How do you really know whether your project is healthy? A project is like a living organism and when it gets sick, it exhibits the same symptoms as other sick projects. Some of the sick project symptoms include:
What's worse, when projects get sick the prognosis is poor. Sick projects die the same way as other projects die. If you are interested in the four stages of "project death" and other macabre behaviors, read our new article Project Pathology: Causes and Symptoms of Project Failure".
Just out of interest, a client approached us to assist them in reviewing a troubled project. They had contacted other consulting organizations for a bid as well. We gave them a copy of this article free and they cancelled the project within a month. We got a nice "thank you" letter. So you could save money as well.
Our article on Getting The Sponsor You Need seems to have hit the spot with a lot of our visitors. We have added a new Hot Tip which is a Charter or Bill of Rights for Sponsors. You may want to print it out and show your sponsors ... remember they are the most important person in your life and they have rights too.
How many times have you come across a problem in your project that, in retrospect, you should have seen coming? The process of pro-active risk assessment is too often an intuitive one that depends upon your own experience. The more projects you have, the better you get at assessing risks. The best project managers use a more formal approach to assessing and managing risks. Our risk model (already on our site) and the paper on The Indiana Jones' School of Risk Management should give you some ideas on managing risk more formally. In the mean-time, when you plan a project it pays to be paranoid. The old saying "Plan for the worst and hope for the best" is too true for project managers.
Never start a project without an effective sponsor. As we love to say "No Sponsor, No Start". Our new article Getting The Sponsor You Need gives you some useful tips for getting something as rare as Big Foot or the Yeti ...an effective sponsor. Read this NOW.
Negotiation is probably the most common activity that you will undertake as a project manager. You will be negotiating deadlines, requirements, costs, accommodation, quality, team member aspirations, changes to scope and objectives . pretty much everything needs negotiation. We really like the work of Roger Fisher and his colleagues at the Harvard Negotiation Project. For those of you running towards deadlines, here is a very brief summary of the key negotiation tips from Fisher and other sources.
4 Key Negotiation Tips
1. Know the position
Before you negotiate you should define your "Most Preferred Position" and your "Least Preferred Position". If possible, try and figure out the M.P.P. and the L.P.P. of the person or group with whom you are negotiating. You can always ask them to state their positions. Always start the negotiation with your M.P.P. and understand that most people state their M.P.P. first as well.
2. No Ambush
If you find yourself being "ambushed" into a negotiation, do whatever you can to get out of the room and buy yourself some time to prepare. Good techniques include "I need to go to the bathroom", "I need to call my stockbroker" and " My brain is hurting I need some drugs". Even 5 minutes break can give you some time to gather your thoughts and some information.
3. Facts not froth
In a negotiation, information is critical and emotion is not helpful. If possible, try and get as much information and facts to back up your positions. This may mean that youll need to accept the initial position "M.P.P" of the person or group that you are negotiating with until you can get some facts together. Buying some time [see Tip 2] is vital here.
4. Dont make it personal
In most negotiations, the person you are negotiating with does not "have it in for you". So always try to separate the person from their position. Try to avoid using words like "You" and use "Your position" instead. For example, not "You are being unrealistic" but "Your position is unrealistic". It actually works.
These tips are from "Getting To Yes" by Fischer & Ury. Penguin Books
In our articles, It's The Expectations, Stupid and Into the Twilight Zone, we explore the critical inter-personal and relationship issues of project management. Here is a great little exercise for you.
The next time you go into a business client [or one of your colleague's] cubicle or office, notice what you see on the walls, on the desk, in their bookshelves and, if possible, the screen-saver on their computer. After you have returned to your space, try to remember everything you saw. What does this tell you about the PERSON?
Major tip for understanding other people.
Remember, you are what you read and you are your environment.
We have all felt that sinking feeling when someone really heavy [a major business client or our manager] comes in unexpectedly and asks THE question. I need a new Concrosinator screen. How long do you think itll take? In an X-File-like void, you hear a voice say 3 weeks and you realise that it was YOUR voice.
The common approach to estimation in business and IT projects bears little similarity to the estimation approaches in construction and engineering projects. In our latest article, Estimation Games, we uncover the various games that are substituted for estimation in many organisations. We also provide some tips on how to avoid playing these games and improving your estimation approach.
Major tip for improving estimates
Estimation accuracy improves proportionally with the amount of time between the question and the answer.
See you next time