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Category Archives: Project Manager Tips

Pareto Charts

Over the past month, I have been learning more about Six Sigma because at my current workplace, they have instituted a company-wide Six Sigma Program, where we have a certified instructor and several mentors to assist us through the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) process to not only save the company money and mentor others about the importance of Six Sigma, but in the end we have the opportunity to get green and/or black belt certified.  Sounds like a win-win situation, so I signed up for the challenge! Therefore, I will devote a few blogs over the course of my Six Sigma class to provide you with helpful tips/tricks and what I have learned.  The first topic I will discuss is Pareto Charts, in particular:  what they are, why they are used and ultimately, how to prepare one.

What is a Pareto Diagram? 

  • Pareto diagrams are specialized forms of column graphs and used to prioritize and indentify problems or opportunities, which account for most quality problems in a system
  • The simple process of arranging data may suggest something of important that may otherwise have gone unnoticed
  • Selecting classifications, tabulating data, ordering data, and constructing the Pareto diagram has severed as a useful tool in investigating problems
  • Pareto analysisisalso called the 80-20 rule, meaning that 80 percent of problems are often due to 20 percent of the causes

When are Pareto Diagrams Used?

  • Help analyze a problem/opportunity for improvement from a different perspective/view, as this chart can help paint a clear picture of where the greatest contribution can be made or the lowest hanging fruit
  • Focus the attention on problems or opportunities in a priority order
  • Compare data changes during different time intervals
  • Provide a basis for the construction of a cumulative line

Pareto Chart Template: http://paretochart.org/paretocharttemplateexcel/

How to create a Pareto Chart:

  1. Obtain data from your business for the project/issue you want to further analyze to create your Pareto Chart
  2. Use the above template to open the file in Excel file and go to the Data tab
  3. Sort your data in Column C, Data Tab in descending order.   You should have two columns of data at this point:  one column for the cause categories and another for the values of each category.  Enter the cause categories in the first column of data, which is column B on the spreadsheet.
  4. Enter the values in the second column, with is column C on the spreadsheet
  5. Please note you will need to adjust the total and this template already has the formulas setup to calculate the Percentage and Cumulative Percentage Columns (Columns D & E, Data Tab). It is important that the percentage column equals 100% and the last item in the cumulate percentage equals 100%
  6. Erase any rows that are not needed and adjust formulas as needed
  7. The chart should automatically be populated in your “Pareto Chart” tab

If you have any questions or comments, please use the comment section below, as I would enjoy hearing from you!

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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in PM Tools, Project Manager Tips

 

How to Motivate Your Team

Becoming a project manager is a big step from simply working on projects. A PM usually has to juggle many different tasks, deadlines and resources – human resources being just one of these. Rather than simply doing a job to reach a goal, you need to delegate these jobs and motivate others to complete them.

Whilst training in Project Management will teach you processes, and the technical side of things, it’s always important to be aware of the above – that your new status will mean more people management. Taking the time for some specific management training will help you get more out of your team – and ensure the success of your project.  To get you started, here are our tips for motivating your team.

Communicate

Communication is critical in management – not only with the stakeholders above you, but with your team. To motivate them and ensure their hard work, you need to think about their preferred methods of communication and adapt your own behaviour accordingly. Although they are unlikely to ever realise what you’ve done in this respect, they will be motivated by it!

Be a Good Example

If you set the tone as a good communicator, hard worker, expert in your field and of being fair and just then your employees will respect you. If they lose this respect through any of these channels then they may not feel the drive to work as hard – either consciously or unconsciously.

Delegate

For those new to project management – or those who have perhaps lost sight of the importance of people management – it may be hard to delegate effectively and relinquish control. People work hard when they are given responsibility that they want to fulfil – so let them have it. It’s not only your job to motivate your team, but it’s not your job to do everything yourself.

Give Them Room to Grow

This may not be possible within smaller projects, but it is in larger ones and when you work with the same team regularly. Make sure you identify those who could be given more responsibility and/or promotions – establishing a culture of progression and growth is key to keeping people motivated.

Incentives

Fundamental to project management is breaking your main goals into smaller objectives. Make sure your staff are praised and rewarded (the praise can often be enough reward!) at each step of the way. Don’t allow them to doubt their performance if their performance is good.

Pick the Right Team

This should almost go without saying, but it’s the most crucial part of the process. Once you are in the position of choosing the right team for the project, you put responsibility for their performance back on yourself. It’s important, therefore, to think carefully about who is most suitable for the specific project at hand.

