project procurement management

Project procurement management: how to manage project procurement

Let’s talk about project procurement management in this article. This is not because we want to talk about psychology or counseling, but because we are interested in practical aspects, useful for the project.

Projects are not carried out in isolation by the project manager and his team. In fact, most of these require other resources to be able to achieve the defined goals.

Most project management discussions and articles focus on the necessary processes and knowledge, which are certainly important, but insinuate the idea that a project manager and the team can do everything.

This is not true. It is essential to know when you need help and how to get it.

What is Project Procurement Management?

This is a collaboration with external suppliers in order to obtain or purchase goods and services for one or more projects.

These relationships are often created on the basis of a contract. This is to ensure that the necessary goods or services are received on time and meet the standards required by the purchasing company.

The purpose of Project Procurement Management is to establish and maintain relationships with suppliers of goods and services throughout the project life cycle.

This unique function is an essential part of project management and concerns the supervision of a series of temporary operations.

Procurement, in terms of project management, is necessary when purchasing, renting or contracting with the outside in order to achieve the project goal. These relationships, like any process within the project, need management.

Project procurement management is divided into four processes that we see below.

Procurement management planning

Purchases must be identified already during the first planning phase of the project.

In this phase, it is evaluated which objects will be produced or obtained internally and which will instead be produced from the outside.

This information, in turn, will affect the budget and the financial scope of the project.

For each external contractor, there must be a work declaration that serves as a document that delineates exactly what has been contracted.

These statements function as guidance documents through the project. The more specific they are, the better. This avoids confusion later and helps develop more accurate plans.

This process is collected in the procurement management plan which includes requirements documents, risk log, project planning, cost estimates and more.

To guide these decisions, there are tools and techniques, such as the “Make or Buy” or “Lease or Buy” analysis, which help to determine if the activity needs an external supplier or can be carried out internally.

In the case of “Make or Buy” it is a question of buying a resource, while in the case of “Lease or Buy”, we are talking about renting, for a determined period of time, a specific type of resource, generally machinery.

Here are three fundamental questions that the project manager must ask himself:

  • How much does it cost to build the resource instead of buying it?
  • How will this decision affect the scope of the project?
  • How will this decision affect the project’s program?

The execution of procurement management

After completing the documents of the first phase, we move on to the execution phase in which we study the offers received and determine which one to accept.

The comparison is made between advantages, disadvantages, and contractual offers of the various suppliers.

Before deciding, however, a criterion should be based in order to decide which is the best offer for the project. Generally, this offer will not be based solely on price.

It also does not hurt to seek expert advice in certain areas and departments.

A necessary phase will then be the negotiation in order to satisfy the needs of the contractor and the seller.

Proposals are carefully evaluated and, if satisfactory offers are not available, the project management team will solicit new bidders.

The control of procurement management

the project procurement management

Once the contracts are signed, the management of these contractors must be integrated into the general management responsibilities.

Contractors can have a negative impact on budgets and programs, so regular status updates are required to review contract agreements. You will have to get updates on the progress of the work and evaluate the performance. In essence, it must be ensured that contractors meet the requirements set out in their contracts.

Although they hire contractors because they believe they are experts in what they do, they still need to regularly monitor their work. Monitoring is essential in order to ensure that this is proceeding as intended.

A centralized system for monitoring and controlling contract changes will be used. It will be essential to evaluate and determine if any changes to contracts are necessary.

There will be formal physical inspections, internal audits and reviews of procurement operations in order to generate reports on performance that provide real-time feedback.

Monitoring the performance of the supplier is as important to the overall project results as the work done by the project team.

The conclusion of procurement management

Just as there is a process to start procurement management, there is also a process to finalize it.

What is expected at the end of the job should be detailed in the initial agreement with the contractor. There should be no confusion between the parties regarding the final product or service.

The closure process does not only concern the conclusion of supply contracts, it also includes the detection of any weaknesses, the documentation of successful processes, and the summary of the project for future needs.

The documentation is important for future projects that may involve completely different teams.

During the closing process, negotiations may be necessary to resolve contractual disputes.

Ideally, however, during the administration and control process, potential problems may be noted in order to begin the mediation process in advance.

