06/04/2013 by Brad Egeland Tags: project management best practices, project management methodology, project success
It would be nice to say the more organized and rigid you are in your processes and leadership, the better the project manager you will be. In fact, isn’t that what project management is all about? Defining a methodology and using it and creating and using repeatable processes and planning templates so that we can create best practices, run successful projects and then be able to repeat those practices and processes on future projects so that we can continually realize project success? That’s the goal, right? Well, yes, in theory.
If everything else was equal, yes. If our team dynamics never changed. If our customer was always the same and reacted the same and had the same expectations and always provided the same input or always just stayed out of the way. If the non-PM variables on each project were removed, then yes, that would probably be the goal and the easiest path to success. But we know that’s not the case.
Each customer is different – some are easy, some are hard, some are demanding, some don’t have a clue, some are ever present, some are no where to be found, and others are so far off the mark on what the project really is that the PM may spend much of their time just managing that customer and keeping them from bringing the project to a crashing halt. And each project team is different – made up of different personalities – not clones. And it’s the project manager’s responsibility to keep those very different individuals focused on what’s best for the project and focused on being productive and completing their assigned tasks.
Continue reading “The Inexact Science of Project Management”
05/28/2013 by Brad Egeland Tags: project customer, project risk, project risk management, project team
You’ve seen the movies…the hero is facing certain death if he doesn’t figure out which wire to cut to diffuse the bomb and save himself or the girl or whoever. In the end he always cuts the right wire – I think it’s the green one. But the thing is, he’s always taking a risk because he’s not absolutely certain he’s cutting the right wire. And squinting his eyes as he cuts it isn’t going to help or lighten the effects of the impending blast.
Do you ever reach a point like this on your projects? A critical impasse when a decision must be made that can significantly affect the course of the project – it might even mean the difference overall between success and failure? I’ve personally had this happen to me twice – that I know of. Meaning there may have been other decision points like this that at the time I didn’t realize their significance and thankfully I must have made the right decision…but I definitely know of two. On one I made the right decision and on the other I did not. Both projects moved forward and both technical solutions were ultimately implemented and used, but one went over budget by $185k because the choice I made to move forward with the info I had but was not completely comfortable with was the wrong choice.
So, forget the bomb scenario because unless you have a bomb expert on the phone, then all you really can do at that point is guess. Let’s think of it more in terms of this – I have to make this critical decision as fast as possible (today?)…what avenues can I quickly exhaust to try to help me make the best and most informed choice right now? Beyond that, I’ll just have to make my best educated guess. Think of it in terms of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” What are my three lifelines?
Continue reading “Do I Cut the Green Wire or the Blue Wire?”
05/21/2013 by Brad Egeland Tags: project client, project leader, project management advice, project manager responsibility
Being generally agreeable is a good thing. Being easy to work with – also a good thing. Being flexible is a good thing. Having a very positive attitude…definitely a very good thing. Always saying “Yes.” Think of all the problems that can bring you.
I remember when my wife and I were first dating and she was annoyed that I never disagreed with her. She finally told me some 30 years later, and she probably regrets that day, but the thing is you can’t always be a ‘yes’ man. Conflict is good from time to time and as far as customers go, it’s simply not a good idea to always agree with them.
Too much agreement with your team
It’s great to have a smooth flowing, cohesive project team. When everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals with a common vision it’s amazing what can be accomplished. The danger lies in falling into a trap where ongoing success keeps us from constantly reviewing work and deliverables to ensure quality, from questioning the tough decisions, and from checking in with our team members regularly to make sure we’re all on the same track. It’s easy to get in a groove of success where we assuming everything is fine because we aren’t seeing or hearing anything negative. It’s during those times where the project manager can mindlessly agree with project team members and the team as a whole without thinking or questioning what is being discussed or decided.
Continue reading “The Perils of Always Saying Yes”
05/16/2013 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: FastTrack Schedule Go, iPad project management, Reporting Projects on iPad
Just because we are out of the office doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have access to our full project plan. When using FastTrack Go, we can easily view all of the data that’s built into our schedule, even data stored in customized columns. Much like in FastTrack Schedule 10, FastTrack Go allows us to utilize existing and customization layouts based on the type of project data that we would like to see.
First, let’s take a look at some of the data that we see in our schedule while using FastTrack Schedule 10.
Here we see some “standard” data such as Activity Name, Start Date, and Finish Date but we also see some additional columns for items such as Department, Budget, and project Notes. Continue reading “Creating Layouts in FastTrack Go”
05/14/2013 by Brad Egeland Tags: lessons learned session, project brainstorm session, project management troubleshooting, restart kickoff meeting
Do you remember that panic-ridden moment possibly early in your project management career when you came to the realization that a project you were managing was in serious trouble? Heck, maybe it was even yesterday on whatever project you’re managing right now. It can certainly happen to us at any time and it will happen to you again before you leave this project management life.
Maybe a project you were managing before had experienced problems – maybe even this one – but not the type where you felt you couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel… where you felt nearly all hope was lost.
If you reached this point – the point where it almost seems that all hope is lost, then it’s likely that you’re going to need to take some immediate and possibly drastic action.
I’ve found when this has happened – and yes, it’s happened to me a couple of times – I usually need to take a few steps in order to do my best to get the project back on track. It won’t always work, but these steps will give you your best chance of a successful outcome for your efforts. And it may not involve all these steps, but they can all help if they are absolutely necessary….
