Project management Archives - TAB Corporate

How Successful Are We at Monitoring – Really?

Project Management for Small Business XV

The last topic to tackle in this project management series is assessing the success of a project. I introduced some previous topics by explaining that you probably think the task, such as issue management, is simple….but doing it well is not. I doubt that anyone would underestimate the challenge of being truly successful with a project.

Some newer project managers might believe that if you complete a project on time, the full scope has been delivered and the project is within, or better yet under, budget then the project is successful. I would say these are necessary conditions for project success but not necessarily sufficient. The majority of projects do not meet these three conditions. If you are able to meet them, you are doing pretty well.

Completing truly successful projects involves something more.

Earlier in this series, we discussed defining success criteria. These are more than scope items. Success criteria specify those conditions upon which the project will be deemed successful in your customer’s eyes.

Let’s consider an example: You are probably familiar with Salesforce.com. This is the most popular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system today. Your project is to roll out Salesforce.com to your sales team. The project scope lists out specific requirements such as the ability to track leads, identify opportunities, work as a team on an account, and generate a monthly forecast. Is delivering this scope sufficient to being successful? Anyone that’s tried to get a sales person to use a CRM system can affirm that this is not enough.

The reason is that many sales folks resist using a system regardless of how good it is. Many of them would rather work with prospects instead of entering data into a system. Furthermore, they don’t want management to be looking over their shoulder, which is much easier to do if you have a sales tracking system. Therefore, you can deliver all of the features listed above and a lot more but you can only claim success on the project if your sales folks are actively using Salesforce.com.

I’ve seen plenty of project managers that would claim they have done their jobs by getting Salesforce.com turned up with customizations that fit their business. To be genuinely successful as a project manager, this is not enough. You have to take responsibility for meeting the success criteria of the project. Your success needs to be your customer’s success. There is a very big difference between turning up a sales tracking system and getting the sales organization to use it. It’s very hard to get people to adopt a new system.

Analytické CRM

Analytické CRM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a project manager, don’t be content with saying that you did your part and tried to carve out success narrowly enough where you can claim success. The change management aspect of projects are often more difficult than the technical work. It involves a different set of skills. Your customer may have to be the primary champion and change management agent to get your system integrated into the organization. You will make yourself a lot more valuable if you team with the customer and only consider your project to be successful once it is being actively used and the success criteria are met.

How much more effort is involved in going beyond just delivering a system but getting it to be used?

A lot. It may take three months to get Salesforce.com ready to be used by your sales folks. It may then take at least a year, and often quite a bit longer, for it to be sufficiently adopted by your sales team.

Here are a few recommendations on techniques that you can use to go beyond just delivering the project scope and ensure that your hard work has the impact on the organization that it was intended to have:

  • Make sure training is a priority and is done professionally. You may deliver a great product but your users will only get value from if they know how to use it.
  • Be sure that you are prepared to support the project. Issues will come up. The faster and better that you are prepared to address them, the better the adoption. There may be no better way to achieve adoption of your project than to incorporate some suggestions from your users. The system will start to become theirs.
  • Don’t get defensive / don’t point fingers. It may be true that your users don’t like the system because your customer did not really think through the scope. If you are in a political, blame-oriented organization, you may need to ensure that management is clear on this. But, once the project is delivered, it is unproductive to spend energy on this. Instead, turn your attention to the challenges the user is having and how to get them addressed.
  • Get formal feedback from your users. This might involve surveys, observing them using the system and focus groups. Do this often and try to respond to the feedback.
  • Consider incentives. Sometimes no matter what you do, users will continue to resist. For sales folks, a common incentive is to only pay their commission for sales that were tracked through your system.

With that, we conclude our series. We hope you enjoyed reading this series and learned a tip or two that will help your future projects. If you have any suggestions for additional topics that you would like us to discuss – either project management related or other topics for small business owners – just let us know.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your projects!