You will need to put some thought into who you’ve chosen, how they like to communicate, and what motivates them. You can then choose which of the tips above, and to what extent, will work to motivate different people.

Guest Post was written by: Andy Trainer,  whom works for Silicon Beach Training, leading providers of training in Management, Project Management and more.

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Pledge to be a Project Daymaker

How would you describe to a friend what a typical day in the shoes of a project manager is like?  Is your answer focused around the actual work, such as it is: challenging, stressful, never-ending to-do lists, or more about the people and the opportunities or gifts that you are given as a project manager to work with several different people and achieve great things that could make someone’s day that much brighter by the positive impacts that a project might on them or just having your presence to listen to them about a work related or personal topic?

In reading David Wagner’s book called “Life as a Daymaker,” he coined a term called Daymaking, which is a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place for all.  Of course, anyone and everyone can and should be Daymakers, but being fortunate to be in a role as a project manager, where you have the opportunity to work with so many people in a given day, you just might be the only person that they talk to/see that day, so saying “Hi” or simply expressing a smile on your face can make their day that much brighter in the workplace, which in turn makes your day that much more rewarding and enjoyable.

Below you will find some ideas for making your team members day, which were highlighted in David’s book:

  • Pass around birthday cards, get well cards, and anniversary, so everyone can sign them
  • Take your team members out for lunch on their birthday
  • If you read a good book, bring it in and give it to someone you think would also enjoy it
  • Know their children, spouse, or pet names
  • Write thank you notes when you think they did a good job, a customer complimented the, or they made your day
  • Smile and be happy to see them.  We all feel uplifted by people who like us
  • Bring them coffee, tea, cookies, or some other little treat
  • If someone is swamped with work, offer to pick up some lunch for them
  • If you need to correct any error or behavior, do it in a gentle, kind way that tells them that while they made a mistake, you still like them and believe in them

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

-Norman MacEwan

 

Team Building in the Desert

In February, I enjoyed a 5-day company retreat in Scottsdale, AZ and one highlight from the trip was our team building in the Arizona Desert.  Would you ever think being in a desert, with your co-workers and their special guest, would be such a neat team building experience?  Well, at first it might not sound that exciting, but if I told you that hummers, a scavenger hunt, and 3 team challenges were involved in this event, it might just change your mind.  Below, is a list of our team building activities that we were tasked with.

Team Challenge #1-Building a Bridge

We had to build a bridge between two platforms to transport your entire team (8-10 people), from one platform to the other with only 4 boards.  You had to pretend there was a valley between the platforms, so the boards could not touch the ground.  The platforms were separated far enough that you could not just use 1 board to cross to the next platform, but rather a combination of a few boards to completely reach the next platform.   The quickest team to complete this challenge wins.

Team Challenge #2-Puzzle Memory

We were given about 10 seconds to look the answer on how to the puzzle should look like in the end.  Then, we were provided the different colored shapes to assemble and match the picture.  If you had to ask to see the solution again, it just meant they would add more time onto your total time.  The quickest team to complete this challenge wins.  Hint: It’s best to break the puzzle solutions into quadrants and assign team members to only focus on their quadrant, so it’s easy to quickly assemble the puzzle.

Team Challenge #3-Scavenger Hunt

Find a list of about 10 different cactuses in the Arizona and take a picture team picture around the cactus displaying a theme, such as risk-taking, teambuilding, customer-first, etc.

Team Challenge #4 – Giant Jenga

Each team member had to take a turn and add an additional 3 levels on top of the Giant Jenga, without the tower falling down, then reassemble the puzzle.  The quickest team to complete this challenge wins.

What Benefits Do Team Building Events Have on an Organization?

  • Ability to bond organization members together both horizontally (between subordinates) and vertically (between managers and subordinates)
  • Helps to learn how each member things and works, such as identifying strengths and weaknesses of its members, and the ways in which the team attempts to carries out its goals
  • Increase team efficiency by strengthening relationships and work habits of your fellow co-workers, with the goal of increasing productivity
  • Helps to build trust between co-workers, which helps to raise employee morale
  • Helps to facilitate more communication between workers and each person’s is able to better understand how each individual job roles all fit together, so better networking paths are formed

What other benefits from team building events can you think of?  Please share your thoughts below in the comment section.  Thank you.  

Click here to enjoy a video from our team building retreat in Arizona.