The regular check, explained in the previous point, contributes in fact to reach the goal without receiving unpleasant surprises at the end.

Suggestions for optimal procurement management

Each organization develops its own internal policies and procedures when it comes to projects and tenders; however, these purchasing management tips can be applied to all companies:

  • Develop a clear understanding of all goals
  • Focus on suppliers’ capabilities and how their solutions will help achieve goals and tackle obstacles;
  • Resist the temptation to evaluate final decisions based solely on cost;
  • Ensure that solutions are not only short-term, unless this is the main goal. Sustainability and future support are always factors to consider.

When we talk about procurement management, there are standard features and functions. For example, most companies prefer to use fewer suppliers and establish long-term relationships, rather than turning to numerous suppliers every time and therefore activating a “price war”.

Establishing and consolidating relationships with suppliers is important because it allows various partners and shareholders to work closely on improvement and coordination activities, for the benefit of the project as a whole.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

the critical path method

Governing critical project paths without being overwhelmed

Managing critical project paths is a challenge for all project managers. In fact, in every project, you can have hundreds of tasks with dozens of dependencies and interdependencies.

Although all useful, not all tasks will have a decisive impact on the project. Therefore, it can become very difficult to identify the most important tasks, those that, if not considered adequately, will have an impact on the whole project.

In other words, let’s talk about the tasks you really need to worry about (and that will therefore be part of critical paths) in order to make sure you meet deadlines and critical tasks and activities.

The critical path method is a project management technique created in the 50s, which allows us to identify the important tasks and to keep the project on track.

Starting from hand-drawn diagrams and evolving to automated software, the critical path method has become an essential part of a project planning.

The critical path method, also called CPM, is a project management technique for process planning. It defines critical activities, and not, with the aim of preventing problems during the entire life cycle of the project.

The CPM is ideal for projects consisting of many activities that interact with each other in a complex way.

In applying the CPM, there are several steps that can be summarized as follows:

  • Define the required tasks and enter them in a sorted, sequential list.
  • Create a flowchart or another diagram that shows each activity in relation to the others.
  • Identify critical and non-critical relationships and paths between activities.
  • Determine expected completion or execution time for each activity.
  • Identify or process alternatives for the most critical routes.

What is the CPM method?

The concept of CPM is quite simple and can best be illustrated with a project graph.

The graph of the project is useful as a means to represent, visually and clearly, the whole interrelations and dependencies.

First of all, every work necessary for the completion of a project is listed with a unique symbol, such as a letter or number, the time needed to complete the task and its prerequisites.

For convenience, in the graphical representation and as a control of certain types of errors in the data, the activities can be represented only when all the previous ones have been listed. In concrete, work A precedes B, B precedes C and C precedes A.

Each activity is drawn on the chart as a circle, with its identification symbol and time, which appears inside the circle.

Sequence relations are indicated by arrows that connect each circle / activity with those immediately following, with the arrows pointing to the latter.

For convenience, all circles / activities without predecessors are connected to a circle marked as “Start”; while all the circles / activities without successors are connected to a circle marked as “End”.

The “Start” and “End” circles can be considered as zero-duration activities.

Generally, the graph depicts different “arrow paths” from Start to End. The time required to cross each route is the sum of the times associated with all the activities in that route.

The critical path is therefore the longest path, in time, from the “Start” circle to the “End” circle and indicates the minimum time necessary to complete the entire project.

Only by finding ways to reduce tasks along the critical path, you can reduce the overall project time. The time required to perform non-critical work is in fact irrelevant from the point of view of total project time.

On average, only around 10% of tasks in large projects are crucial.

Of course, if one finds a way to shorten one or more of the critical activites, not only will the entire project time be shortened, but the critical path itself may shift and some previously uncritical activities could become critical.

critical path method

The first 3 key steps in the critical path method

1) Specify each activity

Using the Work Breakdown Structure or WBS, it is necessary to identify each activity involved in the project .

This list of specific activities should only include activities of a higher level, a generic one.
When too detailed activities are used, critical path analysis can become too complex to manage and maintain.

A WBS then subdivides the project into manageable sections.

