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The PMs’ I.R.S. Code: Improve, Reduce and Select

pmo project management ruffin veal iii Jun 13, 2022
The PMs’ I.R.S. Code: Improve, Reduce and Select

Welcome to this edition of the ProjectTalk newsletter. 

As project management professionals we must develop the ability to become proficient in what I call the I.R.S. aspects of the profession. That is your ability to develop and practice procedures and protocols that IMPROVE, REDUCE and SELECT essential aspects of our day-to-day professional lives, environments and organizations. 

The purpose is to become as efficient and effective as possible while performing your daily duties.  

As an illustration of the steps involved in these processes, this issue will focus on how to improve your project learning, how to reduce project risk and how to determine if your organization should buy your project methodology or create its own. 

How to Improve Project Learning

Here are 5 great tips for learning more about Project Management...

  1. Get serious

Whether you're a beginner or novice, you need to invest in formal training to boost your skills. So get serious and take the first step use learning tools. Either enroll for a formal training course locally, or so that you can learn from home when it suits you.

Then set aside 2 hours every week to sit down and read books, materials, articles and white papers about projects. By immersing yourself in the topic, you will spark ideas for your own projects that you can use to improve your success.

  1. Widen your scope

Don't just stick to the classical theory of project management. Instead, widen your scope by reading materials that also cover managing people, money and equipment as well as suppliers, procurement and communications.

  1. Write it down

If you're reading late at night, much of what you read will go in one ear and out the other. So every time you think “That's a good point!” write it down. Create your own "Learning Guidebook" and in it, record every tip that you've learned along the way. Then you can read your own guidebook as a refresher. Even better, you can use it to impart the knowledge you've gained to your team. Who knows, you could even publish it as a book!

  1. Get specific

When you've spent a couple of months improving your knowledge of project management, you're ready to get specific. Write down the areas that you're weak in and get detailed materials on those topics. Remember that Project Managers are generalists. They need to know a lot about ALL of the topics in the management discipline. So if there are topics that you're weak on, learn more about them now.

  1. Reward your efforts

By writing down your learning along the way, you'll quickly realize how valuable that information is to you. So feel proud of what you've learnt by rewarding your own efforts! Go out for a meal with friends, buy new clothes or do something special.

By rewarding your efforts, it will reinforce how important learning is to you. And it will motivate you to continue learning more each week.

How to Reduce Project Risk

  1. Start out on the right foot

Too many projects get started without a solid definition of what must delivered. So always start out by writing a detailed Project Charter. This document states the project vision, objectives, scope and deliverables. Only then, do you know what has to be achieved and by when.

  1. Make your team accountable

Why should you shoulder all of the responsibility for the project? Instead, pass on responsibility to each member of your team. Tell them which elements of the Project Charter they are responsible for delivering and make them accountable by holding review meetings each week to measure progress.

  1. Identify risks upfront

Then hold a workshop to identify likely risks to your project. A risk is an unforeseen event that might negatively impact on the project in the future. Examples of risks are: "that our suppliers might deliver late", "that we might run out of materials" or "that we can't find extra resources when we need them". You need to document every risk and determine its likelihood and impact on the project.

  1. Plan risks wisely

With all of the risks known upfront, you're ready to create a Risk Plan. This document will identify actions that you can take now to reduce the likelihood of the risk occurring. So for instance, if your risk was "that we might run out of materials" then strike a deal with a supplier that requires them to make additional materials available when you need them. Or find another supplier as a backup.

  1. Monitor risks carefully

As the project progresses, run bi-weekly or monthly risk meetings to review the risks you've identified. Ask these questions: Are the risks likely to occur? Are there any new risks that you face? Have the actions in your Risk Plan been completed? Is your level of risk reducing? Only by monitoring your risks carefully, can you control the overall level of risk on the project.

And one more tip to help you...

