project activities

Project activities: role and characteristics

In this article we will examine the project activities, their role and characteristics.

To do this, we would like to start from the basics, i.e. the definition of a project and then fully understand the activities necessary for its development.

What we want to do is create a mind map in which the individual project activities are not confused and random, but find a meaningful and temporal setting in your mind.

What defines a project?

PMbok definition of a project is “a temporary effort undertaken to create a unique product or service.”

In other words, it is any endeavor, done individually or collaboratively, designed to achieve a particular goal.

Thus, projects are a temporary effort that is carefully planned, researched, executed, monitored, and delivered within a specified period and within a given cost.

Projects can range from simple to complex and can be managed by an individual or an entire project team.

A project must follow 5 basic principles:

1. Clarify project goals and scope

Before a project begins, the overall goal, scope and scale of the project must be clearly set out and agreed upon. You can read this article about project scope.

2. Develop a work breakdown structure

Creating a Work Breakdown Structure (Work Breakdown Structure – WBS) is an important part of the project management process, where deliverables are broken down into assignments and activities required to achieve them.

3. Deliver a realistic schedule

This is arguably one of the most common mistakes that project managers and teams make during project management. People often get overly optimistic and ambitious about when a project can be delivered, resulting in getting themselves and the project results in trouble.

The best way in this case is to visualize all aspects and needs of the project in one place, visualize the time sequence of the project, estimate how long each task would take and create a realistic schedule accordingly. This can be done by using the gantt of a project management software.

4. Create a project risk plan

After you have created a thorough list of activities, sub-activities, and milestones for the project, it’s time to ascertain all possible and potential risks involved. At this stage, you need to think about any risks that could impact the project by doing a proper project risk analysis while also estimating the severity of the impact. Once finished, you need to create a project risk response plan explaining the risk management.

5. Manage change requests

A project, by its definition, is something that does not remain static over time and is subject to some degree of change that may relate to workflow or workforce for example. No matter what change, or project change requests are received, a project manager must have a clear grasp of what the impact of this change will be and how to ensure it is handled smoothly and quickly.

Project activities: planning and development

planning project activities

As you can see, a project is therefore made up of activities, and it is through these activities – arranged in a relevant way – that a project can achieve its intended outcome and be completed successfully.

So let’s look more specifically at the role and characteristics of project activities.

Project time management comprises two sets of processes for planning and scheduling project activities necessary for timely project completion.

  1. Project activity planning and scheduling.
  2. Project implementation program development.

When planning and scheduling project tasks and activities, the project manager must perform the following four steps:

  • Setting up activities.
  • Defining relations between activities.
  • Estimating resources needed to perform activities.
  • Estimating activity duration.

Let’s examine each step in more detail:

1. Setting up project activities

The first phase of planning and scheduling project activities require the project manager to establish the amount of actions and activities needed to produce project deliverables in a timely manner.

The input to this process will be the definition of the project deliverables.

The project manager should also work on developing project activity templates to help streamline the project planning process.

Specific steps – or milestones – should be identified and approved for each of the listed activities.

2. Defining relations between activities

The next step in project activity planning involves the project manager sequencing all of the activities determined in the previous step.

The manager will use the project task lists, milestone list, and project scope statement per to define the relationships between the tasks.

With the help of project management software ou can set priorities for each of the project activities and make the sequences of activities organized and sorted by importance and urgency.

You also need to define dependencies between activities, which can be either internal or external.

Activities with internal dependencies are related to any actions the project team will take to produce deliverables within the existing work environment, while activities with external dependencies are related to non-project factors that define the success of project-related activities.

Both types of activity dependencies should be addressed and added to sequenced and prioritized task lists.

Once the relationships are defined, the project manager should update the project activity templates, outline dependencies, and link them to the product scope statement.

3. Estimating resources needed to perform activities

At this stage, the project manager should review the stakeholder requirements and scope statement to assess the amount of resources needed to carry out project activities.

Expert opinion and alternatives analysis should also be used in some cases for this purpose.

The project manager should then also develop resource calendars and define the types of resources required.

Once all of this information has been gathered and analyzed, it should be used to make a resource breakdown of activities sorted by type, priority, and time.

This breakdown is crucial to creating the project implementation schedule.

4. Estimating activity duration

The final stage of project activity planning and scheduling involves the project manager defining and estimating an amount of work time required to complete each identified activity.

The amount of time will depend on the amount of work effort and resources available for the activity.

The project manager should review the resource breakdown and project activity models to estimate the number of work periods required to complete the identified activities and thereby produce the desired results.

The output of this process is the activity estimates linked to the resource schedules.

 

The four stages of project activity planning and scheduling lay the foundation for creating a detailed timeline of project implementation.

In a nutshell, a successful project is therefore based on the effectiveness of the individual project activities that are part of the project.

Plan your work and your project deadlines.

product life cycle

Product life cycle and its relevance in business strategies

A product’s life cycle (which should not be mistaken with a project’s life cycle) bears a strategic relevance for the company that produces it.

Each year, countless products are released into the market in a cleverly designed way to connect with the consumer and hope that the investment pays off for the organization that created it.

However, once the goal of connecting with the consumer is achieved, durability, or rather managing the product’s life cycle, is the key to ensuring that this product thrives year after year and makes the Company that produced it thrive as well.

In this article we will be looking at its relevance in business strategies. By the way, have you already checked out our article explaining the difference between Corporate Governance and Management?

What is product life cycle management?

Product life cycle (PLC) describes the different stages a product undergoes from launch to its potential obsolescence.

Here’s a simple example: let’s think of a product as a flower in a garden.

You can’ t just plant it, i.e., launch the product in the market, water it, i.e., create occasional promotions, and expect it to flourish year after year. At some point, its vitality will decrease and you will have to consider what to do, whether to replant it or to eliminate it altogether.

You can see, then, how managing the life cycle of a product is an important part of business strategy and helps you adapt your approach to the product.

The four phases of a product’s life cycle and related business strategies

To better understand this, it is worth breaking down the product life cycle into 4 distinct phases, which will be examined below.

1. Introduction

This is referred to as the launch phase of the new product, where sales increase slowly because awareness is currently limited.

Costs are high and include large amounts of advertisement and promotion.

In the introduction phase, the organization will operate at a loss, making this the most critical phase of the product life cycle.

Strategies for achieving success during the introduction phase:

  • Clearly identify the market so that at launch you can target and effectively engage with the consumer most likely to become a customer.
  • Build a dominant market position, stand out from your competitors, your product doesn’t have to be just one of the many in the crowd, but have a unique incentive for consumers to connect with it.
  • Be a pioneer. Being the first to launch a new product never seen before.
  • Set a strong brand identity.

2. Growth

Once awareness is built up and an appropriate distribution strategy is implemented, the product will be growing and, economically speaking, break-even will be reached first, after which the organization will begin to earn a profit.

When a product is growing, it means the market has accepted it and consumers are trying it out.

This is the moment to ramp up distribution to make sure you match the product’s supply to demand.

During growth, of course, competitors will enter the market – if they aren’t already there or otherwise increase their share.

Here are the business strategies during the growth phase:

  • Keep track of prices to ensure you will remain competitive with new offers.
  • Confirm that the actual customer fits the expected target customer and modify the message to users if necessary.
  • Find new distribution channels using sales history.
  • Improve product quality by possibly adding new features or support services to increase market share.

the product life cycle

3. Maturity

The product reaches its maturity stage when sales volume slows down and begins to plateau or, in some cases, drops slightly.

Now an action becomes necessary otherwise the product sales will start to decline rapidly.

Products reach maturity for a number of reasons, including competition launching a product that is highly valued by customers, price wars, and initial enthusiasm for the new product beginning to fade.

This obviously leads to a decrease in profit, given by both a decrease in sales and an increase in promotional spending.

Common business strategies that can help during this phase fall into one of two categories:

  • Market change: this includes moving into new market segments, redefining target markets, winning over competitors’ customers, and converting non-users.
  • Product change: for example, adjusting or improving product features, quality, prices and distinguishing it from other products in the industry.

The example of Apple best serves to show the second point. In fact, Apple is the first company to show innovative product life cycle management.

Realizing that most cell phone users subscribe 12- to 24-month contracts, Apple releases a new “modified” iPhone every 12 to 18 months. By the time the current model is approaching its maturity, the company releases a new, updated model. The result, you know, is a loyal following proud of the latest technology that is unlikely to switch to a competitive product offering.

4. Decline

This stage can be identified by both a decline in sales volume and a reduction in profits.

Allowing the product to reach decline should be a strategic choice, meaning that the organization has identified the “expiring” product and intentionally planned that this would not be upgraded, but would be discontinued at some point in the future.

For example, this choice is given by a scheduled launch of a new product that will replace the current one but will not be an upgrade.

Business strategies to minimize losses during decline are:

  • Minimize promotional expenditures on the product: rather than trying to boost sales with contests and discounts, you need to allow sales to naturally decline.
  • Reduce the number of distribution points.
  • Roll out price discounts to persuade customers to purchase your product while supplies last.

Product life cycle: bottom line

A product’s life cycle is seamless, and so should business strategy.

Knowing where the product is within its life cycle will help determine refinements or adjustments to strategy.

The most important piece of advice for using product life cycle management in business strategies is to regularly review sales volume and profitability.

Here, data that will help identify what stage the product is in can be extracted, allowing you to plan your product life cycle response strategies more effectively.

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quality control

Project quality control: which parameters should be monitored

Project quality is a major factor in achieving client satisfaction, which in turn is a key component in project success.

Therefore, nothing about quality should be taken lightly, but more importantly, quality control should not be something improvised or done afterwards.

Before a project manager can actually be planning for project quality control, they must know what are the quality expectations.

One of the key principles of project quality management is that quality should be planned for, not inspected.

The project manager must take into account the cost of achieving the expected level of quality as opposed to the cost of non-compliance.

Quality cost includes training, safety measures, and actions to prevent subpar quality.

Noncompliance cost can greatly exceed the cost of quality and results in lost customers, rework, wasted time, wasted materials.

Planning and identification of parameters to be monitored for quality

When the project manager has collected the necessary input and assessed product description and project scope, they should begin working to create a plan on how to meet quality requirements.

Since planning is an iterative process, so is quality planning.

As events occur within the project, the project manager should evaluate these scenarios and then apply corrective actions to the planning document.

In fact, during project implementation, some things are likely to go wrong and stakeholders may demand changes. Therefore, the impact of these variables on project quality must be assessed.

This ensures that project management and project outcomes are in line with quality.

So let’s look at what parameters need to be monitored to guarantee the quality of a project:

Parameters to monitor for quality: Project scope

Scope statement is a core input to the quality planning process. As a matter of fact, the scope defines what will and what will not be delivered as part of the project.

