like the Plague

What is “scope creep”? This is a term often used in the world of project management. It can create huge elements of risk, it can blow schedules, and it should be avoided at all costs. So what is scope creep exactly, and how should project managers and project teams avoid it?

Scope creep is by definition “the addition of work as a result of poor or incomplete definition of project scope”. Basically scope creep can refer to either late or last minute changes to the overall project scope that a project manager allows, or poor planning or a major oversight on defining and determining the project scope from the beginning.

It’s happened to all of us: We get assigned a project, we analyze the requirements, draft specifications and put together a statement of work, select vendors or suppliers, and production begins. Then, the customer contacts you with a change or addition to the original scope, or a scope that doesn’t resemble the original at all! This happens more often than not. So what do you do? Do you revise the schedule, the specifications, and redraft the SOW all over again and start over from scratch? Or do you tell the customer ‘no’? Neither of these sound like good options. So what does a project manager do?

Project managers must start a new project and begin defining what the plan is right away. In addition to defining specifications and drafting an overall project plan, the next thing a project manager should do is set a commitment to a certain baseline of specifications. This may be easier said than done, but it’s important for a project manager to explain to a customer the risks and impacts changing or deferring from the original project scope can have on the overall project deliverables and outcome.

Usually customers, when armed with this information up front, are receptive and understanding of this. However, we all know that there are those that just don’t. So this goes back to the question above: Do you tell the customer ‘no’? Of course, we don’t want to flat out tell the customer ‘no’, however, perhaps a compromise can be formed between the two parties.

We’ve all dealt with changes in project scope before. Some are minimal changes, requiring adding a couple days to a couple weeks onto the schedule, or some maybe adding an extra QA step or two. On the other hand, some are more complex, no doubt adding on weeks or sometimes even months onto a schedule, which then the budget needs to be factored in. It’s important that a project manager communicate what risks and impacts a change can have on the overall outcome of a project. You can try to be accommodating with the customer, but be realistic. It may be necessary to discuss scheduling changes, deadline changes, or even project price changes. You can also try to meet them halfway and make some of the changes they want, which may only impact the budget and schedule minimally, and perhaps consider more complex changes during a revision down the road, if this is an option within your industry, of course.

All in all, scope creep should be avoided at all costs…literally. Scope creep can get way out of control if a project manager doesn’t put the brakes on early on in the project. Again, in gathering customer requirements, it’s also important for project managers to establish boundaries and agree on commitments as far as what changes can or will be made later in the project life cycle.

The Role of Project Management In Marketing

Project management in marketing is not the same as project management elsewhere. Unlike, say, manufacturing, marketing is not a repetitive or “assembly line” process. Marketing involves many unforeseen occurrences and uncertain activities, as any experienced marketing professional knows all too well. Therefore, the purpose of marketing project management isn’t to try and determine the indeterminable; rather, it’s to significantly increase the chance of success by predicting some things and managing the uncertainty of the rest.

For example, marketing professionals using the “seat of the pants” approach often find it’s a headache to keep up with assigning tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities. Their team’s priorities may seem to be a bit mixed up, with bottlenecks appearing in one or two places. Their projects simply don’t “flow” smoothly. The solution to all this is effective project management.

What Can Project Management Do For Your Marketing?

Consider the example of “agile marketing” instant market research communities. Being able to quickly test marketing ideas before deployment is, needless to say, a desirable capability. Yet being able to create an “instant community” from a target market, set them up on a suitable channel, spark a discussion, and then generate usable data from that discussion requires considerable project management skill. This is particularly true for the “instant” model, where all this must be done without taking so much time or expense that what was meant to be a quick check does not intrude onto the larger project.

Therefore, project management in marketing must accomplish two goals:
– It must be adaptable, on an ongoing basis, to circumstances as they change; and,
– It must be predictable, organised, and structured.

In essence, project management acts as an effective glue to hold the project together. A good project manager spends a great deal of time ensuring everyone in the team knows when things are due and what their responsibilities are. If things are going better than anticipated, or if something goes wrong, they step in to adapt the schedule in light of the progress (or delay) and avoid bottlenecks elsewhere.

Project schedules are therefore living documents. They are not generated once and then pinned to the wall; they’re maintained and updated throughout the project.

