delegating project activities

Delegating project activities effectively: (7) key suggestions

Delegating project activities is a delicate task, but most often necessary in the management of complex projects.

By working alone you can only do a limited amount of work. Indeed, the hours in a day are limited.

Often, however, especially in the case of the project manager, it will be required to do much more.

This can lead to a real sense of pressure and overload, leading to situations of stress and unhappiness, if not to a real burn out.

One of the most common ways to overcome this limitation is to learn how to delegate the work to other.

If it is done correctly, you can quickly build a group of strong and successful people.

This is why delegation is such an important skill in project management.

In fact, delegation is the main key to maximizing the productivity of a single person.

The problem is that many managers do not know how to delegate effectively, or are not willing to do so unless it is absolutely necessary.

But do not worry, the delegation of the project activities is a skill that, like any other, can be learned and improved over time.

Here are then 7 key suggestions to effectively delegate the project activities.

INDICE DEI CONTENUTI
Learn to let go.
Establish a priority system.
Evaluate the strengths of the team and employees
Always include instructions.
Teach new skills.
Trusting is good, communicating is better.
Use feedback.

Delegating project activities : Learn to let go.

For the project manager, this is probably the most difficult thing to put into practice.

The biggest problem faced by most managers is, in fact, the inability to abandon part of their work in favor of third parties.

Sometimes you feel so involved in the project and in meeting the deadlines that one can refuse the help of other people.

At other times, it is feared that no one else has the skills or abilities necessary to perform the job effectively. In both cases, we end up overloading ourselves and, paradoxically, moving away from the positive outcome of the project itself.

This is why learning to “let go” becomes fundamental for the success of the project.

But as in all things, the beginning may seem so complicated that is postponed.

“This project is too important … for this time I complete it, next time maybe I will delegate …” (And next time never comes.)

Then a suggestion in order to begin with the process is to start with small steps, thus delegating only the smallest and most basic activities, and then progress.

Delegating project activities : Establish a priority system.

Obviously, this system will vary based on experience, sector and types of activities that are normally managed.

Generally speaking, however, it can be helpful to create categories, based on the degree of effort required by a task and the degree of skill.

The category with the highest skills should contain activities that the project manager will have to perform in the first person, while those in the less specialized categories can be delegated.

The degree of commitment is a good reference point in order to understand which are the most important activities to delegate: for example, delegating responsibility for a task of high intensity and low skill will save a lot of time for the project manager.

In order to define the right approach the matrix that Eisenhower, or Covey Matrix, is very interesting and we will discuss about it in a future article.

What we wanted to create in TWproject (in line with this aspect) is the possibility to plan the right priority for each assignment.

Thanks to this the PM can see the assignments for the week, change the priority or remove the points of change: and can do it for every resource involved in the workgroup.

delgating project activities

And not only that: Twproject shows the priority assignments wherever possible, even for the individual participant. In this way each component of the project is able to display and monitor the priorities of his assignments.

delegating project activites - priority od assignment

Delegating project activities : Evaluate the strengths of the team and employees

A project manager should know each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, including his current and potential range of skills.

When delegating, you need to evaluate your team and assign tasks to anyone with the skills most relevant to that activity.

It would seem obvious, but the mistake in which many fall is to delegate to those with the lightest workload or where is most convenient.

Furthermore, it is also important to be consistent. For example, delegating the same type of task to the same team member will increase that individual’s attitude to perform those tasks.

Delegating project activities : Always include instructions.

Although the process in the eyes of a project manager seems obvious, you need to make sure to include the instructions for each activity that will be delegated.

If you have specific preferences about how the task should be carried out, this information must be included. If there is a deadline or strict targets, this need to be clear.

Including simple details and instructions from the beginning will avoid much of the communication gap and will allow the colleague to perform the tasks effectively.

Here, then, inserting a specific document, visible only to the operator with the indications of the activity takes only a short time with Twproject, but its benefit is lasting.

This proactive strategic action will definitely be appreciated by the collaborators.

Delegating project activities : Teach new skills.

The lack of someone in the team who can perform a certain activity does not mean that work can not be delegated.

Have you ever thought about it?

Most skills can be learned, so do not be afraid to teach these skills as part of the delegation process.

Even if the initial assignment of the first tasks will take more time than is actually saved, this must be seen as an investment.

By transferring these skills, it will be possible to assign all similar activities to that individual in the future, thus saving more time in the long run.

Delegating project activities : Trusting is good, communicating is better.

Once a task has been delegated, it is right to trust the collaborator.

This will allow the person to do the job in a serene way.

However, do not be afraid to intervene from time to time and verify that the activity moves as planned.

For example, if the delegation has been done a week ago, it is fair to trust that the team member is working on the task, but activating direct communication is not a wrong step.

This encourages trust and respect within the team and helps to prevent interruptions in communication or understanding.

Delegating project activities : Use feedback.

Feedback is the most important part of the delegation process and works in both directions.

If the collaborators have done well a task, it is good to thank them; if the work was not done in the best way, it is good to criticize them constructively in order to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Likewise, team members must also share their feedbacks and opinions on how the delegation process is working.

This is a fundamental moment in order to determine if the project manager is providing enough information and if the right activities are assigned to the right people.

Delegation is not always easy, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will develop the skills to do it effectively.

At first glance, delegation may seem more problematic than it actually is, but by effectively delegating it is possible to vastly expand the amount of work that can be offered.

Do you regularly delegate in your work? How do you manage the delegation process? Tell us about your experience.

Delegate in effective way.

agile and lean

Lean and Agile: differences and similarities

Agile and Lean are two popular methods in the project management world that help teams deliver faster, more sustainable results.

However, the differences and similarities between these two methodologies are often not clear.

Even the terms themselves are often used in the wrong manner, as synonyms to describe a particular set of practices.

For a project manager, it is important to understand the differences and similarities between Lean and Agile methodology in order to guarantee the correct application and to obtain an effective and efficient organization.

CONTENT INDEX
Lean methodology
Agile methodology
Similarities
Differences
Lean or Agile?

What is the Lean methodology?

“Lean” generally refers to a set of knowledge called more specifically “Lean Manufacturing“, developed in Japan in the ’50s and’ 60s by an engineer named Taiichi Ohno.

Lean Manufacturing has transformed many traditional concepts including:

  • Production should be based on demand and not on supply. It is simply about doing something when someone wants it and orders it, rather than doing it first, hoping then that someone will need it;
  • The production is more efficient if performed in small lots in order to exploit economies of scale;
  • Taking the time to focus on quality also increases production and efficiency;
  • Employers, not managers, are responsible for defining their method of working;
  • Rather than executing predefined tasks over and over again, workers must continually improve their way of working (the so-called “Kaizen”).

agile and lean (2)

These ideas, at that time, seemed to be heretical in the eyes of the American and Western industry, but the Japanese industrial organizations that adopted these philosophies quickly outperformed their “colleagues”.

In short, the Lean methodology says to implacably eliminate all that does not add value.

Eliminating waste means eliminating unnecessary meetings, tasks and documentation, but also means eliminating inefficient methods of working, such as multitasking.

The Lean methodology also places a very strong emphasis on what is called “the system”, i.e. the way the team works as a whole.

Work should always be seen from a higher level in order to ensure that the process are really optimized.

This methodology says to respect the fact that the people who do the job are those who know how to do it at the best. Once they receive what they need to be effective, they must be left “alone” and trusted.

What is the Agile methodology?

Agile refers to a set of values and principles set out in the Agile Manifesto.

The Agile Manifesto basically underlines the following aspects:

  • Interaction of individuals on tools and processes
  • Collaboration with potential customers in the negotiation of project results
  • Respond to change with a plan

The Agile methodology is very similar to the Lean methodology and for this reason you will see many similar points between these two.

The Agile methodology, in general, is more based on development rather than production.

Agile and Lean are very similar …

There are some clear similarities between the Agile and the Lean methodology.

The Lean methodology expects the construction of objects / products in the least possible number of lots. According to the concept that it is more efficient this way.

The Agile methodology provides many small frequent versions of a product, rather than a large production.

The Lean methodology also says that every process should be continuously inspected and adapted in order to improve it. This method is therefore very focused on continuous improvement, the so-called Kaizen.

The Agile methodology also provides for regular checks of the results and of the working method in order to evaluate possible improvements.

Another similarity between Lean and Agile is the focus on cooperation between employees.

In both methodologies, the people – the workers – who perform the tasks are more important than the tools they use.

agile and lean (3)

When it comes to Agile and Lean, nothing is more important than the final result. This result must create value for the customer and is the only goal of the development process.

The Agile methodology allows the client to constantly adapt his needs, while the Lean provides for the manufacture of the product in such a way that there is no waste. In any case, the customer must get exactly what he expects.

But Agile and Lean are also very different

The main difference is that the Agile methodology concerns the optimization of a development process, while the Lean method concerns the optimization of a production process.

In production we generally have a predefined product and we want to produce as many high quality products as possible, in the most economic way possible.

In production, variation and rework are negative and expensive, while in a development process they are good and optimal.

Indeed, in the development process the factors are continuously reviewed and are changed according to new information or feedback.

It is no coincidence that Lean Management was born in the industrial sector with the intention of making production systems more efficient, while the Agile methodology was born in the creative and software development environment.

In the first it is important that processes work in such a way that no waste occurs. This ultimately translates into a final product that is produced as efficiently as possible.

In the second situation, instead, the development of prototypes is foreseen, which are first tested and evaluated in order to then develop the final product.

But the differences between Lean and Agile are not over.

The Lean methodology is often applied to improve processes in all organizations. On the other hand, the Agile methodology is applied within a team, often composed of no more than a dozen people.

So Lean or Agile?

It is difficult to say which methodology is better. This is something that people must understand for themselves and also depends on the organization and the type of project that must be developed.

Both methods are strictly interconnected, everything revolves around the focus on customers and giving them the product they want in the most efficient way possible.

Each method has its strengths and weaknesses and it is necessary to know the characteristics of both in order to be able to evaluate them.

In our experience, success and productivity are linked to how you manage two aspects of work management:

  1. Carefully model the complexities of your work environment – and here, of course, Twproject assists you perfectly
  2. Bring this complexity to something simple, light, quickly manageable and upgradeable by the individual user.

beyond the ideas that surround the “agile” management and the “getting things done” revolve around this process.

And what methodology do you use? Why did you choose it and what are the advantages for you? Tell us about your experience.

Improve your project management method.

corporate environmental factors 2

The internal and external corporate environmental factors and the project environment

Managers must recognize and respond to all the factors that can influence their organizations.

Navigating through the modern chaotic work environments is like trying to drive a small boat to shore during a hurricane.

Just like this small boat, the modern organizations and their managers are faced with a significant amount of factors that require immediate response.

The forces that drive this change in the business are known as internal and external environmental factors.

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CONTENT INDEX

The internal environment

The external environment

Conclusions
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The internal environment

The internal environment of an organization refers to events, factors, people, systems, structures and conditions inside an organization that are generally under the direct control of the company.

Corporate mission, corporate culture, and leadership style are factors that are typically associated with an organization’s internal environment.

As such, it is the internal environment that will influence the organizational activities, decisions, behaviors and attitudes of employees.

Changes in leadership style, in the corporate mission or in culture can have an important impact on the organization.

Let’s see in detail what are the internal corporate environmental factors.

Internal environmental factors: the staff

Employees are an important part of the internal environment of an organization.

Managers must be able to manage lower-level employees and, at the same time, supervise the other factors of the internal environment.

Indeed, even when everyone is capable and talented, politics and internal conflicts can destroy a good organization from within.
corporate environmental factors 1

Internal environmental factors: the budget

In business, even the lack of money can determine the survival – or not – of a company.

When cash resources are too limited, that can affect the number of people you can hire, the quality of equipment and the type and amount of advertising you can buy.

If you have enough money instead, you have much more flexibility to grow and expand the business, or to endure an economic downturn.

Internal environmental factors: Corporate culture

The internal corporate culture consists of the values, attitudes and priorities that employees live every day.

A ruthless culture in which every employee competes with his colleagues certainly creates a different, and more toxic, environment than that of a company that emphasizes collaboration and teamwork.

The external environment

The external environment is composed by factors that occur outside the organization but which can cause internal changes and are, for the most part, beyond the company’s control.

Customers, competition, economy, technology, political and social conditions, and resources are common external factors that influence the organization.

Even if the external environment occurs outside an organization, it can have a significant influence on its current operations, growth and long-term sustainability.

Ignoring external forces can be a damaging mistake for managers. As such, it is necessary that managers continue to monitor and adapt to the external environment.

The key is to work in order to make proactive changes rather than having to take a reactive approach and solve problems rather than preventing them.

So, let’s see in detail what are the external corporate environmental factors.

External corporate environmental factors: The economy

In a bad economy, even a well managed organization may not be able to survive.

If customers lose their jobs or take jobs that can barely support them, they will spend less on sport activities, recreation, gifts, luxury goods, and new cars.

It is not possible to control the economy, but understanding it can help identify threats and opportunities.

External corporate environmental factors: The competition

Unless the organization is a monopoly, you will always have to deal with the competition.

When you open a company, you normally find yourself fighting against established and more experienced organizations in the same sector.

On the other hand, when a company has established itself, it will find itself fighting against new organizations trying to steal a slice of the market.

In short, competition never dies.

External corporate environmental factors: Politics

Changes in government policy can have a huge impact on an activity.

A classic example is the tobacco industry.