The end results and customer expectations will help guide the quality planning session to ensure that the customer’s quality requirements are met.

project quality control

Product description

Even though the project scope generally defines the initial product description, the actual product description may include supporting details that the project manager and project team will need to take into account. Consider the example of an apartment building: the requirements, specifications, and technical details of the building will need to be considered and reviewed as this information will most certainly affect quality planning.
tandards

Parameters to monitor for quality: Standards and Regulations

Standards and regulations in each area should be re-examined to determine that both the project plan and quality plan are acceptable. For example, a project to fit a building with an electrical system will have certain regulations to which it must comply.

Parameters to monitor for quality: Other process outputs

The project manager will need more than just a scope statement and product description to plan for quality.

Outputs from other processes will also need to be reviewed for quality aspects. For example, in our earlier building example, if the supplier quality level is unacceptable, the project may be jeopardized and fail.

Quality features

PMBOK® defines quality as the degree to which a set of intrinsic characteristics meets requirements.

It is said that a project meets its quality expectations when all project requirements, agreed upon at the beginning of the project, are met and thus the resulting product or service is usable for the stakeholders.

However, there are three quality characteristics that must be taken into account:

Quality is subjective

Surely quality can be measured objectively using the parameters mentioned earlier, but sometimes quality that is appropriate for one person is not for another.

Using a simple example: young people will consider a mobile phone to be of high quality based on its visual appearance, brand name, and technical specifications such as camera quality, memory capacity, and screen resolution. However, for someone in the age group of 60 and older, just the ease of answering a phone call or sending a text message may define the quality of the mobile phone.

Therefore, to understand the quality requirements in a design, it is also worth considering this factor.

Quality has many faces

The definition of quality depends on the business context and industry.

For a service-oriented organization such as a bank or airline, service quality is expressed through the level of customer satisfaction.

For a product such as a cell phone, a car, or a computer, quality means conformity to product specifications and suitability for use.

Quality is everyone’s responsibility

Quality in project management is twofold: project quality and product quality. Project quality is about ensuring that the project is executed consistently with the triple constraint of time, cost, and scope. If the project falls within the tolerance levels defined by these three factors, then it is possible to say that the project quality is high. Projects are carried out to develop a solution, which can be a product or service. If this output meets its specifications and satisfies stakeholder needs, then the product is said to be of high quality. Meeting quality expectations is therefore not just the responsibility of the project manager, but of everyone involved in the project.

Therefore, it is important that the project manager and team members understand the importance of quality and manage projects as best they can to achieve all parameters.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best project management software, you reached all milestones on schedule, and the project was completed on budget; if the output doesn’t meet quality standards, the project won’t be a success.

Choose quality. Choose Twproject.

corporate governance

Corporate governance vs management

Corporate governance and management are not the same thing, although some people might think so. Actually, they are two very different things.

Let’s make it clear in this article where we will look at the two roles separately. The purpose is to establish once and for all the differences between corporate governance and management.

Corporate governance role

Governance is the act of the management board meeting to take decisions about company direction.

Tasks such as supervision, strategic planning (which has nothing to do with project planning), decision making, and financial planning fall under corporate governance activities.

The board is responsible for creating the corporate charter, which is a set of fundamental policies that outline the mission, values, vision, and structure of the organization. As needed, the board creates and approves key policies.

Corporate governance: 7 questions to understand it

In a paper titled “Distinguishing Governance from Management“, the author Barry Bader asks seven questions to establish whether a factor falls under governance and is therefore the board’s responsibility:

  1. Is it “big”? The greater the impact of a decision, the more of a role the board should play in forming and understanding the action and its possible consequences.
  2. Does it involve the future? The board imparts the long-term vision by providing a master plan for the organizational structure.
  3. Is it the core of the mission? Corporate governance is custodian of the corporate mission.
  4. Is a high level policy decision needed to settle a situation? Decisions of this kind are usually those that require compliance with laws or regulations, those that may affect accountability, etc.
  5. Is a red flag waving? The board should focus on what are considered “trends.” As a rule of thumb, a factor or indicator becomes a trend when it repeats for at least three reporting periods. Corporate governance must then take action if events, reports or activities undermine this trend.
  6. Is a “watchdog” watching? A “watchdog” includes media, government, IRS, etc. If these are keeping an eye on the organization, the board needs to step in.
  7. Does the CEO want and need the board’s support? There is little debate on this point: if the CEO wants and needs board support, the board must provide it.

Governance duties and responsibilities

In a perfect corporate world, all managers and employees know their duties and responsibilities and act responsibly; they are honest, hardworking people with a solid commitment to ethics and integrity.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case and the board of directors is understood to be precisely that:

control and balance that supervises employees and all aspects of company operations.

Corporate governance should avoid getting involved directly in daily concerns.

Without being directly involved, boards should work closely with managers by providing guidance.

Furthermore, corporate governance allows managers to develop their operational strategies and reviews them to ensure they are in line with overall planning.

To recap, corporate governance is the “what” and includes:

  • Determining mission, policy, and strategy
  • Designating and supervising management
  • Managing governance processes
  • Providing insight, wisdom and judgment
  • Monitoring the organization’s performance
  • Identifying and strategically managing risk

Management’s role

management

Management structures can come in an infinite number of formats depending on company size and type.

For all cases, management decisions support and implement the goals and values provided by the board of directors.

Managers also make routine operational decisions and manage all the administrative work that makes operations run.

Management is virtually the bridge between corporate governance and lower-level executives.

One of their duties is to communicate the board’s expectations to employees placed at lower levels of the operation.

To achieve this, managers can break down corporate governance expectations into short- and long-term operational goals to see implementation through to completion.

While the board creates corporate policies, management is responsible for enforcing corporate policy and holding employees accountable for their actions.

Managers need a variety of skills that are significantly different from those of board directors.

First and foremost, they need good motivational skills so that they can motivate staff and create a work environment where everyone thrives. Also, it is beneficial for managers to possess good coaching skills since most employees will require some level of training and need continuous incentive to improve their performance.

Although the board can provide an overall budget, department managers often have to define their own budgets and communicate their needs to senior managers.

Senior managers communicate lower management budget needs to the board so that budget issues are reconfirmed throughout the company.

In other words, managers are in a position where they must meet or break the expectations and requirements of people at many different levels of the organization.

As a result, managerial positions are often high-pressure jobs that require a cool head even in high-stress situations.

To recap, management is the “how” and includes:

  • Policy and strategy development and implementation.
  • Defining and supervising annual operational business plans
  • Appointing managers and staff
  • Supporting governance processes
  • Board decisions implementation
  • Performance measurement
  • Service and activity delivery
  • Strategic and operational risk management

Corporate governance vs management: Conclusions

All organizations need both governance and management functions, and it is up to each respective organization to ensure that both functions are operating.

Frameworks are not standard and can be modified to meet each organization’s needs, as long as the necessary separation between corporate governance and management is in place.

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action plan

Action Plan: what is and when to implement it (in Project Management and beyond)

How can you transform a vision into reality while preventing challenges and problems? By having a sound action plan.

Yeah, a sound action plan is a nice catch phrase, but what is it really? What is it for and how can you implement it?

Let’s see it in this article and start from the very beginning.

What is an action plan

An action plan is a checklist for any steps or activities you need to accomplish to achieve the goals you set.

It is an integral part of the strategic planning process and helps improve teamwork planning.

Action plans are not solely useful in project management, but can also be used by people to draw up a strategy to achieve their personal goals.

An action plan comprises:

  • A clearly defined description of the objective to be achieved
  • Tasks/steps that must be performed to achieve the goal
  • People who will be assigned to perform each task
  • When will these activities (deadlines and milestones) be completed?
  • Resources needed to complete activities
  • Measures to evaluate progress

The most useful thing about having a comprehensive list in one location is that it makes it easier to track progress and plan things effectively.

However, an action plan is not something carved in stone. As your organization grows and conditions change, you will need to review and tweak it to meet your newest needs.

Why you need an action plan

Sometimes companies don’t invest much time in developing an action plan before an initiative, which, in most cases, leads to failure.

Planning does, in fact, help you prepare for the possible obstacles and unforeseen events that will be found along the way. By having an effective action plan, you can increase productivity and stay focused on the goal even when negative events occur.

Here are some benefits of an action plan:

  • Provide clear direction: an action plan highlights exactly what steps need to be undertaken and when they should be completed.
  • Motivation: Having goals written and phased will give a reason to stay motivated and engaged throughout the project.
  • Analysis and monitoring: With an action plan, you can monitor your progress toward your goal.
  • Priority organization: given that an action plan lists all the steps that need to be completed, this will help to prioritize activities according to effort and impact.

the action plan

How to develop an action plan

Apparently, creating an action plan looks easy enough but there are several important steps that you need to carefully tackle to get the best out of it.

Here’s how to write an action plan in 6 steps.

1) Define your end goal: If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do and achieve, failure will be unavoidable. So, the first step is to write down a definite end goal, ideally defining it according to the SMART criteria.

2) List the steps to follow: Now your goal is clear, but what exactly should you do to achieve it? This is where you create an initial rough list of all the tasks that need to be covered, the due dates and the people accountable. It is important that the entire team is involved in this step so that everyone is informed of their roles and responsibilities in the project. If some tasks are too large and complex, they can be split into smaller tasks that are easier to perform and manage.

3) Prioritize tasks and add deadlines: It’s time to rearrange your list by prioritizing tasks so that some assignments won’t block other processes. It is also time to add deadlines, making sure they are achievable. Sometimes in these cases it may be beneficial to speak directly with the person responsible for performing the task to understand their true capabilities before deciding on a deadline.

4) Set milestones: Milestones can be regarded as mini-goals that lead to your main goal. The benefit of adding milestones is that they give team members a sense of expectation and help them stay motivated.

5) Identify required resources: Before starting your project, it is essential to ensure that you have all the resources necessary to complete your tasks and if they are not currently available, make a plan to acquire them including a budget.

6) Visualize the action plan. The purpose of this step is to create something that everyone can understand at a glance and that can be shared with everyone. Regardless of whether the action plan takes the form of a flowchart, a Gantt diagram or a chart, the most important thing is that it clearly communicates the elements identified so far: activities, task leaders, milestones, resources, etc. Also, the action plan is a dynamic document that should be easily accessible to everyone.

7) Monitor, measure and update

Here you will assess your progress on a regular basis. You can tick off completed tasks, bringing attention to how you progressed toward the goal. This will also highlight outstanding or delayed activities, in which case you need to understand why and find appropriate solutions. Then, the action plan will be updated accordingly.

 

To reach a destination, you need to know how to get there, and to achieve a goal, you need a clear action plan.

