complete a project

Successfully completing a project

Successfully completing a project is no piece of cake, even for the most experienced project managers.

Planning, execution and completion, as well as aggregating and separating activities by teams and employees into a cohesive entity are just a part of what this involves.

In this article, we would like to share 7 tips for successfully completing a project.

Successfully complete a project: Clearly define the project scope

We know that a problem – or, in this case, the project scope – well put forward is half solved.

No matter what, you have to be clear about the project goals, budget and methodology from the very start.

Too often it still is the case that when joining an organization and asking a project manager why they are working on a particular project, the answer is “Because that guy told me to do this.”

The power to understand why a project is critical to the organization and how it fits into the overall strategic plan is a core component of its success.

Being able to relate the success of the project to all organizational goals and strategies is an easy way to increase the dedication, morale, and sense of importance of team members, but also of the project manager themselves.

Successfully complete a project: Choose team members wisely

After defining the scope of the project clearly, it becomes easier to determine the talent required to achieve the intended goal.

The project manager must carefully select the people who will make up the team, so that they can be confident in delegating tasks and activities to the people best suited for each. he experience of the Project Team is critical.

Appropriate task delegation can be a sign of confidence in your team members’ capabilities, which in turn boosts morale and becomes instrumental in achieving the best possible project outcomes; a sort of domino effect.

Successfully complete a project: Outline goals and keep them SMART

To successfully complete a project, you must first have a clear picture of what to expect for a final output. This allows you to create intermediate and short-term goals and corresponding milestones.

After delegating the right activities to team members, the project manager can ask each of them to list the secondary activities that will act as milestones toward their final goal, then let them set their own deadlines for each milestone.

Naturally, the project manager can – and should – support team members in planning their work and identifying goals and milestones.

These deadlines, of course, must coincide with the overall time objectives of the project.

How many levels of detail are needed in the work structure will depend on the size and project complexity.

Successfully complete a project: Manage data

Storing data is becoming increasingly convenient and accessible, especially when using a good project management software.

However, with increased accessibility, security issues may arise.

Although most data management solutions do have data security at heart, sometimes things can slip through the cracks.

To be twice as safe, it’s imperative to manage file permissions, document properties, and monitor data versions on a consistent basis.

Successfully complete a project: Track progress every day

Being informed of deadlines, project, and team is a absolute must for successfully carrying out a project.

Sending regular status updates via face-to-face or virtual meetings, or through a centralized communication tool, ensures everyone has an overview of the project’s progress and how each individual’s contribution fits into the whole.

It is also wise to set up alerts for items that are approaching their planned completion date, as well as those that are behind schedule.

This is where a gantt like the one from Twproject comes in very handy.

Successfully complete a project: Keep everyone informed

successfully complete a project

Keep all stakeholders updated on progress throughout the project lifecycle.

Also, it is important to make sure that all team members understand what others are doing.

Particularly when changes are made, it is important to inform the team as soon as possible.

Many effective project teams hold short daily meetings; it is not enough to send occasional emails or wait to communicate when an issue arises.

Communication with the Project Team is key to the success of the project itself and keeping the flow of a project moving in the right direction.

Communication is even more important with employees working from remote.

Successfully complete a project: Motivate your team

When it comes to team motivation, rewarding team members for good performance definitely goes a long way rather than “punishing” those who underperform.

When a team member reaches a milestone, it’s important for the project manager to reward their accomplishments or give them recognition in front of the entire team.

This way, knowing that contributions are appreciated by the company makes people more motivated, focused and willing to put themselves out there.

 

With multiple moving parts and several people involved in the success of the project, it’s critical that project managers keep one step ahead of the game.

The ability to keep the scope, people and schedules on track can make or break a project.

Managing successful projects requires not only learning the tips included in this article, but also implementing them on the job.

Successfully complete your projects.

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working on several different projects

Working on several different projects at once: 7 strategies to keep everything under control

Working on several different projects at once is what most project managers do.

However, keeping track of all the bits and pieces can get tricky, especially without a good process for managing multiple projects, and even more without a good Project management software. In fact, it’s hard to know what work to prioritize, how to help the team and how to guarantee that everything gets done on time.

Luckily, there are tricks that you can use. So here are 7 strategies that will help you keep more projects under control.

Working on several different projects at once: Have a place in which to “host” all projects

After spending weeks planning and approving projects (you may like to read this article about Project Manajement), the team or teams are finally ready to get started. However, if all the plans are spread throughout different documents and spreadsheets, emails and reports, the work doesn’t really begin in the best way.

In fact, this way, you’re very likely to miss key information or the team ends up duplicating work because they didn’t know someone else was already working on it.

Planning and managing all projects in one place, like good project management software, allows the project manager to quickly see everything that is in progress and the status of the entire roadmap.

Working on several different projects at once: Establish goals, plans, responsibilities, and expectations at the very beginning

Without having a standard workflow or project planning process that drives the entire project lifecycle, chances are each project will be handled differently

Therefore, the end results are prone to be inconsistent, time is wasted setting up a new process each time, and the work is more likely to fail.

To overcome this problem, the project manager needs to make sure the team’s plan, process, and responsibilities are clear from the start.

At the project level, this translates into making sure to clearly outline goals, each phase of work that needs to be completed, when each is planned, and who will be responsible for it.

You also need to include time for feedback, an element that can easily be overlooked when you’re in a hurry to complete a project, but is still important.

Working on several different projects at once: Prioritize the work that will have the greatest impact

While it might be tempting to do away with the easier projects first, this is not always the best solution.

Instead, you need to prioritize them based on what will have the greatest impact on the organization’s goals.

For example, the team might be committed to five product launches at the same time.

While they are all the same size in terms of effort and work required to complete, one of them would have the potential to have a much greater impact on new customer revenue than the other four.

A second, however, would have the greatest impact on customer retention.

Because the company places a higher priority on retention, in this case it is the second project that is prioritized.

working on different projects

Working on several different projects at once: Be flexible when priorities change

Determining team priorities and getting aligned with the work is critical, but so is being flexible enough to allow for changes when needed.

And this is where a central document, or project management software like Twproject, that holds all project information and updates comes in handy. When priorities change, you can quickly identify what needs to be rescheduled.

Speaking of which, let me remind you that you can try Twproject for free by clicking here!

Working on several different projects at once: Manage and clearly communicate expectations

Teams that suffer from communication problems do so because they lack visibility into their own work and the work of other project stakeholders.

accomplishing is missing, there is a lack of context to understand why deadlines are changing, whether priorities remain the same, and how the project is progressing.

When a project manager manages communication, they need to offer the team and other stakeholders the whole context behind the work.

The best way to do this consistently is to find a work management tool that allows you to share status and progress updates directly where the work is happening.

Working on several different projects at once: Adjust project schedules to maximize team productivity

Even the most thoroughly planned project can find itself derailed if it’s not carefully planned with the full scope of the team’s work in mind in the short, medium and long term.

For example, you want to launch three different web updates at the same time, they could end up conflicting with each other or dragging on longer than expected because the team is trying to do too much at once.

Here are some helpful tips in this case:

 

  • Spread start dates for similar projects: especially if you have the same group working on multiple projects, it can be beneficial to spread out the start and completion dates for each project so that people can focus on one first and then move on to the next.
  • Pay attention to dependencies: schedule the dependent project after the scheduled completion date of the first one.
  • Tick off duplicate tasks: if you need to do the same work in two different projects, make sure this is done in time to keep both projects on track.

Working on several different projects at once: Delegate work, but maintain visibility

No manager wants to be a micromanager, though losing track of tasks and feeling unaware of the work your team is doing can make it nearly impossible to be an effective leader.

Still, by sharing a single source with your team, you will have a way to keep track of all the work everyone is doing.

When all of the team’s work lies in one centrally shared place, you can get information at a glance regarding every single aspect of your projects.

 

As a project manager, managing multiple projects simultaneously is a common scenario often.

Today, when managing multiple projects, technology is an essential aid in getting a holistic overview.

Still in doubt? Well, you can try yourself with a free demo.

project budget approval

Obtaining project budget approval: 5 key tips

Obtaining project budget approval is not an easy task. Every project comes with costs, and generally, the larger and more complex the project, the more difficult it will be to get approval.

Because no company possesses unlimited resources, every project involves a set budget that, ideally, will need to be observed. You might be interested in this article on how to make a project budget.

However, here’s the challenge: It’s not always easy to establish how big a budget a project will need. There is always the risk, in fact, of underestimating some factors and not being able to complete the project on time. On the other hand, if the estimates are too high, there is a risk that the whole project will be scrapped because it is not cost-effective.

So, how can you determine the right budget for a project and get it approved? Let’s find out in this article.

Obtaining budget approval: What to consider when making a project budget

Here are the most notable factors:

1. Cost estimates

A project budget comprises many types of expenses, including:

  • direct and indirect costs,
  • capital expenditure
  • operational expenses,
  • costs related to project results
  • and much more.

Trying to determine exact figures can be tricky, especially for brand-new projects.

In this case, you need to remain cool and keep in mind that budget numbers rarely match up totally with actual costs and are very likely to change as a project progresses.

Therefore, it is important to focus on estimating resources accurately at the time and providing cost estimates that are as realistic as possible.

2. Budget contingency

The greatest challenge in project management budget planning is the unexpected.

Even with a thorough estimate of costs and resources, unexpected contingencies or changes to the project may require budget revisions.

As a result, just as a project plan will incorporate a buffer with regard to timelines, so the same should be done in the case of the budget. A kind of contingency fund for the unexpected – a contingency in fact – should be prepared.

Since this is an amount for the unknown, its estimation is very difficult to pin down.

An amount that is too large will make those who have to approve the budget think that it has been inflated without logic.

A good rule of thumb is to set aside 10% of the total budget for contingencies.

3. Budget monitoring

Just as you track project activities, likewise you want to track and monitor expenses throughout the project lifecycle.

By regularly monitoring your budget, you can quickly find when costs begin to exceed estimates and make changes before the budget is exceeded.

This monitoring also identifies additional budget needs with enough time to get funding in place before work is forced to stop.

Tips for obtaining project budget approval

budget approval

1. Knowing what you need as opposed to what you want

The key is including in your budget at least some of what you would like to have but don’t think is necessary.

It is unlikely that you will get everything you ask for, so it is important to draw a definite line between what you think is absolutely necessary and what you think might be useful.

To be more convincing, you can list the risks and negative consequences of not getting what you need to get the job done.

2. Define the why before the what

Before introducing a budget piece, it is important to define concretely why it is important to the project.

Getting support and evidence can make the argument even more compelling.

3. Seek out and propose concrete options

Take multiple options into consideration, research and evaluate them.

If the project requires working with a service provider, then it’s worth looking for several vendors who have experience executing similar projects, discuss the idea with them, check their references and get different quotes.

Based on this research, you can create different project budgets, from a “top” version with the most expensive options to “regular” and “budget” versions.

Motivate why you would prefer one option over another.

4. Emphasize how your proposal will bring value to the organization

As well as a budget outlining how much the project will cost, it is important to calculate the value that the organization will gain over time thanks to the project.

These could be, for example, annual cost savings, increased efficiency or productivity improvements.

5. Anticipate the questions that will be asked

Whoever is in charge of approving the budget will most certainly have questions about the submitted proposal.

Anticipating the questions and considering which details will need to be explained in more detail is key to winning stakeholders over.

 

When you are proactive, well-organized and set concrete goals, it will be significantly easier to get the budget approved, even in the case of very expensive projects.