Since the 1950s, cigarette manufacturers have been asked to put warning labels on their products and have lost the right to advertise on television. Smokers have less and less places where they are allowed to smoke. Therefore, the percentage of people who smoke is diminished, with a corresponding effect on the sector’s revenues.

External corporate environmental factors: Customers and suppliers

Next to employees, customers and suppliers are, in most cases, the most important people with which an organization has to deal.

Suppliers have a huge impact on costs. The weight of a given supplier depends on the scarcity of his service or product and, consequently, on the possibility of negotiation with him.

The power of customers depends on the fact that they are free to choose between a specific organization and its competition.
corporate environmental factors 3

Conclusions

In project management, you can influence those factors that are closer and more directly related to management, such as resources or project management systems.

It will be more difficult to influence the more general factors external to the organization.

In every situations, the project manager must be aware of these factors. This will also apply to the risks of the project related to harmful environmental factors on which the project manager can not exercise any control. In any case, the project manager has to be ready to act accordingly.

Moreover, the project manager is also responsible for communicating and informing the team of factors influencing a project, both internal as well as external.

It is therefore essential that every organization knows which of the internal factors represent limiting conditions and which are the drivers of the projects for their correct management.

If you have any questions on the subject, please leave a comment.

Simplify your work.

gamification project management 3

Project Management & Gamification: using games for project management

For sure, you are asking yourself: “Gaming and Project Management? Did I read well? “Yes, you read very well!

“But how does it work?”. The idea is quite simple: use a game model to create rewards in terms of productivity and goals.

It is simply applying the techniques used in games in non-gaming contexts, in order to increase the involvement in the activities. Those who face work as a game do not feel they are working. They are having fun and therefore this method increases the participation to the full advantage of the results.

In the company there can be various levels in which gaming techniques can be implemented. Here, in particular, we are talking about a completely new level of gaming, in which we play to achieve the highest level of optimization in the workplace.

The whole conversion of projects and business tasks into a game vision is called gamification process.

The premise of Gamification

The world of work is changing: While some companies continue to maintain a physical office and to follow a traditional approach, others have eliminated it. We are moving towards a new method that has already proved to be a winner: The teleworking system or remote work.

One of the biggest problems that is detected within the organizations is the disengagement of employees.

“Gallup”, the American company based in Washington, reports that 87% of workers are “actively disengaged” in their jobs.

Forcing employees to follow the traditional scheme of the 40-hour work week with limited vacation time is an “old” model that in many situations is already disappearing because it is not very productive.

With this strong increase in employee disengagement, the corporate world is looking for other exciting, inviting models, systems and platforms for employees in order to reach the necessary level of motivation and active engagement.

In fact, in order to manage workers, especially remote workers, it is fundamental to concentrate on the results they generate and also the working time analysis system should be more flexible.

What is the gamification process in practice?

The process of gamification means the application of different elements involved in a game, such as points, levels and rules, to other areas of activity, particularly in the company’s activities.

This change to the business model leads, as already mentioned, to a greater involvement of employees in the work they do, making it more like a real game.

Thanks to the involvement of employees, the job is done in a more concentrated way and is of high quality because every aspect of the work is submitted to the gamification process.

People like recognition and feeling part of something: gamification techniques are connected exactly to this concept.

The games consist of points, levels and prizes. Having these elements – considered social activators – in the workplace should therefore make people feel more involved.

gamification project management

Combining the gamification process with Project Management

The idea of combining the gamification process with project management seems perfect.

In fact, the premise is to use a game model and carefully design systems and points for the employee around the daily productivity and contribution to the goals of the project.

Then, it is possible to have team members who are rewarded and assigned to a higher level each time they contribute to the business in an appropriate manner.

The principles of the process of gamification and project management can simply be unified.

In the management of the project there is indeed a goal to be achieved – the end of the game – and the team members are the means to achieve this goal – the players.

It is also necessary to keep employees satisfied with the environment in which they operate. This will serve to make them want even more work – and success – everytime.gamification project management 2

Therefore, the combination between the gamification process and project management represents a win-win situation for both the organization and the employees.

The idea can evolve in a series of positive situations: One could, for example, have a weekly meeting in which the ranking is drawn up with the number of points of each member; or reward those who reach the top of the ranking with appreciation signals or applause in front of colleagues, etc.

In short, every little gesture can be transformed into a great incentive for productivity, if inserted into the game concept.

The benefits of Gamification

Over the years, studies have shown that this model has really interesting results in the production and quality of the organization.

Proven benefits include:

  • Increased productivity: working becomes funny, and people are more focused and stay in the office more willingly for a longer period of time;
  • Increased employee satisfaction: the workplace becomes an exciting place and workers do not want to lose it;
  • Increased employee retention: if an organization is giving everything that is needed, there is no reason to leave;
  • Increased quality: the overall quality of the process increases and, therefore, the company produces products of the highest quality;
  • Increased employee morale: recognition can be very rewarding for the mind and can elevate the mood of the employees.

What to keep in mind about the gamification process

The gamification process is revolutionary on the corporate front and the management of the project benefits a lot.

This is certainly an advantage, but it all depends on how it is managed.

Below are listed 5 essential aspects to keep in mind when implementing the gamification process within an organization:

  • Challenges and play are part of the fun, but when the games are too difficult or complicated, there can be frustration and a drop in motivation. It is therefore important to ensure that the games are not too difficult;
  • Create games that give everyone the opportunity to have a chance of winning; there should not always be just one winner. This can demoralize employees and dissuade them from trying to do their best;
  • The project manager must be the motivator and part of the team. This is a key aspect to show the caliber of leaders and to connect and engage the team;
  • Avoid repetition of the challenges. There is always displeasure when there are high levels of repetition in the activities offered.
  • The gamification process will not work for each department or team in a unique way and must be properly studied before implementation. It is therefore the project manager and the management that have to make decisions about it. Moreover, if the gaming process does not satisfy the target audience, there should be no hesitation in deleting

Conclusions

In conclusion, the process of gamification within organizations gives the opportunity to allow “humans to be human”.

Gamification capabilities enable managers and leaders to gain complete trust from their employees and help them increase their productivity.

The gamification process makes it possible to reach a win-win situation:

  • for organizations, because the targets and goals set are achieved,
  • for workers, because their level of satisfaction increases.

Gamification processes are slowly catching on and many organizations have already adopted this new system in order to successfully increase the overall production.

We wonder if it will become a model recognized by most Italian companies!

Have you ever heard of the gamification process? Have you ever taken part? Tell us what you think.

Change the way managing projects.

A try is worth more than a million words.
project manager skills

Project manager skills: 9 (+1) key skills

What are the skills of the Project Manager today? That’s a good question!

Project management is not an easy job. In reality, this is composed by a series of difficult tasks, including the start-up, planning, execution, control, closure of a project and, last but not least, the management of the team.

And the project manager must do all this successfully. In order to do this, he must possess a variety of not only technical, but also transversal skills.

The project manager does not deal only with systems and processes, but also with people.

Here is then a list of 10 skills (9 + 1) that every project manager should have. 

1.Leadership

One of the first skills that come to mind when thinking of a manager is leadership.

This is a skill that some consider innate and that can not be learned.

However, we think everyone has the potential to learn how to apply leadership techniques.

Leadership can show up in different styles, depending on the personality of the project manager.

2.Communication

This aspect is closely connected with leadership.

It is not possible to be an effective leader if one is not able to articulate needs and necessities, but also praises and compliments.

Not only does a project manager communicate with his team, but also with stakeholders, suppliers and customers.

Communication concerns not only a personal level, but also specific tools such as reporting or collaboration tools via chat, file sharing and other means that allow to tag discussions.

3.Planning

This is a technical skill, absolutely essential in a project manager – otherwise it is very likely that the job chosen is wrong.

The only way to achieve the project goals within the established time frame is to divide the goal into individual activities along the timeline and to associate one or more team members to each activity.

In short, this is planning, and it is the heart of what a project manager does.

There are many tools that help this process. One of them is the Gantt diagram, which provides a visualization of the program with tasks, duration, dependencies and milestone.
skills project manager

4.Risk management

Doing anything is a risk. Planning a project, big or small, is also connected with some risks.

It is part of a project manager’s job to predict these events before they become real problems.

Therefore, before carrying out the project, it is necessary to insert the identification, the assessment and the control of the risk.

The more a project manager is able to manage risks, the more likely his project will be successful.

Of course, it is not possible to anticipate everything that could happen during the life cycle of a project.

Unforeseen problems can arise, so a valid and ready process to handle them when they arise is needed.

5.Cost management

The concept is clear, without money you cannot do anything.

Once the budget is created, the first task is to make sure that this is realistic and that it is possible to meet the financial needs of the project.

After that, the costs should be checked regularly during the execution of the project.

Failure to meet this requirement could harm organizations that manage limited budgets.

A good project manager has the ability to finish projects not only respecting the time, but also respecting the given budget.

6.Negotiation

Being good at negotiating is similar to communication, but it deserves a separate discussion.

Negotiation is not limited to negotiating the best price from a supplier, even if this is part of the job.

Managing a project means being in constant negotiation.

For example, stakeholders could make requests that may impact the scope of a project, and these must be managed and negotiated.

The same goes for the possible conflicts that will arise between team members or other people involved in the project.

Strong negotiating skills will resolve these conflicts before they explode and threaten the project.

7.Critical thinking

Project managers are not the only ones who can benefit from this ability.

Most of us do not think, but react and follow a series of answers that we have said or learned, like an automatic pilot.

Critical thinking is simply objective when analyzing and evaluating a problem or situation, so that an impartial judgment can be formulated.

Every day we are working on a project, we want decisions to be impartial.

The only aspect guiding the decision should be to pursue the best thing for the project.

8.Activity managementproject manager skills

This is another technical skill that should be impressed in the DNA of a project manager.

There can be countless activities that complete a project that must be created, assigned and managed.

This means that poor management in this process can have a serious impact on the success of the project in general.

In these situations a project management tool could be a valid help.

Features that promote collaboration with the team and which help to prioritize and provide instant updates when tasks have been completed or are running are needed.

9.Quality management

This skill is often overlooked by project managers and is the one that probably needs more attention.

It is possible to be negligent in favor of meeting deadlines.

Respecting deadlines is certainly important, but the project in general is useless if it produces a product or service that is poor.

10.Sense of humor

With this we do not mean to be a comedian in the workplace, but there will for sure be a time and a place for a bit of healthy humor.

The sense of humor allows to have a different perspective, allows to see a problem in a different way and, maybe, also to see a possible solution.

Humor relieves stress both in the case of the project manager and the team. Only when the tensions are resolved, in fact, actions and ideas can be more profitable and productive.

The sense of humor also helps morale.  Working hard does not mean that the environment must be suffocating.

Although this may seem absurd, this ability is definitely not to be underestimated as far as project management is concerned.

 

So, these were the most important skills that a project manager should have in order to improve his effectiveness and productivity in  project management.

Having these skills will not only benefit the organization, but also the managerial career in general.

For you, what are the most important skills that a project manager has to have? Have we forgotten something that is relevant to you? Write us your opinion.

Maximize your skills.

A try is worth more than a million words.
visual project management

Visual project management

Visual Project Management is an interesting approach to project management. A project management strategy designed to increase success by visualizing project components like data and activities.

It is a proven fact that people receive more than 80% of information through the sense of sight.

From the most tender age, we write and draw in order to visualize our thoughts, emotions and things to remember.

Why not use this way to make work simpler and more efficient? In fact, visualization is something we can implement in project management.

Visual management of the project

By adopting a visual project management, teams and organizations can complete projects of any kind with more speed and efficiency.

Visual project management therefore becomes a technique for work management.

Instead of listing activities in “to do list” or wasting valuable time tracking information in the mailbox, shared files and spreadsheets, it is much easier to track the work using a visual activity management tool.

Visual functionalities can be a valuable resource for any design style, but are more commonly associated with agile methods like Scrum and Kanban.

In a certain way, Visual Project Management is inspired by the old school blackboard.

The board acts as a roadmap, progress tracker and collaboration tool for all types of development teams.

This is why in TW project, besides the use of visual tools we have already talked about (such as the gantt chart and issue management), we have created real blackboards.

Physical boards and digital boards for visual management

Physical whiteboards are a common way to share information, for example to gather topics for a meeting. In Twproject, we find the “digital twins” of physical boards.

A blackboard is an “open space” where everyone (almost everyone, security is always in the background) can insert a message.

Here’s what a used blackboard looks like.

screen1150 lavagne

At any time during a project, hundreds of single data are manipulated, transformed and communicated.

These data include labor estimates, capital and operating expenses, activity lists, performance metrics, calendars, cost-benefit analysis, risk profiles, trend data, etc.

As business speed increases and the need to focus on increasing numbers of data in order to keep project execution under control, new and innovative tools and techniques are needed to help project managers.

The visualization of complex data and processes has proved invaluable in meeting these needs.

Visual Project Management as a facilitator

Traditional visual tools such as Gantt charts, Kanban cards, process diagrams, project team calendars, stakeholder organization graphs and similar are advantageous in their own way, but they do not tell the collective story of the general state of the project.

Complicating the issue, sponsors and key project stakeholders may no longer have time for long project status reports or weekly briefings.

Decisions must be made at the moment, with any data available.

For this reason, the traditional discipline of project management, that exploits processes and documents approaches in a “heavy” way, is quickly abandoned in favor of more agile methods.

Some studies have also shown that the information presented in text formats is ineffective and inefficient.

The human eye can see visual schems 65,000 times faster on an image with respect to a tabular form.

visual project management 1

 

These facts have therefore led to the creation of a new niche within the project management community known as Visual Project Management.