Keep an open book

Communicate your project risks openly to your boss or project sponsor, so that everyone is aware of them. Don't keep them to yourself. Send them a regular report listing the risks and your plan of action for resolving them. It will give them confidence in your ability to control the project and it will help gain their support when you need it.

Create or Buy your Project Methodology?

If you're involved with managing projects and you want to improve your success rate, then you'll need to implement some form of project methodology. A methodology gives you a "roadmap" for delivering projects, providing your team with an element of structure, in a frequently chaotic and stressful work environment.

So, should you buy a commercial project methodology or create your own in-house version?

Before we help you find an answer to this question, let's define what a "methodology" is. A methodology is a pre-defined set of steps that describe how a project should be managed, from end-to-end. It sets out what needs to be done, by whom, when and how. It also describes how time, cost, quality, change, risks and issues should be managed to ensure that the project delivers on time and under budget.

It gives you a complete delivery roadmap so that you can manage projects in the same way every time, delivering projects faster and more efficiently than before.

So should you create this roadmap (or "methodology") from scratch, or should you buy it off the shelf? Here are the steps you need to take to make that decision:

Step 1: Analyze your Environment

How successful are projects in your Company? Which projects fail and which succeed? Why are project late? Which problems commonly occur? Do all teams use the same project processes? Which processes work efficiently and which need improvement?

By answering these questions, you can identify the common problems in your project environment and list the areas that need to be improved.

Step 2: Define your Requirements

After you've identified the problem areas and the processes that need to be improved, you're ready to define your requirements for a project methodology.

Define exactly what it is that you want from your methodology. Which processes do you require, and at which level of depth. For instance, do you need detailed processes to help you plan projects, or do you want procedures for contracting and managing suppliers.

Document your requirements in as much depth as possible and mark them as either mandatory or optional,

Step 3: List the solutions

Great, so you know exactly what it is that you want from a methodology. You now have 3 options ahead of you:

a) Create a new methodology from scratch.
If you have in-house project experts with the time available to create a new detailed methodology, then this is a good option for you. They will need to run workshops to define the overall project life cycle, reference best practices and standards when documenting the processes and implement training courses to roll out your new methodology for your organization.

It's a huge amount of work and will take considerable time, but it may be worth it.

b) Buy a new methodology off the shelf.
These days you can buy, download and implement a project methodology in minutes. The advantage is that it saves you months of work and energy rather than having to create one from scratch. The disadvantage is that it may not perfectly fit your project environment and you will need to train all of your staff in the new processes and procedures included.

This option is best for smaller companies running smaller projects, as they usually don't have the time to create a methodology from scratch and they need to improve their project delivery rate quickly, as their project success directly affects their company profitability.

c) Buy and customize a methodology.
If you already have some project processes that work for you, but you simply want to improve certain areas of your project environment, then the best option is to buy a customizable methodology, upload your existing processes and quickly create a new customized project framework that perfectly fits your environment.

You will be able to immediately adopt new processes that are based on worldwide project management standards, while still using your existing processes that work well for you currently. It usually takes 1-2 weeks to merge your existing processes with the methodology your purchase, saving you months of hard effort and giving you a customized methodology which is a perfect fit for your environment.

Step 4: Rank the options

Once you've identified each of the potential options available, you will want to rank them in terms of their:

  • Total cost and effort required
  • Ability to meet your requirements set
  • Handling of different project sizes.

Step 5: Make your decision

Based on the amount of time, expertise and budget you have available, you should now be able to make a clear decision as to whether you should make from scratch, buy & implement or buy & customize a project management methodology for your project environment.

And just one further tip: If you decide to "buy" a methodology, then make sure that it:

  • Is completely customizable.
  • Is based on worldwide standards
  • Handles all types and sizes of projects
  • Can quickly and easily be implemented
  • Is simple to follow and adds real value to your projects.

So, that’s it. You can follow these 5 steps to make your decision on whether to make or buy a project methodology, to improve your success in delivering projects.