Furthermore, by demonstrating skill and respect for time, you will have the confidence that your budget suggestions will be considered seriously by the stakeholders or business leaders who must approve it.

Also, don’t forget that once the budget is approved, it is the project manager’s duty to oversee it.

To do this, it is a good idea to use project management software such as TWproject to track and have visibility of costs and real-time comparison with the budget.

TWproject, in fact, boasts a very straightforward and clear section for tracking your budget. If you haven’t already done so, try Twproject for free by clicking on the banner below and discover how simple it is to manage your budget.

Control your projects’ budget with Twproject.

lean processes

Implementing lean processes in projects: The lean methodology

Implementing lean processes in projects is becoming progressively more popular in multiple industries. The goal of such implementation is to fix issues and lessen inefficiencies.

Lean principles were first conceived and used exclusively in the manufacturing world, as they support streamlined processes and promote high quality production.

This approach is of particular value to manufacturing goods, but it has been proven so successful that it has been introduced in other industries. Last but not least, research project managers have also benefited from it.

Still, lean project management is not the best solution for every organization.

In this article, we will take a closer look at what lean production is, what the basics of this methodology are, how to implement it, and some pros and cons of using it.

What is lean project management?

The expression “lean” does not apply exclusively to project management, but is a general mindset that focuses on lean operational management based on efficiency.

Although this concept is a mix of Western and Japanese cultures and practices, its origins can be traced back to the Toyota Motor Corporation during the post-World War II era.

Struggling with poor productivity, Toyota implemented the Toyota Production System (TPS) to effectively eliminate problematic elements from its processes, including inefficient processing, long wait times, and inventory issues.

One of the core principles of TPS was what was known as just-in-time, or JIT.

For Toyota, JIT meant

Obtain the right amount of raw materials and manufacture the right amount of products to meet customer demand.

In other words, production was strongly correlated with demand.

The adoption of TPS and JIT thus represented a “lean” approach to production, and this tactic has made Toyota one of the most successful companies in the world.

When Western manufacturers realized in the 1980s that Japan was outpacing them, these principles began to migrate westward.

The name “lean production” was created around this time, first applied to manufacturing and later to project management.

Lean project management principles. The Lean Method

Now, lean project delivery means maximizing value while minimizing waste, which involves using a minimal amount of materials, equipment, labor and space.

Specifically, lean methodology optimizes resource utilization by eliminating waste in seven areas:

  • Overproduction: Excess production is unnecessary and causes high inventory levels;
  • Inventory: excess materials increase storage costs and are rarely used;
  • Time: Backlogs in any area that lead to a general waste of time;
  • Transportation: unnecessarily moving materials from one location to another causes inefficiency;
  • Defects: quality issues can only be fixed by spending additional time, money, and resources;
  • Transportation: too many unnecessary steps in a process lengthen production time;
  • Excess processing: work that does not add value to a product or process is wasteful and increases costs unnecessarily.

Lean Project Management

The methodology that the lean approach employs to identify and remove waste in these areas can be broken down into the following steps:

  • Identify value: The concept of value needs to be rethought from the final customer’s perspective.
  • Value Stream Mapping: Analyze the process of creating the product or project to identify areas of waste, such as unnecessary steps or actions.
  • Process optimization: Develop an improvement plan to eliminate waste identified in the value stream.
  • Establish pull: This means to carry on the project or create the product based solely on the customer’s request. In other words, it is the customer who “pulls” the production.
  • Continual improvement: Regularly re-evaluate project process aiming to eliminate waste and maximize productivity and efficiency.

Lean project management implementation

Even though implementing lean processes in projects is a methodology used in organizations of all types and sizes, it works best – at least at first – with small projects and small teams because it requires strong communication.

As an organization grows, it can continue to nurture the lean mindset among new members.

Here’s an overview of the major steps involved in the implementation of lean project management:

1. Creating a corporate culture

The classic top-down approach doesn’t fit the lean project management philosophy.

Although management bears full responsibility for products, processes and business requirements, it is also important that everyone feels an ownership, and therefore a sense of equality, when it comes to improving the way an organization works.

Establishing a standard of openness and transparency helps create an environment where everyone is actively supported in identifying problems and testing solutions.

lean processes in projects

2. Having a well-trained team

There is no lean management model that works for every single project; the implementation of the principles may not look exactly the same in every case.

That’s why it’s important to create a well-trained team that possesses a strong understanding of the values of lean project management and is capable of keeping everyone focused.

One way to increase the team’s knowledge of this methodology is to provide in-house training sessions that shed light on the procedures and methods related to lean principles.

 3. Make lean improvements part of the corporate culture

There should be a culture of improvement which permeates throughout the organization, encouraging and enabling teams to strive for continuous improvement everywhere.

Team members should be able to evaluate a process and take the necessary actions to make improvements.

Sticking with lean requires continuous focus.

Lean project management benefits

The implementation of lean project management is a long-term proposition that should ultimately change an organization’s culture for the better.

Lean project management benefits include:

  • Streamlined processes: Continuously fine-tuning your workflow means getting rid of unnecessary tasks, and the end result is a simpler, easier-to-manage process.
  • High-quality output: By getting rid of worthless activities, the team can focus more on activities that bring better quality and fewer errors to the output.
  • Dedicated employees: Employees who spend time on significant work have higher motivation. Also, employees who feel they are working together on an equal footing naturally take more initiative and are more dedicated to quality production.
  • Smarter processes: Lean enables employees to work on the right tasks at the right time.
  • More value for the customer: Focusing more on value-added work naturally produces a better product.

Lean project management challenges

When properly done, lean can offer all of the benefits mentioned above, but many organizations struggle to implement lean project management over the long term.

The main problems that can be found are:

  • Lack of time. Lean involves forward planning and time. Mapping key product flows, creating improvement plans, running daily meetings to discuss completed and pending work, and identifying problems are just a few of the tasks that need to be undertaken regularly to maintain flow. Perceived as interfering with normal work activities, these tasks often get overlooked as time goes on, making it impossible to apply a lean methodology.
  • Lack of strategy. Some companies focus so much on lean production that they lose touch with their overall strategic plan. To get the most out of this methodology, you need to intentionally implement its principles to existing business goals and not neglect them.
  • Insufficient buy-in. Lean methodology is considered a radical way of thinking that requires complete consensus from teams. It takes a lot of effort to change people’s behaviors and incentivize them to work more independently. If you don’t have enough time to train people on the new way of working and how everyone will benefit, it is unlikely that they will agree. To help gain consensus, it is important to invest in training programs that teach people about lean and improve their communication skills.

 

No project management methodology is perfect, which is why many organizations employ some mix of methodologies.

Lean methodology, given its radical nature, may not be suitable for everyone, but its core principle – minimizing waste while maximizing value – can still be applied to some extent even if you are using a different project framework.

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procrastinating issues

Procrastinating issues in projects

Procrastinating issues in projects is by far the deadliest of sins a project manager can commit.

Procrastination is nothing like being lazy and not wanting to work. Procrastination means undermining the entire project if not even the entire Organization that focuses on that project.

Let’s dig deeper into this in this article as well as giving you valuable tips to address this habit.

What does procrastinate mean?

Procrastination is the act of waiting until the last minute to do those tasks that have a relatively high priority and typically require more effort than others.

You procrastinate when you work first on those tasks that are easy to do or are of a lower priority.

Procrastination can be related not only to how you perform tasks or solve problems, but also to how you make decisions.

Although it is considered normal for people to procrastinate to some extent, it becomes a problem when procrastination impairs the normal operation of projects because they are not completed on time.

Impact of procrastination on issues in projects

Within project management, the effects of procrastination can be extremely detrimental, not only to the project manager and their team, but to the project as a whole and, in the most serious cases, to the organization itself.

Here are the impacts that procrastination can have on project management:

Low morale

Morale is how employees feel about their work, their coworkers, and their supervisors.

When it is high, work ethic is enhanced and employees will work harder, longer, and happier. Conversely, when it is low, employees will not be motivated to work, which can lead them to procrastinate even more.

Procrastination also creates a stressful situation where you have to “rush” to meet task deadlines.

This means, for example, that the team is forced to work overtime and work much longer hours.

This is made worse if the project manager himself procrastinates.

Stress

Putting things off for a later time or at the last minute can actually raise your stress levels.

If you procrastinate for a long time, work assignments begin to stack up until eventually you will have several hours or weeks of work to catch up on in a short period of time.

For some people, the adrenaline rush of waiting until the last minute can be exciting, but for most, this will only mean an increase in stress levels which, in some cases, can be detrimental to your health.

Increased procrastination

The underlying cause of procrastination is being forced to do something that you find boring or unpleasant, which is why you shy away from it in order to do something fun and exciting.

The problem with this is that when you avoid the activity the first time, you tend to keep doing it, making it more and more unpleasant.

Procrastination can then lead to negative consequences such as stress, guilt, and decreased personal productivity, as well as social disapproval for not meeting responsibilities or commitments.

These feelings, combined, can lead to further procrastination.

Solving procrastination issues in projects

procrastinating issues in projects

Determine why you procrastinate

To get things to improve, you need to understand why you are procrastinating.

It could be, for example, poor organization, or maybe fear; they could be overburdened with work or aiming for over-perfection.

It is therefore vital to pinpoint the cause and then find the appropriate solution.

Devise a plan

If procrastination is already a habit, you can still improve the situation.

However, as with most things, you cannot expect improvement overnight.

Firstly, you have to accept the current situation. Science suggests that procrastinators usually feel guilt and anxiety about not doing their job.

Here, then, is where you should focus on finding solutions, motivating yourself by finding ways to improve your time management skills.

Focus on doing instead of avoiding. A simple written list of tasks to be done, perhaps with a specified time, can do wonders for morale.

Set up a reward system

When you succeed in completing a difficult task on time, a small reward for a job well done might be a good idea that helps beat procrastination.

Peer pressure

While this may put some pressure on people, it is a well proven method of preventing procrastination.

Whenever possible, asking a peer to keep an eye on tasks that need to be done and to remind them of work when it hasn’t been done yet can be a good solution for some people.

Keep distractions to a minimum

If possible, you should create a distraction-free area in your workplace.

This will help you focus on your tasks and get things done quickly, thus preventing the need for procrastination.

Prioritize

Sometimes, making just a list isn’t enough to improve time management and to actually be productive; you need to prioritize.

This means establishing which tasks are time-sensitive and which can be postponed; this way, you’ll have a clear picture of your workload, but more importantly, you won’t be able to do the easier tasks first if they’re not a priority.

Find the most productive time

Everyone works differently. Some of us are more productive in the morning, others in the evening, but what is common to all is that you have a peak time during the day when you are most productive.

Pinpointing this time of productivity is great for time management and this is where you can focus on the more difficult tasks.

On the other hand, when you need to take a break, you can switch to working on something easier.

Don’t push for perfection

You don’t need to constantly demand perfection every time; some tasks can be satisfactory even without being perfect. Demanding excellence over and over again puts a lot of pressure on everyone.

 

Of course, this doesn’t mean agreeing with a half-hearted result or a job done poorly, but if it’s within the standard, it’s acceptable.

Procrastinating issues in projects: conclusions

Beating procrastination can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be stopped and even prevented.

The first step is to acknowledge that you are a procrastinator, find the main cause, and try to solve the problem.

Different people will have different reasons, so it’s important to follow a strategy that works.

Whatever the reason, the steps listed in this article can be implemented to improve the situation.

One thing you need to remember is not to put too much pressure on yourself: procrastination will not vanish overnight.