The first step is to identify the main results of a project and from here start to divide the activities into smaller and more detailed blocks of work.

You can choose how to display a structure for decomposing the work; some people use a tree structure, while others use lists or tables.

2) Establishing dependencies or sequences of activities

Some activities will depend on the completion of others.

The list of immediate predecessors of each activity will help to identify the correct order.

To correctly identify the activities and their precedence, the following three questions must be asked for each activity derived from the first step:

  • What activity should take place before this activity takes place?
  • Which activities must be completed at the same time as this activity?
  • What activities should take place immediately after this activity?

3) Draw the diagram

Once the activities and their dependencies have been identified, it is possible to trace the analysis graph of the critical path, known as a network diagram.

The network diagram is a visual representation of the order of activities based on dependencies.

The other key steps in the critical path method

4) Estimation of the time of completion of the activity

Using the past experience or the knowledge of an experienced team member, it is necessary to evaluate the time needed to complete each activity.

You can use the three-point estimation method, or PERT, designed to give more weight at the most realistic time period.

In the three-point estimate, it is necessary to elaborate three time estimates for each activity, based on previous experience or the best hypotheses.

This method presents formulas to calculate the time duration more accurately:

  • a = the best estimate
  • m = the most probable estimate
  • b = the worst estimate

These three values identify what happens in an optimal state, what is most likely, and what happens in the worst case scenario.

Once you have identified these values, you can use them in different formulas.

5) Identify the critical path

By looking at the diagram and simply identifying the longest path in the entire network, the critical path will be identified, ie the longest sequence of activities on the path.

Make sure you look for the longest route in terms of duration, not the route with the most activities in it.

6) Update the critical path diagram based on progress

As the project progresses, the actual time to complete the activity will be known.

The network diagram can then be updated including this information, instead of continuing to use the estimates.

With the update of the diagram once new information has emerged, a different critical path can be recalculated.

You will also have a more realistic view of the completion date of the project and you will be able to tell if the project is on line or behind the initial planning.

Benefits and limitations of the critical path method

Like any method, even the critical path has advantages and disadvantages.
Following are some advantages of the critical path method:

  • Graphic view of the project.
  • Discovers and makes dependencies visible.
  • Helps in planning, scheduling and project control.
  • Helps in emergency planning and risk management.
  • Shows the critical path and identifies critical activities that require particular attention, highlighting the overall duration, as well as the end of the project.
  • Shows where to act in order to bring the project back on track.

Although the critical path is a very useful tool in planning the project, it also has some limitations and some drawbacks:

  • Because the critical path method is an optimal planning tool, it always assumes that all resources are available for the project at all times.
  • It does not consider resource dependencies.
  • Pays less attention to a series of non-critical activities, even if sometimes they can become critical ones.
  • Critical path-based projects are often not completed within the approved duration.

To conclude, the critical path method has helped many project managers to develop and manage their program.

In the critical path method, the path with the longest duration is known as a critical path.

During the execution of the project, the main emphasis will be on this path.

As a project manager you will have to keep an eye on the network diagram and take prompt corrective action whenever necessary.

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

fast tracking technique

When to use fast tracking techniques in project management

Fast Tracking is defined as a compression technique of the project program with the aim of concluding the project as soon as possible.

When it comes to managing project planning, Fast Tracking is a well-established technique used to reduce the time needed to complete a given project.

The compression techniques of the project program consist of two steps that should be applied sequentially:

  1. Fast Tracking
  2. Project Crashing

The second step, project crashing, means to add resources to critical path activities.

What is Fast Tracking

Fast Tracking is an advanced project management technique.

To be able to use it, it is necessary to identify all the possible activities on the critical path that have the potential to be performed together instead of sequentially.

In other words, the essential task is to identify specific activities of the critical path that can be executed at the same time.

But what happens in concrete? If two or more critical path activities are performed at the same time, only the longest activity will remain on the critical path, rather than the sum of the duration of the individual activities.

For example, at the beginning of the IT security system project, two of the critical path activities are:

  • Hire a seller of IT security software within 10 days
  • Hire members for the project team within 12 days

You can perform these two activities, considered critical path activities, at the same time.