This is exactly what a well-structured action plan provides: a clear path, how to get there, and the best possible results.

Using a project management software such as TWproject could be a huge advantage. Try it for free!

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top-down management

Top-down and bottom-up projects

Top-down and bottom-up management are two of the most popular approaches in the Project Management world.
What you need to know is that before beginning to work on a project, it is very important to have a management approach in place and to be consistent with it.

Besides choosing the project management methodology that we have already discussed, the choice of the style with which you would like to manage the project is crucial. Today we will focus on understanding what top-down and bottom-up management are.

When it comes to choosing a management style, in fact, there are many things to consider. For example, what is the corporate culture and personality of the managers? What kind of project management tools are being used?

The project manager’s choice of a management style is a personal choice, but it is based on certain characteristics of the “work environment” and is very important because it will affect every aspect of the activities, project and team.

What is top-down management?

Also referred to as autocratic leadership, top-down is the most common form of management.

It is the classic hierarchical system, with a chief executive officer (CEO) defining the direction for the entire organization.

Leadership is then handed down through a series of managers, mid-level staff to the last team member in an almost pyramidal system.

In top-down management, everything from the workplace to business systems is determined by upper management and passed down the chain of command.

Each role is responsible for carrying out the mission as stated by superiors, with little room for comment or criticism.

Some lower-level managers may also take part in the decision-making process, but in the end, the final decision always rests with senior management.

Most organizations still use top-down team management.

Any company with a hierarchical ladder with a CEO at the top tends to be structured this way.

Top-down project management means that all project goals, guidelines, information, and plans are defined by management and expectations are communicated to each project participant.

This approach requires extreme process formalities, as any ambiguity can easily result in misunderstandings and project failure.

Pros and cons of top-down management

• Pro: Clarity if the leader knows stuff. One of the benefits of top-down management is that it sets clear expectations, as goals are delivered by one person and that message is not muffled by multiple voices and opinions. Since the law is set from the top down, employees don’t have to be distracted from participating in the decision-making process, which gives them more time to focus on their tasks. Obviously, this kind of structure works best when the leader, o project manager in the case of a project, has thoroughly researched and considered all facets of how the decision will impact the project, business and employees.

• Cons: Lack of buy-in if the leader is weak or somewhat dictatorial. On the flip side, the idea of a domineering personality leading the project or an organization in general can veer from caring and attentive management to something more dictatorial. If this happens, the consensus of team members suffers and morale plummets, with bad influence on the project. Also, if the leader does not have a strong personality, employees will be less likely to take responsibility.

bottom-up management

What is bottom-up management?

The concept that “two heads are better than one” is the number one reason why some organizations and project managers do not implement a top-down management approach.

The idea is that there may be a lot of talent even “in the lower levels”, cthat would be wasted with a top-down approach.

In this model, it is the entire organization that is involved in the process of driving the business; in the case of project management, it is the entire team that influences the project management process.

This collaborative method gives employees a say in how to achieve goals.

This way, teams are self-directed and decide the best way to complete their tasks, rather than receiving orders and only then acting on them.

While still a minority, more and more companies are adopting the bottom-up management style.

Pros and cons of bottom-up management

• Pros: Make the most of a team’s talents. One advantage is that bottom-up management can retain talent, keep spirits high, and achieve project consensus. In fact, this management style gives lower-level employees a say. Their input is regarded as a competitive advantage. Because the entire organization feels part of the process, the company is more likely to improve productivity. If everyone feels a part of the goals, they are likely to be more dedicated to achieving them.

• Cons: Too many voices and ideas slow down business agility. In terms of downsides, having employees taking part in the decision-making process can slow things down or cause the project to follow unproven ideas that end up in blockages or problems. This can cost valuable time by creating an advantage for the competition. There is also the ego aspect. If everyone has a chance to be heard, the motivation may be purely personal (increased self-esteem) rather than goal-oriented. This can lead to divisions and conflict within the team, increasing discontent and the climate of competition in a negative sense.

 Top-down or bottom-up: choosing the direction

And so: what is the best approach? The answer is: it depends.

Top-down or bottom-up is essentially a compromise between speed and accuracy. The method you choose depends on both the type of project you are working on and the amount of time you have for completing it.

Whatever planning approach you decide to use, your main goal should always be to deliver the project output on time.

So regardless of whether you prefer top-down or bottom-up planning, at the end of the day what really matters is being able to quickly pinpoint critical issues and communicate with project team members in a timely manner.

The main goal is always to find ways to make project management and collaboration more efficient.

Work together with your team effectively.

negative feedback

Negative Feedback: 7 things to do when…

Receiving a negative feedback is never a pleasant experience.

You work hard to create a quality product and seeing your actions judged negatively can lead to anger and frustration. These are negative reactions that later can also compromise our performance.

Moreover, even though feedback can often be given objectively and with the truest intentions, it can also be inaccurate or harmful. For example, it may come from a colleague who wants to cause trouble, from a boss who has completely unachievable expectations, from an employee who is afraid to tell the truth, etc.

In any case it is difficult, indeed, to understand what is real and what should be filtered.

There are many resources that suggest how to ask for feedback, but there are relatively few indications on how to react to negative feedback received.

What you need to know is that if you are able to turn a negative feedback into something positive, it can become key for success.

How to face a negative feedback

And for those who are really averse to negative feedback, there is an excellent alternative: no negative feedback, none at all.

Is it everybody’s dream? Of course, except that the lack of feedback can only mean one of two things:

  • Work is generally good but people aren’t developing their skills any more.
  • Work is bad, but nobody says it.

And neither of these two scenarios is positive when your goal is to grow professionally and progress in your career.

So here are 7 ways to turn negative reviews into positive results.

Facing negative feedback: Better safe than sorry

When a product is to be released, especially if it is new, the project manager must already think ahead by providing stakeholders and clients with as much information as possible.

This will help to avoid a lot of questions during the project lifecycle and negative reviews at output delivery.

Facing negative feedback: Remember that you cannot please everyone

Negative reviews can happen to everyone. No matter how good a product may be, there will always be people who think it could have been done better. After all, sympathies and antipathies are just subjective opinions and someone will always be unhappy.

Facing negative feedback:  Make the right researches

When you get negative feedback, do not panic, it is not the end of the world!

It is important to make a research afterwards: if the complaint is reasonable enough, it is worth to discuss it, make a Root cause Analysis and try to improve what can be improved.

The most important thing is, therefore, to find the reason why this negative experience occurred.

Be aware that you cannot respond to feedback until you really understand it. Especially when you hear something new, it is usually a wise idea to ask some reliable sources for confirmation. Just ask them if they have noticed the same behavior or error.

This way of working not only provides you with more details about the action affected by negative feedback, but also helps to avoid over-correction based on a single person’s opinion.

Facing negative feedback: Give a prompt response

Ignoring negative feedback won’t just make it disappear, it will only make things worse.

Clearly this does not mean that you should respond to a criticism the very moment you receive it. Leaving your computer, taking a deep breath and having a moment for yourself, can be normal and even beneficial at first, especially if the feedback is about a very important factor.

Finding an activity that helps you disconnect for a moment, can improve your mood when confronted with the response processing.

However, this does not mean waiting for months. It must be done within a reasonable timeframe, depending on the gravity of the problem.

That said, the faster you deal with a negative review, the easier it will be to handle the next discussion and clear up any possible misunderstanding. Customer experience will benefit from this.

Facing negative feedback: Ask and listen

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, contact those who gave that negative feedback and find out exactly what didn’t work for them.

Naturally, some answers can be quite harsh, but don’t judge and don’t let your emotions take over.

Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes could be useful to understand their point of view and better understand the cause of the negative feedback.

face negative feedback

Facing negative feedback: Take your responsibilities

Mistakes are a natural part of human efforts and you should not be afraid to admit guilt.

The more responsible you are for your actions, the more credible you will be and the more people will trust you.

Making mistakes is human – as long as you don’t make them over and over again.

Facing negative feedback: Learn and solve the problem

Negative reviews can be an important source of knowledge.

They can help the project team find any missing links to product development and make it better than ever.

You should try to respond proactively, track the criticism received, bit by bit, and provide a solution to each one. You should avoid getting defensive and be good at keeping the points concise.

When you move on to solving the problem, you must do so with positive energy. This can make the process much more effective.

Transforming a negative Feedback into an asset

As the famous saying goes:

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem

So, those who are afraid of negative reviews must change their attitude and consider constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth and learning.

Negative feedback is a chance to improve your weaknesses and bring the quality of your work and product to a new level.

A study demonstrated that we tend to avoid people who have given us negative feedback.

It may seem easier to consider yourself as the victim in a huge workplace conspiracy, but getting away from people who tell the truth and give negative but constructive feedback is a big mistake.

In this regard, negative feedback can be a great pretext for restoring relationships and, with the right approach, the greatest critics can become the best motivators.

Ask, listen, improve.

iterative method

The iterative method within projects: it is not an alternative, it is an opportunity

The choice of an iterative project management methodology is mandatory for keeping pace with the ever-changing market demand.

In fact, you need methods – even in project management – that are flexible and can adapt to market evolutions.

Agility is key to maintaining a competitive and profitable organization and agility begins with the application of an iterative method.

What does “iterative method” mean within projects?

The iterative approach focuses on delivering value as quickly as possible (incrementally), rather than in one go.

Iterative approach means that the product development process is split into multiple iterations or explicit versions, each of which offers objective improvements or additional functionality.

An iterative approach creates continuous evaluation and improvement opportunities in the development process and throughout a project.

And the good thing is that the design of an iterative approach is generally simple and easy to implement, regardless of the context.

Iterative method process

Unlike the more conventional waterfall model which focuses on a rigorous gradual process of development phases, the iterative model is designed as a cyclic process.

After the initial planning phase, some phases are repeated over and over again, with each completion of the cycle that incrementally improves the result.

Improvements can be quickly identified and implemented during each iteration, allowing the next iteration to be at least marginally better than the last one.

Here is more detail on how each step of the iterative method works:

  • Planning and requirements: similar to most development projects, the first step is to proceed with initial planning to outline specifications, establish requirements and generally prepare for the actual work.
  • Analysis and design: Once the planning is completed, the analysis and design phase takes place, in which the work to be done in the phase is broken down in more detail.
  • Implementation: the phase begins by following all the documentation prepared so far.
  • Test: once this phase is over, a series of test procedures must be performed to identify and pinpoint potential bugs or problems that have emerged.
  • Evaluation: It is time for a comprehensive evaluation of the development up to this stage. This allows the entire team, as well as clients or other external parties, to review at which point the project is, where it needs to be, what it can or should be changed, etc.