Happy Team Building! :)

 

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John Foley’s High Performance Framework

“What I learned most from being with the Blue Angels has nothing to do with flying itself.  I learned that the process of engaging at this high level, when my very life depended on successful communication, accurate information, trust and follow through, is the same process leaders and successful individuals use to achieve excellence.” – John Foley

Imagine being part of an elite, highly trained team who routinely achieve levels of extreme precision, then asked to improve your performance by 300%.  John had to transition from a Navy carrier pilot to Lead Solo of the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team and learn to fly a plane at speeds of more than 500 miles per hour & in formations as close as 18 inches from his teammates.  John became one of the top pilots in the world by applying principles that would become the basis for his unique Diamond Performance® Framework.  By using the Blue Angel methodology as a model, he developed a framework for excellence that has informed his life in a profound way and has guided his approach to achievement.

I had the honor to hear John Foley speak at our Peak Performer Event in Arizona this past week for my work and I wanted to share a few highlights from his very inspiring speech.  Each of John’s frameworks below can be implemented in any organization or position, but I wanted to relate these key points in the context of Project Management.

The Diamond Performance® Framework:

  1. High Performance Zone: The gap between your current state and your goals for the future.  By decreasing this gap, you’re in the “High Performance Zone.” What obstacles are preventing you from moving from your current reality towards your stated goals?  As a Project Manager, we often think of ways to take the current state/process and reach towards the highest potential by increasing efficiencies for an organization.  Is time, resources, costs, or something else preventing you from reaching this desired goal?  As a project manager, it is our duty to reach these goals, even though it may take an army to accomplish them, so what can be done to achieve these goals?
  2. Belief Levels: The process of developing a vision for your true potential and deepening the commitment and buy-in to that vision.  Belief Mindset is about the: Process, Product, People, and Purpose that is larger than yourself. What are your Limiting and Liberating Beliefs?  As a Project Manager, do you belief in all that you do in your day-to-day position in managing different projects?  Do you belief in the processes you implement/improve upon, the products/services you support, your project team members, and having a purpose to wake up each more and perform your duties at work for the organization you work at?  
  3. Brief: The practice of creating disciplined standards for preparation and planning through focus, processes, and checklists.  Reflect on each grateful moment that occurred in the past 24 hours and think about what you are about to look forward towards in the next 24 hours.  What are the key disciplines you, or your team, must adhere to as you close performance gaps?  What distractions must be identified and avoided?  As a Project Manager, before you head into work, have thought about the positive things that you have done recently and plan to do?  It’s important to have a positive mindset before walking in the doors to work each morning, as it sets the tone for the day.
  4. Center Point: The alignment of individuals and teams on priorities and a focal point.  Is your Center Point in alignment with your team’s Center Point?  As a Project Manager, are your priorities in alignment with your organization and your team members?  It is important to make sure everyone is on the same page, so everyone is working towards the same goals. 
  5. Contracts: The system of using agreements to build trust in order to achieve greater levels of execution.  Build Trust is broken into 3 parts: Competent, Commitment, and Character. What are key verbal contracts between you, your teammates and clients?  As a Project Manager, it is important to build trust in your project team, so others can rely on you to complete tasks and helps to build a positive reputation.
  6. Debrief: The system for continuous improvement that creates an environment of open and honest communication and reinforces accountability, trust, and teamwork.  Be open, place no blame on others, provides an opportunity to reflect, and causes you to look inward first. Does your team have a commonly understood and adhered to process for creating a safe environment, for capturing critical learning’s, and for celebrating success?  As a Project Manager, I refer to this step as our Lesson’s Learned sessions, as it is so important to do at the end of any project.  This helps you to continue to do what is working well and improve on those items that are not going so well.
  7. Glad to Be Here: The attitude of gratefulness and thankfulness for: being alive, opportunities, and people.  What is it about your organization, its people, and your work opportunities that give you that greatest sense of gratitude?  As a Project Manager, this is a great statement and mindset to have, as not everything is positive in life, but causes you to reflect and remember what is most important.
Are you Glad to Be Here?  Are you going to seize the moment?
John Foley can be contacted at:
Twitter: @johnfoleyinc
 

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Valentine’s Baking Project

Valentine’s Day is a day focused a lot around flowers, cards, gifts, special dinners, and spending time with those that you love.  I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I absolutely love Valentine’s Day, along with all holidays, but the reason for this is because it provides me a great opportunity to show my appreciation for others.  (Plus it gives me a great excuse to bake something special to share with others).