The Scrum-ban style

Regarding the current methodology, many of the useful visual tools combine the best aspects of Kanban and Scrum to which project teams are accustomed.

Some users have started calling this style “Scrum-ban“.

Common visual features include:

  • Real time dashboard
  • Timeline
  • Graphic reports (Gantt, burndown, ecc.)
  • Boards (Kanban)
  • Roadmap of the product
Scrum-ban

The key advantage of this new approach is speed, as critical project information can be produced, replicated and digested in more efficient and effective ways.

The adoption of this new approach also offers further distinct advantages to project managers, team members and, above all, to the most important stakeholders:

  • The state of project planning, execution, monitoring and control activities are available in a single view, at a glance and it is easy to understand
  • Improve clarity, visibility and understanding of the project’s overall scope and operational plan
  • Resource allocations, or over-allocations, through the project or multiple projects, are clearly visible.
  • As a consequence from the previous point: better planning and allocation of resources
  • The impacts of changes to the scope, plan, priority or resources are available in real time
  • The information is provided in such a manner that everyone can access it, at any time, place and convenient way
  • Ability to isolate problem areas faster

Accelerate processes with Visual Project Management

Visual Project Management can accelerate progress by sharing project information in real time in such a way that is easier to access, understand and transmit.

Today’s project manager has much more to manage than just the project scope, deliverables, communications and teams.

The visual management of the project is not really a radically new approach that messes up the discipline.

It is just a set of tools and techniques that reinforce what we already know: people work and manage projects more efficiently when they have a clear vision of how the project components move and connect with each other.

The best way to represent and share this information in real time is not with a spreadsheet or series of emails, but an image.

Have you adopted visual project management in your work too? Tell us about your experience.

Manage your project in a visual and intuitive way.

A try is worth more than a million words.
project requirements

Project requirements: how to collect and analyze them

Project requirements are a key aspect in order to complete the project on time and without exceeding budget limits.

This is one of the essential skills of a project manager, often underestimated, which consists in the collection and analysis of these aspects of the plan.

Understanding clearly the requirements of any project you are about to undertake is very important.

Too many projects have failed because of no well-defined requirements.

As stated by the Project Management Institute

47% of projects failed due to poor requirement management.

 

There are no two identical projects: each project has its own set of requirements and it is a project manager’s responsability to identify them correctly.

The more complex the project is, the greater the need to define the requirements in order to find certain processes for each part of the project.

What are the project requirements?

Stakeholders hear the term “requirements”, but everyone get its meaning in different ways, depending on the goals.

Therefore, before we can examine anything, it is essential to have a univocal operational definition.

Part of the confusion related to the requirements lies in the fact that there are several types. We will therefore try to stick to the classification made by the PMBOK (link all’articolo PMBOK)

The 6th edition of the PMBOK classifies the project requirements as follows:

  • Corporate: they describe the reason for the project;
  • Stakeholders: they describe the needs of a stakeholder or group of stakeholders;
  • Solution: they describe the characteristics, functions and characteristics of the product, service or result that will satisfy the company and the stakeholders;
  • Functional: they describe the behavior of the product or service;
  • Non-functional: they describe the environmental conditions or the qualities required for the product or service to be effective;
  • Transitional: they describe the temporary capacities necessary to pass from the current state to the desired state in the future;
  • Project: they describe the actions, the processes or the other conditions that the project must satisfy;
  • Quality: they describe any condition or criterion that validates the successful completion of a project result or the fulfillment of other project requirements.

But why are the requirements so important for a project?

When requirements are not clear, projects are at risk; they may not produce the desired and necessary result.

At least, the missing requirements involve reworking.

In short, the lack of project requirements or their poor definition produces negative impacts on the program and on the budget.

Obviously customers, as well as team members, will not be happy with these shortcomings.

We examine the essential steps to arrive at a correct identification and processing of the project requirements.

Collect the project requirements

A project manager can not expect the project requirements to be delivered on a silver platter.

Stakeholders may not know exactly what they want and should therefore be helped in formulating their requirements.

A good project manager knows how to gather the requirements. In case he does not know, he will have to ask for help from those who possess the skills.

project requirements (2)

The tools for gathering the requirements

Here are some tools and techniques that can be useful for gathering the requirements:

  • Brainstorming: also called as group thinking or group creativity. Usually people with different roles and functions are brought together for this This technique is very useful when you do not have fixed needs and you want try to explore new requirements and new horizons
  • Interviews / questionnaires: this technique is usually used in the case of large groups. Having a large number of interested parties does not allow to organize an individual interview. Be careful, however, to ask the right / pertinent questions for a correct and real collection of the needs of the interested parties.
  • Interviews: a tool that involves personally stakeholders in order to understand their needs. Interviews can be facilitated through personal meetings or phone calls.
  • Benchmarking: in this technique, a comparison is made between existing practices and market best practices. With the gap analysis with respect to these examples of excellence, possible project requirements can be.
  • Context diagram: these diagrams represent a pictorial visualization of various interactions between users and different systems. Therefore, they describe the necessary steps to obtain the results and they may be suitable for identifying the requirements.

Requirements analysis

The word “analyze” means to break down or examine in detail the constitution or structure of something.

If the situation allows it, one of the most powerful ways to analyze is to create prototypes or diagrams.

When users can see and / or touch things, it’s easier to see what they like and what do not like. A prototype or a diagram is more tangible than simple data.

Furthermore, in some cases, the priority of each requirement is examined during the analysis. In order to do this, you should ask yourself some questions. Here are some examples:

  1. Which features and functions offer the maximum benefit for the project?
  2. Which ones can cause the greatest risk?

Once analyzed, the requirements are documented and formalized in the project document.

What the project manager must do in general is to keep his team and client focused on clearly defining project goals and mapping valid, detailed and understandable requirements.

All this, in order to create a final solution that provides what the customer really wants.

The criteria for a project requirement

In general, a good requirement must meet four basic criteria:

  • A good requirement must satisfy a specific need
  • A good requirement is verifiable
  • A good requirement is reachable
  • A good requirement is understandable by all stakeholders

A good requirement must satisfy a specific need

A requirement is basically a declaration of something that someone needs.

That something is a product or a solution that performs a service or a function.

Even if it is verifiable, reachable and well declared, a requirement that is not necessary for the final solution is not really a good requirement.

Of course, the definition of the need will depend on the context and circumstances and must be deepened by the team and the client in each specific situation.

A good requirement is verifiable

A requirement must state something that can be verified through quantification, inspection, analysis or testing.

project requirements 3

It is also important to determine the specific criteria for acceptance, which will consequently guarantee verifiable requirements.

A good requirement is reachable

The requirement must be within the budget and must be technically feasible.

It is important not to write requirements for things that can not be built or that are not reasonably within the budget or project timeline.

This is not always easy to determine and a project manager may not have the experience to judge whether a requirement is technically feasible.

In this case, it is necessary to ensure to include the members of the development team in the review process in order to predict technical problems.

It may be necessary to do a research in order to determine the feasibility of a requirement before it is added to the project baseline.

A good requirement is understandable by all stakeholders

A good requirement is understandable by all the subjects involved in the project. It expresses a single thought, is concise and is written in short and simple sentences with coherent terminology.

In this way, as you progress in the design and development phases of the project, the requirement will not change in meaning and will always remain clear to everyone.

Another advice is to formulate the requirements with affirmative language whenever possible.

For instance, it is easier to develop and test a product that does something specific than one that does not do something specific.

In conclusion, we can say that a thorough understanding of how to design, modify and adapt the requirements processes is the key for a successful completion of the project.

Have you ever found yourself in difficulty in collecting and analyzing the requirements? How did you handle the situation? Tell us about your experience.

Measure your project requirements.

business coaching - 2

Business Coaching. How to prepare for the best by strengthening 4 key skills. (Article for Project Managers).

Business coaching for a project manager is becoming a key aspect of the business.

John Whitmore, recognized by everyone as the founding father of Coaching, defined it as the ability to

Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.

 

Business Coaching: Introduction

More and more frequently, the Project Manager deals with events where problems have to be solved, ideas presented and results presented.

The project manager spends most of his time communicating with team members and stakeholders, internal (at all levels of the organization) or external to the project.

Moreover, we should not forget that he must also motivate the team every day.

For instance, empowering and encouraging team members to improve their skills, attitudes and empathy in order to achieve better results has the same importance as solving problems or communicating in the right manner with stakeholders.

In addition, the project manager needs strategic skills in decisions and behaviors in order to achieve the objectives of the project.

In short, today more than ever, the Project Manager needs to create a work team and “lead” it to success.

This means knowing how to delegate, supervise, but also motivate.

In short, the role of the project manager for his Team is that of a real Coach that not only dictates the patterns but that also encourages, helps, supports, and gives rewards.

For these reasons, a good method that the project manager can use in his own routine is to instruct other people in the project. He can also use different tools that can help him improve goals and communications.

Business Coaching: the effects

According to a research done by the University of Amsterdam (Theeboom, Beersma and Vianen, 2013), business coaching has significant positive effects on

  • Performance an skills (60%),
  • Welfare(46%),
  • Coping (43%),
  • Work attitudes (54%)
  • Achievement of the objectives (74%).

In general, their research found out that coaching in organizations is an effective tool that improves the functioning of individuals within companies.

Moreover, according to another study by Bersin of Deloitte (Garr, 2011), organizations that effectively prepare managers for coaching have 130% more chance of achieving more satisfactory business results.

Business Coaching: the skills to be improved

Based on the above, project managers should improve at least four skills to become effective coaches.

Four are the skills that could help them when they interact with other people:

  1. Active listening;
  2. Powerful questions;
  3. Direct communication;
  4. Awareness creation.

Let’s see them one by one.

Business Coaching: Active Listening

With active listening we refer to a specific attitude.

Strive to listen not only to the words that another person is saying, but also try to understand the complete message.

In order to do this, the person must pay particular attention to the other.

It sounds easy, but it is not!

The situations we live have accustomed us to listen only on a superficial level.

We take the words of other people, but in most cases, we do not contextualize them, therefore we lose the nuances and key aspects of the message.

This is why, if the project manager has at heart the success of the project, he should listen to a deeper level.

This means to listen to the meaning enclosed behind the words that are said.

Becoming active listeners takes a lot of effort and training.

But there are small tricks to start with.

Active listening and really transmitting the perception to be actively listening are steps that can be improved.

Here are some “exercises” to improve active listening:

  • pay attention, looking directly the talker,
  • set aside distracting thoughts and avoid being distracted by the surrounding environment,
  • show that you are listening with the use of a smile or other facial expressions and encourage the speaker to continue by using small verbal comments such as “yes” and “mh”.
  • provide feedback by summarizing the concept of the talker and by asking questions to clarify some points.
  • postpone judgments and personal comments at the end of the speech (even if the temptation is strong!). Allow the talker to finish each point before asking questions and not interrupt him/her with contrary arguments.

In conclusion, the rule of common sense always applies.

You should respond appropriately, treating others the way you would like to be treated 🙂 .

business coaching - team

Business Coaching: Powerful Questions

What are powerful questions?

These are the questions asked to make the interlocutor reflect. Those questions have the ability to create different perspectives and broaden horizons that had not previously been taken into account.

A powerful question brings clarity, action, discovery, intuition or commitment.

It creates more possibilities, new learning or a clearer vision.

Powerful questions cause people to think for themselves. And when you think of yourself, you generally learn more.

The questions are powerful when they impact people and bring them to think.

They are usually open questions and they generally start with the word “what” or “how” and are very direct on the subject.

Moreover, a powerful question gives the person the awareness of the topic and the opportunity to explore it further.

It brings the person to think outside the box, helping to change perspective.

Sometimes powerful questions can cause a bit of discomfort, but a powerful question should be free of judgment. It must simply be a curious question.

If project managers learn to ask powerful questions, this will help them increase their personal and business communication skills.

The key is to always be genuinely curious about the person you are talking to.

Business Coaching: Direct Communication

Direct communication is the ability to communicate effectively during a conversation and to use a language that has the most positive impact on a person.

Direct communication is clear and articulated, it shares and provides feedback.

It is important to reformulate and articulate the concept in order to help people see from another perspective.

business coaching

Moreover, project managers should use appropriate language that is respectful to the person, for example, words that are not sexist, non-racist, non-technical, not jargon.

In addition, the use of metaphors, stories and analogies should be used to help illustrate a point or give a verbal picture and thus help communication.

Business Coaching: Creating awareness

Creating awareness is the ability to accurately integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information and to help people who are talking to the project manager to achieve the expected results.

A project manager plays an important role in creating the conditions for raising awareness. He must ensure that people can bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.

The project manager is responsible for creating a support environment in which people can explore and discover their skills.

Once people know something, the project manager should help them take action in order to allow them to achieve better and more successful results for the project.

Project managers are persons that are organized, passionate and goal-oriented.

They play a strategic role and are the keys of change for their organizations.

They pursue learning, implement changes and achieve success.

In addition, they cultivate the interpersonal skills necessary to develop trust and communication among project stakeholders.

Have you ever applied these coaching techniques? Are there any others that are important to you? Write us your opinion in the comments.

Start planning professionally.

Work Breakdown Structure meeting

Work Breakdown Structure: some suggestions for using it to the best

A Work Breakdown Structure, abbreviated with WBS, is a visual tool for the definition and tracking of a project deliverable and all the small components necessary to create it.

With a Work Breakdown Structure, the project manager can concentrate on what he has to accomplish as he approaches the project deadline.