And then the crucial point of the whole iterative model comes: once the feedback from the evaluation process of the specific phase is collected, it is brought back to the planning level, at the top of the list, and the process is repeated again.

This process will be repeated until there will be no room for further improvements to the product.

Iterative model advantages

The benefits of the iterative model are several and we will examine them one by one.

Intrinsic version check

The iterative model ensures that the most recent iterations are incrementally improved versions of previous iterations.

Also, if a new iteration fundamentally crashes a system in a disastrous way, a previous iteration can be implemented or “cancelled” quickly and easily, with minimal losses.

Quick trend inversion

Whilst it may seem that each phase of the iterative process is not as different from the phases of a more traditional model as the waterfall method, the uniqueness and convenience of the iterative method is that each phase can be effectively scaled down into increasingly smaller time intervals, depending on the needs of the project.

Although the initial step of all phases may take some time, each subsequent iteration will be faster and faster. This will reduce the life cycle of each new iteration to a few days or even hours in some cases.

Great for agile organizations

Even though a gradual process like the waterfall model can work fine for large organizations with hundreds of team members, the iterative model really starts to be beneficial when it is used by a smaller, more agile team.

A process that follows the iterative method can be effectively executed by a number of individual team members. Execution can range from planning and design to implementation and testing, with little or no need for external feedback or assistance.

Early risk identification and response

Managing each iteration is easier than managing the entire project at once.

The iterative approach allows development teams to address problems at an early stage without requiring the team to backtrack.

Experimentation

The editable and cyclical nature of the iterative method allows teams to test new ideas for their products.

the iterative method

Iterative Model Drawbacks

As in all things there are not only positive aspects to the application of an iterative method. Let’s see what drawbacks can happen.

Expensive problems in advanced stages

While this is not necessarily a problem for all projects, due to minimal initial planning, when using an iterative model, an unforeseen design problem may appear late in the project.

Solving this unforeseen problem could have potentially devastating effects on the time and project costs as a whole. You may also like to read this article on how to create a project Budget.

Fixing the unexpected may require a large amount of future iterations just to solve this single problem.

Greater pressure on user engagement

The cascade model stresses virtually all user/customer engagement in the early stages of the project during a short critical period of time.

By contrast, the iterative model often requires user involvement throughout the entire process.

This is sometimes an unfortunate factor because, depending on the project, each new iteration may require testing and feedback from users to properly assess the changes needed.

Feature Creep

Not only can the iterative model require virtually continuous feedback from users, but this can also mean, inherently, that the project may be subject to undesired feature creep.

Users experience changes in each iteration and, as a result, are inclined to constantly submit new requests for features to be added to future versions.

Conclusions

To briefly recap what is the iterative method within projects: this is simply a model of the product development life cycle – a project output – that works through small iterations to ensure efficiency and high quality at the end of the work.

This model can be a great choice for large projects that need to include feedback and progressively review results during development rather than towards the end.

If you follow the iterative method process correctly, you will end up with a great product that is more likely to be in line with the desired functionality and requirements.

New targets, a new way of working.

scrum master

Scrum Master, an ever more important role

The Scrum Master might sound like some role-playing game character, but it is actually a leadership figure that is becoming more and more important.

Many organizations today work using an Agile methodology, mainly Scrum.

As we have already seen in several articles, the Scrum methodology is a subsection of the Agile methodology. The development team sets objectives in clearly defined iterative cycles and each iteration provides small but significant pieces of an overall project.

However, many organizations are not concerned about having a Scrum Master.

Why?

Many companies are confident that their team is already able to deliver Scrum, and the opportunity to save costs leads them to overlook the addition of this role.

Is it really so? Often the economic leverage has the upper hand in the short term but it turns out to be a double-edged sword especially in larger time spans and structured projects, where it is necessary to adapt situations and respond to unforeseen events.

What is a Scrum Master?

The Scrum Master is the team member in charge of managing the Scrum process.

Please note: this role is generally not involved in the decision-making process, but acts as a leading light to guide the team in the process with its experience and expertise.

Without a Scrum Master who promotes and supports the process and who can help team members understand Scrum theory, practice, rules and values, the project may fail.

5 Scrum master responsibilities

The Scrum master role includes the following responsibilities.

1. Team members coach

The Scrum Master ensures that team members are thoroughly trained and fully understand Agile processes. It also ensures that team members know their roles, have a sense of belonging to the project and that the teams are self-managed.

2. Moderate daily meetings

The so-called Daily Scrum meetings don’t take more than 15 minutes and give each team member the opportunity to answer these questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • What is stopping your progress?

Team members may be asked to calculate the time they will require to complete specific tasks.

The Scrum Master hosts this meeting, keeps track of the team’s progress and identifies any obstacles that might preclude certain activities from being completed.

3. Assist the product manager with the product backlog

The product manager is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the product backlog, a summary of what the team has to perform for the output achievement.

The Scrum Master then helps the product manager to refine and maintain this product backlog using the information gathered during daily meetings with the team.

The product backlog is an active document that varies according to the current situation and development needs.

4. Remove blocks

To help the team stay focused on what they have to do, the Scrum master identifies any potential blockages that may impede progress.

For example, if team members get tangled up in too many irrelevant meetings, the Scrum Master can step in to determine who really needs to attend.

Also, if a team member is pushed in too many directions and assigned too many heterogeneous activities, the Scrum Master can come in to redistribute the workload.

5. Teach Scrum practices and principles

To assure that work does not slow down, a key role of the Scrum Master is mentoring and teaching new team members.

As a teacher, they help them understand the purpose and vision of a product and ensure that team members understand the Agile approach,  and that they adhere to its practices and rules.

It is important to emphasize that the Scrum master, in general, is not directly accountable for people management or project results.

the role of scrum master

Top qualities of a successful Scrum Master

Motivator

A Scrum Master leads various Scrum teams who are working on a project to achieve specific goals and end results. Therefore, they must be able to motivate multiple groups and stakeholders at the organizational level, maximizing everyone’s potential. The Scrum Master must therefore possess strong leadership and organizational skills.

Collaborator

The Scrum Master is an essential link between product manager and project team. Effective collaboration leads to successful products that meet organization requirements.

Careful

The Scrum Master is not a manager, but rather a team member and facilitator; he should therefore be a good listener and pay attention to the challenges that the project team faces at every stage of the process. The Scrum Master should also be mindful of the daily activities of the team to get a clear picture of the roles and contributions of each individual member.

Experienced

Besides the resolution and problems that may arise, the Scrum Master should also proactively prevent potential problems. This requires a general knowledge of the product and process.

 

After having seen what a Scrum Master is, what are its responsibilities and characteristics, here are some questions that an organization should ask itself to understand if the time has come to introduce this role in its staff:

  • Are the processes delivering results that do not achieve goals?
  • Does the team often face a blockage and doesn’t know how to move forward?
  • Are team members unsure about how and why they are failing to achieve their goals?
  • Is development constantly overwhelmed?
  • Do people not feel appreciated or see any value in their work?

If the answer to at least two of these questions is yes, it is probably time to consider hiring a Scrum Master.

Manage your project with a Scrum/Agile approach.

master plan

Master plan & master planning

A master plan is a long-term dynamic planning document that provides a conceptual framework to drive project development and growth.

Successful project managers are masters at creating comprehensive project plans that define project scope, cost, planning, activities and resources.

A Master Plan reflects a vision set in the early stages of a project and aims to bring everyone on the same page and move everyone in the same direction.

A master plan outlines the expectations for everything that will be achieved during the project lifecycle.

However, some people do not believe that the master plan holds real value and consider it more of a luxury rather than a necessity, especially in these times when we try to maximize our work schedule.

However, a good master plan is key to any long-term project. This is why:

  • The master planning provides a road map for all future project development decisions.
  • The master plan, even if seen by some as an additional cost, can eventually lead to savings in the long run.
  • The master plan allows the involvement of all parties concerned in advance and sets out expectations on how the various activities and tasks will be developed.
  • A master plan approval creates “buy-ins” by the main stakeholders in a project. If everyone gives their “blessing” at the outset, there will be much less chance to ask questions or step back later.
  • A master plan allows you to estimate costs before the actual work begins. This also allows you to raise funds for a longer period of time to fund your project.
  • General planning can create visibility and credibility for a project. If a project’s vision can be presented to its potential users, it often generates excitement about its potential and this often drives a project and helps it to happen sooner.
  • Projects that have a planned master plan generally have a higher completion rate than unplanned projects.

Master plan development process

Here are some typical elements for a good project master plan:

Feasibility study

A feasibility study is an objective review of the options available for a project development.

Indica l’obiettivo previsto è raggiungibile, tenendo conto degli aspetti finanziari, sociali e ambientali.

Strategic framework

The strategic framework goes hand in hand with the master plan and sets the basis for establishing basic information about possible opportunities and constraints.

In the strategic planning phase, the team also determines what key competencies are needed to develop the project in general.

master planning

Project scope

A project master plan is designed to ensure that the project scope baseline is maintained and consistent.

The established scope shall not be inadvertently altered or modified.

Although the goal is to make minimal or no changes to the project scope, some changes may still be necessary.

In this case, changes will be determined through the change control process set out in the master plan.

Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure, WBS, is a hierarchical breakdown of the work and activities that must be executed by the team to achieve project objectives and create the required deliverables.

The WBS organizes and defines the total scope of the project and splits the work into smaller, more manageable parts.

Phases closure and lessons learned

At the end of each phase of the project life cycle, the project manager will draft a report detailing the lessons learned.

This includes an analysis of the project objectives achieved and the success of each completed phase.

These best practices can then be used for other similar projects and identify areas for process improvement.

Closing activities include reviewing all of the goals and objectives of the phase and closing problems and related risks.

Conclusions

Ultimately, we can say that the master planning is the first key step in any design process; it is the creation of a framework in which the work of the entire project will be embedded.

One of the dangers of any large-scale project is the number of people, or even teams, working together to achieve a specific goal.

This diversity and number of people involved can be an obstacle and could lead to a reduced success of the final product.

The master plan helps precisely to overcome this type of problem by providing a unique point of reference that everyone can follow.

Discover Twproject world.

One try is worth a million words.
flowchart

Flowchart: what is it and why it is important in a project

Flowchart is very important in project management – perhaps fundamental – because it improves work flow efficiency and makes the project transparent.

Lack of transparency is one of the main causes of inefficiency in any project.

Whether it is the lack of a clear domain for particular activities or a path not properly outlined from start to finish, this cloudiness hinders the project flow con ostacoli inutili. with unnecessary obstacles. You may also want to learn more about workflow aspects.

What is a flowchart?

A flowchart not only helps you visualize all types of processes and work flows in a project, but also provides a shared language that improves team orientation.

But there’s more.

