Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Project Delivery - 5 Areas Ripe for Regular Detox

In the lead up to Christmas we’re all a little like headless chickens. We push and rush to close out or tidy up loose ends before everyone disappears on their well-deserved breaks and to give us piece of mind. Why do we do this mad rushing about? And, why is it not limited to the festive season? Perhaps it’s habit. Perhaps we’re reflecting those around us. Perhaps we think it’s the right thing to do. Still, just because it’s something we’ve always done doesn’t mean it’s something we should keep doing. The start of a new year is as good a time as any to change and after many years of seeing the same thing, here are the top five areas I believe are ripe for a regular detox now and throughout the year.

1. RelevanceYou’re managing a project and want to see it through to the end. Excellent! One question though – Is your project still aligned with strategic and business drivers?  We get so caught up in making sure a project is on track against the triple constraint (scope, schedule, and budget) we forget to check it’s still relevant. Ask this question throughout the projects lifecycle then if it is, great and if it’s not shut it down and move on. That time, money and effort could be better used elsewhere.

2. Readiness – It’s really easy to get caught up in busy work and what’s currently top of the To Do list. But what about the stuff that’s coming up in the next month, 2 months, or quarter? Plans might show movement through different phases but getting ready for the next phase happens while the current one’s in progress. It’s not enough to know what the next set of activities is. People need to understand what’s coming up, what’s expected of them, the steps to take and processes to follow. Looking forward helps everyone prepare. It also acts as an early warning system for possible problem areas. If you’re busy with the here and now, raise your head; take a look at the future and start getting everything and everyone ready, now.

3. The Meeting Trap – Everyone complains about them yet everyone spends an inordinate amount of time in them. When does the real work get done? No doubt you find time before 8.30am and after 6pm. While others might continue in this manner, there’s no reason you should. There’s plenty written about meeting etiquette, why not follow it.

A real alternative to meetings is going to see or calling people to, shock horror, talk. Ask if they’ve got time to chat rather than requesting a time for a meeting. Catch them in the staff kitchen or, if you’re in different locations and time zones, ping them on your company’s preferred chat platform. Yes meetings are necessary and beneficial. Make them fit for purpose and free up time for real work.

4. Decision Making – How much time do you spend attempting to get everyone on the same page so they’re engaged and everyone’s aligned? Stacks I bet. Every time you attempt to align the more people think, needs change and the longer it takes to get to a decision. Agendas abound and people want more information before making the ‘right’ decision. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing; don’t let it hold decision making to ransom.
  • Be clear about the decision needed. This is the concise background information, current status and potential impact.
  • Ask specific questions that need to be answered.
  • Find the correct decision maker. They’re the ones with serious skin in the game. If you can’t find them return to Point 1, Relevance.
5. The End Point – so long as a project remains relevant (refer above) there needs to be a parallel plan for what will happen when it ends. Will it move to Pilot? Will there be a ‘Go Live’? Will it gather dust in a dark corner of a filing cabinet never to see the light of day again? [If you answer ‘yes’ to this last question, go back to point 1!] Assuming the project is relevant and the business will use its outputs, an owner is needed for the next phase; business as usual operations. This transition between the end point of the project and operational support is critical for the organisation to see the desired benefits become reality. Who is this person or people on your project? Identify them and start working with them as they need to know what’s going on. If they don’t exist go back to point 1.

For more on Transition visit the website and download a copy of the Principles for Intelligent Transition Whitepaper.

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