This is a fundamental tool for a PM as it helps to plan, manage and evaluate any type of project.

With a WBS, we start from the result or the desired final product, we analyze it and decompose it into smaller deliverables or the activities necessary to create it.

In a WBS, the deliverable can be an object, a service, or an activity.

Focusing on deliverables, rather than methods – the “what”, not the “how” – a Work Breakdown Structure helps to eliminate unnecessary and superfluous work.

A weighted WBS helps in planning, costs estimation and risk analysis.

It is usually a graph or a visual diagram that defines the temporal sequence and the process of a project. It breaks down into each activity that will be performed during the project life cycle.

A WBS is often represented as a structure, as a summary, but can also be organized using tabulations or other visual organizational systems.

What are the purposes of a Work Breakdown Structure?

Here are some of the benefits that arise whit the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure:

  • Provides a visual representation of all parts of a project
  • It offers a continuous vision on how the whole project proceeds, helping its management
  • Defines specific and measurable results
  • Decomposes the job into manageable blocks
  • Provides a system that allows successful experiences to be repeatable
  • Sets a basis for estimating costs and allocating resources, both human and other
  • Avoids overlaps or lack of work for the resources
  • Minimizes the possibility of forgetting a critical result or a risk.

 A well-done WBS can make the team work like a well-oiled machine, with the following advantages:

  • Increases productivity
  • Helps project managers predict results based on various scenarios
  • Helps with the project organization
  • Helps to describe the scope of the project to stakeholders
  • Helps to distribute responsibilities
  • Allows a correct estimate of costs, risks and time
  • Increases and improves communication
  • Allows more creativity and brainstorming
  • Focuses on the final results
  • Organizes the details
  • Prevents potential problems
  • Addresses programming issues
  • Helps to manage risks
  • Gives flexibility to the team
  • Eliminates confusion
  • Provides clear descriptions of the tasks of each team member
  • Provides a basis for a clear report on the status of the project, since each task is a measurable unit

Work Breakdown Structure templates

For a WBS, different types of formats and templates are possible:

  • Graphic format: emphasizes visual visualization of the project;
  • Linear structure: presents a time interval and dependencies between the components of a project;

  • Hierarchical structure: puts at the top the most important elements of a project for a greater emphasis;
  • Tabular view: allows team members to easily navigate to the most relevant sections for them.

Not all projects require the same type of format.

This can and must be adapted to the type of project and the type of members in the team.

Work Breakdown Structure: Best practices

1. Focus on the final results, not on the methods / actions.

The key lies in thinking about the “what”, not about “how”.

The main purpose of a WBS is to define the main deliverable taking into consideration the small components that compose it.

If the deliverable is not a physical product, a specific and measurable result must be provided in any case.

For example, if you are creating a WBS for a professional service, you need to define the results of that specific service.

2. 100 percent rule

The work represented by the Work Breakdown Structure must include 100% of the work required to complete the general result without including any extraneous or unrelated work.

Even sub-activities, at any level, should be taken into account, because are all necessary to complete the main activity.

In other words, the elements in the second level are equal to 100% and the elements in the third and lower levels are positioned within the percentage of the higher level with respect to them.

The finished project should never give a sum greater or less than 100 percent.

3. 8/80 rule

One of the common mistakes is to break down the work too much or not decompose it enough. There are several ways to decide when a work package is small enough without being too small.

The 8/80 rule is one of the most common suggestions: a work package should not take less than eight hours of work, and no more than 80 hours.

Other rules suggest not to give activities that exceed ten working days – which is equal to 80 hours if you consider a full-time employee.

In other words, a work package should not take more than a month to complete.

Clearly, this rule should be applied if it makes sense within the project and the industry.

4. Attention to the level of detail

In general, work packages should provide activities that can be completed by a team member, or by the team in general, within a reference period.

If the team is less experienced and needs more supervision and coaching, one solution is to make the work packages smaller and shorter.

If you have a deliverable that may take longer to complete or cost more than your given budget, it may be useful to divide the project into smaller deliverables with shorter work times.

With a more frequent reporting and review time, you can solve problems and solve them earlier.

Another suggestion is to create tasks and delegate activities at the beginning of a project, but in case and if necessary create new tasks and new delegations during a project.

Work Breakdown Structure

How to create a Work Breakdown Structure

The first step to create a WBS is to bring the team together.

Regardless of whether the team works in an office or remotely, it is essential that members participate in identifying derivables.

Collaborators must know exactly what is happening.

The project manager must also assemble the key documents of the project in order to start the development of the Work Breakdown Structure: the project charter, the problem that the project will solve, the scope definition, the documentation that refers to the existing processes for the project management, etc.

To start the creation, it is necessary to define the level one, ie the main result of the project.

Then gradually add as many details as possible. From the second level you will descend to the smaller pieces up to the third level, to the fourth level, and more, if necessary.

It is important to always define what is required in the previous level in the most detailed way possible before moving on to the next levels. It will be essential to further break down the work.

Here is a brief structure that can be useful for writing a WBS:

  • Determine and describe the project result;
  • Highlight all the necessary phases of the project;
  • Divide the final results into manageable tasks;
  • Assign each section and make sure that each owner, ie the corresponding team member, has all the information, skills and knowledge necessary to complete the job.
  • Ensure frequent feedback. The WBS is a dynamic document, whose content can be revisited, even frequently, to ensure the correct execution and delivery of the project.

In conclusion, the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure is a team effort and is the point of arrival of multiple inputs and perspectives for the given project.

Its goal is to make a large project more manageable.

The deconstruction into smaller blocks means that work can be done simultaneously by different team members. This will lead to better productivity and easier management of the project in general.

Have you ever created a WBS structure for your project? What tools and methods did you use?

Share them with us in the comments below.

Start creating your Work Breakdown Structure.

gtd method (2)

The Getting Things Done method: 5 important steps for managing time

The GTD (Getting Things Done) method is a system that allows to efficiently organize one´s activities in relation to time, thus remaining productive.

It may seem complicated from an external point of view, but the ultimate goal is to optimize the time to devote to the activities that need to be done, in order to have more time for the activities that a person wants to do.

The GTD method, if used correctly, allows to simplify both the working as well as the private life. In fact, this method can be used in both situations.

The GTD method: let’s deepen the subject

The GTD is a method used for organizing things to do, based on their priorities and on a – daily, weekly, monthly – schedule in order to make them all manageable.

This method allows you to see the activities at stake and to choose efficiently on what and how to work in the future.

The GTD method also allows you to eliminate from your mind any distractions that may impede efficient work.

All this sounds amazing, but this method is also known to be complicated.

Part of the reason for this reputation lies in the fact that there is no single and always valid and correct way to put it into practice.

For sure there are some guidelines, but there is no precise scheme to follow. The application of the GTD method varies in every situation.

Part of this flexibility makes it easy to customize it in order to suit your needs. On the other hand, it makes it difficult to approach and put into practice.

Let´s try to understand how it works in a very simple way.

gtd method doing

The 5 phases of the GTD method

The GTD method is basically an organizational system. In fact, it does not set precise rules on how to carry out the work concretely.

The method focuses on how to organize, structure and choose the work to be done and is based on 5 phases or steps:

1.Collect

Here are meant all things to do, ideas, recurring tasks, in short, really everything

Collect and write everything in a notebook, in a Word sheet, on post-it, on any tool you prefer to use for your organization.

The GTD method does not tell you to use a specific tool, but whatever you use must adapt to your daily flow. There must be no excuse to say “I will add it to my list later”.

2.Analyze

Do not just write “Vacation Planning”, but divide it into practical and executable steps. For example: choose the destination, search for the flight, look for the hotel, etc.

If something can be done right away and you have time to do it, you have to take advantage of it, and do it right away.

If a thing can be delegated, then it should be delegated.

3.Organize everything by category and priority

Assign expiration dates and deadlines where possible, and set reminders to comply with them.

Pay particular attention to the priority of each activity.

Right now you are not concretely doing any of the items on the list, but you are just organizing the list and the points, according to category and priority.

4.Doing

At this point, the system is realized to make it easily understandable and it’s now time to get involved and get to work.

The activities are divided into manageable blocks, of limited size, easy to start. There are no more excuses.

5.Review

Periodically perform a detailed review of the points to see where progress is being made. It is also good in order to see where changes in priorities and categories are necessary and, in general, to verify if the system works.

How to start with the GTD method

Including the basic premises of the GTD method, getting started is simple.

In fact, it is likely that many project managers already use some of the pillars of the GTD and that these are already part of their workflow.

It is probable but not so obvious. So, for those who want to try, here is how to get started.

First of all, we need a tool to acquire and organize all the ideas, activities and tasks to be done, responsibilities, everything that we need to remember.

gtd method

It is necessary to choose a method, an instrument or a tool that allows us to report the new information given to us as quickly as possible.

If the boss announces a new task, in fact, this has to be reported in the tool chosen in the most immediate way.

If the current method does not allow this freedom, it must be changed.

Here is the point that most people do not: dedicate some time each week, or at the beginning of each day, to really get in touch with things to do.

How many of us, entering the office, sit at the desk and start working blindly, thinking only about the individual activities without thinking or having a general picture of the day?

Tasks must be organized into specific tasks that can be managed according to schedule and priority.

Ideally, if the GTD method is executed correctly, all the tasks to be done should be easily displayed. You can quickly see what is most important, what takes more or less time, what can be postponed.

How a person organizes himself, specifically depends on the person, but a fundamental rule is: do not overdo it.

If the list begins to fill with categories, variable priorities and all kinds of labels, flags and possible functions, it’s time to get back to the starting point and simplify.

And above all, do not forget the periodic review, preferably weekly.

Conclusions on the GTD method

The GTD method has a lot to offer, but let’s not forget it: it’s just an organizational philosophy and it’s not suitable for everyone.

In fact, there are several other productivity tools and systems to choose from and the GTD method is only one of them.

The goal of the GTD method is to devote some time for organizing the activities in order to subsequently obtain a large amount of time that would otherwise have been spent on unnecessary and unproductive work.

You will generally be more relaxed, because you will not have to worry anymore with the thought of what to do next, how to do it or when you will have time to do it.

In our experience, success and productivity are connected to how you manage two aspects of work management:

  1. Carefully model the complexities of your work environment – and here, of course, Twproject assists you wonderfully
  2. Bring this complexity to something simple, light, quickly manageable by the individual user.

Many ideas surrounding “agile” and “getting things done” management move around this process.

The final result should be to be more in tune with work and to be more involved in the personal life.

And you, what method of organization of activities do you use?

What is your relationship with the GTD method? Write it in the comments.

Complete the activities with the right method.

program manager and project manager (2)

Differences between Program manager and Project manager: the two roles compared

Program managers and project managers, two roles with similar titles will not be so different, right? Wrong!

It is easy to get confused for the assonance, but above all because in some companies the Project Manager carries out tasks and activities that are very similar to those of the Program Manager.

In reality, the Program Manager and the Project Manager, although sharing similar responsibilities, have positions that are quite distinct due to key differences.

Projects vs. Programs

Before discussing the similarities and differences between the two roles, it is fundamental to understand what is the difference between projects and programs.

Projects are temporary, are implemented one-off, and are generally limited by costs, resources, budgets and time constraints.

Projects have clear end dates and short-term goals that turn into tangible results or derivables.

program manager goals

The programs are instead composed of several underlying and interconnected projects.

These projects complete each other in order to achieve a broader and longer-term business goal.

A successful program brings strategic benefits and organizational growth, rather than a single tangible result.

Note

In short, a project manager has a more focused view on work within a single project; on the other hand, the program manager has a broad view of all workflows that lead to a “higher” goal.

Who is a Program Manager?

A Program Manager is a professional who articulates the strategy and goals of a program. His assessment will focus on how the program will impact the company in general.

The achievement of the general goals will pass from a list of interdependent projects that He (or She) must define, manage, and supervise.

The program manager creates a main schedule for managing dependencies between projects. A program risk management plan and a program communication plan are thus created.

The program manager therefore does not manage the projects, but rather provides the necessary supervision to ensure that the pieces of each project are completed in an effective and efficient way. The goal is to meet the needs of other projects in order to achieve the overall goal.

It may be useful to think of a program manager as an architect who designs a project.

An architect does not install the electrical system and does not build the walls of a house, but makes sure that all these pieces come together to create a solid and usable building.

program manager workers

The role of the Program Manager goes beyond the completion of individual projects and has as focus the long-term implementation of the whole company program.

The responsibilities of the Program Manager

The responsibilities of the Program Manager include: recruiting teams, implementing strategies, measuring ROI and other high-level activities and tasks.

A program manager is a highly qualified leader with a vision towards the future of the company.

The program manager should correctly and accurately inform the project managers of the corporate goal that needs to be achieved.

If the business strategy changes, the program manager must communicate it to the various project managers so that they are aware of the changes and can implement them into the individual projects.

The program manager focuses on the strategy and implementation plan and, as a result, delegates projects according to these factors.

The control of a program manager goes well beyond the life span of the single projects and focuses on long-term benefits for the company.

Who is a Project Manager?

The project manager manages the operations of the individual projects within the programs.

He (or She) coordinates the time, budget and resources needed to complete the work within the program guidelines. Moreover, he reports to the Program Manager on progress and any changes made to the initial project plan.

The role of the project manager is more tactical than that of the program manager. If program managers are architects, project managers are like team leaders.

A project manager focuses mainly on the execution and management of the functional elements of the project, this includes meeting deadlines, respecting the budget, delegating activities and achieving results.

Once the project has been completed and its goal has been achieved, the role of the project manager, with respect to that single project, ceases.

