Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Forward Thinking

As a Project Manager (PM), especially in Technology (IT) or in Professional Services (PS), we have to be forward thinkers. You may be thinking to yourself, don’t we all have to be forward thinking?  Of course we all do, but a PM has to be especially keen on forward thinking, not just about technology in general, but on each and every project. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It will take extra effort, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some suggestions:

  •     Every project has issues.Ask questions continuously about how to solve those issues.
  •      Link the questions to actions (similar to a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat or SWOT analysis).
  •      Rank those actions so that you can determine which one is most likely to be delivered as a solution and the impact of the solution.
  •      Implement the solution(s).

Let’s take these one at a time.

Ask questions

During your project meetings, you will be asking about issues and risks that come up. You will also be documenting them for management review. But  you should also be asking, what are the opportunities that arise from these issues and risks, and then listing them as solutions. In this phase you must not be concerned about ranking them.  Similar to a risk/cause analysis meeting, there are no foolish questions or answers and every response is reviewed equally. This is about solving the issues or risks and possibly improving the progress of the project. Also, this is not done during just one meeting.The PM must be vigilant and this process must be continuous.

Link the questions to actions

The PM must then lead the effort in linking the questions to possible actions. This is the second hardest part of the PM’s actions in this effort. Also, the PM cannot do this alone. This is done with the project team and there will be many opinions on what actions can be taken. The PM must be neutral in what he/she believes which actions are linked to which issue or risk. However,the PM may be the tie-breaker, and in this case, the PM must take the emotion out of the decision process and ask the question:Which action is the best for the specific issue or risk?

Rank the actions

Now comes the hardest part of the process. The PM and the project team have to come up with a ranking process for each of the solutions for the risks and issues.  It all comes down to which action has the best impact, not always the biggest impact, on the project. In this case, what is best for the end-customer and the project? Which action will resolve any issue or prevent any risk?Which action will improve the project? I am NOT suggesting gold-plating the project. Obviously, if the action is extra work, it must be presented to the customer for scope and possible changes. Then the PM and the project team have to determine the cost and the impact to the timeline and scope of the project. The importance of this phase cannot be overstated.  The impact and the possible changes to the timeline are critical and must be communicated thoroughly and consistently.

Implement the solutions


Once the change is accepted, the testing commences.Once this phase is completed, the change must be scheduled to be implemented.  Of all the processes I have mentioned above, this will be the most consistent (but not easier) phase. The PM and the project team must follow the same process as implementation of any product. The difference is that, most likely, the project will not be completed with the implementation of these improvements. Yes, this is a phased approach, much like the Agile method of implementing sprints. The PM must be able to communicate the successes of the implementation of the actions and prove the implementation improvements. The PM must show that the actions taken improved the project.  This is all done during the implementation of the whole project and must be done so as to improve the end-product. Once proven, the methodology I have described must be made part of the PMO/PS process.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.