Being a project manager is not an easy job and what makes a good project supervisor is efficiency in managing projects, people, time and money.

In all of this, procrastination should have no place and it is desirable to prevent it as much as possible.

Plan your work and your project deadlines.

preventing disaster

Evaluating projects to prevent disaster. 7 key tips

Evaluating projects to prevent disasters is extremely important. That’s why Project Manager is critical, and we often find serious challenges that if addressed poorly can derail programs.

This means knowing a project’s weaknesses through strategic project analysis, effective planning and a proper work management system.

Generally speaking, there is not just one way to ensure project management success, but there are some effective tips that, when included in a management style, can help avoid disasters.

Here, then, are the 7 key tips for evaluating projects:

Evaluating a project: Knowing the project inside out

Before you begin, consider your project as a whole. The first and most important thing you need to do to make a project successful is to ensure that it is based on a solid foundation.

To do so, you need to find your clients and stakeholders stakeholders and understand their interests and expectations for the project.

The following step is to devise a solid project plan in which roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.

In addition, to make planning more effective, you need to establish measurable and traceable success criteria to assess, as you go along, whether the project is on track or not.

Evaluating a project: Determine the right project team

Having developed your project plan, the next step is to build a team that can effectively implement the plan and bring it into place.

This begins with defining roles and assigning the right set of tasks while taking into account each individual’s personality, strengths and skills.

After all, project management resources are the key factors in delivering a successful project.

Evaluating a project: Finding a skilled project manager

To ensure that the project is heading in the right direction, knowing that it is being led by a qualified project manager is essential.

In fact, a good project manager will leave no stone unturned to make the project a success.

They must know how to manage a team of different personalities by assigning the work to the right person and making sure that the process is productive and motivating.

Moreover, they must know how to win clients’ trust and communicate their expectations to their team to work as one to achieve a shared goal.

evaluating projects

Evaluating a project: Defining critical milestones

When evaluating a project, don’t forget that its success depends on pinpointing the defining moments during the project lifecycle.

This can be achieved by including the main phases such as initiating, planning, executing and closing a project, but it doesn’t end there.

Every single phase must be segmented into those events, milestones, which constitute an important milestone and are considered a kind of “check point” for the activities carried out so far and in the future.

If you find errors, you can immediately take action to get the project back on track.

Evaluating a project: Communication is key

To run a project smoothly, you need to have effective and consistent communication with stakeholders and consistent communication with stakeholders and clients, but more importantly, in the event of changes, perfect communication with team members to avoid misunderstandings and “sudden attacks.”

For the project manager, it is important to ensure that communication lines are always open so that anyone can reach others without hassle and second thoughts.

Also, regular project status reports are a good way to keep everyone on the same page by keeping them updated on new developments.

Remember that ineffective communication is one of the main reasons why projects fail.

Evaluating a project: Capitalizing on team members’ strengths

A project’s success depends heavily on team members’ skills.

A good project manager will always make an effort to know the strengths and weaknesses of their team members so that work can be allocated accordingly.

Since someone’s strength is somebody else’s weakness, a capable manager will ensure that the work is given to the individual who is inherently competent and quickest to get it done.

Drawing on the strengths of team members will definitely ensure faster task completion and better time management.

With the team performing at its best and whose strengths are utilized to the fullest, the project can only be a success.

Evaluating a project: Using a project management tool

Technology brought many benefits in so many domains, also in project management, thanks to  project management software.

A good software serves as a centralized platform for all relevant project information that not only won’t be lost, but will also be accessible to all project stakeholders.

These project management tools allow teams to effectively collaborate and deliver impressive results with powerful features including Gantt charts, custom reports and workflows, and kanban charts.

If you haven’t done so already, you can try TWproject for free by clicking here.

 

Bottom line, a good project manager will always examine the project as a whole, as well as analyze the different project components listed in this article so as to prevent disasters.

At the end of each project, it is also vital to evaluate every aspect and weakness of a project, write down successes, what went wrong, and what could be improved for future projects.

Through experience and skill, a good project manager will be able to predict when risk is imminent and when corrective measures need to be taken.

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precedencies diagram

Precedence diagram method for establishing dependency relationships between activities

The Precedence diagram, especially when created through a project management software, can be the greatest asset for a Project Manager.

Having many challenging responsibilities involved in project management, possessing the right tools to assist in the successful execution of tasks becomes critical.

The precedence diagram for establishing dependency relationships between tasks is one of them. Let’s look at it in detail in this article.

What is the precedence diagram method?

The precedence diagram method is a charting technique that is used to develop a network diagram of the project schedule and uses so-called “nodes” to represent activities.

These nodes are connected through arrows to represent a sequential progression of dependencies between activities in the plan.

The precedence diagram method quickly provides the project team and stakeholders insight into all planned activities, its affiliates, and node dependencies.

How to create the precedence diagram

To create a precedence diagram and thus to establish the dependency relationships between tasks, the first stage of planning is to focus on the work breakdown structure.

The whole project becomes more convenient and manageable when the various tasks are broken down into smaller parts.

At this stage you will have a table with three columns, the first column listing the tasks and the second with their sequence, while the third will show the duration of each task.

This way you have all the information you need to design a simple precedence diagram.

To start creating the precedence diagram, each activity is represented as a node.

Each box should have an arrow connecting it to the next step: the first activity will start on the left followed by the second, which will be connected by an arrow.

If the next two activities have the same predecessor, they will be stacked on top of each other with two arrows coming from the same starting point.

Conversely, when an activity has two predecessors, the arrows from those predecessors will both connect to the given activity.

In this way a basic precedence diagram is created.

the precedencies diagram

What are the four dependencies in precedence diagrams?

To create a precedence diagram, you must master dependencies.

A dependency is an activity that depends on another task to be completed.

More specifically, there are four types of dependencies:

1. Mandatory dependency

A mandatory dependency is an obligatory dependency, such as adding water to the pool after it is built. You cannot add the water first and build the pool around it.

2. Discretionary dependency

A discretionary dependency helps in optimizing resources. Using the previous example: there is no strict logic for building the sides of the pool. Starting with one side is just as likely and important as another. However, there may be a reason to start with one rather than the other.

3. External dependency

An external dependency is beyond the project team’s control. Again, using the pool example, there could be bad weather that prevents digging from starting or a approval process that takes longer than expected.

4. Internal dependency

An internal dependency is a controllable dependency. If there is only one shovel, two people cannot dig the hole for making the pool. In this case, the program must include a way to split the work between the two people or purchase another shovel.

Each dependency, in turn, can be defined in four ways:

Finish to start : The activity cannot start until another one is finished. The most common dependency type used among activities.

Finish to finish: the activity cannot end until another one is finished.

Start to start: the activity cannot begin until another activity has begun.

Start to finish: The activity cannot end until another one has begun. This is the least used type of dependency.

Pros and cons of the precedence diagram method

This method offers a number of advantages to project management:

  • Helps in finding relationships and dependencies between activities. This thus supports planning and risk prevention. If an activity is missing, it is easier to identify it.
  • Helps pinpoint the critical path and critical activities and focus on them. Any delay in critical activities will delay the overall program.
  • A precedence diagram is a great communication tool. Stakeholders can review activities at any time and get an understanding of the overall program.
  • Helps to identify a potential bottleneck and implement appropriate changes.
  • Provides a graphical representation of milestones, overall project duration, and the end of the project.

As for the cons:

  • For large, complex projects, there will be thousands of tasks and dependency relationships. Without a project management software that features the appropriate functionality, it can be very difficult to manage them. To make matters worse, if the plan changes during the project lifecycle, the precedence diagram will need to be reviewed and redesigned, and again, without the appropriate software, this could become very cumbersome.
  • One of the pros of having a project precedence diagram is that it allows the team to stay focused on the project activities and the stakeholders to keep an overview of the entire process. However, in case of large projects involving thousands of activities, it may be difficult to visualize the precedence diagram of the entire project without having to break it down into smaller parts.

 

The fine art of using precedence diagrams, therefore, is to find the appropriate level of detail.

The more tasks are presented, the greater the project overview will be, yet the more dependencies will be resulting and the more difficult it will be to manage the precedence diagram over time.

This is why the use of proper project management software becomes crucial.

This provides the foundation for determining the critical path of the project, predicting shortcomings, and understanding the possible reallocation of resources to solve problems.

Proper use of the precedence chart will provide the project manager with information about the status of the project and make it easier to control activities and schedules.

Start using precedence diagram method.

project's deadlines

Meeting project deadlines: 5 life-saving tips

Meeting project deadlines can be a source of heavy pressure and concern for many people.

It’s not just the project manager who cannot sleep with peace of mind, but also the stakeholders, project sponsors and the entire company. Even third-party companies that could benefit from a successful project are anxious about meeting project deadlines.

Deadlines are key for almost any task or role and are essential to the smooth sailing of any project or organization. Let’s have a look at how you can make sure to not lose sight of them.

Why is meeting project deadlines so difficult?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand why we all have this tendency of missing deadlines.

One of the reasons is because procrastination motivates human beings. It is called the Yerkes-Dodson law.

Simply put, as our excitement (in this case, stress) increases, so does our ability to perform the task.

We’ve probably all experienced at least one time how impressed we were with how quickly we were able to get something done the night before a deadline.

And that’s because the stress of that rapidly approaching deadline gave us a much-needed boost.

But in all of this, a problem arises: using this stress as a motivator only works up to a certain degree.

If this becomes too much, performance not only declines, but you will end up suffering some bad consequences.

Why are deadlines in projects important?

Typically, you have deadlines in your projects for one of the following reasons:

  • To ensure the completion of a task. It’s easy to delay or forget a task that doesn’t have an agreed-upon end point. Deadlines help avoid this.
  • To promote a smooth workflow. Deadlines help us collaborate toward a shared goal and keep complex, multi-phased projects on track.
  • To set expectations. Deadlines make it clear what we expect to deliver and when. This means taking control of our work, without confusion.
  • There can also be serious consequences for missing a deadline. On a personal level, it can damage a person’s reputation and career prospects, especially if it happens more than once.
  • It can also be extremely damaging on an organizational level. Failure to meet a deadline will likely impact an organization’s reputation and can have serious financial implications if that delay triggers a penalty clause in a contract.

 

There are two main areas to focus on when you need to stay on schedule with a project: managing the deadline and managing yourself.

Managing a deadline

Most of us are likely to simply accept a deadline we are given, but it is worth considering it carefully before agreeing to it.

People often underestimate the time it takes to complete projects, so the deadline that has been set may not be realistic, and sometimes deadlines are set unnecessarily early to avoid problems when delivery is late.

So what should you do before accepting a deadline? Here are five life-saving tips for meeting project deadlines:

1. Meeting project deadlines: Assessing what is needed

First, you need to understand exactly what the activity involves and map out what work needs to be done

Ideally, the person who set the deadline will have taken into account the complexity of the work, but this is not always the case.

2. Meeting project deadlines: Getting the right resources

Make sure you have what you need to get the job done promptly.

Do you have the people, technical support, equipment, training and materials ready and available on time?

Otherwise, you may have to suggest a longer schedule or a lowering of the quality or quantity of work that will be delivered on time.

3. Meeting project deadlines: Considering possible problems

Things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s wise to think about potential problems.

For example, how would an illness, equipment failure, or unexpectedly urgent competing activity affect plans?

Consider what contingencies you could work out to minimize the impact.

One solution might, for example, be to notify the project leader or a colleague so they can cover for you or another member of your team in case of an emergency.

4. Meeting project deadlines: Planning down to the detail

The next step is to draft a detailed schedule.