This year, I had a great time making homemade Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes and Strawberry Cake Pops for my family, friends, and co-workers to enjoy.  Both of these projects lead to tons of fun in the kitchen, but as with most projects, you may run into challenges that you did not foresee. Before I get too far into my story, Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes are basically an ice cream cone filled with cake batter, baked in the oven, cooled down, frosted and sprinkles are added on top.  Cake Pops are basically cooked cake with frosting added into the mixture, rolled into a round ball, then covered with chocolate & sprinkles on a lollypop stick (Starbucks sells these, but they are so easy and cheaper to make).

Although the ice cream cone cupcakes were pretty easy to make, I found the most challenging task was figuring out how I was going to transport these dessert cones from my home to work.  I could not simply place them on a tray, as they were top-heavy and would fall over.  Here were some ideas I thought of to resolve this challenge:

  1. Cut holes in a paper plate to put the cones in, but it won’t hold that many on each plate
  2. Use a deep-dish 9 X 13 foil pan and skewers to poke holes in both directions to make a checker board to hold the cones up
  3. Turn the foil 9 X 13 plan over, cut circles on the bottom of the foil tray, and place the cones in the holes
  4. Purchase a custom ice cream cone cupcake tray

Some of you may have opted out for the easy solution of purchasing a special tray, but is that the most cost-effective solution?  What if I never made ice cream cones again or having to store the tray?  This baking example is exactly the type of challenges we face as project managers, as sometimes you are only given with what you have and are challenged to use your creative juices to figure out how to get to the end goal, while keeping cost, resources, and time in mind.  Each of my baking solutions may not have a large different in cost between the 4 ideas, but overtime you may be wasting valuable resources, time, and money without trying to think outside the box for better solutions.

Are you creative?  Do you look to others to come up with out of the box solutions? Do you tend to choose the easy-button option?  What helps you to think creatively?  Please comment below with your thoughts, as I would enjoy reading them. 

I hope each of you have a very special Valentine’s Day! :-)

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The Target’s on the Project Manager

As a project manager, you often feel like you have a target on your back when something does not go well, you hit a roadblock, overlooked something or maybe your project results in failure.  Yes, these each are not fun memories to have and share with others, but most of these challenges you face provide you with a great learning opportunity.  Yes, is is difficult to foresee all challenges that you may encounter in a project, but one thing that you can control is how you handle, face, and resolve these challenges after they occur.

When you hit a roadblock or mistake or failure, I make time to fully understand what caused me to get to that state in a project to learn from it.  Below are the steps I follow to help me further investigate the issue:

  • Set up a meet with all of the stakeholders to fully understand the mistake or challenge
  • Lay down the foundation/guidelines of the meeting by saying we are not here to point fingers at everyone for an hour, but rather understand the issue
  • Walk through each step of the process to identify all trigger points that caused the issue
  • Document the issues, so you can learn from it
  • Discuss how to proceed, how to fix it, & move on
  • Take time to reflect upon the issue for yourself

I have faced several successes in life, but also my fair share of failures.  I would not be where I am or who I am today without these experiences that I have faced, learned from, and moved forward with.   We have all have our up days and down days, but the best thing we can all do is keep our head up, admit to our mistakes & apologize when needed, and simply never give up, but rather just keep learning & growing as a person!

What challenges or mistakes did you learn the most from?

The image I used in this post is a picture my dad had posted on his wall at work and is definitely one visual that comes to mind when life brings me challenges.  

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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in My Experience, Project Manager Tips

 

New Year, New Project Manager Attitude

This past year, 2011, my workplace decided to close our global organization down for 10 days total between Christmas and New Years for cost efficiencies (power, building maintenance, limited staff) and required us to use our discretionary time off (DTO).  At first, I actually bummed, as normally that 1 week is really quiet with so many out of the office, so you can get caught up with a lot of work before the new year begins.  I will say though, as the time came closer and closer to the break and during my time away, my thought process changed.   Take a moment and imagine yourself taking off time from work for longer than a week, where all of your other co-workers have the time off too and will not be sending you e-mails, calling you or even missing meetings.   This option provided all of us a way to all disconnect ourselves from work and enjoy spending time with our family & friends and making time for ourselves to relaxing at bit and recharge our batteries.