This means that instead of using 22 days to perform both activites, the maximum duration for both activities is now reduced to 12 days. This is because the longest critical path activity is the recruitment of members for the project team.

It will thus be possible to deliver the project 10 days before.

Perhaps the case taken for example may seem trivial but a simplification was essential. In reality, at first glance, it may seem that we can not work on any activity in parallel. This is why sometimes it is necessary to think creatively.

In cases where the assets have different resources, it is possible to start one before the other ends.

Where activities depend on each other, it is possible to perform a risk assessment in order to see how fast it is possible to start the second activity. It will be necessary to take into account the fact that the employee activity has not been completely completed.

Where the risk is not too high, the opportunity to anticipate the program by a few days could be easily managed.

Resource allocations need to be checked after changing the schedule in order to make sure that the changes will not overload the team or a member of the team.

The dangers of Fast Tracking

the fast tracking

Accelerating the project is not without dangers.

Planning an initial project is something that allows you to monitor progress completely, and with Fast Tracking you are trying to do something completely different.

The main challenge of parallel task management, aside from the effort required to reschedule the activities and the resources, is that it adds much more risk to the project in general.

For example, you can buy all the furniture for a new office that you are building before it is completed. Doing so however, there is a risk that the size will change slightly during the preparation and that the items purchased, perhaps even expensive, are no longer suitable.

There is therefore a risk of reprocessing when starting an activity in advance and it is therefore necessary to take this into consideration and manage it.

Finally, there is the danger of doing a lot of work in order to put into practice the fast tracking, and in the end there could be no difference in the final date of the project.

In this case, focus on the project activities that fall into the critical path. This is the longest path within the project and defines its duration.

Activities that are not displayed when highlighting the critical path of the project plan do not allow you to anticipate the final date.

It is therefore necessary to concentrate on the right activities, in order to get the maximum benefit from the compression of the planning.

What are the advantages of fast tracking?

  1. Early delivery of the project
    Being able to deliver and implement the project ahead of schedule is a plus for any individual and for the project manager.
    Each project sponsor has the desire to see his project delivered sooner than expected.
  2. Bring the project back on track and on schedule.
    The project, during its elaboration, can undergo various delays that induce to postpone the delivery date.
    Delivering a late project is detrimental to a project manager’s career.
    In this case, by using fast tracking techniques, it is possible to bring back the project within the expected time frame.
  3. Promptly release the project resources
    When delivering a project in advance, it means that the project resources are free to work on other activities. This will allow you to deliver multiple projects with the same resources.

What are the disadvantages of fast tracking?

  1. Lack of knowledge of the critical path
    Never attempt to apply the fast tracking technique if you are not well informed about the critical path or how to find it.
    If you select the incorrect activities, in fact, no value is added.
    There is always the risk that one or more critical path tasks will be subject to an unknown change towards the end of the project.
  2. Monitor the critical path closely
    It will be necessary to exert extra effort to monitor the critical path in detail.
    It may happen that an activity previously present in the critical path, due to changes, is no longer considered critical.
    In order to avoid working unnecessarily, it is therefore necessary to constantly monitor the critical path, a task that requires time and attention.

How to perform fast tracking

Fast tracking planning begins with the analysis of five key assumptions and continues with the seven-step planning process.

In fact, it is necessary to answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a realistic program with all the activities correctly identified?
  • Are you sufficiently aware of all the dependencies of the activities, which activities must end before others can start?
  • Do you have a solid understanding of the project requirements, goals and priorities?
  • Do you have a good working relationship with the project stakeholders?
  • Do you have established and proven practices for governance, supervision and problem management?

If you answer yes to these questions, it is therefore possible to implement fast tracking to the project program, in whole or in part.

Now let’s see what are the 7 basic steps of the fast tracking technique:

  • Determine the goals expected from fast tracking.
  • Examine project planning in order to identify dependencies.
  • Finding critical opportunities / activities in the project timeline.
  • Identify all valid alternatives for making program adjustments.
  • Make informed decisions.
  • Monitor progresses.
  • Keep track of problems.

When it comes to project management, more than one approach is required in order to achieve success.

The way in which activities are managed when environmental conditions are good is not the same way they are managed when time is running out, resources become thinner and people do not work together.