Continue reading “My Project is in Trouble”
05/01/2013 by Brad Egeland Tags: project budget, project management methodology, project management process, statement of work
You know the drill. You get a new project by whatever means – usually assigned to you by someone you report to – and then you go about your normal business of preparation, kickoff, and execution. But are you a shoot from the hip type of project manager or are you extremely rigid…following the same very set protocol on each and every project you manage? Do you do everything ‘by the book’ so to speak, or do you follow some sort loose project management process that varies enormously from project to project? Or are you somewhere in between these two ‘extremes’ with your own hybrid methodology that works for you?
I do realize that how we manage projects, the detail and formality involved, and the exact methodology we follow is often dictated by the organization we are working in, but most of us have a tendency to add our own ‘flair’ to the process…however good or bad that might be.
Assuming you have some say in how formal or informal each individual project is run, what’s your process for deciding? What ingredients go into laying the groundwork for how strictly you follow a prescribed methodology for each project engagement that you manage? Please share your thoughts and experiences. As for me, I get handed a project and I generally go through these items to decide exactly how the project schedule will look and how much detail is going to be needed:
Continue reading “How Formal Should I Run the Project?”
04/24/2013 by Brad Egeland Tags: pm profession, project management communication, project management leader, project management leadership skills
Basically, I’m just thinking out loud here though I do indeed have an opinion, and I’ll eventually get to that. But the question I’m posing is this…are project managers born or trained? Are we born with the inherent leadership traits that make us good project managers, or do we learn these along the way? And what are these leadership traits? What makes a project manager a good project manager – or even equipped to think about becoming a project manager at all?
I would be very interested in hearing what our readers consider to be the key traits of a good project manager. For me, there are three that specifically come to mind….
Ability to make unwavering decisions
This is a tough one because out of the gate as a new project manager it’s next to impossible to make those tough decisions and stand by them when you know you might be wrong. The key always is to rely as much as possible on your experienced team to help you with those decisions and any key stakeholders who are available to discuss options with. The project manager that always acts like an island is bound to make a terrible decision – a career defining…or ending…terrible decision and isn’t likely to be in the profession long.
Continue reading “Is a Project Manager Born or Trained?”
04/18/2013 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Custom Schedules, FastTrack Schedule 10, project templates, Tips and Tricks
Throughout many of our Tip blog posts, we have looked at the different options we have for adding features and functionality to a schedule. But, what happens to all those great Layouts, Filters, and Summary Graphs you’ve added to your schedule once your project is completed? Are you going to have to create them again for your next project? The answer to this question, is no.
In FastTrack Schedule 10, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when scheduling a new project. You can easily create template files that transfer all of the customized features you’ve built into our schedules. You can even transfer the Activity Data from old projects as well. Using templates to create new projects is quick, easy, and greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to get up and running. The other benefit is that your schedule will have a familiar look and feel, which can make your next project easier to work with.
The first step in creating a template file is to add all of the features that you would like to use in your file. In the image below, we have built in features such as Customized Columns, Layouts, Filters, Resources, and Summary Graphs.
Once you’ve added all of the desired features to the file, go to File > Save as Template. When we save the file as a template, it will be saved into a “Templates” folder that will allow FastTrack Schedule 10 to add it to an easy-to-use Template menu.
Continue reading “Using Templates to Create New Schedules”
04/16/2013 by Brad Egeland Tags: project customer satisfaction, project information flow, project management best practices, project scope
As project managers, we have many responsibilities and much accountability. In other words, there are a lot of things expected of us and those expectations come from different levels of the organization, from our project team members, and from the customer. They say you can please all of the people some of the time, and you can please some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I would have to say that the role of project manager is probably as close as you’ll ever get to having someone expect you to actually please all of the people all of the time. I’m not whining, it’s just fact.
So how do we do that? Well, of course, in reality we can’t. But we have to keep trying. And in our fervent efforts to do so we need to stay focused on the end goals of the project and the overall satisfaction of our project customer. We need to continually assess… “Am I doing the right things at the right time?” Am I meeting the needs of the project? Am I meeting the needs of my organization? What about my team…am I doing the right things for them and making sure they are still focused on the end goals of the project and the tasks they are supposed to be completing? Am I managing all things properly and to the best of my ability?
For me, I do my best to stay on the track of doing the right things at the right time by staying focused on these three project areas:
Continue reading “Am I Doing the Right Things at the Right Time?”
04/12/2013 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Baselines, FastTrack Schedule 10, Progress Tracking, Tips and Tricks, Version Tracking
In many projects, we are required to track significant changes in our projects. These changes can include items such as status approvals or points of completion in a project. One way of managing these changes is by using Baselines. Baselines, allow us to capture key data, at any point throughout the project. There are, however, other uses for Baselines in our projects as well.
One key use of Baselines is the ability to create “What-If” scenarios, where one can plan multiple versions of a project to find which will be the most effective in the actual implementation. In FastTrack Schedule 10, users have the ability to capture up to 10 unique Baselines in any file. Baselines capture data stored in several “Scheduled” columns including; Duration, Start Date, Finish Date, Total Cost, and Work.
Our first step is to enter all schedule data for our project. In the image below, we have a simple file that has multiple tasks with resources assigned to tasks in order to track work and costs.
In the method we are using Baselines for, the idea is to build several versions of our project, typically by changing Dates/Durations or Resource Assignments. As we do this, we can save baselines in order to compare which versions of the project may be the best fit based on items such as Total Project Duration, Total Resource Work, or Total Project Cost.
Once we have entered our schedule data, we are ready to save our first Baseline. To do this, go to Tools > Progress Tracking > Save Baseline. When we select to save the baseline, we can choose where to save it, from Baseline 1 -10. Here, we will select Baseline 1 and then select OK.
Continue reading “Using Baselines to Create “What-If” Scenarios”