During my time off, I got to spend time with several of my family members and friends over coffee, dinner, movies, taking walking, and simply just talking to others.  I also took time to reflect upon 2011 and thought about what I want to accomplish next in 2012 and in the next 5 years, such as:

  • Where I what to be/go on a professional level
  • Time allocated to spend time with family & friends
  • Places to travel
  • Activities/Hobbies I want to do for myself
  • Classes I want to take
  • Organizations I want to join/support
  • Books I want to read
  • Make time for me for my own physical & mental health

Of course, it is not my intention to come across as bragging about my time off at all, as not everyone got to experience a break like I was grateful for.  My intention is to ask each of you to take a moment to reflect on yourself and found out what is important to you or what makes you happy and make time for it–DO IT!  Take a few days off or week, even if everyone else is still working for you to recharge once in awhile.   The last time I took that much time off work was back in high school, let alone taking a day or two off in the past years, so taking that time off allowed me to see what is important in life through a different lens.  You only live life once, so live it to the fullest!  I hope all of you had a fantastic holiday season!

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How Do You Gauge Success in a Project?

Success can mean different things to everyone.  For example, if you completed the tasks you set out for your day, then that most likely means a success to you.  So what makes a project successful?  Is a project successful by answering yes to any of the below questions?

  • Does the project meet the established time and budget criteria?
  • What beneficial impact does this project have on the customer?
  • Has the project meet its return on investment?
  • Has the project altered the infrastructure of the organization to increase future business success and customer impact?
  • Is it simply enough just to the complete the project?

Main Four Items that are Success Measures with the Ability to Complete the Project:

  1. According to the desired specifications outlined in the project plan
  2. Within the specified budget
  3. Within the promised time frame
  4. Maintain keeping the customer and stakeholders happy

Importance to Measuring Success

  • If you cannot measure the SMART goal, you cannot control it, but which if you can’t control it, you cannot manage it.
  • Ability to assess the current performance to monitor and control the project to make sure the project object is met on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of stakeholders
  • Adjust any project initiatives during the project to take action sooner, rather than later
  • Set goals to achieve an objective
  • Ability to anticipate any potential deviation that needs to be corrected
  • Is the quality of the product the project is delivery up to expectations
  • Improved quality of communication by keeping everyone informed, on track, and involved in the project

Tools to Help You Measure Project Success:

  • Give a survey to the stakeholders in a project to see what feedback you receive
  • Have a lessons learned session
  • Complete a SWOT analysis on each element of the project (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
  • Project Budget Comparison between the beginning and the end of the project
  • Project Schedule:  Was the project completed on time?
  • Project Scope Outcome how the stakeholders expected?
  • End-user opinions of the project

What other tools do you use to measure a successful project?

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Project Portfolio Management

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is more than running several projects under one umbrella, as each portfolio needs to be assessed in terms of business value and strategy of the organization.

Video: Develop an Effective PPM Strategy, Featuring: Barry Cousins, Info Tech RG

What is Project Portfolio Management (PPM):

Organizing and managing projects and programs as a portfolio of investments that contributes to the entire organization’s success.  Portfolio management focuses on meeting strategic goals, while project management emphasizes on tactical goals.

Success from Project Portfolio Management:

  • Better project planning
  • Varies projects in the organization (project size/goals)
  • Balance risks
  • Helps to align resources with business requirements
  • Less failed projects
  • Align projects with your organization’s goals
  • Helps to marry up the cost and resource effort with the project schedule
  • Decreased chance of missing out on business opportunities (Delays in time-to-market for new products, applications, services or IT initiatives)
  • Better investment decisions by helping to select & analyze projects from a strategic perspective

Steps to Develop a PPM Strategy:

  1. Clarify Goals
  2. Align Processes with Goals
  3. Select tools based on organization’s processes
  4. PPM Strategy Development Tool

Skills for PPM Organizer:

  • Strong financial and analytical skills
  • Experienced project management skills
  • Good business background
  • Ability to understand how projects and programs can contribute to meting an organization’s strategic goals

PPM Features To Consider in Your PPM Software Selection:

  • Project Evaluation Process
  • Cost/Benefit Measurement & Tracking
  • Schedule/Progress Reporting (Real-time enterprise reporting and support for ad-hoc queries)
  • Dashboards Used for Communication to enhance visibility & maintain compliance (Top-down portfolio planning that interfaces with bottom-up project plans)
  • Resource & Capacity Planning

PPM Example Software Solution:

What PPM Software or Tools do you use to increase your Project Portfolio success in your organization?

 
 
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