A good approach is often to break tasks down into small parts with a WBS and create deadlines for each one.

Doing so, you may find that you need more time than the overall deadline allows.

the project's deadlines

5. Meeting project deadlines: Limiting the damage of a missed deadline

Despite all your hard work and foresight, you may still miss a deadline.

If this happens, keep calm and make every effort to limit the damage.

Keep project stakeholders informed of progress as you work, highlight any issues that may cause delays, and show that you are putting your contingency plans in place.

That way, if you can’t deliver on time, more people will understand the situation and some may be willing to help.

In such a situation, it’s best to address the problem quickly and agree on a new deadline.

However, missing a deadline can have broader implications.

For example, as mentioned earlier, if you are working with a client or an outside organization, there could be a financial penalty or it could damage your reputation.

Either way, be sure to take responsibility, avoid making excuses or dumping problems on others, and focus on providing everything you can as soon as possible.

Manage yourself before managing project deadlines

The other important factor in meeting a deadline is the individual itself.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Be assertive: learn to say “no” when appropriate, or at least get space to consider a deadline before accepting it.
  • Change your mindset: adopt a positive attitude toward deadlines instead of looking at them as something negative. Deadlines can help you achieve goals you might otherwise put off.
  • Don’t mistake “planning” with “doing”: no matter how good a plan is, if you don’t turn it into action, it remains just an abstract thing that doesn’t bring any results.
  • Make good use of time: avoid trying to multitask, as it is not efficient, and work efficiently, especially when the deadline is near.
  • Make meeting deadlines a habit: starting by working toward smaller deadlines in your daily work can help you transfer this habit to larger deadlines when they arise.

 

Time is money, so keeping a steady pace will accumulate valuable minutes to make a difference at the end of the project.

While they might not always be liked, especially when they seem to be approaching at very high speed, deadlines are a necessity for keeping projects on track.

Speaking of deadlines, don’t forget that a good project management software with an effective and reliable Gantt can be greatly beneficial. Try Twproject’s Time Schedule free by clicking the button below.

Plan your work and your project deadlines.

project's costs

How to reduce project costs

Reducing project costs and budget management is an ongoing process for which a project manager is always looking for innovative ways.

An improper allocation of resources can adversely affect the project’s profitability, cause the project to go over budget compared to the project baseline, and, in some cases, lead to project failure.

Sometimes, the project’s scope may suddenly change, which can disrupt the project plan, and you may need to add more resources that were not initially considered.

The project manager needs to ensure that the budget is reviewed regularly and, more importantly, in such a situation.

In addition, the project’s costs can be monitored by reviewing its progress during each stage and making sure there are no discrepancies.

But beyond that, here are some tips for reducing the cost of a project.

Allocate competent resources during the project start-up phase

Identifying and assigning the right resources during the start-up phase helps deliver the project on time and budget.

It also helps avoid allocating insufficient or overqualified – and therefore expensive – resources to certain project activities.

On the other hand, assigning underqualified resources will cause delays in delivery and compromise the quality of results.

Therefore, the project manager must ensure that critical resources are acquired and allocated appropriately before the project begins.

Look for cheaper resources

The resources used by a project can often be expensive and can reduce profit margins.

There are many instances of companies increasing the cost of the resources they offer when competing and many projects wasting resources, which means you are paying higher costs than you should be.

However, there are many ways to reduce the amount and cost of resources used, such as comparing pricing from multiple vendors and implementing streamlined processes.

Or is it possible to find existing hardware to use instead of buying new equipment?

Reduce project duration

Another way you can reduce the expense of a project is to shorten its duration.

The longer a project is, the more resources will need to be used, including materials, administrative costs, energy, and employees, all of which will need to be paid.

Project length is one of the main reasons why companies fail to meet their original budgets.

To shorten the critical path, you might consider performing multiple tasks simultaneously, turning full dependencies into partial dependencies that can run parallel.

Reduce project scope

If the project’s cost is a concern, one solution might also be to consider reducing the scope of the project.

Although the scope is determined during the initial planning stages, this can prove costly and time-consuming if it is too broad.

You can reduce the scope by reducing the number of tasks that will be met simultaneously, limiting the project to only the most essential processes and requirements.

Note, however, that reducing the scope of the project may require the approval of important stakeholders.

Review workload estimates

Do resources need 8 hours a day to perform a task, or can some of them work fewer hours a day on that given task?

Not only should duration estimates be evaluated to shorten the program, but also workload estimates.

In case this could be a solution, this may require renegotiation with some team members.

Manage your budget correctly

the project costs

In addition to the aforementioned tips, it is also essential to implement a sustainable budget into the project plan and for the project manager to be able to monitor progress and adjust it to needs when necessary.

Most budgets are relatively rigid because of budget approval early in the planning phase, which often includes funding from project sponsors.

Therefore, the project manager must be able to work within these boundaries throughout the process.

To do this, you need to map your expenses before you start and use budget tracking tools to stick to them throughout the project lifecycle.

Use agile management techniques

Agile management can be the perfect way to avoid wasting resources, leading to lower project costs.

Agile management uses short development cycles to advance and improve a project continuously.

This management technique can help improve the efficiency of a project which, as a result, can lead to saving money.

Use project management software

Although project management software often has a high upfront cost, using it can help reduce the cost of a project.

That’s because dedicated software can help reduce the cost of manual processes and the extra time to be invested and allow employees to be more productive through automated processes, resource optimization, the ability to meet deadlines, and the reduction of administrative errors.

In this regard, the advice is to try a free project management software such as Twproject.

Seek process improvements

A final solution might be to see if there are ways in which you can achieve your goals differently.

For example, is it possible to do work remotely instead of requiring office visits?

Is it possible to gather requirements in one day, through a joint design session, rather than in three weeks using traditional methods?

Is it possible to outsource some of the work at a lower cost than doing it in-house?

These and other questions can lead to money-saving process changes.

 

In conclusion, the main goal of cost management for a project is to eliminate unnecessary costs without compromising the quality of the final results.

However, this is an ongoing process within project management and requires constant monitoring to try to maintain the project budget.

Also, determining discrepancies helps you take timely action and avoid going over budget.

Often, project managers reserve 10 to 20 percent of the budget for unforeseen circumstances and create the project plan with the remaining budget so that there are no last-minute hiccups.

Transform your strategy in action with Twproject!

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problem solving

Problem solving: a Project Manager skill

Problem solving is a project manager skill that facilitates effective problem solving by combining creative thinking and strong analytical skills.

This is a skill that provides the capability to bring a different perspective to problems, helping to design and implement effective solutions.

It’s easy to realize how in problem solving the identification of simple solutions to big problems can provide benefits to the project and the company, but there are not always successful Project Managers capable of finding them.

In this article we will try to give a hand to the less creative and more accustomed to patterns minds by suggesting some techniques that if properly implemented can be extremely beneficial.

Problem-solving techniques: a 5-step approach

Let’s start from the premise that some problems are small and can be solved quickly, while others may involve considerable time and effort.

Regardless of whether the problem you’re focusing on is small or large, using a systemic approach to solving it will certainly help you be a more effective project manager.

Here are what are the five problem solving steps that you can use for most problems.

Problem solving step 1: Problem definition

The most important step in problem solving is to properly define the problem.

How you define the problem will determine how you will attempt to solve it.

For example, if you get a complaint regarding one of your project team members from a client, the solutions you will assess will be different based on how you define the problem.

If you choose a poor performance approach for the team member, different solutions will unfold as opposed to an approach where you give little consideration to what the client said.

Problem solving step 2: Cause determination

After you have defined the issue, you can proceed to dig deeper and begin to determine what is causing it.

This level of analysis is important to ensure that solutions address the actual causes of the problem rather than the symptoms of the problem.

If the solution solves a symptom instead of an actual cause, in fact, the problem is likely to reoccur because it was never truly solved.

Problem solving step 3: Ideas generation

After the hard work of defining the problem and determining its causes is complete, then it is time to get creative and develop possible solutions to the problem.

Two great problem solving methods that you can use to come up with solutions are brainstorming and mind mapping.

Problem solving step 4: Best solution selection

After figuring up with several ideas that could solve the problem, one way to decide which is the best solution is a simple trade-off analysis.

We can find this analysis when performing a project feasibility study as well.

To carry out the trade-off analysis, you must first define the critical criteria for the problem that you can use to evaluate the comparison between each solution.

The assessment can be performed using a simple matrix, where the solution with the highest score will be the best for the problem at hand.
problem solving ability

Problem solving step 5: Act

After having established the solution to be implemented, it’s time to take action.

If the solution requires several actions or necessitates an effort by others, it’s a good idea to make a plan and treat it as a mini-project.

 

Yet, problem solving as a project manager’s skill is not just limited to this tangible process for solving problems.

Let’s see what other skills are key to problem solving.

Problem Solving: Creativity

This is not just something related to artists.

Creativity is about being able to simply come up with a unique solution and thinking “outside of the box”.

This means not responding to problems with a knee-jerk reaction or a safe solution that might lead to poor results.

What creativity requires is being able to actually take a look at a problem from multiple perspectives, not just the typical one.

Stepping out of your comfort zone, thinking outside the box, going beyond. This is what creativity in problem solving is all about.

Solutions to serious problems may in fact not be found within standard processes.

Problem Solving: Communication

Like with almost everything, nothing can be achieved without the communication skills to provide the solution to those who must solve it.

Even simple ideas are often muddied by poor rhetoric, let alone failed attempts to convey complex ones and solve problems.

And we’re not just referring to being able to clearly impart orders; it’s also important to know the right channel to deliver your message.

That message needs to reach the right people, in the right way, and get to them as quickly as possible.

Finding a solution to a problem is just one link in a larger chain.

If that solution isn’t delivered to the parties that need it to fix the problem in order for the project to move forward, then it’s all in vain.

Not all people are born great communicators, but there are ways to learn how to better communicate, especially with team members.

It takes empathy and active listening to develop trust and loyalty and without this connection, no matter how explicitly you communicate a message, it will be misinterpreted or even ignored.

Problem Solving: Willpower

All of the above may be quite fascinating, but if the project manager is not committed to their work and to improving themselves in problem solving, everything is pointless.

There are exercises you can do to master problem solving skills that help you respond better to problems and solve them quickly.

For example, there are logical reasoning tests that help you clearly organize your thoughts, analyze them, and quickly choose the best course of action.

However, all this takes willpower; the project manager must be aware of what they are doing and must want to do it.

Only in this way will it be possible to develop the best problem solving skills.

 

When presented with a problem, some project managers may be inclined to procrastinate or avoid the problem altogether.

However, avoiding problems is a short-term solution. It is problem solving that keeps things moving forward.

Therefore, the faster and more effectively you can solve a problem, the faster you can get the job done and successfully complete a project.

Keep up with the times.

SWOT analysis

Swot analysis of a project, how to do it and why

A project SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique that project managers can use to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their projects.

In addition, this analysis will allow for the identification of opportunities and threats that may need to be addressed during the project life cycle.

Incorporating SWOT analysis into project management can help improve planning, reduce risk, and increase overall project success.

What does SWOT mean?

A SWOT analysis is a technique that companies often use to evaluate four critical aspects of their organization.

This analysis can help companies better understand how successful they are likely to be and what areas they should improve.

Just as entrepreneurs and executives use a SWOT analysis to evaluate their company, project managers can use the same technique to assess their projects.