It is precisely in these moments that fast tracking comes to help.

Read more about Twproject bootcamps.

One try is worth a million words.
the lead and lag indicator

Lead and lag indicator in the scheduling activity

Lead and lag indicators are often used in performance management. But what exactly do they mean?

Lead and lag indicators are two types of measurements used in performance evaluation in a company or an organization.

A lead indicator is a predictive measure, such as the percentage of people wearing helmets on a building site.

A lag indicator is an output measure, such as the number of accidents at a building site.

The difference between the two is that a lead indicator is able to influence change while a lag indicator can only record what happened.

Lag indicators are in general easy to measure but difficult to improve or influence, while lead indicators are typically difficult to measure and easy to influence.

Lead and lag indicator: the importance of predictive measurement

We focus too often on measuring results. Why? Because they are easy to measure and are accurate.

If you want to know how many sales have been made this month, you can simply count. If you want to know how many accidents have occurred at the factory, you can consult the accident register.

These are all lag indicators. They are a post-event measure, essential for the progress of the charts, but useless when trying to influence the future.

In order to influence the future, a different type of measurement, a predictive measurement, rather than a result measurement, is required.

For example, if you want to increase sales, a predictive measure could be to make more sales calls or run more marketing campaigns.

If you want to reduce accidents at the factory, you could make security training mandatory for all employees or force them to wear helmets.

Measuring these activities provides a series of guiding indicators, predictive measures.

The importance of combinations of lead Indicators and lag indicators

Lead indicators are increasingly difficult to determine with respect to lag indicators. These are predictive indicators and therefore, do not provide a guarantee of success.

This not only makes it difficult to decide which lead indicators to use, but also tends to provoke heated debates on the validity of the measure.

To further fuel the debate, lead indicators often require an investment to implement an initiative before a result is seen and recorded by a lag indicator.

What has become clear after years of research is that a combination of lead and lag indicators leads to improved business performance in general.

When developing a business performance management strategy, it is always a good idea to use a combination of lead and lag indicators.

The reason is obvious; a lag indicator without a lead indicator will not provide guidance on how a result will be achieved and will not provide warnings along the way to a strategic goal.

Moreover, a lead indicator without a lag indicator will not provide confirmation of the achievement of a business result.

There is a chain of cause and effect between the lead and lag indicators, both of which are important when choosing the measures to be followed in order to achieve company goals.

3 steps to find lead indicators

Lead indicators, for some, are the holy grail of performance measures.

They are mysterious, difficult to find and yet regarded as the best and most appreciated performance and KPI measures.

Humans in general have an obsession with the future and, in particular, they want to predict it.

Models of the past can give clues to the future, but it is necessary to make many hypothesis about how future conditions will shape the historical models.

In the case of lead indicators, no historical data on a measure is used to predict how that same measure could behave in the future.

A lead indicator is a measure that suggests how another measure (the measure of lag) may behave in the future.

For example, if you want to forecast future employee turnover, you can look at other measures that have a known impact on staff turnover.

For example, employee engagement or satisfaction towards their work, their manager and their colleagues.

These results can predict staff turnover because they usually start to be negative long before employees decide to leave.

For this reason, a lead indicator has a cause-effect relation to the measure of lag that is to be predicted.

And this gives the power to change things, to influence the future.

Here is the best way to find leads indicators:

1) Search for known explanatory factors

Research if someone else has already established a list of factors that are related to the lag indicator.

For example, if the interest is staff turnover, you can read articles from magazines and periodicals of human resources. Find out if anyone has already tested the factors that most affect the likelihood of staff leaving an organization.

This type of research is important, because it will save a lot of time that would otherwise be wasted by chasing potential indicators of very weak or useless leads.

2) Check business processes for new potential explanatory factors

It is useful to construct a business process scheme to which the lag indicator refers. It is useful for identifying potential steps that have a significant impact.

The use of business processes naturally helps to find the lead indicators. In fact, the initial phases of a process occur before time with respect to the result.

But be careful! Sometimes powerful lead indicators can be found in other business processes that do not directly produce results.

