Friday, 23 May 2014

The Conscientious Project Manager

Let me start by asking you a few questions about your attitude towards administration. We all know that some of us are better organised than others.

Even so, take a moment and answer the following questions;
  • Are you one of those PMs that is excellent at planning and managing what others do, but not so good at managing your own tasks and time?
  • Do you feel as though everything is under control, as you know all that is going on and therefore, there is no need to review or update the risk register, etc.?
  • Have you learned something useful and incorporated the lesson into the project, and so there is no need to document?
  • Are you lazy?

Buried in Paperwork? Let Derek Bland and PM-Partners help you sort out your priorities.
None of the advice below excuses the lazy – sorry, guys.

There will be some of you that need to adhere to a PM method that is document heavy, and the application is not proportionate to the size and complexity of the project. It may be that there is no company-wide method or project, programme or portfolio management (P3M, for short) standards being applied. The advice below will not get rid of this problem, but may help you to organise your time. p3m global is a Portfolio, Programme and Project Management consultancy and training company that is involved with the design and implementation of project management methods; therefore, we can help define and/or streamline your processes.

The advice below should be adjusted to your own needs and those for the project.

1. KNOW WHERE IT IS - BE ORGANISED: It is essential to be organised form the start. Ensure you have a good folder structure that helps you to find documents easily as this will save you time. An example would be to have a folder for; strategies, registers, schedules and work packages and a folder for products to be produced. Let’s be honest, communication is driven by email and so it is as important to have a similar folder structure for your emails.
2. KNOW WHAT IT IS AND WHAT THE CURRENT VERSION IS: It is imperative that you version (yes, it's a verb in this case!) your documents. A good practice for documents that are being worked on (WIP) are to use a decimal place and once approved/signed off, the version is rounded up to a whole number. This process is then repeated for all subsequent versions. Example of WIP versions, v0.1, v0.2 etc. Once signed off it becomes v1.0, followed by the next version earning a label v2.0, and so on. Another option for documents or registers is to use a date format. I like to use YYMMDD. Therefore, my Risk Register will be Risk Register, PMP Project 140131. This ensures that it will always be the latest version. Make sure you have a good naming convention for all project documents and ensure that all of those producing product documentation follow these protocols.
3. KNOW WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO DO TASKS – BE DISCIPLINED: We all know that projects in a fast-paced and or complex state can throw up urgent issues. However, it is important to schedule set times so that you can review documents - even if only a quick check - to verify that they do not need updating. Make a recurring schedule item in your calendar and add a checklist of activities to the calendar appointment. Break-up mundane activities into small manageable tasks. A simple example* might be;

4. BEWARE THE MEETING, ESPECIALLY THE IMPROMTU ONES: Meetings are necessary and can aid greatly in communication and assist in team building. However, avoid agreeing to a meeting if you feel it is for said meeting's sake. I once worked on an extremely large Government Project. The main project team took up one floor, with additional staff distributed thorough the building. The floor was open plan and so it was easy to see what was going on around you; ergo, it became easier to be distracted. I estimated that around 35% of my day could be taken up with impromptu meetings or chats at the water cooler. Do not be afraid to say that you have something urgent that you are working on and arrange a time to meet to discuss. However, consider if the meeting is really necessary or whether the person just wants a chat or the person may simply want to get something off of their chest. Although this may not be a priority for you, you should try and find some time to listen to concerns, because you never know: something productive may come out of it.
5. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED: I am not just referring to lessons to be logged in the Lesson Log; rather the way that you work. Ensure that you actively audit yourself by taking time to reflect and think about;
      • How have you been perceived in a particular instance; did you try something new which worked, could you have communicated better? Did you provide information to the correct level of detail and in the correct format?
      • How well have you managed your time? Could you have performed some tasks more quickly without compromising quality? Were some of the meeting necessary or did they drag on too long and how could you improve this the meeting next time? Remember you are the Project Manager, many of the team will want to learn from you. Anything that you can learn for yourself needs to be acted upon and so log it – learn it – embed it.
* - Please note that the above list is a very simple example and does not negate the need to update or review project documentation as required. The very act of recording a risk or issue often promotes ideas on how best to deal with it.

Derek Bland is Project Management Consultant & Trainer at p3m global. His experience includes consultancy on design and delivery of bespoke Project Management methods, conducting Project Audits and advising PMs on best practice improvements. As a trainer, Derek delivers on a variety of Project Management Courses, including PRINCE2 and MSP.

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