By using a flowchart to visually document your project, you can:

  • Illustrate the sequence of activities required for its completion
  • Highlight possible work flow issues
  • Find out about areas where efficiency, quality or performance can be improved
  • Show high volumes of information on a single screen thus allowing you to handle large amounts of information
  • Assign different color schemes to different activities and processes, easing their interpretation

Also, another good news is that project management flowcharts generally are easy to create.

Just use a standardized collection of symbols and shapes to view each step of the project, then connect them with arrows indicating the direction of the work flow.

Once completed, the flowchart is ready to help the project manager and team to analyze, edit, and implement specific project plans and objectives.

In other words, a flowchart is a graphical helper, designed to visualize the sequence of steps to follow during the project management process.

With this guide running, the project team will know what comes next and the process can run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Why use a project management process flowchart?

The purpose of any flowchart is to help to visualize the required steps, which is especially useful when managing a project.

Each diagram includes actions, who is responsible for executing those actions and the inputs and outputs for each step.

Furthermore, in some cases, the flowchart may also include a record of all project documents and other materials needed to perform the actions.

L’obiettivo del diagramma di flusso è la chiarezza e la trasparenza.

The goal of the flowchart is clarity and transparency.

The wording used must be simple and free of unnecessary or expert jargon; the steps must be clear to everyone, whatever their level of specialization and knowledge.

For the same reason, already at the beginning of the project a consistent agreement must be found on how to “build” a flowchart: for example, a square shape always represents an action, a hexagon the end point, a diamond a decision, etc.

Shapes themselves thus provide information about the stage of the process, and a single glance can tell the reader what kind of operation is taking place at a precise point.

The same applies to colors: these can be used, for example, to determine resources.

Whatever encoding is agreed upon, it will also be necessary to add a legend to the flowchart to identify the meaning of each shape and color, so as to avoid any kind of misunderstanding.

Once the flowchart has mapped the steps in each phase of the project and assigned ownership of responsibilities, everyone can fully understand their role and how they contribute to the whole.

the flowchart

How to draw a flowchart

The best way to begin to visually map your project management process is to go back to the basics, i.e. use pen and paper.

The first step is to think about all the different steps of a process.

It is a great idea to engage the whole team in this phase, as different people may be aware of steps that would otherwise not be considered.

Second, you will think about the flow from one step to another: are there any points where the path can split? What happens if an activity fails one of the steps, where is it postponed and how are the following activities managed?

These are just some of the questions you will have to ask yourself in this step.

Next, you will assign property of each step. This is particularly important for audit or review phases that can only be performed by a single role or decision maker.

Lastly, you should make sure that your flowchart is consistent and easy to understand, perhaps asking for feedback before making it official.

 

Ultimately, the benefit of flowcharts is that they show the activities that are involved in a project, including decision points, parallel paths, branching loops, and the overall sequence of processing by mapping operational details.

A basic flowchart can help a project manager especially during the planning phase.

When you create a flowchart, this shows the method used by the organization to achieve a particular project goal.

This makes it easier for a project manager to go through the process of determining, delegating and planning each task to team members.

The best thing of this particular project management tool is that it is very easy to implement, especially if you have a good project management software that allows you to build custom flowcharts tailored to your project’s real needs.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that certainly the flow chart is an incredibly useful tool, but it is still one of the many cogs in what is the most complex project management “machine”.

Strategies such as monitoring project status or adopting a project management methodology are other ways to further improve work processes.

Generate your flowcharts with Twproject.

the product manager role

Product Manager: role importance

The Product Manager is a core figure for a business. He ensures the company’s position in the market, drives the product roadmap to meet deadlines and focuses on long-term success.

How does a product manager perform this important task? We will discuss the subject in this article.

What does a product manager do?

The product manager is among the most highly paid and respected professions in the business world, but at the same time he is also one of the least known.

So let’s try to make things clear.

Product Management is a very broad definition that covers a number of different skills. In fact, often different organizations want a Product Manager for different tasks according to specific business needs.

However, here is a general description of what any good product manager should do:

  • Develop a product history or roadmap for each part of the product life cycle.
  • Optimize the product to achieve the organization’s business objectives.
  • Focus on comprehending the customer base to assess satisfaction and identify areas for improvement.

In other words, a product manager should cover virtually every aspect that has to do with the product with the main objective in mind: the product’s success.

From this perspective, a product manager creates a strategy for the success of the product and works closely with the various departments – marketing, sales, design – to help make this concept a reality.

Why is the role of the product manager so important?

A good product manager is the key to ensuring that the product reflects business objectives and customer needs in the best possible way.

As a result, this means higher revenues and happier customers.

Some companies are hesitant to hire product managers believing that other people – with no specific experience and training – can also cover that role.

A product manager understands the whole picture and clearly understands the product vision, thus making the best decisions about how to proceed through a specific roadmap.

 

Here is more in detail how the work cycle of a product manager works:

Vision

The first step in product management is setting a vision for the product. A product manager starts with a clear definition of the problem you are trying to solve.

He will then discuss and fine-tune this problem with each specialist within the product team.

Building good products is a team effort and it is therefore important to have different perspectives and use everyone’s knowledge to find the best solution.

The solution that results from this process is the product vision.

Roadmap and execution

Once everyone has agreed on the ultimate goal, the product manager will develop a product roadmap.

This is a general plan on how to provide the product vision; it is still a vision but also contains specific action points on timing, who is involved, activities, final results and processes.

It is basically a guide regarding how the product will be created and here the key challenge is to find the balance between the ideal product and what can realistically be delivered with the available resources.

In addition, when designing a roadmap, It is crucial to keep in sync with what may be changes in the future of the industry.

A product manager is responsible not only for current product performance, but also for future performance.

Managing conflict and issues

At the beginning of the product development process, the product manager is in charge of keeping the design, development and business teams up and running, coordinated and working in harmony.

Often it is easier said than done. Developers, designers, investors and other stakeholders obviously attribute different importance to different aspects of the product.

This can lead to conflict, where people tend to think that their area is the most important and that their needs are the most urgent.

For example, in IT, someone on the corporate side may not appreciate the importance of UX design and only worry that a specific feature is created without a second thought. A designer can provide a list of last-minute changes to developers, unaware that these require a major code rewrite. A developer may want to implement an experimental framework, but this leads him to work more slowly than an alternative, thus risking losing an important deadline. The product manager must therefore anticipate and manage problems of this kind.

Product launch and beyond

the product manager

When the product gets launched on the market, it is definitely a reason to celebrate… but not for long.

Product development is in fact a dynamic and constant process and new features, bugs and new requests will be on the daily agenda again.

Eager to evaluate product performance, the attention of the product manager will also turn to data and user feedback.

What is the conversion rate? How do people use the product? Have sales increased? What do the reviews say?

Addressing every inquiry, criticism, question and idea takes time.

After the analysis of this data and the comparison with the design teams, The product manager will introduce changes to the roadmap to discuss new information and business priorities.

 

As you have noticed, the role of a product manager is truly multifaceted. Sometimes it requires sparks of creativity, in others it requires rigorous planning, expert interpersonal skills and a sharp eye for detail.

Being a product manager is certainly a demanding role, where multidisciplinary skills are required, but at the same time it is very rewarding.

In the end, it is the product manager who decides the direction of the product and who can see first-hand how it impacts customers.

Create your roadmap with Twproject.

standard deviation

Project standard deviation

Standard deviation is an abstract construct based on observation rather than computation or experimentation.

The standard deviation, also represented by the Greek letter sigma σ, is a metric used to express the amount of variation or dispersion in a group of data.

In other words, it defines how much the members of a data group differ from the average value of the group itself.

A low figure for the standard deviation means that the data tends to be close to the average or expected value of the set, while a high figure means that the data is spread over a wider range.

The standard deviation and “normal distribution” concept is part of the general principle of probability on which the past can be relied upon to predict the future.

Obviously what will happen precisely is unknown but in many situations what happened in the past can be valuable to predict the future.

The main question is thus: to what extent can one rely on past models to predict the future?

Standard deviation applications

Odds study began in 1654 when French mathematicians Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat solved an enigma that troubled gamblers for more than 200 years: how to split the prize in the case of unfinished gambling if one of the players is in advantage?

Their solution meant that people could, for the first time in history, make decisions and predict the future based on numbers.

In the following century, mathematicians developed quantitative risk management techniques that transformed probability theory into a powerful tool to organize, interpret and apply information to help make decisions for the future.

The concepts of standard deviation and “normal distribution” thus began to be the focus of these new developments and studies.

In 1730 Abraham de Moivre suggested the shape of a normal distribution, the so-called “bell curve”.

Later on, Carl Friedrich Gauss confirmed de Moivre’s bell curve and elaborated the mathematics necessary to apply this probabilistic concept to risk.

project standard deviation

A normal variation can be large or small depending on the population, or data group, that is being studied and the normal distribution curve defined by its standard deviation provides tools to help understand the likely range of results that can be expected.

This prediction is clearly never certain, but there is a high degree of probability that it is reasonably correct and the degree of certainty increases as the amount of data used in the analysis increases.

How to use deviations in project management

A key factor in understanding the concept of standard deviation is to consider that it was based on the analysis of data obtained from hundreds of measurements.

Therefore, this concept will have less value in determining the one-time consequences on the basis of a single result or a single risk event.

For each set of measured data, the main things to remember are:

  • The standard deviation is expressed in the same terms as the measured factor. If the factor to be measured is the age of people’ death, measured in years, the standard deviation will also be measured in years and, again, if the factor to be measured is the length of a bolt expressed in millimeters, the standard deviation will be expressed in millimeters.
  • The standard variation value for a specific population is constant, if 1 SD = 0.5 mm, 2 SD = 1 mm and 6 SD = 3 mm, then if the target length for the bolt is 100 mm and also the average length produced is 100 mm, then 99.99% of the bolts produced will range from 97 mm to 103 mm (± 6 SD).
  • Percentages for 1 SD, 2 SD, 3 SD and 6 SD are always the same because the value of the standard variation expressed in millimeters, years, etc. varies according to the overall variance of the population and, of course, the measured factor.

How to apply standard deviation to projects?

PMBOK says that you can determine a project standard deviation or activity by applying the following simple formula:

SD (σ) = (P – O) / 6

with P being the pessimistic duration, i.e. when things are really going badly, and O being the optimistic duration, i.e. when things are going very well.

For example, if P = 25 days and O = 10 days, according to PMBOK the SD = (25-10) / 6 = 2,5 days.

This formula, according to PMBOK, implies a symmetric bell curve or a normal (Gaussian) distribution – as explained above – where if durations are considered, the distribution suggests that there is a 50% probability that the project will take less time than the average and a 50% probability that it may take longer.