Program Manager and Project Manager

Let’s recap the three main differences between a program manager and a project manager:

  • Program managers supervise groups of projects; project managers supervise individual projects;
  • Program managers focus on long-term business goals; project managers work to achieve concrete results in the short term;
  • Program managers are strategic; project managers are tactical.

One can think and believe that a program manager possesses a wider range of skills and power with respect to a project manager.

In reality, a program manager must wear different glasses in order to look at the program from different perspectives and thus have an overview.

Through these different perspectives, the correct identification and segregation of individual projects arises in order to achieve the company goal.

Once these perspectives are established and segregation is carried out, the role of project managers becomes prevalent.

Project managers do not need glasses to get a general vision, but rather they focus on the goals of the project and manage the process and the workflow that can lead to the success of the single project.

After listing the main differences between these two professional roles, it remains only to mention a great resemblance between the two.

Both are “structured” roles that require heterogeneous skills and individuals who want to strive to make a difference in the business and industrial world to which they belong.

Did you know the difference between project manager and program manager? Do you believe there are further noteworthy differences between these two? Leave us your opinion.

Manage programs and projects professionally.

corporate change 3

Corporate change: the 8 reasons that cause difficulties and resistance

Today, the resistance to change in the company is a very important, and the same time delicate, subject.

In fact, in business, it is assumed that – big or small – organizations must change to remain competitive and survive in an ever-changing market.

However, facing this (big) change leads to face resistance barriers.

There are many different types of organizational changes.

Organizations can change:

  • their strategy,
  • their use of technology,
  • their structure,
  • their culture,
  • any combination of these aspects.

That’s why having a perspective view becomes fundamental.

Only by looking forward and defining the new organization and the new way of working of the people involved it is possible to identify the key aspects of the change process.

In short, it will be appropriate to plan “how the hypothetical change must take place” and to define the necessary actions that can counter the potential obstacles that may arise.

It is necessary to understand to what extent the people, in this case the employees, are ready to accept the changes and if the process threatens them in some way.

For a manager who must effectively manage the process of change implementation, it is important to know the reasons why people might resist change. The comprehension of motivations is essential to find and apply ways that encourage cooperation.

Resistance can delay or slow down the process of change, hinder its implementation and increase its cost. A manager can not afford it.

Why do people resist change?

In practice, there are 8 reasons why people resist change at work place.

A good manager must recognize these signs easily and understand the emotions that employees feel in this phase. Let’s try to examine one by one the causes of resistance to change.

1.Loss of work

In a company, any technological progress, process or product change will include more optimized work. This means a reduction in costs, an improvement in efficiency and a focus on faster completion times.

All this means that there will be changes that can affect certain roles and jobs. The team will tend to resist to protect their role.

2.Fear of the unknown

Employee responses to corporate change may vary. It can be fear or total support.

During times of change, some employees may feel the need to stick to the past because it is safer, more known and more predictable.

If what they did in the past worked well for them, they could resist change because they fear this comfortable situation will change in the future.

How can you blame them?

What is known is definitely an anchor, a safe haven, whatever the area.

This is why listening and dialogue become fundamental in this situation. Periodic meetings, comparisons and communication on change can be therefore very useful.

corporate change (2)

3.Loss of control

Asking to change the way the work is made can make employees feel helpless and confused.

People are more likely to understand and apply changes when they feel they have some control over them.

The key is therefore to keep the communication doors open and to encourage input, support and help from employees.

4.Lack of competence

This is a fear that employees will hardly admit openly.

Some people will feel that they will not be able to make the transition. This is because of their (few or insufficient) skills.

Therefore, the only way for them to survive or not to show their “ignorance” is to counter change.

Some employees express reluctance in learning something new in general. In this way, however, besides hindering change, they also hinder their personal growth.

5.Wrong time

It is important to consider that change is, itself, an event!

For this reason, change must be introduced when there are no other important initiatives in progress.

In this case, it is essential to prepare a strategy for change management since the beginning. The general situation of the organization must be assessed and the analysis should be complete.

In some cases it may be useful to hire a business change management consultant. This serves to design an effective and objective change management strategy.

6.Lack of rewards

Employees can resist changes when they see no reward. It is the simple question “Who makes me do it?”.

Without reward, in fact, there is no motivation to sustain change in the long run.

Therefore, to support change management, it is important that the organization’s reward systems are modified accordingly. The change must be seen as a rewarding system, an improvement for the company itself.

7.Social environment

Each company has its own internal policy. Thus, some employees resist change a priori, like a “political strategy“. It is simply a way like another to go against the management.

Employees can also join forces against change. They can do it, for example, to show that the person leading the change is not good for the task.

In the same manner, employees can resist change in order to protect their work colleagues. They do this when, for example, there is a risk of layoffs.

Sometimes even managers themselves could resist change in order to protect their working teams.

8.Lack of trust and support

A corporate change can not succeed if it takes place in a climate of distrust. Trust implies faith in the intentions and behavior of others.

In this case, any change in the workplace can be a cause of fear for the employees. The fear that their roles within the company may change.

In companies where a high degree of trust exists and employees are treated with respect and dignity, there is less resistance to change.

corporate change

Recognize resistance to change

How do you know if there is resistance to change in the company?

Sometimes people say or demonstrate quite directly that they are not happy or that they will not follow the plans.

Often, however, resistance is less obvious. It tends to act in a hidden way.

Those who remain silent can resist just as firmly as those who openly communicate their dissent.

Silence does not always mean consent. It is more difficult to manage a silent dissent than an open resistance.

Others may question the methodology. They could do it by undermining the process by which the changes were decided. In short, they will tend to weaken the initiative of change.

Then, there are those who are too busy to think about implementing changes.

Running everywhere the whole day, sending messages and continuously answering calls, they simply do not have time to make changes to their operating modes.

 

So, how do you handle the obvious and less obvious resistance to change?

Strategies to overcome resistance

If new initiatives seem to fade before moving on and the best plans go nowhere, these can be signs that employees are resisting to change.

Even if not all resistances are negative, the inability to adapt to change can have disastrous consequences.

Several studies have shown that around 70% of corporate changes fail due to the resistance of the workforce.

So what do you do to face resistance to change? Here are some suggestions.

Link the change to other issues that affect people. To improve the perception of change, one can think of connecting it to other issues that people care about (eg work safety). By showing how change is linked to these factors, it is possible to make resistance less likely.

Show attention and understanding of concerns. Communicate with employees about new initiatives and their progress. Ask them which are their worries that they see behind the change. Listening to others’ opinions is the first step to influence them.

Identify team members who support change. These people are the supporters of the new way of working. They can be the link between change and the rest of the team. Ensure that they participate in the forums and to the change initiatives so that their voices can be heard.

Communicate openly. It is essential to give precise information on what will happen and when, which aspects will change and what will remain unchanged. People are more likely to get stressed when they do not know the details of the situation.

Offer resources and tools. In a change, one of the biggest obstacles can be employees who are unprepared to manage changes. It will be necessary to provide training courses, equipment and everything that will not only help them to adapt, but also to excel in the changed environment. In this way, not only they can stop resisting, but they can even feel encouraged and confident about the new situation.

Timing is everything. Good timing is crucial when it comes to change. If you try to make important changes all at once or too quickly, employees may be more likely to resist. It is good practice to introduce change in measured doses in order to give employees the chance to acclimatize. This not only guarantees less interruptions to the activity, but also makes employees more inclined and therefore more productive.

It is a cliché, but it is true that change is difficult, in every sector, both in the working as well as in the private sphere.

By following a few simple strategies and a well designed plan of change, it is possible, however, to reassure the employees that the company’s commitment is to ensure, as never before, their well-being and success.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation of corporate change? Which side did you stand for? Tell us about your experience.

Manage your change process.

time-management-1

From time management to schedule management: the new time management in a project

Schedule management or project scheduling is the process of project time management through milestones, activities and final results, usually indicating the expected start and end dates.

A schedule or scheduling is the project or program calendar.

This shows how the work will progress over a period of time and takes into account factors such as limited resources and the uncertainty estimation.

This process begins with the work necessary to meet the requirements of the stakeholders.

This includes the technical / practical work that creates the results and the management activity that deals with aspects such as risk management and stakeholder management.

Definition of types of work

Some types of work can be defined much more easily than other types.

Engineering work, for example, tends to have detailed and complete specifications from the start, while some IT activities follow a more iterative approach to define what needs to be done.

The approaches to time calculation must be equally flexible.

In some cases, you can use rigorous techniques to model the work and calculate the detailed times.

In other cases, general estimates have to be made from the start, then, as the project continues, they are constantly refined thanks to the information available.

A detailed model can be used to perform “what-if” calculations and analysis to test the result of potential events.

For example: “what happens if the X resource is not available in February?” Or “what happens if there are unfavorable weather conditions in March?”.

Rolling Wave Planning

The detailed high-level planning approaches usually follow the so-called  “rolling wave” planning.

Short-term work is generally better defined and can be subject to more rigorous and comprehensive planning.

Long-term work is more vague and subject to changes and will be detailed working progress.

The detail window then moves along the program like a “rolling wave”, literally a rolling wave.

The most commonly used graphic planning form is the Gantt chart.

In its simplest form it uses bars on a horizontal chronological scale to show the beginning, duration and end of the various activities.

Variants of the Gantt chart can transmit all types of information adapting to the circumstances.

At the end of the work scheduling shows what has been planned and what really happened and can be an important tool in identifying and determining the lessons learned.

How to perform project scheduling

Before deepening  project planning, let’s examine the basics.

You have to ask yourself three questions to start project planning:

  1. What must be done?
  2. By when will it be done?
  3. Who will do it?

time-management-to do list

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start planning dates, linking activities, setting duration, milestones, and resources.

Following are the necessary steps  to plan a project:

  • Define activities: Using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) structure and a deliverable diagram, you can begin to perform these tasks and organize them by mapping the activities needed to complete them in an order compared to what is necessary;
  • Making estimates: Once the activities have been defined and divided, it is necessary to determine the time and effort required to complete them;
  • Determine dependencies: Tasks are not isolated and often it isn’t possible to start a new one until the previous is not completed. This is the so-called dependence of activities;
  • Assign resources: The last step to finalizing the planned program is to decide which resources will be needed to perform these tasks on time.

You will have to choose the project team and the time of the collaborators will have to be planned exactly following the planned activities in the planning.

As the complexity of work increases, it becomes impractical to maintain a single detailed program.

Large-scale projects will often use wave planning in which only short-term work is shown in detail with the long-term work that is shown in summary.

As the amount of management activity increases, it may be useful to create separate delivery plans for different areas such as a communication plan, a technical plan, a marketing plan, etc.

The need for multiple plans is inevitable as the complexity of project increases.

To be effective, the project manager must ensure that similar programming policies are adopted throughout the program.

These policies can be defined in a planning management plan.

The scheduling management plan has essentially three parts:

  • Development planning
  • Control
  • Planning of changes

Development planning

In this section the procedures for the development and revision of the program are established.

The personnel responsible for the development is identified and the potential contribution of the project team members is discussed.

Written procedures for estimating asset duration and budgets, contingency levels, and resources are specified for the project.

Moreover, if the project is complex, a project planning software is very often a useful tool to have.

Scheduling check

In this section the procedures for measuring and monitoring the project program are implemented.

Throughout the project, planning deviations and costs should be known or calculated regularly, which requires an estimate of the percentage of completion of each activity according to scheduling.

At this stage it is necessary to have clear answers to the following questions:

  • How will the program be measured?
  • Which units will be used to measure completeness of activities?
  • Who will measure it?
  • How often will it be measured?

Scheduling changes

Normally, any change to the initial project planning must be communicated and approved.

In fact, in most cases, someone has initially approved the project budget and deadline and expects to receive results accordingly.

That person is usually called the “project sponsor“.

And it is the project sponsor together, often, to the stakeholders who must be informed and approve all the changes to the initial planning.

time-management-desktop

Here are the basic questions to consider in this case:

  • What are the appropriate reasons for a change of program?
  • How much notice do you need?
  • Who must approve the changes?

Project planning is probably one of the most difficult jobs of a project manager, but the coordination of delivery dates on estimates can be simplified and made more efficient when you have gained experience and when using appropriate software management.

What are your experiences with project scheduling? Write us your comment here.

Start planning your projects.

Project documents: best practices to manage them better

A clear and detailed project documentation is essential for the success of the project itself.

Every good project manager knows it well!

In fact, it is necessary to be constantly updated to stay on track with the project.

However, project documentation drafting can be a difficult and unloved task.

For some organizations and projects there are even legal requirements to be met for the drafting and storage of documents. These are mandatory requirements that, if not respected, can make in trouble not only the single project, but the company itself.

All clear then, project documentation is important and its correct drafting and conservation is essential.

So what’s the problem? The problem is actually very simple: most people hate to compile documentation.

It’s a time-consuming process!

It is considered boring and often underestimated or ignored not only by the collaborators who have to deal with it, but also by the people who requested it.

Each project is unique and therefore requires unique documentation to help to guide the project to a successful conclusion.

Hence, it’s very important to identify which documents are critical for each project.

Below we provide a simple project classification that could help to identify relevant documentation:

  • Small projects: these projects last one to four months. The emphasis is on speed and completion of the project as quickly as possible. Examples of such projects are the creation of a website or simply an upgrade of existing systems.
  • Medium-sized projects: these projects take up to 12 months to complete and are the standard for most companies. They are not that fast and usually involve external suppliers. The risk level and control of changes increases with respect to small projects.
  • Super dimensional projects: these are the largest and most complex projects. It may even take years to complete them. An example of this project is the construction of a building.