Here is an overview of the four areas of interest that make up the SWOT acronym and how they apply to project management:

  • S – Strengths: These are internal factors, i.e., factors that can generally be controlled, that determine the success of a project. An example might be good project management software or experienced team members.
  • W – Weaknesses: Weaknesses are internal factors that can make it difficult for a project to succeed. For example, when the team has never worked together, and several members are new and inexperienced. Other internal weaknesses could be disengaged stakeholders or lack of project funding.
  • O – Opportunities: Opportunities are external, uncontrollable factors that could help the project succeed. These opportunities may be current but not yet exploited or future. An example might be a discount on goods from a supplier.
  • T – Threats: These are external factors that could harm the project if they occur. As with opportunities, they can be current or future threats. For example, a threat could be the failure of a major supplier or customer, or increased costs of supplies, materials, or contractors.

What is the purpose of a SWOT analysis?

SWOT-analysis helps the project manager plan the project and considers the factors that can help or hinder its success.

The goal is to find risk areas and controllable factors that need to be paid attention to and monitored throughout the project.

When you fully understand a project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you can plan a successful strategy that addresses these four factors.

Conducting a SWOT analysis can help produce new ideas for leveraging what the project manager and team do best and potential opportunities.

In addition, SWOT analysis also helps increase awareness of weaknesses and potential threats to the project so that you can defend against them.

the SWOT analysis

Who should do a SWOT analysis?

For a SWOT analysis to be effective, you need complete, accurate, and unbiased information.

Depending on the project’s scope, the team conducting the analysis should have a good overview of the organization and the business.

A project with a larger scope usually should involve a project leader with a higher position or an outside expert to perform the analysis.

In addition, a project with a greater impact on the entire company should involve multiple participants in different departments of the organization.

In general, creating a team with diverse perspectives is essential for a more accurate assessment.

Advantages of SWOT analysis

Companies should perform a SWOT analysis before committing to any action or project plan.

In this way, they can answer questions such as “is it possible to do the project?” or “should we do the project?”.

SWOT analysis provides teams and organizations with the following benefits:

  • Create honest assessments of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Provides new perspectives on the company and its business.
  • Provides information on how to maximize what is available, address limitations, make additional investments, and avoid risk.
  • Create supporting documents for the project plan.
  • Provides an effective strategic planning tool when performed regularly.

Examples of SWOT analysis

A medical startup wants to develop and commercialize a noninvasive, optically-based blood glucose monitor in this example.

This company wants to offer patients a better way to monitor and manage their blood sugar levels without painfully pricking their fingers using traditional home electronic glucose meters.

Let’s see what the SWOT analysis looks like in this case.

Strengths:

  • The company has patents on its optical blood glucose monitor technology.
  • The technology and device are FDA approved.
  • The company has the support of industry experts with extensive experience regarding technology, including medicine, optics, electronics, and manufacturing.

Weaknesses:

  • The company has no funding.
  • As a startup, the company does not have a distribution network or a relationship with one.
  • The device is expensive to build.

Opportunities:

  • There is an untapped market for noninvasive blood glucose monitors.
  • Due to endemic diabetes, the demand for monitors increases each year.
  • Leading scientific institutions and organizations are expressing interest in conducting joint research.

Threats:

  • Existing competitive and emerging products have a strong market presence.
  • Device prices are dropping.

Actions to be taken:

This company should consider getting capital from interested investors such as venture capitalists or angel investors from the SWOT analysis.

Also, the company must quickly build relationships with medical device distributors by attending conferences and developing distributor incentives.

The company can also benefit from joint research and publications with institutions and companies with existing distributor networks.

 

Another example of a decision a company might be faced with: hiring an intern for the summer?

Strengths

  • Energetic and hardworking person
  • Knows the latest technologies
  • Convenient

Opportunities

  • Could become a new full-time employee

Weaknesses

  • Investing time in training
  • Must return to college at the end of summer

Threats

  • Could use the training he received to get hired at a rival company

 

Also, SWOT analysis can also be used to make decisions regarding personal life, e.g., jogging after work.

Strengths

  • Burn Calories
  • Breathe fresh air
  • Sense of accomplishment

Opportunities

  • Meet your future better half
  • Discover new landscapes of your city

Weaknesses

  • Sweaty clothes
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue

Threats

  • Attacked by a dog
  • Suffer an injury

 

In conclusion, SWOT analysis doesn’t so much help determine what to do as it does determine whether or not to do something.

The ultimate goal of SWOT analysis is to match strengths with opportunities to determine a clear path to success or uncover weaknesses that could be exploited in a way that could be avoided in organizational strategy.

Improve your strenghts.

One try is worth a million words.
planning activities

Planning activities to help your project team

In all organizations, projects are a key means of building value, and planning activities to help the team di progetto becomes a critical step.

Managing an organization while lacking ideas and without proper planning undoubtedly leads to failure. No matter the scale or scope, project planning articulates when each task should be performed and the order to follow.

In this article we will look into this topic down to the detail.

Project activities definition

Activities do not stand for a project’s deliverables, but for the individual units of work that must be completed to meet those deliverables.

The definition of activities uses everything you already know about the project to break down work into tasks that can be measured.

Examining lessons learned from similar projects can give you an idea of what the tasks will be on the current project.

Also, the feedback from those who have been on similar projects in the past can also help define the tasks.

However, if the project is completely new, one option is to ask for support from experts in that particular field to help define the activities.

Project activities list

After the tasks have been determined and the work packages have been completed, the task list is completed.

A project task list is a list of everything that needs to be accomplished to complete the project within a reasonable time frame and cost.

Then, you would define the attributes of the activities. In other words, you describe each activity by including all the information needed to understand the work order.

planning project's activities

Milestones

All of the major checkpoints in the project are marked as milestones.

For example, some of these milestones might be listed in the contract as requirements for successful completion, others might be notable items in the project that the project manager wants to keep track of.

The sequencing process of project activities

Now that you know about the tasks, their details and milestones, you need to focus on the work order.

Here is where you use the process of sequencing or scheduling activities. Basically, this is where you consider what comes first and what follows, the activities that are dependent on each other, possible alternatives, etc.

Creating a Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that shows graphically a project schedule.

Gantt charts are easy to read and are commonly employed to display graphically planned activities.

These charts show the start and end dates of a project’s activities as well as dependency relationships between activities.

Milestones are set sequentially on the bar chart, starting in the upper left corner and ending in the lower right corner.

A Gantt chart can be drawn easily and quickly and is often the first tool used by a project manager to provide a rough estimate of the time required to complete key activities.

You can add additional information to a Gantt chart, such as:

  • Milestones can be marked using a symbol such as a diamond or triangle.
  • Meetings could be noted using a different symbol such as a circle.
  • Progress checks could be marked with a square.

For a complex project, a project manager might also opt to create a separate Gantt chart for each core phase.

This type of chart provides a convenient tool for monitoring and controlling as the project progresses.

Network chart creation

Many project managers use network charts in project planning.

A network chart is a great way to visualize inter-relationships of project activities and provides a graphical representation of the activities and how they relate to each other.

The activities in the network are, specifically, work packages.

The network chart provides key data to the project team, including information about how the activities are related, where the risk points are in the schedule, how long it will take to complete the project, and when each activity should begin and end.

Critical path to planning activities

A critical path describes what sequence of activities would allow the project to be completed in the shortest possible time and is based on the idea that some activities must be completed before others can begin.

To determine your critical path, begin with the network chart to find the longest path in the network, i.e., the longest sequence of activities.

You must make sure to consider the longest path in terms of time and not the path with the most nodes.

Planning a project is considered risky if the critical path is prone to changes once the project begins.

Allocating resources

The last step is to allocate resources to begin the actual work and to execute the planning made.

Resources must be allocated to the right tasks based on their knowledge, skills and availability.

Onboard a project management tool

Regardless of how detailed the project plan is and how well prepared a project manager is, there are still plenty of challenges in project management.

Thankfully, project management software like Twproject can greatly help in planning tasks to assist not only the project team, but also the project manager themselves.

Twproject can help you in every steps mentioned before, setting milestones, creating your Gantt chart, balancing resource workload and creating a network for your project team.

Try it for free now by clicking down below.

Plan the activities of your team.

project's performances

Measure your project’s performance

Measuring your project’s performance  doesn’t just mean meeting project budget and timelines.  In fact, other types of performance are also expected to be monitored and measured. This is intended to measure the ROI nd to determine if goals are being met.

Generally speaking, at different times during the project life cycle, it is best to measure five deliverables: schedule, quality, cost, stakeholder  satisfaction, and project scope.

This information can be used to grant – or deny – approval to proceed with the subsequent section of work.

But, before you move on to measuring your project’s performance, you need to set your goals.

Setting and measuring project objectives

A project’s success can be measured in many ways, including if it meets deadlines, if it is within budget, if it has led to more sales, improved customer service or efficiency, or a combination of these or other factors.

The first step, therefore, is to establish what the objectives of the project will be, and what will be regarded as a success.

Once these goals have been established, metrics can be determined to monitor the status of activities.

Why is it important to define and measure the success or performance of a project? For the simple reason that “what gets measured, can be managed.”

The 5 performances to measure in a project

Here are the five benefits to be measured:

1. Project schedule

Successful project management is often determined by whether or not the original timeline has been met or not.

Experienced project managers know how difficult it is to fully meet a project schedule, but this definitely becomes easier if you constantly measure progress as you progress through the work.

Evaluating the schedule is something you can do more formally at the end of a phase or as part of a monthly report to project stakeholders.

It’s easy to update your project schedule if you use a Gantt chart, where tasks and deadlines are converted in graphic time sequences.

To measure your project performance, you can easily compare milestones, check to see if they still meet the originally agreed-upon dates, and, if applicable, calculate the slippage and the impact the delay will have on the overall project schedule.

2. Quality

Quality plays an important role among performance measurement. The end of a project phase is a great moment for a quality check.

Here you can check both the quality of your project management practices and the final results.

A quality check can gauge whether what you are doing meets the standards set by the quality requirements.

It’s better to find out quality issues early, as trying to solve them later in the project could become really costly.

3. Budget and costs

the project's performances

Cost Management  is the torment and delight of many project managers who regard cost management as one of their top priorities on a project.

Here, you compare the actual current expense with what you had budgeted and, if there are any variations, look for the reason why.

These values must then be forecast into the future to eventually re-predict the final total budget for the project and compare it to the original estimate.

If these forecasts escalate too much, it is an indication that spending and cost management are out of control and action to fix the problem is required.

4. Stakeholder satisfaction

Project stakeholders are key to accomplishing a large portion of work, so it’s worth talking to them regularly to find out how they feel about the project at that particular time and what could be done differently.

This is a difficult element to document statistically or numerically, although there is nothing to stop you from asking them for an objective rating, for example using a series of 1-10 scores.

If stakeholders do not fully support some decisions regarding the project, you can implement plans to engage these people to the fullest and try to find common ground.

5. Project scope

The last factor is to determine whether the benefits of the project are still feasible and whether the business problem to be solved that led to the launch of this project still stands.

This is because certain types of initiatives are launched to address a particular need, but by the end of the project the business environment has changed to the extent that the project becomes redundant.

Nobody made the effort to monitor the business case during the project lifecycle, so no one realized that the work was no longer needed.

Regularly checking your business case and reassessing it given your current business objectives then becomes a parameter to be checked regularly.

 

Other elements can, of course, be added to this list depending on the type of your project, organization, and industry.

Indeed, performance to be measured during the project should be reflective of what is important to the project manager, the team, the stakeholders, and the company as a whole.

Also, at the end of a project, a thorough and final evaluation will be performed.