Metrics and Marketing Project Management

Key to effective and agile project management are metrics, which enable us to produce usable information about the project quickly. Metrics allow everyone to see where a project is and where it is going, and identify potential problems while there’s still time to fix them. This quantification aspect is often considered the most important part of effective project management, and so it’s vital to identify metrics for both overall progress and individual processes.

Project management is not simply limited to metrics, though. It covers all aspects of project planning: how will resources and activities be coordinated? What is the baseline level from which everyone is operating — what is the reference point?

Based on the metrics, activities, and resources involved in the project, the team can then create a schedule that translates the overall project plan to particular tasks, with milestones, flow, resources, durations, responsibilities, start and completion times, and more.

Project Planning

As a rule of thumb, project planning should take about 5% of the anticipated project time. Spending much longer than this usually means there is waste in the planning process, whereas spending less tends to result in oversights and missed opportunities. For a project that’s estimated to take 200 hours to complete, 10 hours of planning almost always saves far more than 10 hours worth of “fire fighting” and other non-productive activities.

On the other hand, planning is a business process like any other. In this sense, it’s often logical to spend 5% of the planning time improving the planning process, and looking for ways to eliminate the waste which accumulates over time. Once the waste is gone, many companies find they enjoy the planning process — the decision-making and collaboration which defines planning is rewarding for the whole team.

After optimising the project planning process, managing new projects becomes intuitive and very easy. The standard work plan becomes ingrained in everyone’s habits, productivity soars, and embarking on new projects stops feeling like an uphill battle.

Lastly, it’s important to note that no process or plan is a substitute for good teamwork and communication. Project management is a tool to help everyone work together and understand what must be done when. As many people have learned, it’s not simply enough for the project manager to understand the final goal — the whole team must understand it too.

4 Insanely Easy Ways to Run an Effective Meeting

What do you do when you receive a meeting invite? You might groan, feel annoyed, or think, “Why do I need to go to this?” This is often how others react as well. Why does it have to be this way? How do entrepreneurs and project managers get team embers not only excited to attend meetings, but ensure they are effective and valuable for everyone? Here are some easy ways to run an effective meeting.

1.     Appeal to learning styles. Regardless of what you are trying to accomplish in a meeting, it’s the how that’s important. Tailor your topics to each learning style present in the room or on the phone. For example, it’s a good idea to present visual aids such as a hand out or sharing an electronic document or chart, or a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation that can be viewed and shared with the team. This method will engage your visual learners.

Having an open conversation, a Q&A session, or lecture will appeal to your auditory learners. Remember, these are the folks that are likely going to ask a lot of questions or leave them until the very end.

Finally, your tactile learners are going to be the fidgety bunch that won’t be able to sit still. Asking them to participate in a hands-on activity will appeal to this group. If there isn’t enough time allotted for an activity, then having pens or pads of paper available on a conference room table will be enough to keep them busy.

2.     Set an agenda…and stick to it. One of the most annoying things we encounter in a meeting is when conversation topics veer off course. Then, suddenly we are out of time, and meeting attendees leave or get off the phone with the same questions they had before the meeting, or worse, with the same unanswered question: “why was I supposed to go to that meeting?” Avoid this by setting an agenda, as well as allotting a time limit for each topic you would like to cover. If more time is needed on a certain topic, then schedule a follow up session for later on or leave room for some flexibility in your schedule or agenda. And don’t forget to leave time for questions and answers at the end.

3.     Action items. One of the best ways to ensure that information and tasks are taken away from the meeting is to assign action items to each team member. Be sure to assign yourself your own action items. This will make team members feel like you are on the same playing field with them and that you are a true leader, regardless of your position. Each team member should be fully aware of their tasks and responsibilities before the next meeting.

4.     What have I worked on since the last meeting? Prior to meeting again, whether that is in a few days or a week depending on the project or availability, each team member should discuss with the team what they worked on since the last meeting or what they accomplished. This will help keep goals and tasks focused and centered, and will also avoid veering off topic. It will also keep the air positive throughout the meeting.

Meetings don’t have to be annoying or the one thing that everyone dreads. With a little time management and extra effort to appeal and engage various learning styles, a meeting doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. Running an effective meeting will also improve your leadership style and allow you to truly connect with your team members.