3) Choose the strongest potential lead indicators

When you have a list of potential lead indicators, you need to collect all relevant data. It will therefore be necessary to look for the degree of their relationship with the lag indicator.

In this case, a scatterplot will help to see the strength of the relationships.

Lead and lag indicator

Although these suggestions can certainly help identifying lead indicators, practice and experience are absolutely necessaryin order to be able to identify the right ones for each situation.

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

project compression

Key aspects for the project schedule compression

Project scheduling compression techniques are applied during the development of the planning process if a project is lagging behind its plan.

The goal of scheduling compression is to try to compress the schedule without changing the scope of the project.

If the scope of the project has not changed and if the project is delayed, the planned deadline can only be met by compressing the remaining program of the project.

How the scheduling of a project works

The role of the project manager is to work with the team in order to achieve the goals of the project.

The project manager and the project team first develop a project plan that includes project scheduling. In short, the project manager must break up the project into smaller and more manageable pieces.

The first step is therefore the breakdown of the project into deliverables, verifiable work products, and here the following questions should be considered:

  • What results must be created in order to achieve the project goals?
  • What will not be delivered in the project?
  • What are the hypotheses?
  • What are the budget limits?
  • When must the project be completed?
  • What activities must be performed in order to achieve the final results?

After that, it is time to move on to the “creative” part of the sequencing of activities, where the project managers have to ask themselves:

  • What is the most efficient order of activities?
  • Do some activities necessarily occur before they other activities can start?
  • Can some activities be performed in parallel?
  • Does the project depend on external resources, suppliers and organizations?

Techniques for the compression of a project schedule

If the project turns out to be late, there are several techniques that allow the compression of the schedule of a project:

  • Recheck the dependencies of the activities and make sure that these are correct and valid. Look for ways to modify dependencies in order to speed up project completion.
  • Challenging hypotheses in which activities are thought to be mandatory dependencies. Do you really need to complete certain tasks before starting the next ones? In fact, it is sometimes possible to find other ways to start successive activities in parallel, the so-called fast tracking. But be careful that this action will probably increase the risks.
  • Reduce delays. Finding ways to reduce delays along the critical path of the project sometimes requires creativity.
  • Check external dependencies. Instead of waiting two weeks for a laptop delivery, for example, why not buy laptops from a local retailer?
  • Check the outsourcing assumptions. If you choose to outsource, you can contractually reduce the duration of outsourced activities.

It is therefore possible to speed up projects by modifying dependencies and by acting on time compression. Here are other useful tactics to intervene on critical activities:

  • Reduce the duration of activities by reducing the associated risks. When people estimate activities, they often add a “buffer” time that accounts for risks. If you are able to reduce or eliminate the risk, you can reduce the time required.
  • Reduce the duration of the project by adding additional qualified resources to the activities of the critical path, the so-called crashing. However, pay attention, as this action increases costs and often also increases project risks.
  • Reduce the duration of a project by replacing a team member with someone with more expertise and knowledge to perform critical path activities. Naturally, this action will also increase the total cost.
  • Reduce the scope of the project. Discuss the priority of deliverables with key stakeholders and determine if the scope of the project can be reduced.

5 steps to follow if the project is lagging behind the program

the project compression

We have generally seen the possible solutions for the compression of a project schedule.

Let’s see now, if a project is really behind schedule, what are the 5 main steps that must be followed in sequence:

  1. First of all, check the risks and re-establish the duration of the activities. This is because, by analyzing again the remaining activities, if the risks considered during the planning are no longer valid, this can lead to a shorter duration. The revaluation will show how long it will take to complete the remaining activities of the project. As a consequence, we will know how much time will be left to the delivery of the project itself.
  2. If the revaluation results in a postponed deadline for the completion of the project, the fast tracking of the project must be considered. In this case, the remaining activities of the critical path are evaluated and it is analyzed whether some of them can be performed in parallel, rather than sequentially. This, of course, in order to shorten the overall duration of the project. One of the advantages of fast tracking is that this method, in general, does not involve an additional cost to the project.
  3. The third step is in the project crashing. In this case, additional resources are included and an additional budget is set up in order to meet rising costs. As more resources will work on the remaining activities of the project, a faster project delivery is expected.
  4. The fourth step is the reduction of the project scope. Reducing the scope can help reduce the remaining activities in the project. Furthermore, if the customer agrees, reducing the scope can help complete the project on time.
  5. The fifth step is the cutting of quality. Reaching a certain level of quality means investing time and money. If the client agrees to reduce his quality expectations, this will be an additional help to complete the project faster. Clearly, this last step represents the most extreme solution.