Project management metrics are essential for implementing practical and sustainable project management practices and processes in any organization.

The key is to try to use metrics that are simple, convenient, and relevant to the business and industry in which you operate.

Using Twproject, these measurements become very straightforward. Measure them for free with Twproject by clicking on the banner below.

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precedence diagramming

The Precedence Diagramming Method in Project Activities

The precedence diagramming method of project activities is a visual representation technique that shows the interdependencies of activities and is used in the development of project planning.

With so many challenging responsibilities involved in managing a project, project management has become even more demanding, so using assistive tools is becoming increasingly valuable.

The precedence diagramming method is a great communication tool for stakeholders.

Let’s have a look at it in more detail in this article.

What is the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)?

The Precedence Diagramming Method, is a visual strategy for project planning network diagram development that makes use of rectangles, also called nodes, to symbolize activities. Because of this, it is also called Activity on Node (AON).

This method visually represents any pre-existing, recognized planning activity through the use of interconnected nodes.

The major benefit of using the precedence diagram method is that it quickly allows the project team to understand all scheduled and affiliated activities.

Using the precedence diagramming method, you can:

  • Visually display the project progression as a precedence diagram
  • Determine if you are on schedule
  • Quickly identify dependencies among activities and the effect of any modifications
  • Pinpoint critical processes and activities and report them as a critical course.

A precedence diagram can represent a whole project, but you can also create a partial diagram that shows only a portion of a project.

Indeed, not all stakeholders, are interested in having the overall, detailed presentation.

How to build a precedence diagramming method (PDM)

To build a PDM method of precedence diagramming, the preliminary stage of planning is to focus on the work breakdown structure.

The overall project becomes more convenient and manageable when breaking the tasks down into smaller assignments.

Below are some steps for creating a precedence diagram:

  • Make sure you have a blank page or a blackboard to draw the plan on
  • Insert the final result of the work breakdown structure on the right side of the page
  • Report each activity from the breakdown structure and arrange them in the order in which they are to happen.
  • Work from the left until you have dependencies between tasks and get a function sequence going from left to right.
  • Make sure there is no standalone activity with no connection.

As the project advances, there may be more tasks that need to be done; these can be included in the diagram and work breakdown structure.

precedence diagramming method

Relationship types in precedence diagramming method

With the precedence diagramming method, four types of relationships are used in activities. These are:

  • Finish-Start (FS): is the most common relationship type used between activities. An activity cannot begin until the previous one is completed. For example, to paint a wall you must first build it, so the first activity is building the wall, and the second one is painting it.
  • Start-Finish (SF): is the lesser used relationship in a precedence diagramming method. In this case, the B activity may end only after the A activity begins. For example, your old house will be demolished to build a new one. In this case, you cannot move into your new house until it is ready. Therefore, the second activity (building the new house) must be completed before the first activity (moving into a new house) begins.
  • Start-Start (SS): is a type of relationship that shows that the next activity cannot be started until the first one begins. Both activities should therefore begin at the same time. For example, you need to apply a coating to a wall, but the wall needs to be cleaned first. Therefore, one team will clean the wall, while the other team will coat it. Both activities can begin at the same time.
  • Finish-Finish (FF): In this case, the following activity cannot be completed until the first one is concluded. For example, in an IT project, during testing, bugs will be found related to the software being developed. These bugs will be fixed by the developers, and then the testing team will have to double-check that the bug is actually fixed. Therefore, testing and bug fixing activities are an example of this type of relationship.

Dependency types in precedence diagramming method

Four types of dependencies are used to define activity sequences:

  • Mandatory Dependency: This dependency is also known as “hard logic” and you cannot avoid it because the beginning of the next activity depends on this type of connection. For instance, you can’t build a ceiling until you have built all the walls of a house.
  • Discretionary Dependency: this dependency is also known as “soft logic” and is involved in resource optimization. For instance, you can build all four walls of a house in any sequence. However, if building them in a certain order is beneficial, then they will be built in that exact order. Discretionary dependencies are supervised by the project team and can be modified to shorten the project. In this technique, the tasks remain the same, but the order changes.
  • External Dependency: These come, of course, externally to the project and the team has no control over them. For example, you may need government approval before you begin your next project activity.
  • Internal Dependency: these are under the project or organization’s control. For example, a resource cannot be obtained until it is released from another project.

Benefits of the precedence diagramming method

The use of the precedence diagramming method brings a number of benefits to project management, including:

  • It helps in finding relationships and dependencies between activities. This , in turn, helps in planning and avoiding risks.
  • It helps to find critical activities and focus on them. Any delay in critical activities will set back the entire program.
  • It is a fine communication tool, as project stakeholders can see the activities and get an understanding of the program.
  • Without a precedence diagram, project planning cannot be developed.

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The amount of effort involved in creating a precedence diagram is relatively high, mainly because prior knowledge of work packages and the critical path is required, but with a project management software is so much easier.

Twproject can help you designing your WBS and your precedence diagram in few steps with important benefits.

The predictive power of the precedence diagram depends on the quality of the estimates of effort and task duration, and all this can be learned in time thanks to a software that can keep all your project history for future analysis.

Create your precedence diagram, assign your team to correct phases with correct estimation, keep track of everything is happening and helps your team with prioritized to do lists. Track your project history and learn for your experience!

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project backlog

Product backlog

A product backlog is a list of work priorities for the development team that is derived from the roadmap and requirements.

Included within this document are new features, changes to existing ones, bug fixes, infrastructure changes, or other activities to achieve a specific outcome.

The product backlog is the only authoritative source for the things a team works on; this means that nothing is done that is not covered in the product backlog.

Conversely, having an item in the backlog does not guarantee that it will be delivered. In fact, this only represents an option the team has to deliver a certain outcome, but not a commitment.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the project backlog is a dynamic one that constantly changes as work progresses with new ideas appearing and different elements moving up or down.

How to manage the product backlog?

Managing a product backlog comes with several responsibilities.

Since the product roadmap is updated frequently, it must be closely linked to the product backlog. Therefore, accordingly, the backlog must be redefined to reflect changes and new findings.

In addition, care should be taken to keep this important document organized and easy to reference.

As stated earlier, the product backlog is a dynamic document and any member of the development team can add items, but only the product owner – who is responsible for it – decides the order of priorities and work.

the project backlog

How to create a successful product backlog

Here are some practical tips for creating and maintaining a successful product backlog:

  • Keep it organized and up-to-date: The product backlog must be a trusted source of information for the development team. It’s essential to keep it manageable, and a typical mistake is to make the document too exhaustive and packed with items. The product manager must decide what to do to maximize the result while minimizing the output.
  • Don’t create multiple lists: It is easier for everyone if you just work from a single backlog list. This way the work will be more transparent and no information will be lost.
  • Focus on individual element value: if something doesn’t bring value, it shouldn’t be part of your product backlog.
  • Promote discussion and feedback: stakeholders and development team members may question priorities in the product backlog. In these cases, it’s important to talk to each other and collect feedback to understand whether the change is motivated or not.
  • Reorganize continuously – also known as product backlog grooming or backlog refining: the product backlog is a living document and, as a result, it evolves, changes, grows and shrinks over time. Therefore, it needs to be continually reordered and reorganized.

How to structure the product backlog

The product backlog can include hundreds of tasks, and arranging those items by size and relevance is one of the product manager’s most important tasks.

Smaller tasks and work items are usually achieved by subdividing the larger work items.

The items that are included in the product backlog must fall under the INVEST method items:

  • Independent: each element must be independent of one another and each must serve a different function.
  • Negotiable: each element must be open for trading.
  • Valuable: each element must bring value and benefits to the customer, team and stakeholders.
  • Estimable: the team should be able to estimate how long the item will take to process.
  • Sized appropriately
  • Testable

 

The organization of activities in a product backlog should follow the DEEP method, which stands for:

  • Detailed appropriately
  • Estimated appropriately – in other words, to the best of the team’s ability. Clearly, when the business is brand new, it will be more difficult to give a fair estimate.
  • Emergent: The product backlog evolves continuously. As new items are added, existing items are modified or refined.
  • Prioritized: When deciding how to rank work items in the product backlog, the product manager uses the acronym DIVE which stands for:
    • Dependencies: For example, if task A depends on task B, B should be ranked higher than A.
    • Insure against risks: activities that help in minimizing risk have higher priority.
    • Business value: the more valuable the activities are to the customer and the company, the higher priority they get.
    • Estimated effort: How much time is expected to be required to perform the task?

 

The product backlog is therefore a strong tool for the product manager, as it serves as a transition from strategic thinking to practical day-to-day work.

Product Backlog is easier with a little help

Project management software like Twproject can make your life easier managing your product backlog. It is not just a matter of writing it, but also about organizing it by priority, measure it, schedule it sprint by sprint and assign it to the write person.

With Twproject, in the Kanban board, you can do all of them in a very handy way.

Remember, product backlog is a paper that promotes focus, transparency and collaboration.

Proper planning and organization is an essential part of success.

See here an example of how to manage a project with SCRUM in Twproject.

When properly created and managed, the product backlog becomes a tool that helps teams manage constant change, achieve maximum productivity, and deliver maximum value to both company and customer.

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npv and irr

Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR): Project selection methods

Distinguishing between data returned by Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR) (two project selection methods), when analyzing a project, is important because these methods can yield contradictory results.

The resulting difference could be due to a difference in cash flow between the two projects.

Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR) are two of the most widely used investment analysis techniques.

They are similar because both are cash flow models, that is, they incorporate the time value of money, but they differ in their fundamental approach and their strengths and weaknesses.

The NPV is an absolute measure, i.e., it is the amount in dollars/euros/etc. of value added or lost by engaging in a project.

IRR, on the other hand, is a relative measure, i.e., it is the rate of return a project offers over its life, in percentages.

Financial managers and entrepreneurs usually favor performance measurements expressed in percentages rather than absolute values, so they tend to lean toward decisions expressed this way, as is the case with Internal Rate of Return (IRR).

Yet while this rate is usually a reliable method of determining whether a capital investment project is a good investment or not, under some conditions IRR is not reliable, while NPV is.

Let’s discuss these two concepts in this article.

What is Internal Rate of Return (IRR)?

Internal Rate of Return is a way of expressing a given project’s value as a percentage rather than an absolute value.

In financial jargon, the internal rate of return is the discount rate or the firm’s cost of capital, which causes the present value of the project’s cash inflows to equal the initial investment.

In other words, the IRR is an estimate of the project’s rate of return.

What is Net Present Value (NPV)?

Net Present Value represents positive and negative future cash flows during a project’s life cycle.

NPV stands for an intrinsic assessment and is applicable in accounting and finance where it is used to determine investment security, assess new endeavors, evaluate a business, or find ways to achieve cost reduction.

The most commonly used NPV is found using a cash flow model, making it a more refined analysis than an IRR calculation.

As long as the Net Present Value of a project is greater than zero, the project is considered financially feasible.

Net present value and internal rate of return

Conflict between Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR)?

The root cause of NPV and IRR conflict lies in cash flow nature, project nature, and project size.

Independent projects are projects where the decision regarding acceptance of one project does not affect the decision concerning the others.

Since all independent projects can be accepted if they add value, no conflicts arise between NPV and IRR. Thus, the company can accept all projects with a positive NPV.

However, in the case of mutually exclusive projects, a conflict between NPV and IRR may arise if one project has a higher NPV but another has a higher IRR.

Mutually exclusive projects are projects where the acceptance of one project excludes the others from further consideration.