However, PMBOK looks generic when you consider that a normal distribution is rarely the case for project management durations where a beta frequency distribution is much more common, since there is a limit to the speed at which you can complete a project, but virtually no limit to the time it takes to complete it.

The resultant asymmetric distribution therefore does not possess the characteristics of the normal curve.

According to the previous data, if we applied the formula (P – O) / 6, the standard deviation would be 2.5 days.

However, the true standard deviation for this distribution is 7.81 days, given by the following formula:

SD = √ [(O-E) ² + 4 (M-E) ² + (P-E) ²] / 6, dove E = (O + 4M + P) / 6

D = √ [(10-15) ² + 4 (13,75 -15) ² + (25-15) ²] / 6 = 7,81 days

The three critical numbers in this case are:

  • 10, the optimistic time frame
  • 13,75 the average between optimistic and pessimistic time frame
  • 25, the pessimistic time frame

 

Lastly, the concepts of “standard deviation” and “normal distribution” are precious quality control tools in the event that the project is producing or purchasing hundreds of similar components – like bolts.

They are less precise concepts when dealing with the probability of completing a “one-off” or one-time project.

In both situations an understanding of variability and probability is important, but when faced with the uncertainties of a “one-off” design, the “beta” deviation provides a more reliable approach.

Analyze all your project’s critical numbers with Twproject software.

risk register

Risk Register: how to compile it

The Risk Register is a valuable working tool, often underestimated.

Projects sometimes involve huge work demands and significant amounts of money to be completed successfully.

Ensuring that they are completed is an extremely delicate yet complex task.  How can you achieve this? Simple: with a risk assessment and, thus, the compilation of a risk register, one of the most important documents of a project.

Why is a risk register so important?

A risk register contains a list of potential risks that the team has identified in relation to a specific project.

It also includes measures that can be adopted to ensure that these risks do not escalate into a tsunami that could eventually disrupt the work.

A risk register is mainly a communication tool for sharing concerns and risks related to a project with all stakeholders.

Since everything is written in an official document produced before the project even begins, this document is of greater significance than when doubts are expressed during a “routinary” meeting.

The first approach to a risk register

The first thing to do is to determine risks.

No one expects the project manager to be a fortune-teller, but their experience should guide them through this task.

The projects are all different, of course, but for organizations that manage similar projects year after year, there may be historical data to review to identify common risks.

Also, it is possible to forecast some risks based on market forces or staffing issues.

To collect the possible risks that may arise during the management of a project, you will need a systematic approach to ensure you get the most thorough overview possible.

The project risk register is a system that can then keep track of that risk if it actually appears and then assess the actions set up to resolve it.

Recording a risk in the official register gives you a unique place to enter all the data related to the situation in question. It is thus possible to track the specific risk throughout the project, verifying whether the actions taken to fix or mitigate the risk work.

By recording the entire process in a log, you are less likely to lose track of the risk during a demanding project.

This makes the risks less likely to turn into real problems that can significantly threaten the success of a project.

Finally, when the risk has been resolved, it can be officially labeled as closed or terminated.

How to use and fill in a risk register

Here is how to use and fill in a risk register and which items must absolutely be included in this official document.

Risk list

Together with the help of experts and project stakeholders, it is crucial to list all the potential risks that the project may face.

In this case a brief description of the potential risk is included, for example, conflict of resources that lack enough time due to multiple concurrent requests.

Furthermore, it is important to give a unique identification number to specifically track each individual risk in the register.

Assign a risk category

Risks are not all equal; some risks are caused by technical factors, other risks are at the level of personnel or even, environmental risks, brand risks, health risks, etc.

Each risk must be assigned to a specific category.

Assess the impact of each risk

The impact shows the magnitude of the consequences of a risk.

A low impact means that if the risk were to occur, the potential damage to the project would not be so severe.

A high impact means that serious adverse effects can be expected and, clearly, these are the risks that should be given more attention.

the risk register

Estimate risk probability

The next step is to estimate the probability that a risk may occur. Naturally, the higher the probability that the risk will occur, the more you will need to be careful.

Calculate overall risk value

After estimating the impact and probability of the risk and filling in the appropriate values in the risk register, the overall risk value is calculated.

This is simply the product of the impact and the probability factor:

overall risk value = impact * probability

Assign a manager to each risk

To each risk a manager must be assigned. This risk manager will be the individual in charge of monitoring risk and taking appropriate measures to limit its impact.

Often it is directly the project manager, but sometimes there may be risks where a specific team member may be better suited and closer to the role.

Define mitigation actions for each risk

Lastly, you should list all the measures that can be adopted to mitigate, circumvent or eliminate the risk. All measures must be reported in the document.

 

Risks lie in all situations, both in daily life and in business, and this is doubly true in project management, where everything is in motion.

Risk documentation is fundamental for the success of any project, it offers a single place to identify the risk, note down its history.

Developing a risk log allows you to follow the process, from where it first occurred to where it is resolved, and even mark the person who will be in charge of managing each risk.

A project manager will never be able to anticipate everything that might go wrong in a project, but following a structured plan and having a clear risk log will be proactive and capable of taking prompt action before the risks become real problems.

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project budget

Project budget: 7 main tips to prepare them

Planning a project budget is a crucial component, it is the very essence of a project.

The concept is straightforward: if you do not have funds, you cannot successfully complete a project.

That’s why when you allocate a budget for your project, you need to spend as much time as possible to carry out a thorough job and define a budget that is as accurate as possible.

This will ensure that the project, the project manager and the team are successful.

So let’s have a look at the 7 main tips to prepare the best possible budget for each project development phase.

What is a project budget?

A project budget is the sum of the estimated costs required to complete a project within a given period of time.

It is used to estimate what the project costs will be in each phase.

The project budget will include different factors as the cost of the job, the costs of supplying of the materials, the operational costs, etc…

Please note that the project budget is not a fixed value and a static document.

This amount will in fact be revised and restored during the plan life cycle and adjusting and modifying itself gradually as the plan evolves according to the various expenses and necessities.

The budget is the engine that drives the funding of a project and communicates to stakeholders how much money is needed, when it is needed and why it is needed.

But it is not just a means to obtain what the project requires; the other thing that makes a project budget crucial is that it is a tool to control the costs of the project.

The budget is a plan that serves as a basis for measuring performance while you collect actual costs as the project progresses.

How to create a project budget?

As already stated above, there are many different factors involved in creating a budget such as, for example, fixed and variable costs, manpower, direct and indirect costs, materials and licenses, etc.

Also, there are several ways to create a project budget.

To meet all these different needs and project requirements, a budget must be created with the highest commitment and care.

So here are 7 main tips for preparing a successful project budget.

1. Make use of history and data from previous projects

The new project we are addressing is neither the first nor the last one that is trying to reach a milestone or a specific goal in the market.

This is why, before starting any work on the new project, it is worth taking a look at all similar successful projects of the past and their related budgets.

Historical data can also help to pinpoint errors that may have led to spending more money than necessary in the past and, therefore, to avoid them.

Historical successful projects are a starting point to get a general idea of the possible budget amount for the new project.

2. Get in touch with experts

Regardless of what the problem or industry is, there will be experienced people everywhere who possess many years of experience.

These people often know the market like the back of their hand, they know where the opportunities are and what the potential risks are.

So in order to create a successful budget, it is sometimes necessary to contact these “gurus” to get precious information.

Alternatively, check out our blog which is packed with information and specific articles.
the project budget

3. Confirm data accuracy

After having prepared the long-awaited budget document, you need to make sure that all the statistical data included in it are correct.

During the development phase, in fact, you cannot afford gross errors such as a misreported number or an incorrect evaluation because they could lead to a fatality – even a very serious one – in the long term.

4. Keep your budget dynamic

Now and then, the company’s needs and resources will change and, as a result, so will the budget.

Project management is a dynamic discipline and, consequently, the budget dedicated to each individual project must also be dynamic.

So, when the time comes to make changes to the project, it is therefore important to make sure that these changes are carried over to the budget as well.

An extra advice is to provide a buffer, containing a certain amount (initially discussed and agreed upon) to face any changes that require a budget increase.

5. Update your budget in real time

Speaking of budget changes, the project manager must ensure that the budget is always updated in real time.

One mistake to avoid is to postpone the update of costs and expenses – maybe because it’s lunch break -because you might forget about it.

This will avoid making mistakes, even very major ones, based on incorrect information.

6. Use a project management software

The project manager has one job: keeping all project activities under control.

So what better way to do this than using a great project management software?

With this, the project manager will not only be able to have an overview of the whole project, but also to have the budget at hand anytime.

With TWproject’s project management software you will not eliminate the risk of cost overruns, but can help you manage them.

 

Therefore, preparing a project budget is a delicate task: and above all, it is an element that follows the evolution of the project throughout all its phases.

The project manager needs to be always vigilant, they must never let their guard down! Our software is developed for this reason: to be a valuable and efficient tool for your project’s success.

Manage your project budget with TWproject.

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the strategic analysis

Strategic analysis in project management

Planning a project and conducting a strategic analysis should be a key activity for a project manager no matter what industry they work in.

Although digital technologies and the online environment have changed in virtually every industry, the skills, tools and techniques for project planning continue to be relevant.

This requires the project manager to achieve a clear and thorough understanding of the project requirements, business environment and a broad spectrum of other factors to develop the best plan.

This poses the following question: What type of tool or strategy is considered “best practice” in project management?

We have already discussed extensively the techniques available to define a project management strategy. Although there is a wide range of techniques currently available, today we will be focusing on the one called SWOT.

What does SWOT mean?

SWOT stands for SWOT analysis or SWOT matrix.

The name is an acronym and stands for a project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

SWOT is a strategic planning technique that recognizes these four factors in any project plan.

In this way, the SWOT approach helps the project manager narrow down project goals, while also pinpointing which internal and external factors can help or constrain efforts to achieve these goals.

The SWOT analysis uses a question and answer methodology to collect information:

  • Strengths are inherent qualities of the project that can provide an advantage.
  • Weakness are the characteristics of a project that put it at a disadvantage.
  • Opportunities are external elements – environmental conditions or circumstances – that are related to the strengths of a project, giving it an advantage.
  • Threats, instead, are the elements that capitalize on the weaknesses, reducing the effectiveness of the project.

Given the importance of such analysis for resource allocation, determining the strengths and weaknesses of a project, as well as situations to optimize both, becomes a must.

strategic analysis

When to use the SWOT technique

SWOT analysis can be used for a wide range of purposes and can fit virtually any situation.

SWOT can be used when assessing a project, but also during the project itself to pinpoint obstacles and know how to overcome them in the best possible way.

Moreover, if a project becomes stagnant, does not progress, evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats can open your eyes to new possibilities.

