What's Your Best Project Management Tip?

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dhaughey
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What's your best project management tip, the one thing you pride yourself on doing for all your projects.

Mine is to define the project success criteria up front. At the beginning of each project, I make sure the stakeholders share a common understanding of how they will decide whether this project is successful. I make the success criteria yes or no answers, that way there's no argument later over whether we have succeeded.

So, don't be shy, tell us your best project management tip.

Duncan
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Hmmmm good question,

My tip is, don’t allow yourself or let others set you up to fail. If your experience or even gut instinct tells you that something is not right then clarify the issue and fix it before agreeing to do the project.

There is nothing wrong in having the goolas to be an obstinate b' as long as you can back it up with credible facts and figures and prove that your decision is in the best interest of the project and company as a whole.

My second tip is always get it in writing, even if someone tells you informally to do or not do something say please would you email me the details. This also applies to when you give instructions yourself, follow up with a conformation email or at least log it in your day book.

My third tip is never ever accept a job where your personal responsibility is not backed by adequate personal authority, if you do, then your job can become a nightmare.

My last one is never show fear, especially the fear of losing your job, if people see this in you they will exploit it whenever the situation suits them.
Kind regards

Stephan Toth
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dhaughey
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Nice tips Stephan - if you can have more than one, I guess I can :-)

My next tip is to actively manage stakeholder expectations. In fact, managing expectations is the number one activity of a project manager.

All stakeholders carry a certain amount of influence on the outcome of a project. These individuals have a specific business interest in the project's outcome; therefore it's important that project managers ensure they are communicating effectively with stakeholders to meet their individual needs.

If you're not spending a good proportion of your time managing expectations, you should be.

Any more tips?

Duncan
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Hmmm, I agree with you to a point on that one, however, I am having a slight problem with the last line.

I can agree that managing stakeholder expectations in the early part of the project prior to the completion of the planning phase is absolutely essential, no arguments there. However, during these early processes one has to really nail down the specifics relating to those expectations in order to produce a viable plan.

I feel that one has to be really hard hearted and assertive in the beginning of the project and make it absolutely clear that stakeholders can exercise their right to be fickle and refine their ideas or in extreme cases completely change their minds up until the project plan has been completed and signed off. After this time, the elements of time, cost and scope are to all intents and purposes fixed in stone and the only way they can be changed is through the formal change management procedures.

It is also essential at this early stage to make it absolutely clear that there are no freebies on this project. It’s no good saying to the project manager "be a nice guy and do your best to fit it in". If there are changes to the scope of the project that adversely affect either of the elements of time or cost then everyone concerned has no option but to agree that is an acceptable fact of life and be prepared to pay for them in either extended deadlines or money or in some cases both.

Sorting this single principle out early on in the project will inevitably save a lot of arguments as the project proceeds through to completion and will also save the project managers time and nerves.

Funny enough I was actually revising this very issue this evening in the PMI PMBOK video course that I am doing and it struck me then that at almost every stage of the processes section contained an output concerning change request. This suggest to me that under the principles of the PMI PMBOK methodology the above principles have not been adequately considered.

Or it might be just the way that the tutor has put the information accross and actully meant approved change request.

The other thing that struck me was there was no specific mention or reference to the strategic business plan, long or short term goals or busienss objectives of the company all of which are essential to putting the project into context and selling the idea of project success to the partisipants.

Perhaps you would like to comment on this.

So with the above in mind, my next tip is, make sure you absolutely know what strategic goal or objective the project is trying to fullfil. That way you can put the project into context.

Kind regards

Stephan Toth
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dhaughey
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For me, all change must go through a change control process once the scope of the project has been agreed and signed off. Yes, stakeholders do say, 'be a nice guy and do this for me', that's where you need to manage their expectations early in the project. Most of my customers are internal, often senior management, so it can be difficult, and this is where continually managing their expectations plays a part.

When looking at the impact of any change I look at, time, cost, quality, scope, business case, benefits and risk.

There’s no such thing as a ‘quick’ change, that’s what I tell my customers. However, I keep in mind that change can be either positive or negative. So change is not necessarily a bad thing.

On your second point, I agree, tying projects in to the overall company strategy and plan is important. If you don't know how your project supports the strategic goal or objective of your organisation (long or short-term), then you should. There are plenty of 'pet' projects out there that have nothing to do with helping the organisation reach its strategic goal or objective. Best kill them early on.