Conflict arises because of the relative size of the project or the different cash flow distribution of the projects, and in this case you need to carefully consider which project to accept into your portfolio.

Similarities and differences between NPV and IRR

NPV takes into account the capital cost and provides a dollar estimate of value added, which is easier to understand.

A particularly important feature of NPV analysis is its potential to increase and decrease the rate to allow for different levels of project risk (you might also be interested in knowing more about the risk assessment matrix system).

However, NPV depends on the project scale. Without careful analysis, an investor might select a project with a high NPV while overlooking the fact that many projects with small NPVs could be completed with the same investment, resulting in a higher aggregate NPV.

This requires careful capital rationing analysis.

Project scale, on the other hand, is irrelevant in the case of IRR. Here you will rank a project that requires an initial investment of €1 million, for example, and generates €1 million each in year 1 and year 2 at the same level as a project that generates $1 in year 1 and year 2 each with an initial investment of $1.

This feature makes it a great complement to Net Present Value.

IRR is also easier to figure because it does not require estimating the cost of capital or hurdle rate, but only requires the initial investment and cash flows.

However, this same convenience can become a downside if projects are accepted without a cost of capital comparison.

Yet another rather major weakness is the multiple IRR problem: in the case of non-normal cash flows, i.e., when a project has positive cash flows followed by negative cash flows, the IRR takes on multiple values, making the decision more difficult.

How to decide between Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR)?

Generally speaking, if a project’s IRR is greater than or equal to the project’s cost of capital, then it would be wise to accept it.

However, if the IRR is less than the project’s cost of capital, it is better to pass it up.

The bottom line is that you never want to take on a project that returns less money than the company’s cost of capital.

Net Present Value is more commonly used since it is a more polished analysis than the IRR calculation.

If rates of return change over the life of the project, in fact, an NPV analysis can include these changes.

Thus, as long as the Net Present Value of a project is greater than zero, the project is considered financially feasible.

 

To wrap up, the general rule of thumb is to use Net Present Value, while Internal Rate of Return tends to be calculated as part of the capital budgeting process and provided as additional information.

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decision making process

Decision making and its impact on problem solving

Decision making and its impact in problem solving is simply undeniable and is an intrinsic part of effective project management.

It is key for a project manager to make sound decisions and fix problems appropriately as it affects the overall organizational functioning.

Problem solving and decision making are typically intertwined; you cannot solve a problem without making a decision.

The importance of decision making in problem solving

Also in project management, problems are an everyday event, or nearly so.

It would be awesome to just pretend nothing happened and make them magically disappear, but if you don’t seek solutions, the problems will persevere.

In the workplace, if the problem-solving habit is not established in the company culture, the organization will eventually fall apart.

Therefore, the project manager must have the training and the proper decision-making process to solve business problems independently and confidently.

This way, the decision-making process will be an asset to the organization.

The 6 stages of the decision-making process

Even though some people are more in tune with proper decision making, this skill can still be learned and mastered by any person.

Below are the 6 steps of the problem-solving decision-making process.

The Decision Making Process: Defining and Identifying the Problem Clearly

This might be the most overlooked piece of the decision-making process because it sounds so obvious, yet it is critical that all stakeholders are properly aligned on the issue at hand.

You might be shocked to discover how much information can be lost, especially in a larger corporate organization.

If problems are complex, it can be beneficial to break them down into smaller pieces as early as project planning.

It’s important to stay clear of emotion and judgmental bias as you define the problem to make it as objective as possible.

Here is a list of questions that can help you define and identify a problem:

  • What is happening precisely?
  • Where is this happening?
  • How is this happening?
  • How often is this happening?
  • With whom is this happening?
  • Why is this happening?

The Decision Making Process: Collecting Information

Most problems cannot be solved without a fair share of data or information.

During this decision-making stage, what is important is to collect relevant information.

Usually, having too much data hinders the process and results in a waste of time. Likewise, there may be instances when data collection generates a new perspective or problem.

In this scenario, it may be worth going back to Step 1 and revisiting the problem at hand.

decision making

The Decision Making Process: Brainstorming possible solutions

This is the time to be creative.

During this phase, the project manager, with the help of the project team and/or stakeholders, should consider any type of idea that could become a solution.

Brainstorming works best in an atmosphere free of bias because you never know which idea will plant the seed and stimulate the growth of the correct decision.

Brainstorming involves coming up with as many ideas as possible, the more complex the issue the more ideas are needed, even those that may initially seem wild.

The Decision Making Process: Narrowing down options

From the lengthy list of potential ideas, now it’s time to narrow it down.

The ways in which you get to choose the main ideas may vary, but may include:

  • Pros and cons list: identify the benefits and drawbacks of each option
  • SWOT analysis: breakdown of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each option
  • Scenario analysis: projection of potential likely scenarios that will result from each option

Different problems will require different levels of understanding of each potential option.

This assessment process helps narrow down the options and aid in choosing the most effective and feasible solution.

It is a good idea to include key stakeholders in this process to get an unbiased and balanced view.

Here are some questions that can be helpful at this stage:

  • What will the situation be like when the problem will be fixed?
  • What steps should be taken to implement the best solution to the problem?
  • What resources will be needed in terms of people, budget, and facilities?
  • How long will it take to implement the solution?
  • Who will be the main responsible for ensuring the plan gets executed?

The Decision Making Process: Implementing the solution adopted

This is the action phase, where the chosen solution gets actually executed on the problem.

This requires a decent plan and good execution, and constant monitoring of the steps is necessary.

However, in this step, two things must be kept in mind:

  • First, choose the option that has the company’s interest at heart. There will be times when some employees will be negatively impacted by a decision, but in most cases the best solution for the organization as a whole is always taken.
  • Secondly, keep in mind that not all stakeholders may be happy with the solution implemented. Only in rare cases will all of the single members of an entire company be fully satisfied with a major decision, and that is the case in most cases. Often, however, employees who are initially dissatisfied will eventually see that the decision was made for the overall good of the company and will adapt accordingly.

The Decision Making Process: Assessing results

Assessing the results leads to understanding the effectiveness of the adopted solution.

To understand if the plan was successful, it is necessary to get an idea of what helped and what didn’t and try to incorporate the changes.

In case the solution did not prove to be effective, you move on to choose a new option from the alternatives.

 

Therefore, decision making is critical to problem solving, even in project management.

It may seem like a lot of work, but by taking the necessary steps to solve important problems and come to a successful resolution will save much more time and lead to a healthier business in the long run.

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metodo down method

Top-down and bottom-up – Different approaches for different problems in project management

Top-down and bottom-up stand for different approaches to different problems in project management.

Project management approaches and strategies get constantly evaluated, reviewed and improved, and successful project manager make it a priority to stay informed about the latest developments in their field.

In recent years, the world of project management has seen a growing debate between these two fundamentally different approaches.

In this article, we will attempt to shed light on these two strategies.

Top-down project management

The top-down approach is the most traditional of these two.

A top-down strategy involves all key decisions being made by the project manager or organization’s leaders.

When a project is managed from the top-down, the work breakdown structure and project plan are completed and drafted from the top, meaning the top management, after which team members are told what tasks they should complete and when they should be accomplished.

What is most important to an organization is profitability. Projects are not usually directly accountable for generating profits for the company, but rather they make the products that companies sell.

Time to market is very important for an organization; therefore, the company wants products and services to be developed as quickly as possible.

Top-down management is a very common method and is suitable for projects where there are few unfamiliar activities and a handful of unique challenges to be addressed.

Pros and cons of the top-down approach

Here are the pros and cons of the top-down management approach:

Pros:

  • The advantage of the top-down planning is that the goals at all hierarchical levels are mostly the same as the goals of the company as a whole, since top management itself manages the work of all departments.
  • Complex and time-consuming coordination tasks are cut out so that the plan can be created more quickly.
  • Yet, if the project leader knows how things are going at other levels and sets clear expectations and goals that aren’t blurred by several different voices, the project team doesn’t get distracted from participating in project decision-making. This provides them with more time to focus on their tasks. It’s still important, however, that the decision-maker considers exactly how the decisions will impact both project and employees, otherwise the results could be negative.

Cons:

  • The main downside of the top-down planning approach lies in the fact that management is very rarely familiar with individual departmental opportunities and problems. This causes bottlenecks and reduced productivity as well as the pursuit of unrealistic and therefore unachievable goals.
  • Moreover, many organizations have begun to experience that the top-down approach can leave team members demoralized and unmotivated, as they typically have very little control over what they need to do and how they should do it.
  • Then again, following this approach, ambiguity opens the door to potential failure. As a matter of fact, managers should be as specific as possible when communicating their expectations
  • Lastly, the idea of a single person – or a limited group of leaders – leading the project and making decisions for everyone, especially if they are often inefficient, can bring up a dictatorial climate, affecting team morale. On top of that, if the leader is not perceived as such, it will be harder for employees to take responsibility.

Bottom-up project management

Bottom-up project management is steadily gaining popularity, in particular in industries where projects involve new challenges that demand innovative solutions.

In the bottom-up model, project goals are still established by organizational leadership, yet the team members who will carry out the work are asked to provide input on how the project goals will be achieved.

Project to-do lists and deadlines are usually not completed until the project team has assessed what to do, which often results in more realistic schedules and fewer (nasty) surprises along the way.

To-do lists are integrated into the overall plan to help prevent undesirable surprises, and there is complete transparency in terms of deadlines, budgets, deliverables, risks, and potential problems.

Pros and cons of the bottom-up approach

Also the bottom-up management approach has its own pros and cons. Let’s see what they are:

Pros:

  • Organizations often find that employees are more personally involved in plans that employ a bottom-up approach. Plans are developed at the lowest levels and are then handed off to each next higher level, reaching senior management for approval.
  • Another plus is that with bottom-up planning, more focus is given to the project because there are more employees that are involved, each with their own area of expertise and where everyone has the chance to devise project solutions that focus more on practical requirements than abstract notions. Plans are thus more realistic.

Cons:

  • A potential drawback to this strategy is that the initial stages of the project can take much longer and require more effort to coordinate, as project managers must incorporate input from a large number of stakeholders into the project plan. Too many ideas, in fact, can stall business agility or even result in bottlenecks or problems.
  • And again, despite all its pros, the bottom-up style alone will not be able to make projects thrive. In fact, according to many experts, the bottom-up approach is not the ideal solution, as it sometimes fails to provide clarity and control.
  • Ultimately, some people have an ego. When everyone has a voice, the motivation of some employees may be purely personal, boosting their self-esteem rather than being focused on the greater good and the real goal. This can lead to conflict and division within the project team, and a negative competitive environment.

bottom-up method

Il New York Times: an actual example

One of the most popular examples when it comes to the top-down and bottom-up approach is the New York Times, a leading journalism company.

This company implemented a top-down management style and according to the American Journalism Review, New York Times executives felt that what they were doing was not capable of creating a vibrant workplace and a successful business.

Power was centralized and editors at the top of management had overall control.

As a result, employees at lower levels felt that their voices didn’t count and weren’t being heard.

Journalists were not morally motivated to perform their jobs and there was no effective collaboration among them.

Managers then realized that they needed to give teams more freedom.

It took quite some time to introduce elements of the bottom-up management approach, but in the end it was worth it, as collaboration has now improved and teams are working more productively.

Deciding between top-down and bottom-up approaches: the hybrid method

The top-down management approach, as seen above, is the classic management method that is applied in most organizations.

Over the years, however, its flaws have begun to become clear, especially for organizations that seek a vibrant, collaborative, flexible and agile work environment.