 

 

Monitoring the Team

Project Management for Small Business XIV

In terms of completing a project, team members are your most important asset. Even though we’d all like to have teams where everyone’s content works well together, a team that doesn’t run into any problems is the exception and not the rule. If your approach to team issues is “why can’t everyone just get along?” you’re going to struggle as a project manager. Personnel issues are complex, and each situation is unique. In this post, I’ll share some experience-based best practices for establishing the best team-oriented culture, and how to address team issues when they arise (and they will).

Establishing a Team Culture

Here are two questions that I like to ask in job interviews:

  • How do you accept critical feedback on your work?
  • Are you someone who celebrates the successes of fellow team members?

Since we are focusing on projects for small businesses, and presumably projects where team members are already hired, you may not be interviewing new staff. However, chances are you are assembling a new team. Unless you know someone really well, these are good questions to ask for all team members. If someone doesn’t give you an enthusiastic yes, this might not be enough to pass on them for the team, but it should raise red flags to be on the lookout for.

English: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff me...

English: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff members pose with the contractor safety and management team at the C4ISR project at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The Corps’s Philadelphia District, project manager for the Army, recognized the contractors with a safety award. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regardless of the responses to the above questions, get an upfront agreement from each team member that they will accept critical feedback from you, and that they will share in the success of other team members. This verbal agreement grants permission to give critical feedback to all team members. Also, even if team members do not give you the responses you’d hoped for, these questions do a great job minimizing negative behaviors related to feedback and team success.

At the first team meeting, discuss team culture as the primary agenda item.  You should talk about culture even if your team consists of what you believe to be the most positive, team-oriented individuals that you could possibly assemble. You want the team to be working as a unit, and it’s my experience that you can’t over emphasize teamwork and the acceptance of criticism.

Once the project starts, adopt a philosophy of MBWO: Management by Walking Around. Steve Jobs was a MBWO master. He would wander around the project team, and ask questions about what each team member was doing. He could be quite harsh. This worked for him, but I recommend being more positive. It’s important that you also discuss that you will use MBWO in the first meeting so none of your team leads feel threatened. Have a consistent management style for the entire project- otherwise; your team will think that something is wrong.

Finally, meet with each team member or team lead one-on-one throughout the project. Your meeting schedule should depend on your project size. Personally, I like working through my team leads. But different project managers have different styles. MBWO is a good middle ground since you don’t need to have scheduled 1-on-1 meetings with each team member, but you will have significant direct interaction with all team members.

If despite all of these efforts you have a motivation problem, or team members are not getting along, what should you do? This is a complex topic that is very situational. I don’t claim to know the best way to handle each situation. However, I have been managing projects for many years, and I’ve seen quite a few challenging team dynamics. Here are a few experienced-based recommendations that I can make:

  • Don’t Overreact: Make sure that you’re able to observe directly – or at least through multiple reliable sources – that there is an issue detrimental to the team that you need to address.
  • Don’t Ignore: Personnel issues are the most difficult part of management. These issues are never fun, but, they won’t just go away if you ignore them. Even people that you might perceive as good at personnel issues do not like to deal with them. They have learned that the best outcome occurs when they confront the issue directly.
  • Be Mindful of Jim Collins’ Advice: In Good to Great, Collins advises to hire slow and fire fast. Maybe you don’t have to fire someone from the company; you can start by removing them from the project. Either way, if you conclude that an individual is jeopardizing your project, removing that individual not only removes the issue, but you also gain respect in the eye’s of other team members.

Just one more thing: how to deal with prima donnas. These are individuals with the best skills and an ego to match. This is a tough one, and this problem frequently occurs on technology projects. You have a team member with the best skill; this team member knows they are talented, and they want to have a strong influence over direction of the project. I have always embraced prima donnas, and made these workers lieutenants. As long as they are not counter-productive, they can have a very strong influence on the project outcome. If you have prima donna management advice please share…