So my next tip, put all changes through a rigorous change control process. That way everyone understands the impact of the change on the project and can make an informed decision about whether it should go ahead.

Cheers,
Duncan
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My best project management tip is to continuously focus on product quality. To my mind that’s the absolute key to successful delivery and customer satisfaction. Product quality encompasses a whole host of activities from carefully defining scope, detailed requirements and acceptance criteria to checking that the products which are being developed actually match these criteria.

The project manager needs to establish a close working relationship with the customer and users and help create a comprehensive picture of what the finished deliverables look like so that all team member’s efforts are focused in the same direction. The team needs to avoid vague descriptions of scope and quality at all costs. They must work with requirements document, use case models and prototype products to make sure everyone agrees to it. Once everyone knows what the finished deliverables look like, they should plan to carry out comprehensive tests involving independent testers as well as end users. The team should test and verify functionality continuously throughout the project and make sure they have time set aside in the schedule for rework after each test activity. Anything they can do to make a waterfall project more iterative will help promote product quality.

Kind regards,
Susanne Madsen
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Do not develop an attachment to
any one weapon or any one
school of fighting.
- Miyamoto Musashi, 17th century

My #1 tip is to not develop an attachment to any single tool or technique. Use your experience. Each tool and technique is the best when the time is right for it.
Vik Sidhu, MBA, PMP
Viktory Solutions
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Hi,
My tip is to fully cost your project from start to finish, every single person in the company that gives time to the project has an associated cost and its up to the project manager to record those cost and apply it to the project.

I support using ABC to work out departmental cost per hour of use not just the wages of individual resources and executive time is an additional cost too.

The reason for this assertion is that if the project is for an outside customer then s/he should pay the full cost associated with the project. If it is an internal project then it needs to be fully costed in order to determine its viability. Also, line managers who are running their departments on a budges need to offset the cost usage of their departments against the projects cost. This practice alone will go some way to mitigate obstructions and help to foster good will.

Finally, if the project fails, then the full associated cost of the project can be written against taxes.

The basic principle here is that the functional departmental budgets of the company should not subsidise projects.
Kind regards

Stephan Toth
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Hi,
You may be a devotee of the PMI, AMP, Prince2 or even the Australian and New Zeeland project management association AIPM; any one of which will provide you with their version of the defacto worldwide acclaimed qualification, which is all well and good.

However, during your life as a project manager you will inevitably come across other project managers or even companies who are operating one or more of the other systems outlined above that you are not trained or qualified in. This also goes for the multitude of project computer packaged software such as scheduling tools and associated risk and configuration management packages.

My new tip is this:
Study all of the above until you have a good if not formidable understanding of the way all of them work.

You may think you have the Holy Grail as being a qualified PMI but that may carry little weight to a superior or even a colleague who has qualified under, and totally believes in, a different professional banner, especially if the firm you are working for is using his recipe for project management rather than yours. The same principle goes for the software packages; the more that you can confidently use the better are your job prospects.

Yeh Yeh, I know your thinking bummer, that’s another two years study, but lets face it, as a professional that’s the name of the game.

Go on, you know it makes sense. Lol

Kind regards

Stephan Toth
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Here are some really good tips on management of people.

DO NOT TREAT PEOPLE LIKE CHILDREN OR WORSE STILL IDIOTS - THEY DONT LIKE IT!!!

One of the biggest complaints I have ever heard on the shop floor was that managers treat workers like kids or in some extreme cases the anal retentive and somewhat autocratic managers treat workers like complete idiots.

So my first tip in this section is whether it be the sweeper or a highly skilled professional give him or her the respect and trust that s/he deserves.

My second tip is never micromanage a person, they hate it, train them up to a high standard and let them get on with the job.

My third tip is give copious amounts of credit to the person who completed the task successfully, let upper management know that this person or group of people did very well.

My fourth tip, and as a worker not one single manager has ever asked me this question; ask the person directly, 'HOW DO YOU LIKE TO BE MANAGED' you will be suprised at the variety of answers that you will get and you will soon find that one cap does not fit all.

My final tip in this section is get to know your team as individuals and 'TAKE A PERSONAL INTEREST IN THEM'. Lets face it if your not interested in them why should they be interested in you or helping you achieve your objectives.

Kind regards

Stephan Toth
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