That’s why many organizations have started to implement the bottom-up approach, yet even this management method is not the perfect solution, as it sometimes lacks clarity and control.

Therefore, the best direction, according to many experts, lies in balancing these two opposing approaches and just taking the best practices from both: opting for a hybrid method.

Indeed, in few cases is a formal, static decision on either approach an optimal choice for the organization.

Historically, it is the top-down approach that has ruled in most companies, however, an increasing number of organizations are looking for ways to incorporate some elements of the bottom-up philosophy into their current project management practices.

Even organizations in industries where projects are typically repeatable and predictable can improve the morale of their employees by allowing team members to participate in the project planning process.

Moreover, organizations in fast-moving industries, such as technology, have even stronger incentives to move to bottom-up project management in order to get the most benefit from their employees’ experience, creativity, and innovative knowledge.

It’s no surprise, then, that a holistic approach that combines both methods is undeniably the most wise strategy.

The most effective way to set a successful roadmap might actually be a hybrid approach, starting with a brief assessment of the actual organization relative to resource management best practices.

A mix of both planning methods allows for efficient, business-goal-driven implementation and the inclusion of all relevant departments.

This can greatly increase the quality of planning outcomes.

Using technology as a tool to combine both approaches

Traditional project management tools were designed with the top-down approach in mind.

Specifically, traditional applications were not designed for bottom-up management and were focused on the project manager, making them the main link in project communication.

Team members very often didn’t have access to the project plan and cannot give contributions.

Therefore, it was the project manager who must collect all the data and manually enter the information into the project plan, and then communicate the changes to business leaders.

Fortunately, the old ways of sharing and receiving information have been radically transformed in recent years.

New technologies change the old way of managing projects and bring new models of collaboration, based on collective intelligence.

This collective knowledge and intelligence is now successfully collected and shared in a flexible, collaborative environment brought to you by new, second-generation project management software.

This allows a project management software like Twproject to combine the benefits of both management approaches. Twproject lets you manage projects with bottom-up strategy, top-down but also both of them together.

Project management democratization should not be regarded negatively.

The main goal is to find ways to make project management and collaboration more efficient, and new technologies applied to project management make everything more effective and teams more productive.

In the end, projects do get delivered faster and that’s to everyone’s benefit.

By the way… have you not tried TWproject yet? Do it right now by clicking the button below!

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constraints theory

Theory of Constraints in Project Management

Theory of Constraints in Project Management is an approach that helps you to pinpoint the crucial limiting factor, usually referred to as a constraint or bottleneck, that gets in the way of achieving a goal.

The main goal of this theory is to find and address that constraint to the extent that it is no longer a limiting factor.

The Theory of Constraints is often associated with the saying “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” because the process of finding a weak link in a chain is very similar to finding a bottleneck in a system.

Theory of Constraints Goal

The theory of constraints hypothesizes that any complex system consists of multiple related activities, where one of them, the weak link in the chain, could potentially disrupt the entire system.

According to the theory of constraints, the best way for an organization to achieve its goals is to reduce operating expenses, reduce inventory, and increase throughput.

Operating expenses are all the money the system spends to convert inventory, or stock, into throughput.

Inventory represents all the money the system has invested in buying goods it intends to sell.

Throughput is the rate at which the system generates money through sales.

Before the goal itself can be achieved, all of the preconditions must first be met.

The five implementation steps

Theory of Constraints provides a specific methodology for identifying and eliminating bottlenecks within your system.

Here are its five implementation steps:

  • Identify the constraint: every system has at least one constraint that limits its growth, otherwise it would expand endlessly. First and foremost it is necessary to identify the constraint which can be physical, such as a material or managerial weakness, such as an inefficient procedure.
  • Decide how to leverage the constraint: After having identified the bottleneck, you need to plan your processes so as to leverage the constraint, if physical, to its fullest. In fact, production lost in the bottleneck is production lost by the system in general. When the constraint lies in the managerial level, it should not be leveraged at all, but rather eliminated and replaced by a more efficient process that increases throughput.
  • Subordinate activities according to the decision taken: each activity that is part of the production cycle where the system constraint is present is reorganized accordingly to match the constraint’s maximum throughput. Since, as we have seen before, the constraint determines the throughput of the organization, subordinating tasks is the most efficient way to use the available resources. It is important to note that the previous steps involve, in most cases, a limited number of people, but at this stage all people operating in the system must be involved.
  • Elevate the constraint: Elevating means increasing the throughput of the constraint. If you get to this point, it means that the previous changes were not sufficient to improve the system to the point where the constraint was eliminated. Actions to increase the capacity of the constraint may be different, such as buying new equipment or hiring more manpower. When this step is completed it will mean that the constraint has been eliminated.
  • Repeat the steps for each constraint you found for continuous system improvement: This step recommends not to sit back once results have been achieved. One constraint has been eliminated, but it does not mean that there are no other bottlenecks. This is because every change you make to the system can create new constraints that were not previously present. It is therefore essential not to let passiveness itself become the system constraint.

constraints theory in pm

Theory of Constraints in Project Management – Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)

As mentioned earlier, the theory of constraints is a method that can be used to improve management techniques.

This means that in the project management context, the theory of constraints can be used to plan more efficiently the various activities that are part of the production cycle.

Hence, Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), or the critical chain method, originates.

This method was devised as a response to the poor performance of many projects, such as longer than expected work periods, frequently missed deadlines, cost overruns, and lower quality than originally promised.

The first step of the CCPM method is to determine the critical link in the project, i.e., the longest delivery path considering estimated activities and material availability.

This method differs from others by offering a different estimate of task duration and redistributing task safety time, which will not be eliminated, but instead reinserted into other parts of the process. This is known as buffer management.

The underlying philosophy is that uncertainty in activity duration is the primary driver of a project’s delay and any other unsatisfactory outcomes.

The key would then be to shift the focus from the duration of individual activities to the duration of the entire project.

Safety time allowances of tasks, which often turn out to be unnecessary, are reallocated to strategic points in the project.

Each task is associated with a buffer, the consumption of which gives an indication of project progress.

In CCPM, monitoring is done by comparing the percentage of buffer remaining and the percentage of chain completed.

As long as certain proportions between these two variables are met, the project can be said to be on track. If, on the other hand, the critical limit is exceeded, it will be necessary to take measures.

Buffers are divided into three equal parts with different colors: green, yellow and red. If the level of consumption of the buffer is in the green zone, no action is required and it can be said that the work is going well.

If the level enters in the yellow zone you must start to think about possible corrective actions.

When the consumption level enters the red zone, the critical limit has been exceeded and action is required to solve the problem.

Theory of Constraints Benefits

One of the most valuable features of the theory of constraints is that it emphasizes the improvement process.

A successful implementation of this approach comes with a number of advantages:

  • Enhances the system
  • Allows to produce more
  • Increases profit
  • Reduces delivery times
  • Creates a smoother and faster product flow
  • Reduces inventory and work in progress

 

Therefore, managing a project using the theory of constraints provides increased system productivity.

It also ensures that the project is delivered on time and within its planned budget.

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analytic skills of the pm

Analytical skills for successful projects

As a project manager, possessing analytical skills for successful projects is the absolute core of required skills.

Analytical thinking can help you explore complex problems, make decisions and find solutions.

So let’s take a closer look at the definition of analytical thinking and why it is so important.

What are analytical skills?

Analytical skills are those competencies that allow you to observe, investigate and interpret a given situation in order to develop complex ideas and solutions.

You can apply analytical thinking in virtually any situation, such as in project management or in relationship problems, customer needs and more.

Analyzing a topic means having a strong understanding of it and being able to discuss it with some level of expertise.

People with strong analytical skills can often analyze a situation, topic or problem quickly and often work well in a team environment.

The analytical thought process

The application process for analytical skills usually involves the following steps:

  1. Issue or problem identification
  2. Information collection through observation
  3. Possible solutions developed after a thorough understanding of the topic
  4. Test solutions or new ideas based on what you understand
  5. Post-analysis or review of what solutions worked to evaluate and apply new learnings

A key element of analytical thinking is the capability to quickly identify cause and effect correlations; this means understanding what might happen during the problem-solving process and examining how new ideas relate to the situation.

Why are analytical skills important?

Analytical skills are important soft skills because they allow you to find solutions to common problems and make well-informed judgments about what action to undertake next.

Understanding problems and analyzing the situation to find feasible solutions is a key skill in every position and in every industry.

Developing this skill can improve to achieve business goals and support personal career goals.

Using analytical skills in daily work demonstrates reliable and pragmatic thinking, with decisions made based on analysis of meaningful data.

analytics skills

Analytical skills examples

Here are some examples of analytical skills for successful projects:

  1. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is a major skill in any job position, from managers to CEOs, from contractors to the freelance workers. This way of thinking provides the ability to question an idea, assertion or opinion. For example, if told that a certain task can’t be done or a certain goal can’t be achieved, critical thinking skills require asking deeper questions so you can understand why and what the causes are. Critical thinkers take the time to fully understand a problem in order to develop a feasible solution.

  1. Data and information analysis

Data and information analysis is one of the major parts contained in the analytical skills. After identifying a problem, it is important to know how to review and analyze the data or information that will be essential to its resolution. To collect and analyze the proper data, it is important to first know the right questions to ask.

  1. Research

Research is an integral part of the analytical thinking process. Once a problem has been identified, it is important to conduct the necessary research for a solution. This can be as quick and easy as asking a co-worker who may be more knowledgeable or as laborious as searching through official channels. The research process involves knowing what information is valuable or essential to solving the problem.

  1. Communication

It is crucial to constantly be in communication with stakeholders as problems are identified, solutions are developed, research is conducted, and results are discussed. Once a problem or solution has been identified, communicating it effectively to stakeholders is essential to achieving the end goal. Transferring this information clearly and completely is a key skill in the analytical thinking process.

  1. Troubleshooting

After a problem, situation, or area for improvement has been determined and the research has been completed, it is important to find a solution. Analytical skills are then used to sort and organize the data discovered during the research phase to find a reasonable and effective solution.

How to improve analytical skills

Improving your analytical skills can help you achieve various goals not only in your career, but also in your personal life.

You can improve your analytical skills by following some of these tips:

  • Undertake a leadership role that requires using critical analytical skills.
  • Practice key analytical skills in your current role.
  • Attend classes and trainings that boost the use of analytical skills.
  • Take part in activities that require the use of analytical skills.
  • Ask for advice or mentoring from industry professionals known for their analytical skills.
  • Improve subject matter knowledge, which is crucial for faster problem solving.

One trick is to also consider what analytical skills you possess and those in which you have room for improvement and potential.

Take note of specific times when you have used analytical skills to improve something or solve a problem, either at work or in your personal life, and consider what you could improve upon.

This is clearly a process that evolves and grows throughout life.

Analytical skills can be learned and improved over time and through the right exercises.

 

Ultimately, analytical skills for successful projects are often defined as the capability of breaking down problems into parts to see connections or interdependencies.

Project managers who have analytical skills can plan efficiently and then drive projects to success.

Furthermore, they can accurately predict outcomes and develop plans to achieve goals and objectives.

How a project management software can help?

A software like Twproject can guide you in breaking down the wbs of your project, in defining the dependencies between the various phases and in the analysis of the durations. In addition to this, constant and lasting use will make evident the real effort spent and will allow you, over time, to refine this breakdown also highlighting repeated criticalities that can therefore be avoided.

The wbs can also be further refined up to the insertion of all the daily activities (attached to-do lists), to help, not only the project manager, but also the whole team to manage the activities in an organized way.

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