Lastly, when you introduce a project plan to business leaders, shareholders or key stakeholders, having a SWOT matrix in the presentation will provide the necessary credibility to the plan.

Here are a couple of more specific applications for SWOT analysis.

Strategy

Whatever effort is made to develop a corporate, social or personal strategy can benefit from SWOT analysis.

Clarifying precisely what resources, limitations, opportunities and problems are to be faced in a project can help define the type of strategy that a team or individual might adopt.

If, for example, there is a strong link between strengths and opportunities, if the external environment aligns strongly with positive internal factors, the strategy may involve a more aggressive search for all opportunities.

If, on the other hand, the negative external and internal factors are aligned and weaknesses and threats are strongly linked, then it must be assumed that there is a higher risk level also for small opportunities and the strategy to be adopted must be more risk-averse.

Matching and converting

SWOT can extend beyond the strategic level and this can be done through two separate processes: matching and conversion.

  • Matching: After determining strengths and opportunities, simply connect each strength with the opportunity that allows a team to make the most of it. For example, if a company is strong in IT knowledge, it should be linked to any opportunity to use that pool of skills.

Conversion: Once a team is aware of its weaknesses and threats, it can look at the conditions under which they could be considered strengths or opportunities. This step, which is simple on paper, can be difficult to be actually put into practice. Here is an example: a company may identify an existing product line that does not meet the needs of the market as a threat.

If the company has no way to redesign this product line, it may be looking for markets that may need the products the way they are. Basically, conversion turns a threat into an opportunity.

Business Plan

For large organizations, strategic planning is only one part of the overall planning process.

SWOT is therefore great for evaluating the whole organization: current conditions, existing products and services and their expected life cycle.

SWOT analysis benefits

We already mentioned many of the advantages of SWOT analysis, yet they are worth listing.The use of a SWOT matrix:

  • Allows a team to determine how feasible a project is.
  • Allows team members to view the results and actions needed to achieve their goal.
  • It is very useful to collect and interpret information useful to optimize a project’s work efforts.
  • It is good for determining what factors are critical to achieving the organization’s overall goal.

SWOT analysis limitations

Despite its value, SWOT analysis (like all things) is not perfect and there are some things to take into account when using it.

SWOT analysis can potentially be improperly used, especially by the less knowledgeable individuals, and this can lead to an ill-informed or distorted presentation of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, thus leading to an incorrect strategy.

Furthermore, a SWOT matrix only creates a list of positive and negative factors and cannot devise strategies or goals on its own. This is how it also becomes essential to be able to interpret it correctly.

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repeatability and sustainability of processes

Repeatable and sustainable project management processes (part 2/2)

In the first part of the article we outlined what process repeatability is and also discussed the advantages of process repeatability and sustainability.

We now keep on examining further aspects of process management projects

Concerns about process repeatability and sustainability

Even though process repeatability and sustainability bear several benefits, the idea of submitting processes and procedures to a standardized way of doing things can be a cause for alarm for people who are not used to them.

Does standardizing mean losing individual creativity? This is the most common concern that revolves around the adoption of repeatability in processes.

Actually these concerns are out of place, let’s see why:

1. Does process repeatability and sustainability mean monotony and boredom?

By definition, the right way of doing things means uniformity. For some people, however, this concept will inevitably seem dull and boring.

The bottom line here is that by removing ambiguity and setting a standard against which to evaluate performance, standardized processes can help employees feel that they are actually achieving “something” at work.

Team members are much more likely to feel a higher sense of accomplishment – and not boredom – if they get standard processes that help them achieve positive results.

When a task is performed to the prescribed standard, it is (almost) guaranteed to be performed 100%.

And, let’s face it, checking the boxes in the to do list definitely gives a fair amount of satisfaction.

2. Does process repeatability and sustainability destroy creativity?

A concern related to the previous one is the concept that if you standardize crucial processes in an organization, the result will be a work environment that does not promote innovation and creativity.

The main concern here is that standardization means an organizational culture that eliminates all individual thinking and new ideas, replacing a positive diversity and exchange of thoughts with a monocultural mentality.

Here it is important not to mistake the process repeatability for lack of innovation.

Once again, standardization is the elimination of inefficient alternatives that could lead to conflict.

By clearing inefficiency and unnecessary conflict in an organization, everyone can get rid of unnecessary waste of time and energy to focus on innovation in areas where it is really important.

The irony here is that, if considered wisely, process repeatability is good and even promotes innovation.

By standardizing processes, it will simplify operations so that everyone can do more and be more effective team members.

It goes without saying that if someone in the organization finds a way to improve a standardized process, the organization will consider the idea and, if positive, adopt it.

There is no reason why a standardized process cannot be changed over time if circumstances, experience and innovation indicate that it really is time for change.

the repeatability and sustainability of processes

How can you build a repeatable, sustainable and successful project management process?

Until now we have covered what a repeatable and sustainable project management process means, as well as the advantages it brings, but how is it possible to create such a process?

Here are some suggestions on how to do it:

Finding shortcomings

The thing about doing things differently every time is that, sooner or later, you will forget or overlook one or more steps.

So to create a repeatable and sustainable project management process, you will need to review previous projects, best practices and find gaps.

For example: has the product found many bugs? The solution will then add more testing and quality control time.

Or do you always receive an incomplete list of requirements? The solution will be to create a set of fixed questions for each initial project meeting.

Engage all process elements

Bad habits would not exist if someone did not prefer them. Perhaps the project manager is lazy? Are stakeholders always too busy? Or does someone on the team want the whole process to revolve around them?

Also, you need to consider that people will fight to keep the old, and ineffective, process going just because they are accustomed to it. You can find more reasons for this in this article about company changes.

For those who decide to implement the change, it will certainly be a difficult and frustrating task, but it will have to be done and everyone will have to be involved if the organization wants to improve.

Taking into account variables

Surely each project will present unique situations compared to all other projects (even the most similar ones), but this should not be an excuse not to commit to finding repeatable and sustainable processes.

A repeatable project management process should be a framework in which you can link different variables and still get consistently positive results.

Focus on objectives

The biggest drawback to having a repeatable process is that it is easy to pay too much attention to the process itself, rather than the actual goal of the project.

In this case, the process actually becomes an obstacle to success.

Whenever you add a step to the process, you will need to consider how it will affect the il project workflow.

Will this process streamline things or can it cause a blockage? Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Which process would result in higher quality output?

These questions will be crucial in determining whether a new, repeatable, sustainable process makes sense to the project or not.

If you can implement a repeatable, sustainable project management process, you will be able to dramatically improve team efficiency and improve project quality accordingly.

In addition, another key point is to simplify the monitoring and evaluation of project metrics, so that you can better see where and how the team needs to improve in order to be successful.

 

Bottom line, what matters is the commitment to quality work; work that is satisfactory to the organization and its customers.

The best repeatable and sustainable processes will be those that improve organically, adapting and increasing the value of the output so that the sum is much greater than its parts.

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repeatable and sustainable processes

Repeatable and sustainable project management processes (part 1/2)

Having replicable and sustainable project management processes is the foundation for any respectable organization or project team.

Imagine if a project manager and a project team did not have set guidelines for project management, what would happen?

You know what, it would be like taking a random group of random people off the street, having them sit together in an office and expecting to get a job done right

This is basically what happens when you do not have replicable and sustainable project management processes.

An organization’s operations include activities that must be completed on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis to ensure that processes run smoothly.

But if these processes are not standardized, replicable and sustainable, it will inevitably lead to chaos.

The processes we are referring to can be very different: from the management of a customer service request to activities that are less often repeated. However, what is important is that each process, regardless of how often it is carried out, should have rules to manage scope, quality and methods.

If these rules are not standardized and sustainable, you cannot strive to ensure the utmost quality by limiting human error.

Simply put, managing activities will turn into an operational nightmare.

To prevent this situation, then, you need to make sure you have replicable and sustainable project management processes.

What is process replicability?

Essentially, process replicability and sustainability means a set of rules regulating how people in an organization should complete a given activity or sequence of activities.

Sound, replicable and sustainable project management processes provide a framework for new projects based on what has been successful in the past and lessons learned from what has not been so successful.

Standardization can be applied to any process, activity or procedure relevant to the organization. Picking up the phone, paying and storing invoices, managing customer information, keeping track of activities, etc. are all tasks that can be standardized.

At the same time, processes need to be flexible enough to allow the necessary changes to address the uniqueness of each project/activity without having to resort to a completely new process every time.

Process Repeatability and Sustainability Benefits

Basically, process repeatability and sustainability means that the project manager, as well as team members, have a proven and well-established process to use.

If done correctly, standardization can cut ambiguity and guesswork, ensure quality, increase productivity and boost employees’ morale.

So let’s recap the advantages of standardization as follows:

  • Improved clarity, because a standard process will remove the need for guesswork, extra research, or “double work”..
  • Quality assurance, because the work is done by default and optimized.
  • Productivity boost, because project team members will not need to search for information or revise any documents to find answers.
  • Employee morale boost, because team members can be proud to have learned the process and refined their skills.
  • Customer Service Perfection, because every request is addressed in the best possible way.

Now we will try to analyze all these advantages in more detail:

Process repeatability and sustainability reduces ambiguity and guesswork

The first and most obvious advantage of process repeatability is the reduction of the potential for ambiguity and guesswork.

It is likely that any complex activity is likely to have some grey areas or borderline cases and the problem is that time spent in speculation is wasted.

With a straightforward set of instructions to work on to complete a task, team members will spend less time trying to understand it and more time actually doing it.

Effective procedure repeatability means that there is a correct way to complete a particular task, defined in terms of a clear, measurable end result.

Process repeatability and sustainability ensures quality

If lack of standardization translates into more ambiguity, an inevitable consequence of this will be poorer reliability and less consistent quality.

This is because not all approaches to a certain task or procedure are the same; there are better and worse ways to pick up the phone, manage important client information, and send status updates to the project manager.

One of the most important ways in which standardization can help ensure quality is to minimize the chances of key details being overlooked.
the repeatable and sustainable process

Repeatability and sustainability drives productivity

Generally, standardization is accompanied by streamlined and more functional performance, which means that an organization can reduce waste and do more with available resources.

Repeatability and sustainability promote productivity by eliminating inefficiency.

This is the result of eliminating ambiguity and quality control: tasks are completed more efficiently and there are fewer quality control problems from tasks that were not completed correctly the first time.

Another benefit of eliminating alternative procedures is the reduction of unhealthy competition and conflicts.

For example, it may happen that an organization might have three different “semi-formal” systems for keeping track of workflows, each of which has its own constituency within the organization.

Three different groups of people, three different systems: conflicts are therefore unavoidable.