Effective compression of a project schedule requires efficient planning management. An intelligent decision-making process based on the best scenario generated by testing various options.

Unfortunately, program compression is a fact in most projects.

The challenge faced by project managers is to keep the “compressed program” realistic and achievable.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

The PERT diagram

The PERT diagram in a project: When do we have to use it

The PERT diagram is a project management tool used to plan, organize and coordinate activities within a project.

PERT stands for “Program Evaluation Review Technique“, a methodology developed by the Navy in 1957 to manage the Polaris submarine missile program.

The PERT method focuses on the important dates and deadlines of a project, known as milestones

The most important milestone is, without a doubt, the final expiration date, when the project must be complete.

The Pert Diagram or three-point estimation

The project manager identifies the activities that must be performed in sequence, known as serial or dependent tasks, and those that can be performed simultaneously, known as parallel or concurrent activities.

In the PERT diagram, the project is plotted on a flowchart where the nodes are deadlines and the arrows represent dependent activities.

Dependencies are represented by linked paths that move from left to right. A traditional PERT analysis provides on average three different deadlines: the shortest, that is the optimal estimate, the most realistic, that is the probable estimate, and the pessimistic estimate.

For this reason the PERT is also called “three-point estimation“.

The exact formula for defining deadlines is:
(optimistic time + (4 times more likely) + pessimistic time) / 6

It is also possible to track PERT analysis results on a Gantt chart, which shows durations and dependencies.

The PERT diagram can help you during the project planning phase and the Gantt chart can plot time as the project progresses.

In simple words, a PERT diagram is a graphical representation of a project program.

Some of the advantages of the PERT diagram include:

  • Making uncertain deadlines foreseeable;
  • Defining a clear order to complete the activities;
  • Making dependencies explicit.

But there is an important disadvantage: if the calculations are inaccurate, any delay will create a block or a slowdown that will inevitably affect the final delivery date.

However, if you are looking to have a structure and reduce uncertainty in project planning, the PERT diagram will help to establish important milestones and the activities necessary to achieve them.

How does a PERT diagram look like

Planning is shown as a network diagram. The activities are represented by nodes, with a circular or rectangular shape, which define the most important activities or milestones. Instead, the vectors or directional lines illustrate the sequence of activities.

diagramma di pert

The direction of the arrows on the lines indicates the sequence of tasks.

The pert – program evaluation and review technique – is sometimes preferred over the Gantt chart, because it clearly illustrates the dependencies of the activities.

Both tools are often used in the project management of activities.

A network diagram shows the sequence of activities and milestones. However, it also illustrates how priorities and milestones are linked, ie their temporal succession.

It is therefore also supportive in the development of the critical path method.

On the other hand, the PERT diagram can be much harder to interpret, especially in the case of complex projects.

One of the challenges to be faced with this diagram is that many information is shown for each activity, including:

  • Activity name
  • Expected and effective start
  • Estimated Duration
  • Name of the responsible person

This level of detail can quickly get out of hand when dealing with long and complex projects. We are talking about projects that have a high volume of activities with several phases and pivotal points.

One suggestion is to use a PERT diagram with the activities and milestones related to specific teams and / or departments, thus preventing the chart from becoming overly complicated.

What are the pros and cons of PERT diagrams?

PERT diagrams have advantages, but managers must also be aware of the disadvantages when evaluating their use.

Here are the advantages:

1) Activity analysis

A project manager displays information on the likely completion of a project respecting time and budget costraints, displaying PERT activities and events independently and in combination.

For example, the implementation of a software requires the completion of critical tasks such as hardware installation, programming, system testing and training of users. Using a PERT diagram, a project manager can evaluate the time and resources needed for each of these activities.

2) Coordination of the department and members

The PERT analysis improves planning and decision making by integrating and presenting data from multiple departments.