Determination of project documentation needs

An important question to ask itself for each project is: what is the minimum project documentation needed?

In fact, written documentation requires time and money. Therefore, project size has an impact on the number of documents needed.

Furthermore, the development of project documentation becomes even more crucial when working with public administration and public institutions.

project documents

It is, for example, the case of the medical, pharmaceutical or defense sectors.

An Australian study of CSIRO (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) link to the target = blank site, which took into consideration about 350 companies, found that incomplete documentation caused a reduction in the efficiency of the project.

In cases where there was very little documentation, the projects had an average completion of 11% which, to say it is superfluous, is a very low percentage.

For small projects, the emphasis is therefore on minimum requirements and minimum documentation.

Medium-sized projects gradually require more documentation, while large projects require maximum documentary effort because they require a high level of communication and coordination.

Create the right documentation

Sometimes project managers do not want to create new documents for each of their projects.

As an alternative, they can use a wide range of proven project models.

This allows the project manager to have more time to focus on the actual project, rather than wasting time on developing new documents from scratch.

Whether the project manager manages the entire project lifecycle or simply a phase, he will still have to deal with details and information from various sources.

Thinking to the input coming from customers, users and sellers, at some point he will have to write something.

Specifically, the project documentation focuses on:

  • Define the purpose and scope of the project;
  • Identify results and key points;
  • Document the technical parameters and the technologies to be used;
  • Address the way deliverable will be built or distributed;
  • Evaluate elements such as quality, scope, resources, risks, training and costs;
  • Document any backouts or unexpected events that may occur;
  • Communicate progress and update project stakeholders.

Once again we can understand how much correct documentation is fundamental for the success of a project.

Whether it is simple paper documents or documentation sent in electronic format, it is necessary to plan and develop the project documentation before starting the project itself.

Hence, project managers must anticipate the time required to develop these documents within project planning and update the plan every time a change occurs.

What you need to document

Regardless of the organization’s structure, the ability to record and document all aspects of a project is vital to be a successful project manager.

Reports, graphs, documents, change requests and status updates must also be kept throughout the life of a project and, very often, even beyond.

project documents

It is important to consider the following to determine what to include into documention:

  • Customer documentation: a simple example is sufficient for this topic. Imagine that a customer ask to the project manager information about a decision made a couple of months ago. The customer claims to have clearly chosen a direction, but the company has decided to follow another one. Clear documentation on customer meetings, with specific dates, times and participants, will help everyone to remember the decision made and to clarify any misunderstanding.
  • Legal documents: For some projects there are legal requirements that require making specific documents. For public projects, for example, supervisory and review processes may be necessary to analyze a project after its completion. The legal requirements of a project must be clear already at the beginning of the project itself.
  • Process documentation: important processes within a project must be documented. This documentation may also be useful as a resource for any similar future projects. In case of doubt, the best approach is always to document.
  • Project Change Documentation: Project updates are essential to document when objectives, or project execution, change due to internal factors or external causes. Stakeholders must also be informed of these changes and receive the relevant documentation.

Documentation best practices

What are the best strategies to use to maintain effective, efficient and timely documentation? Here are the best practices:

  • Taking the time: many people think that the calendar is only used to setup meetings. It’s not just like that! The calendar can be used to program blocks of time to to reflect and for drafting of an essential document for the project. We need to take some time to write an official document. This can‘t happen when you keep answering the phone, writing emails and talking with your co-workers. Likewise, you can plan 10-15 minute blocks every week to review and update the documentation.
  • Enter the right details: depending on the documentation target, this must contain more or less details and, depending on the role of the target audience, the details must be of a certain type or another. For example, an engineer will need the project technical details, while a marketing manager will be focused on other factors. The project manager must to consider the right level of detail in the documentation.
  • Smart Storage: documentation must be easy to identify and easily accessible. This also includes the use of clear and easily identifiable keywords.
  • Share: the documentation must be shared and must not be saved individually on the project manager’s PC. Sharing the documentation, with the right collaborators, also allows you to receive constructive feedback if changes are necessary.
  • Updating the documentation: as the project progresses, it is necessary to ensure that the project documentation is correctly updated. Needless to waste time in writing initial documents and then lock them in oblivion.

In conclusion, documentation is certainly a difficult topic for many project managers, but it is a fundamental tool that in some cases can even simplify the execution of the project.

Hence it’s important to give the right value to the project documentation.

That’s why in TWproject we have made the life easier!

Document management is a large topic, so there are dozens of specific applications (called DMS).

In Twproject we don’t want to compete with these specific tools. We are, in fact, aware that every company has its own system of document storage, tested and structured.

That’s why we have chosen to keep the management of documents to the essential. At the same time we have decided to integrate this aspect with some powerful and simple technique.

Therefore, we have created an intelligent system for managing and archiving project documents in Twproject.

Your documents will always be one click away from your projects (and resources, and even from issues).

You will be able to connect and access to your documents in two ways:

  • Uploading a document directly to TWproject
  • Creating a link to a file archive
  • Adding a link, if you already have a document repository,

In this way you will have access to your documents directly from Twproject: a single place from where to manage everything and put everything available to the team.

Not bad, right?

All while working, also remotely or accessing from mobile.

In short, we have tried to meet all the needs of the PM to concretely support the need to manage project documents.

And what is your relationship with the project documentation?

Is it a difficult task for you or are you part of the project managers who not struggling dealing with it?

Give us your opinion, but above all, tell us what are the needs about that.

We would like to know what else we may implement in the software to improve your work.

Manage your project documents.

organize team work time

Organize team work time: leveling or smoothing resources?

Being able to organize the work time of your team is essential for the success of each project.

This is also because a project manager does not always have all the necessary resources to complete the project.

And even in the case when the resources are sufficient, during the execution of the project there are situations and potential risks that can, even suddenly, cut out this “luxury”.

Even when all the necessary resources are available, it is the responsibility of the project manager to use resources efficiently and save on company costs.

To achieve these goals, resource optimization techniques are required. Today, in particular, we see two of them:

  • Resource leveling;
  • Resource smoothing.

These techniques allow to complete the project with minimal obstruction.

Resource leveling

Resource leveling is used when resources are limited.

In these cases, project planning can be extended and one or more deadlines can be postponed.

If the resources are not available, in fact, the duration of the project could change.

Resource leveling is mainly used when:

  • An important resource may not be available for a certain period of time;
  • An important resource may not be available at a given time;
  • One or more resources must be shared with another project;
  • The demand for a resource is greater than the supply. If the demand for resources exceeds their availability, at any time, some activities may be delayed until the availability of resources becomes acceptable again.

This technique is also used when the use of resources has to be constant.

In the resource leveling, in fact, the limited resources should be optimized.

Resource leveling answers the question of when it will be possible to complete the project with the resources provided.

Resource leveling is sometimes also called resource constrained scheduling (RCS).

In this case, a project must be completed with the available resources, therefore the concept of “limited resources”.

Let’s make a concrete example of resource leveling that causes an extension of the planning and, therefore, a delay of the project.

We are developing a program for a two-story building project.

The construction of the first floor takes place without problems, but for the second floor an additional scaffolding is needed.

We find out that we have an extra scaffolding available in our company and that we can take it from another project, BUT we have to wait a week longer than the date we had set.

As a result, construction activities will be delayed by a week.

Resource smoothing

Resource smoothing is used when resources need to be optimized and planning can not be extended.

Since it is not possible to postpone one or more deadlines, the completion date of the project should remain the same.

In the resource smoothing, it is necessary to do everything possible to avoid any delay as it could affect the life cycle and planning of the project.

Time here is the main constraint.

organize team work time

There is a fixed and immutable program and therefore the resources should be optimized accordingly.

Resource smoothing is also known as time costrained scheduling (TCS).

TCS emphasizes the completion of a project within a certain period of time. Here, the start and end dates of the project are fundamental and have to be respected.

TCS also considers supply (availability) and demand (requirement) of resources. Here, however, there is a default limit for the resource request, which can not be exceeded.

Also in this case we make a concrete example.

Let’s sppose that a student has to take an exam and has allocated 60 hours in three months for studying. This means 20 hours a month.

However, while planning the exam date, he discovers that the only available appointment is in two months.

In this case the student must distribute these 60 hours in those two months, ie 30 hours per month.

This is a concrete example of resource smoothing.

Since the exam date can not be postponed, the student will have to work harder to reach his goal.

Otherwise, he will not pass the exam, which corresponds to the failure of the project.

The differences between resource leveling and resource smoothing

Let’s see some differences between resource leveling and resource smoothing:

  • In the resource leveling the end date of the project can change, while in the case of resource smoothing it does not change;
  • In resource leveling, the critical path of the project changes (generally increases), whereas in the case of resource smoothing it does not. The activities can also be delayed only within their float, planned at the start;
  • Generally, resource smoothing is performed only after the resource leveling;
  • In resource leveling, the resources themselves are the main constraint, while in resource smoothing the end date of the project is the constraint to be taken into consideration;
  • Resource leveling is used when resources are under or over-allocated. Resource smoothing is used instead when resources are allocated unevenly;
  • Resource leveling can be applied to activities during the critical path, while in resource smoothing, activities and the path generally do not touch.

The similarities between resource leveling and resource smoothing

The following are some similarities between the two:

  • Both help optimize the use of resources;
  • Both help to plan the analysis of the network.

Resource leveling and resource smoothing are different techniques that are used in different situations.

It is not always necessary to use both techniques; depending on the case, you can choose only one of them.

However, if both are used, as mentioned above, it is usually the resource leveling that preceds the resource smoothing, since it is necessary to consider the constraints of resources first, before being able to optimize them.

Resource leveling and resource smoothing are two optimization techniques for the resources.

If used, in any project the chances of completing the project successfully within the deadline and respecting the initially approved cost limits increase.

The essential difference is that resource leveling is used to balance the demand and supply of resources, while resource smoothing helps to ensure a uniform use of resources.

In Twproject, it is always possible to check the workload of your resources, both in the planning, as well as in the daily management of the project.

The more complete theinformation in Twproject, the more your graphs will approach reality.

For example, when you start a project, the first thing you have to say to Twproject is how much you intend to work on a project: you have to make an estimate.

organize team work time

The estimate is set by mutual agreement. This is also a way to engage the team.

Evaluating the necessary time, even with some variation and inaccuracy of estimation, is always an excellent exercise for the team members that are confronted with tasks and responsibilities.

But let’s get back to the potential of TWproject.

After setting the estimated time, accessing the “operator load”, you will obtain something like this:

organize team work time

On this page, for each resource of the selected team, you will have a graphical representation of the total load per day.

The representation is detailed: each color represents a different task.

By clicking on a column you will have a detailed explanation of the components of the load.

You can verify the collaborator’s load and use TWproject to improve work distribution.

In TW project plan and workload interact, collecting data from each source and in real time.

Have you ever implemented a resource smoothing or resource leveling during one of your projects?

Have you encountered any difficulties? Which?

Tell us about your experience.

Plan the work time of your team.

earned value

The Earned Value Method: What is it and how to use it

In project management, the Earned Value method is one of the most appreciated and well-known project management tools.

It is a project management technique that allows to measure performance and progress.

It combines the measures of the project management triangle: scope, time and costs.

In a unique integrated system, the Earned Value Method is able to give accurate predictions on the performance problems of a project.

Therefore, you can understand how important its contribution to project management can be.

What is the Earned Value Method?

The Earned Value Method method is also known as Earned Value Analysis (EVA).

This method allows the project manager to measure the amount of work actually performed on a project.

Thanks to the EVA, it is possible to measure the project according to the progress achieved.

Using the measured progress, the project manager is therefore able to predict the total cost of a project and its completion date.

Often the term “earned value” refers to the Budgeted Cost of Worked Performed or BCWP.

This value allows the project manager to calculate the efficiency indices of the project.

Moreover, it provides information on how the project is progressing in relation to its original planning.

These indices, if applied to future activities, allow to predict how the development of the project in the future will be, provided that the performance indices do not fluctuate.

The requirement for the Earned Value Analysis

In order to have an accurate Earned Value Analysis, the creation of a solid project plan is needed.

In particular, it is possible to use the Scope Statement, the real fondation of a project.

In short, the Scope Statement is a document wrote by the project manager on the project start-up.

It includes project goals and objectives, final product requirements, major milestones, and project risk analysis.

In order to develop that common understanding of the work required for a project, another key structure should be created, the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

The WBS is a proper list of all project activities, a hierarchical decomposition which focuses on the deliverable of the project.

Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed definition of the project’s work.

A WBS records the hierarchy and description of the tasks that have to be performed and their relationship with the final product.

The WBS breaks down all working sectors into appropriate planning elements.

Budget definition, cost accounting, progress measurement and management control.

Project planning is therefore a necessity not only for using the Earned Value Method, but also for the success of the project in general.

Once the bases have been established, let’s look at the three necessary information that allow to calculate the EVA.

The fundamental concepts of the Earned Value

The Earned Value Method allows the project manager to answer the following three questions about the project:

  1. Where were we?
  2. Where are we now?
  3. Where are we going?

Unlike traditional management, in the Earned Value Method there are three data sources:

  • Planned value – PV;
  • Actual value – AV;
  • the earned value of the concrete work already completed.

Starting from these three sources, the Earned Value Method extrapolates the data and is able to compare them.

earned value

The planned value

The planned value describes to what extent the activities of a project should be at a determined point in the project schedule and in the cost estimation.