Although all three systems are more or less the same in terms of productivity, trying to coordinate them within the organization is likely to lead to competition and conflict between the three different factions.

If, on the other hand, everyone learns the same way to do business and manage processes and stick to it, it will be easier for teams to work together.

This means more productivity through the resulting synergy and less time wasted trying to communicate through gaps in understanding and communication.

Repeatability and sustainability is beneficial to employees’ morale

The key factor to bear in mind regarding repeatability and team member morale is that standardization will help employees feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Repeatability should not mean dullness and lack of creativity, instead it can – and should – mean standards that anyone can master and be proud to refine.

If handled correctly, standardized and repeatable processes establish a relationship between people and their work processes.

This relationship can increase pride in the quality of work performance and the result is high morale and productivity.

No wonder everyone wants to know if they are doing a good job or not, and not knowing if they are doing their job properly can be very stressful.

Having to apologize for inadequate or wrong work can also be humiliating as well as stressful.

So if processes are ruled by standards that teach team members to do efficient, high-quality work, employees are more likely to take a sense of belonging and pride in the work they do.

Instead of uncertainty and inefficiency, team members will thus have a defined way of performing their assigned tasks that actually works.

And the result is a higher employee morale.

This means that the link between standards and team members’ morale is fundamentally about employees’ ability to be proud of their achievements.

If the standardized process is efficient, it avoids unnecessary frustration and guides those working to achieve something meaningful and useful.

Repeatability and sustainability means better customer service

A great customer service is the natural consequence of teamwork having less ambiguity, higher output quality, better productivity and higher morale.

Repeatability and sustainability can drive the customer service department through standardized processes to talk to customers and methods to centralize information.

Standardization can also indirectly improve customer service, because if an organization is more productive and efficient, the result will be better results for customers.

The more you can produce with the resources available, the shorter the delivery time and the happier the customers will be.

You’ll find further aspects of process management projects in the second part of this article.

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7 tips for competitive advantages

7 tips for gaining competitive advantages as project manager

The competitive advantage that a Project Manager can achieve is strongly associated with project management. This is rarely easy and, consequently, the role of project manager is not a simple task.

Typically, a project manager’s tasks include the estimation of project work, the drafting of project plans, and progress and scope monitoring.

Not only that, possibly the most important responsibility a project manager must fulfill is managing relationships with the people involved in a project.

A good project manager works hard to preserve team morale and ensure that stakeholders remain happy from start to finish.

Becoming a project manager certainly requires a lot of cross-functional skills, so here are 7 tips for achieving this goal with greater peace of mind.

1. Avoid micromanagement

Project managers have the tendency of being extremely careful when a project is assigned to their team.

This at first glance might be logical, but sometimes has a very different motivational and relational substrate. You underestimate the capabilities of resources or enter a stressful situation to prove your position as project coordinator.

This leads to a constant micro-management in which project managers constantly pester and monitor employees and their work, closely tracking their team until the project is completed.

In such a situation, team members may be exhausted or otherwise dissatisfied with the work environment.

The micro-management of the project is not the result of exaggerated micro-management, but rather the effects are counterproductive for the project itself.

2. Assess priorities

Many project managers adopt an agile approach in which the different parts of the project (and their dependencies) are mapped and listed at the beginning, but over time the priorities may change.

Reassessing priorities periodically and changing work deliveries therefore becomes essential in certain cases.

3. Manage time effectively

Time management is the top priority for a great manager.

It is essential to maintain a balance between being productive during working hours and your hobbies or leisure time.

Also, a good project manager makes sure that team members are able to respect this work-life-balance.

4. Manage effective communication

The skill of communicating effectively with stakeholders and the team can be the way to deliver a successful project on time.

Promising impossible things and soliciting team members to perform unattainable tasks can only lead to problems.

It is essential that a good project manager should also be a good communicator with whoever is in front of them.

The project manager must also be a good listener; communication is not only a one-way thing.

Body language also matters a lot.

You will probably have seen, at least once, people whose lack of confidence is reflected in their posture, hand gestures or facial expression.

Project managers must be exactly the opposite, they must look confident and exude power through body language and through what they say.

competitive advantages

5. Know the ultimate technologies in the industry

Technology is an ever changing process and every day new platforms and new software are launched on the market.

We too at Twproject are in evolution and we are about to release a new release.

For a project manager, being curious and knowing the new innovations in project management is undoubtedly a competitive advantage.

The knowledge of the different innovations that are emerging can bring the project, and the organization in general, to a profit.

6. Conflict and problem solving capabilities

In any project it is almost inevitable for a project manager to encounter problems, whether big or small.

In these moments it is extremely important that the project manager controls their emotions and do not react impulsively.

It will be critical to remain calm, considering the options you have, and working out a plan to get the project out of the danger zone.

The problems can be diverse in nature, related to employees within the team, complications with new regulations or unforeseen expenses that affect the budget, etc.

Being a great problem solver and understanding how to implement it depending on the problem and the situation is one of the greatest competitive advantages a project manager can achieve.

It is also important that a good project manager understands the psychology of people so that they can mediate conflicts between two parties – or prevent conflicts from arising.

A good project manager needs to understand their team, knowing what each individual is capable of giving to the team, both in practical and personal terms, and what each one’s capabilities are.

Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses, not merely from the professional skills point of view, but also with regard to the character aspect, becomes essential to manage the team in an excellent way and to avoid, as much as possible, conflicts.

7. Have plenty of experience

Surely there will be people more gifted than others by nature to fill the role of project manager, but even the most talented professional, without experience, does not really go far.

So, first-hand experience in this role becomes a competitive advantage for a project manager.

Using the right kind of skills at the right time requires an overview that is often only acquired with years of experience in the role.

 

Project management requires planning, direction, implementation and collaboration.

There is no skill that separates the average project manager from the best, but it is the mix of skills that sets a good project manager apart from the rest.

All project managers can become great if they are committed every day, especially if they aim to achieve the 7 competitive advantages we have mentioned in this article.

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smart goal

Employing SMART guidelines for goal setting

SMART guidelines for goal setting are key aspects of project approach.

It happens, however, that these guidelines are, in some cases, set aside for the sake of extemporaneousness of the project itself or an alleged clarity of shared objectives.

The result is a vicious circle: unclear objectives lengthen and undermine the project results.

When objectives are set, specificity is crucial: for example, challenging yourself to “do more work” is too vague, because in this way you cannot monitor progress and the point of arrival.

In short, if objectives are not measurable, achieving success can become challenging.

SMART objectives are therefore the answer, since they can be split into five measurable factors.

Although progress in personal or working life is possible even without setting objectives, surely the application of the SMART system brings more chances of success.

What are SMART objectives?

SMART objectives are a fairly new idea: in 1981, George T. Doran, a consultant and former business planning director at Washington Water Power Company, published a paper introducing SMART objectives.

T. Doran describes G. T. Doran describes SMART objectives as a tool to create criteria and help improve one’s chances of achieving a goal.

SMART is the acronym used to guide the definition of objectives and in detail means as a tool to create criteria and help improve one’s chances of achieving a goal.

SMART is the acronym used to guide the definition of objectives and in detail means:

  • Specific (simple, reasonable, relevant).
  • Measurable (relevant, motivational).
  • Achievable (agreed).
  • Realistic (reasonable, resourceful, result-based).
  • Time-bound (based on time, limited in time / cost).

S – Specific

When setting a goal, you have to be specific about what you want to achieve.

This is not a thorough list of how you will achieve a goal, but should include an answer to the popular “5 w” questions:

  • Who: You must consider who needs to be involved in order to achieve the goal. This is particularly important when working on a team project.
  • What: You think about exactly what you are trying to achieve and list the important factors and aspects.
  • Where: This question may not always be applicable, however, if the project is about a specific place or event, it must be specified here.
  • When: You will go down to the details of this question in the “time-bound” section of the SMART objectives definition.
  • Why: It simply answers the question “what is the reason for the goal?”

The more information you can get, the better the results will be and the easier it will be to achieve your objectives because the definition of the path to follow will be clearer.

M – Measurable

What metrics will be used to establish whether the objective is achieved successfully or not?

This makes a goal more tangible and practical because it provides a way and numbers to measure progress.

If the project takes several months to be completed, the advice is to set some milestones taking into account specific activities to be conducted.

The more quantitative data you have, the more control you can have over your progress.

A – Achievable

This step focuses on how to achieve the goal and if you have the right tools and skills.

Sometimes the team does not possess the required resources. If this is the case, you will need to consider how to get them or if there are alternative methods to achieve the goal while not having the required tools and skills.

So, to prevent unpleasant surprises and to make a goal achievable, a prior analysis of what you can actually do to achieve the goal is necessary.

s-m-a-r-t

R – Realistic

In order to define relevant and realistic goals, you need to quantify the extent of your potential and those who are associated in the organization.

This refers to focusing on something that makes sense with the broader business goals, then to marketing goals and/or business strategies.

For example, if the goal is to launch a new product, it should be something that is in line with the overall business goals.

The project team might also be able to launch a new consumer product, but if the company is in B2B and does not plan to expand into the consumer market, the objective would not be relevant.

T – Time-bound

Anyone can set goals, but if realistic timing is missing, it is likely that the project will not achieve the goal successfully.

The key is to ask specific questions about when the goal is to be achieved and what can be achieved within a given time frame.

If the project spans a long period of time, it is beneficial to break it down into mini-goals or milestones. Providing time constraints thus creates a sense of urgency.

SMART objective system benefits

The concept of SMART objective setting performs well not only within business, but also in private life because it provides a clear framework for achieving objectives.

Here are the main advantages of SMART objectives:

Provide directions

Implementing SMART objectives, you get a clear business direction that can guide your team in making everyday decisions.

Help with planning

When you achieve success in setting SMART goals, you gain an advanced level of planning of project activities and everyday issues.

Faster results

SMART objectives help you carry out activities faster and with less strain because less time will be wasted on non-productive actions.

Motivational tool

Strong business objectives can become a tool to motivate team members. For example, if the goal is to increase sales, you can implement incentive programs related to achieving certain goals.

 

To recap everything in a very short and very meaningful sentence:

working without objectives is like sailing without a compass.

It’s like being on the vast open sea when you don’t know what to do, on what resources to count on, let alone the direction to take.

The same happens with organizational objectives: people, groups and systems need clear, structured and well-defined objectives.

The SMART formula is therefore a powerful tool that provides transparency, attention and motivation to achieve all the objectives.

SMART objectives are also easy to implement and do not require specific tools or training.

Some people believe that the SMART method isn’t suitable for long-term goals because it lacks flexibility, while others suggest that it may stifle creativity, but regardless of different points of view, specific and measured goals are the key to success.

New targets, a new way of working.