The baseline of the project schedule and of the costs refer to the planned physical work and the budget approved in order to complete the planned activities.

Together, these two values define an important value: the planned value (PV).

This value can be analysed in two ways: cumulative or current.

The cumulative PV is the sum of the approved budget for the planned activities that have to be performed in general, througout the project.

On the other hand, the current PV is the approved budget for the planned activities that have to be performed during a given period.

This period could refer to days, weeks, months, etc.

The actual cost 

The actual cost (AC), also called the actual cost of the work performed (ACWP), is the real cost incurred for the execution of a task for a project.

This value refers to what has actually been spent and, as in the case of the planned value, can be either cumulative or current.

The cumulative AC is the sum of the actual cost for all the activities performed up to the historical moment in which it is calculated.

On the other hand, the current AC is the actual cost of the activities performed during a given period. Here too the period can refer to days, weeks, months, etc.

The earned value (EV) of the completed work 

The earned value is the quantification of the value of the work actually performed up to a certain date.

In other words, the EV refers to what was achieved during the project.

The cumulative EV is the sum of the budget for the activities performed up to the date when this value is calculated.

The current EV is the sum of the budget for the activities carried out in a given period.

Variance Analysis

The variance analysis is a method where the achieved results of a project are compared to the expected results.

When a project is approved, certain expected results are established, as well as a planning in order to achieve them.

The variance analysis, in case of failure to achieve those results, helps to understand the amount of difference between the expected results and those actually achieved.

After having evaluated the gap, it becomes fundamental to understand what were the causes of this failure.

This technique is used to highlight cost and time variances, ie the cost variance and the schedule variance.

Cost Variance (CV)

This value indicates how the project is evolving with respect to the initially estimated budget.

The cost variance is calculated by subtracting the earned value from the costs actually incurred, here is the formula: CV = EV – AC.

If the result equals 0, it means that the project is perfectly respecting the budget.

If the result is negative, this means that the project is out of budget, ie the costs incurred are greater than those planned.

It is therefore necessary to take action.

On the other hand, if the result is positive, it means that the project is under budget, ie the costs incurred are lower than those planned.

Schedule Variance (SV)

With respect to the scheduling initially approved, the project may be late, in advance or in line with the initial planning.

This value represents the Schedule Variance (SV).

It is essential to understand how this value does not provide data on the impact that any delay in work has on the project and its results.

It simply indicates whether the work is in line with the planning or not.

The Schedule Variance, which shows the actual situation of the project with respect to planning, is obtained by subtracting from the earned value the planned costs up to the moment in which the analysis is carried out.

Here is the formula: SV = EV – PV.

If the result is 0, it means that the project is in line with the planning.

If the result is positive, it means that the project is ahead of schedule.

On the other hand, if the result is negative, it means that the project is behind the schedule and it is necessary to take action.

Project efficiency indexes

Another analysis that can be performed using the Earned Value Method is that of project efficiency.

In particular, there are two types of efficiency analysis: the Schedule Performance Index (SPI) and the Cost Performance Index (CPI).

The SPI is an indicator of the efficiency of the program of a project.

In fact, it is the ratio between the earned value (EV) and the planned value (PV): SPI = EV / PV.

If the SPI is equal to or greater than one, this indicates a favorable condition. This means that the project is being carried out efficiently.

On the contrary, a value lower than one indicates a negative situation.

The CPI is the indicator of economic efficiency of a project and is the ratio between the earned value (EV) and the actual costs (CA): CPI = EV/AC.

A CPI equal to or greater than one indicates a favorable condition and a value below one indicates a negative situation.

Therefore, in general, it is possible that our project is in line with the planning or is efficient or inefficient.

But which are the most frequent causes that determine these deviations? Let’s see them together.

The efficiency of a project can be reached thanks to the following conditions:

  • Less complex work than expected;
  • Less revisions and re-elaborations;
  • Favorable market fluctuations in labor or material costs;
  • Decrease of expenses in general.

On the other hand, the possible causes that lead to an inefficiency of the project could be:

  • More complex work than expected;
  • Many reviews and re-elaborations;
  • Unclear requirements;
  • Scope Creep or uncontrolled change of scope, ie the deviation of the project scope from what initially agreed and planned;
  • Unfavorable market fluctuations in labor or material costs;
  • Increase of expenses in general.

Estimate and budget upon completion

Let’s now how to analyze the future.

We are not talking about magic, but about what is expected to happen in a project, given the measurements of the progress recorded until the moment we perform the analysis.

These estimates allow us to see when the project will be completed and how much it will cost to complete it.

Therefore, we examine the Estimate At Completion (EAC) and the Budget At Completion (BAC).

earned value

The EAC is the total cost expected for a scheduled activity.

It is considered that the remaining work is performed on schedule and based on the current CPI and SPI.

The EAC is a periodic evaluation of the project.

It is usually carried out on a monthly basis or when there is a significant change in the project.

A common formula that allows to determine the EAC is expressed as the budget to completion divided by the current project IPC: EAC = BAC / CPI.

The BAC indicates the total value of the costs initially foreseen for the project and is calculated by summing the initial costs foreseen for each individual activity.

The BAC must always be equal to the total PV of the project.

If these two values do not match, the calculations related to the earned value will be inaccurate.

In conclusion, here are five basic rules for effective Earned Value Management:

  1. Organize the project team and the project scope using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS);
  2. Plan activities in a logical way so that the lower level elements support the following elements and the higher level milestones;
  3. Check the budget regularly;
  4. Establish objective means to measure the realization of work. The budget should always respect what is planned.
  5. Control the project by analyzing the cost and time deviations, evaluating the final costs, checking the changes with respect to the project baseline and developing corrective actions when necessary.

It must be clear that applying the Earned Value Method is certainly more complex than it may appear in this article.

A lot of discipline and detailed information are needed to manage it properly.

But we think, it is useful to simplify the concepts in order to make the approach easier for those who want to experiment with this method.

What is essential to remember is that everything starts with good project planning.

Have you ever put the Earned Value Method into practice in one of your projects?

How was your experience?

Tell us about it.

Start planning your project.

how to manage remote working team

How to manage remote working teams

The idea of  how to manage remote working team until just 20 years ago was pure madness.
Internet has changed the history, and companies are adapting to it.

In the ever-changing and rapidly developing modern world, it is almost impossible to imagine something stable and stationary.

Communication, teamwork and society itself have changed radically.

In fact, today more and more companies and freelancers offer their services on a global level, transforming the virtual workplace from a mere exception to normality.

This trend offers countless opportunities for professionals and companies from all corners of the world.

In Italy more and more companies are activating remote working processes, transferring part of the personnel work remotely.

Managing a team remotely in efficient way, is therefore the new challenge for project managers!

Following there is a series of suggestions to help the project manager in organizing and managing a remote work team.

How to manage remote working team: Choose the right members for the team

Everyone dreams working from home, but only a few can do it.

Actually being able to work professionally and without being overwhelmed by everyday activities is not easy.

In a traditional office, the environment is necessarily more social. It interacts with colleagues also because avoiding them is practically impossible.

Some people need that extra level of social responsibility to work properly.

But there are also other people who manage themselves pretty well.

They organize their workload and keep aligned themselves with the working team.

They can do it even remotely.

Hence, It’s essential to hire this second type of worker in a team that has to perform the job remotely.

This person does not need to be with others to properly to his task.

Effective remote teams are composed of self-motivated individuals who can complete tasks on time without being managed closely.

These workers must be engaged in communication.

They have to know that clear, detailed and continuous communication is vital for a healthy team.

They will work hard and make every effort to interact with the rest of the team every day.

In general, however, it is much easier to appear as a professional worker on the Internet than in real life.

Therefore, before hiring someone, you need to make sure of his expertise, experience and knowledge of the industry.

But how do you know if a person is really the right one for the job?

A possible and simple solution is to start with a test.

It will only take a couple of weeks to find out if the worker is valid for the project or if it is better to find another employee.

 How to manage remote working team: Communication is the key

Clear and regular communication is the key to the success of any team work.

In the case of remote teams, continuous and fluid interaction is the lifeblood.

Nowadays there are a lot of free or paid services and tools that facilitate the management of the virtual team.

Depending on the purpose of the communication and its urgency, you can choose the most suitable tool for team members.

In Twproject we have created a very popular tool for business discussions, both formal and informal: the chat.

Its use among our customers was immediately appreciated and widespread.

how to manage remote working team

The TWproject chat was designed and implemented to allow all communications to be centralized.

A single place to communicate, talk about individual projects and having the history of what happened.

And not only. In fact, it often happens that in the discussions emerged activities to be done, not planned or planned.

Here is that thanks to the TWproject chat, it’s possible to mark any message and turn it into a task / issue.

how to manage remote working team

Chatting with colleagues, even without always talking about work, certainly does not damage the process.

On the contrary, it will help people to bind themselves more closely, just like a team. It will help them feeling important for the other team members.

This is why in TWproject the chats can also be created between colleagues only.

Because if it is true that everyone likes to talk about work, it is true that sometimes you can keep the relationship even by discussing a good movie.

To improve the reading of the chats, the log of these chats is visible only by the participants.

Twproject chat is included for free on every floor. (a further money saving, beyond that of time)

So if usually, the best strategy is to have everything in one place, there are some cases where you need to use other communication tools.

This happens when situations become complicated: there are problems that must be managed “face to face”.

Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting or other video-conferencing software are essential for successful remote collaboration.

Sometimes, you need to see a person’s emotions and talk to us directly to understand how things are going.

It serves to know what is really happening on the other side.

It is also advisable to plan regular, weekly or monthly meetings.

The frequency will depend by the frequency of communication with the team.

In this way, it is possible to understand the spirit with which the collaborators are working.

It will help the Project Manager to be sure of the team’s alignment on the project objectives.

How to manage remote working team: Keeping track and reporting of progresses

The tools that are used for communication and control within the team are important. But they don’t affect the success of the project you are working on.

The success of the project in fact, always depends on the people hired and the way in which the overall work process is built.

When dealing with a remote team, the answer to a project manager question may not be immediate.

Sometimes the project manager could wait several hours before receiving an answer. This is due, for example, to a time zone difference.

This is why it is necessary to implement an easy and transparent system for tracking and reporting progress.

Every professional should have a clear vision and understanding of the step he is taking and of what will come next.

Remote team management tools such as TWproject help all team members to be on the same wave line.

They can also obtain the assistance of the right person when necessary.

These tools usually help people to:

  • stay organized;
  • plan work effectively;
  • be more productive.

Clearly defined roles, objectives and expectations help each team member to perform tasks more productively and independently.

 How to manage remote working team: The importance of feedback

Every healthy relationship is based on trust and communication.

Remote team management is no exception to this rule.

The project manager must be aware of the team’s expectations.

Collaborators in the same way, should know exactly what the project manager expects from them.

It is easy to lose motivation and “the track” when working away from the rest of the team and when communication is not excellent.

This is why building an empathic listening is essential.

A good remote team manager should not just worry about completing tasks.

It should also show genuine interest in the general well-being of team members!

how to manage remote working team

Take an interest in their job satisfaction and be alert to any further expectations.

The self-motivation of an employee is a must for remote working.

It will not last forever without proper communication, feedback and interaction.

Furthermore, even asking the team regularly for feedback is essential.

If people have been hired prepared and available, why not ask them how satisfied they are with the way things are going?

Why not ask what their ideas are on any business process improvements?

A new perspective and an idea received from the remote team can greatly improve the development of the project.

How to manage remote working team: Real Meetings

The world of technology is great and can make almost anything possible.

But we are humans, and for us “relationship” is a fundamental element.

In the age of technology, the other aspect of the coin is being shown in all its fullness.

It’s the biggest and least obvious digital disadvantage … we’re talking about loneliness.

The remote worker is alone.

And if at first, when the team is formed, it can be an opportunity to start the activities with greater concentration, in the long run this aspect can become a boomerang.

That’s why team building activities for remote teams are as important as those for people who work physically in one company.

how to manage remote working team

If the company allows it, real meetings, even if only annuals meetings, they should be done!

They are perfect for increasing cohesion and team closeness.

The connectivity that can be obtained in real life is difficult if not impossible to reproduce digitally.

Even for the project manager himself, these real meetings could be useful.

Personally meeting colleagues from different cultures will help you understand them better.

Also the overall management will be easier.

Managing remote teams is certainly a challenge.

Remotely, organizing the work process, monitoring team members’ activities, and keeping track of workflow is much more difficult than in an office.

However, the simple tips of this article will help in this task.

In this way, it will be possible to have a group of loyal, hardworking, productive and satisfied employees who will help to achieve company objectives quickly.

Have you ever involved with managing a team at a distance?

What kind of problems did you deal with? What did you like?

Tell us about your experience.

Start managing your remote working team.

lessons learned

Lesson learned. Use the “lessons learned” to reduce the chances of failure of a project

With lessons learned, we talk about learning from the mistakes, and not only, of the past.

We could apply infinite proverbs to this statement, but we want to recall only one: “Errare humanum est, perseverare autem diabolicum”

Lesson Learned: the study of Axelos PPM Benchmark

According to the recent study by AXELOS PPM Benchmark, almost half of project managers who rarely (or never) revise projects have faced a project failure in the last 12 months.

On the other hand, only 34% of those who always (or almost always) review the project, have experienced a failure during the last year.

These results give further importance to the argument that “lesson learned” from past projects should be an integral part of project management.

So why is this aspect so often overlooked?

Learning from past projects and activities should be a continuous effort throughout the project life cycle.

This mentality should be strongly encouraged by the project manager right from the beginning.

Whether the lessons learned are used to prepare ongoing projects, or used to identify any improvement within the project, learning from the failures or successes of past projects becomes a very important element.

Not considering what went wrong during a project is simply stupid. It means to be in a position where we will repeat the same mistakes.

On the contrary, even not to highlight the successes of a project and how these have been achieved is a mistake.

You lose the opportunity to implement good processes and best practices that can contribute to the successful completion of an existing or future job.

In short, the lessons learned are documented information that reflects both the positive as well as negative experiences of a project.

They represent the organization’s commitment to excellence in project management.

For the project manager, it is an opportunity to learn from the real experiences of others.

The process of learning occurs during and at the end of each project, whether short or complex.

The best way is to hold a session to identify the lessons learned.

It should be conducted at different times according to the critical issues and complexity of the project.

The more complex the project, the more the sessions should be.

If you wait until the end of the project, especially if it is long and complex, you could lose some key points.

Project managers, team members and stakeholders can all be interested in reviewing the lessons learned and making decisions about how to use the acquired knowledge.

How does the process of lessons learned work

The process of collecting and evaluating lessons learned includes the five following steps:

  • Identification;
  • Documentation;
  • Analysis;
  • Archiving;
  • Recovery.

1) Identification of lessons learned

This first phase consists in identifying comments and recommendations that could be useful for future projects.

The project manager, or the person responsible for data collection, should give all project’s collaborators, and possibly also stakeholders, a project survey.

The project survey will help identify input and lessons learned.

Thanks to the survey, all the points of view and the experiences will be collected.

Three key questions should be included in the survey:

  1. What went well;
  2. What went wrong;
  3. What should be improved.

2) Documentation of lessons learned

The second step in the lessons learned process is to document and share the results.

After the lessons learned have been acquired, they should be reported to all project stakeholders.

The final report must be kept and stored together with all the project documentation.

lessons learned

This report should give an overview of how the process of lessons learned works.

It must also contain a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the project as well as the recommendations for the future.

3) Lessons learned analysis

The third phase of the process consists of analyzing and organizing the lessons learned in order to apply the results.

Information is shared with other team members during organizational meetings.

As a result of the lessons learned, improvements in the project management process or training needs are often identified.

4) Archive the lessons learned

The documents on the lessons learned are archived together with other project documents.

They must always be easy to consult.

For this reason, organizations often set up a portfolio of lessons learned in the shared unit.

This allows to make the reports available to everyone that might be interested.

5) Recover the lessons learned

Although the lessons learned reports are stored on a shared unit, without the possibility to search for keywords, it is difficult to find them.

Therefore, it is important to store them in an orderly and easily retrievable manner, so that even those who have not directly participated in the project can find them.

Organizations have different approaches with which they manage – or do not manage – the lessons learned.

Let’s see this in detail.

Management of lessons learned: Type 1

The organizations belonging to this first type do not collect the lessons learned.

Almost always there is no defined process for analyzing and evaluating them.

Lessons learned, if taken into account, are managed without standardized tools or consistency between the projects.

This makes them unreadable and uncomparable.

What organizations of this type need is a defined process and basic tools and techniques.

In this type of business it is important that the project manager sees the lessons learned as constructive.

He must therefore transmit this conviction to the project team and to the stakeholders.

Management of lessons learned: Type 2

Here organizations have a defined process and basic tools to identify and document lessons learned.

The process is already part of the corporate culture.

It is applied consistently to projects and processes that have been revised to achieve greater efficiency.

Although the organizations of this type are constantly taking into account the lessons learned, they do not use them in a correct, complete and effective way.

What these organizations need are effective tools.

It is necessary to identify the actions that can be undertaken within the company in order to strengthen weak areas.

After that, these actions have to be implemented during each project.

This can be done through better training of the project manager and / or of the team members.

It could also mean procedures or processes added or improved.

The people responsible for analyzing the lessons learned should have a role within the company that allows them to implement the solutions.

It is also important that data collection takes place using consistent processes and forms.

The coherence of input information enables faster identification of recurring problems and proactive resolutions.

An example of an effective tool for collecting lessons learned is the construction of an input form.

This document consents a consistent collection of data as well as providing a means for easier recovery.

lessons learned

The model should include fields such as: category, lesson learned, actions taken, how the action was taken, keywords, etc.

Keywords will be essential for an easy and quick recovery.

Management of lessons learned: Type 3

This third type of organization is normally able to perform a complete analysis of the lessons learned.

It is also able to convert this information into concrete actions.

The reports are well structured, using charts and diagrams, everything is consistent and maintained in a centralized unit.

Let’s repeat an important concept:

collecting, analyzing and learning from lessons learned should be a continuous effort throughout the life of the project. 

Everyone from the project manager to the project team, from bord of directors to stakeholders, should contribute to the collection, documentation and archiving of lessons learned for the benefit of future projects.

Do you collect and correctly use lessons learned in your company?

Is there a lesson learned that you remember the most or has left you important ideas to improve your project?

Share your experience in a comment.

Start planning your project.

Project milestone

The project milestones: planning objectives and results

Milestone or project milestone is the management tool used to define a specific point in the project planning.

The points define, in fact, the beginning and the end of work and mark the end of an important phase of the work.

Milestones can be used to symbolize all started and finished stuff.

If a milestone focuses on the main points of project progress, it becomes useful as a planning tool.

Just as the tasks break down a larger project into manageable parts, the milestones split a project into milestones.

So, when starting a project, milestones can help immensely with programming.

Milestones are usually present in project management software, and of course also in TWproject.

They have their own specific icon in the Gantt chart function, and are diamond-shaped.

Project milestones: the planning

Project milestones are a way to estimate the time needed to complete the project more accurately.

Hence, they become essential for precise project planning.

With milestones, you can better calculate project planning by segmenting it into more manageable and easier-to-control time intervals.

They are also a flexible tool for planning.

With a little bit of flexibility, they can do much more than act as mere indicators of the project phases.

For example, milestones can be used as reminder of important meetings for the project or to report other interesting events, such as workshops or training courses.

project milestone

In an important editorial plan, for example, a digital project manager, can use them to define the release of individual articles within the blog.

In short, using this diamond icon is a great way to make sure everyone is aware of upcoming deadlines and upcoming important meetings.

Naturally, milestones can indicate the deadlines for anything related to the project.

For example, they can report a result from another linked project or an impending delivery from a supplier.

In addition, milestones are good to mark a point where there is a transition between two phases of a project.

Milestones, like activities, can be linked and connected to each other.

This happens for example when a milestone’s phase can’t begin until the end of the previous phase, linked to another milestone.

Project milestones: Keep track of progress

Part of a project’s planning is the ability to monitor and keep track the progress of that program in real time.

Milestones are a way to see both at what point is a specific single activity, and the general state of progress of the project itself.

This is useful when dealing mainly with stakeholders.

In fact, these are generally not interested in a detailed report of the project progress.

What they want to know is if the project moves forward or not as initially planned.

Milestones are ideal for this type of report because they show the main phases completed.

Project milestones: Simple task or milestone?

Discern between what to consider a task and what to consider a project milestone can be difficult.

More projects are complex, more difficult is to recognize the difference between task and milestone.

To resolve the doubt it is essential to ask itself the following questions:

  • Is this a task or a final result?
  • Will this affect the final deadline?
  • Is this an important moment in the project that will indicate future progress?
  • Are stakeholders to be informed about this particular point?
  • Is it an event that has an impact on the project?

Answering these questions will help you understand if we are talking about a task or a milestone.

Basically, the most important events of your project must be reported as milestones, so that they can be easily visualized and mapped by the project team.

The milestones have, in essence, a greater mean than “simple” activities.

Project milestones: Why use them?

Milestones can improve project planning and execution in different ways:

1) Monitor deadlines

No plan is complete without a list of deadlines. The best way is to use the project milestones to indicate them.

The milestones, as already mentioned, are usually marked as a diamond-shape icon in the project planning software.

Hence, this icon represents a delivery, a presentation of the deliverable or in any case a deadline that mustn’t be forgotten.

2) Make it easy to identify important dates

Are there important days that may have an impact on the project?

Perhaps a training course for the project team or a workshop?

Or a meeting with the stakeholders?

It is important to keep in mind all these events in project planning.

project milestone

These are events of such importance that they can have an impact on the whole project and it must be easy to identify them.

3) Identify potential blocks of the project

Many projects rely on work produced by external teams or partners in order to progress.

If these external factors are not monitored, the probability to forget or not following them increases.

So, if you are working on a project that depends – even – on someone or something of external with which you do not have frequent contact, it is important to list these results as milestones.

As we have seen, milestones are a very useful project management tool.

It is also an easy-to-use tool for project planning and reporting.

In Twproject a milestone always coincides with the beginning or end of a task, this because normally a milestone is linked to a delivery or a kick-off phase.

In order to support the team in achieving the goal, TWproject also sets up a milestone notification system.

The notifications make even easier the work of the team that will automatically receive the alerts of the activities expiring or delayed and they will complete the tasks.

By default the alarm (milestone of the neighboring task) is 3 days before the milestone, but it is also possible to change it from the configuration pages. (insert a screen)

Reaching and overcoming a project milestone is also good for the morale of the team and of the project manager himself.

This is why every tool (like the alert) that facilitates the task is always very well received.

Have you ever used the milestones in your projects? What is your opinion?

Leave us your comment.

Set the milestones of your project.

project handover

Project handover: how to manage it

Project handover can be very simple or extremely complicated. It all depends on the organization of the Project Manager.

Projects can be short and can last up a few days or can be complex projects with a lifecycle that can even reach several years.

It is precisely for the duration of some projects that some project managers may find themselves in the situation of having to “handover” a project to a new project manager.

A retirement, a new job challenge for the outgoing project manager and other situations can be the reason that leads to the handover.

The most important thing is that those who take over is in the best conditions to continue the work.

Obviously, project handover requires much more than the transfer of office keys and software access information.

Hence, there are six steps below that can help to successfully complete a project handover:

1. Setting handover objectives

Outgoing and incoming project managers should hold a meeting and set goals that must be met during the transition.

This allows both parties to review and evaluate the status of the project in relation to the project’s basic planning, timing and budget.

Project team members should also, for obvious reasons, be involved in this meeting.

2. Keeping the customer up to date

Project team members, the workers and the customer must understand how the existing project manager intends to make the handover to the successor.

In some cases, the project manager could explain why knowledge transfer is underway and what could change in the future.

Clarity is always a winning element.

3. Having short daily meetings

During the transition between the existing project manager and the new one, all team members should meet each other to evaluate and review the status of responsibilities and activities.

It is an extremely important phase because it allows the incoming PM to evaluate the state of things and the capabilities of the individual elements of the Team.

4. Showing project benefits and utility for the upcoming project manager

Some projects revolve around the development or use of resources or products.

When specific products are involved, the project manager in charge should help the new project manager to understand how this product or service works.

The outgoing project manager should also show and motivate the new PM the benefits of the project and its strategic importance for the company.

5. Meeting the stakeholders

The existing project manager and the new one should meet project stakeholders together.

This will allow interested parties to ask questions, expose any doubts and discuss. This is what usually happens in a Kick off Meeting.

6. Being available to ask support

Sometimes, incoming project manager may not be sure of some project’s aspects.

For example, the new project manager could not understand the organization management processes.

When this happens, the incoming project manager must be available to (follow the good practice to) ask support from the existing project manager, the project team, and top management.

This will allow both project managers to work together to achieve common handover targets.

project handover

Checklists are always very useful for summarizing actions and timeline of events that otherwise would be complicated to explain.

Here are two checklists that can further support project handover between project managers.

Outgoing project manager should:

  • Obtain and deliver the project status – if one exists – or collect the project start-up documentation (for this reason it is important to always keep it in order);
  • Collect the documents involved in the initial offer, make sure to clearly indicate what the signed copy is (important to understand the expectations);
  • Collect all change requests (amount, description and times for each instance);
  • Write down the roles client-side (who is the sponsor, who will check the quality of the final results, etc.);
  • List all important contacts for the project, writing the frequency of communication with each contact and which topics to discuss;
  • Present the new project manager to the client;
  • Present the new project manager to the team;
  • Suggest the next steps to the new project manager.

Here, instead, there is a checklist of practical things to be managed during the handover:

  • List the people who are working on the project, or who have worked on it, along with their skills, competences and roles;
  • Give information on the work environment (password, keys, key card, …)
  • Give information on technical or practical dependencies, for example: if the X system should fail, this could cause project A to fail; the Z project depends on the Y service, etc.
  • Explain how long handover will take;
  • Notifying customers and stakeholders with much frequency of contact, that they may be less reactive during the transfer;
  • Explain to company leaders what you are concretely “transfer” to the new project manager;
  • Keep track of project delivery time.

In all these steps it is easy to understand how document management plays an essential role.

To support this transition phase, we have provided in TWproject a simple and flexible document management system.

In opposition to the complex management of documents that could be found in other software, document management is deliberately essential in TWproject.

With some powerful and simple techniques you can meet most business needs, for example reliability and usability.

Testing Twproject you will discover an intelligent system to manage and archive project documents and always have them at your fingertips.

One last observation must be made: each project manager has his own style.

For this reason, the incoming project manager does not necessarily have to follow everything that his predecessor has done, even imitating his working style.

Some people, especially younger managers, will probably feel obliged to do so, but our advice is to follow their own style and personality, without forcing themselves.

“ He who loses his individuality loses all.”

MAHATMA GANDHI

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Were you the outgoing or incoming PM?

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