Collecting qualitative and quantitative data from multiple sources also helps to coordinate project activities and improves communication between departments.

PERT identifies the responsible departments and the role of each subject in the project.

The visibility of the areas of responsibility encourages the commitment of the direction towards the project. In addition, the PERT diagram reveals interdependencies of activity and contributes to the development of a general plan that provides a current view of business operations.

3) What-if Analysis

The PERT diagram requires that the project activities are sequenced in a network under a set of rules that specify critical paths (critical path method).

The critical path is the longest sequence of activities and events – milestone – in the project and determines the number of days needed for completion.

A What-if analysis identifies possibilities and uncertainties related to the project activities.

Various combinations of activities are attempted and the most useful possibility is selected, minimizing the project’s surprises and waste.

The What-if analysis also highlights the activities with the greatest risk that require careful monitoring during the project.

Now let’s move on to the disadvantages of using a PERT diagram:

1) Subjective analysis

The PERT method requires the identification of the activities of a new project and the arrangement of the activities in time sequence.

As a result, the process of collecting and analyzing data is subjective. This subjectivity can result in a PERT diagram with equivocal estimates of both time and cost.

The data may not be reliable as they reflect the judgment of the project participants who provide input to the analysis.

Companies base effective decisions on relevant information that is often historical. Estimates of project time and resources, as well as the probability of timely completion, in this case, may therefore not be reliable.

2) The focus is on time

The PERT method is an analysis of the time network that determines the need for labor, materials and capital goods for the individual activities of the project.

Cost estimates are developed for each activity in the network. However, PERT is primarily a time-focused method.

The diagrams specify the time required to complete each project activity and the tasks that must be completed to meet the project completion date.

3) Intensive resource investment

A PERT analysis requires a detailed study of the project activities and the feedback of many people from different organizations.

Moreover, the PERT is a complicated method to implement, especially for beginners. The high intensity of the work required to execute a PERT diagram can make this type of method expensive.

The PERT diagram therefore has advantages and disadvantages, and the project manager has to evaluate whether its use will be necessary or not for the project.

However, it is still a method that will certainly help in the planning and management of the project and that will bring a certain amount of extra security.

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root cause analysis

Root cause analysis

A root cause analysis is a project management methodology that attempts to get to the root of a problem in order to eliminate it.

Even if the perfect design plan was realized and if it was executed in an exemplary manner, this would not eliminate all the risks that could arise from the execution of the project itself.

Plans are inevitably destined to change for one reason or another.

The activities for the risk reduction of the project

During the phases of a project, there are three main activities focused on reducing the risk of the project.

1. The first risk reduction activity occurs during project planning.

When a proactive risk assessment is conducted, the identified risks can be:

  • mitigated or avoided, for example, by modifying the project plan;
  • transferred, for example through an insurance;
  • or accepted, for example, by doing nothing.

2. The second activity is continuous risk assessment throughout the project.

3. The last risk reduction activity consists in collecting the “lessons learned” retrospectively, ie at the end of the project. This action will have the least impact on the current project, but will serve the benefit of others in the future.

However, due to unforeseen problems that occur during a project:

  • risk management is useless, as it has already been completed,
  • the lessons learned are too early, as they are conducted at the end of the project.

In this case then, the corrective action is a critical process that adresses the ad-hoc problems encountered during the projects.

Why is a Root cause analysis indispensable?

Unfortunately, the actions taken to solve a problem often concern only the problem itself, not its underlying causes.

Contingent situations related to the problem are tackled and the project’s resources are dedicated to compensating for it. In fact, however, real corrective actions can not be taken.
In other words, the causes of the problem remain unknown, which means that the problem could reoccur later in the project or during future projects.

It is precisely in these moments that the root cause analysis becomes necessary. As already explained, it is a project management methodology that tries to get to the root of a problem in order to eradicate it before it is born.

Once the root cause has been identified, this will help to eliminate and prevent problems that may occur in the future.

When performing a root cause analysis, we analyze the error of a product or process in order to determine exactly what went wrong.

Problem prevention is much less costly for an organization than solving a problem itself, and it performs problem solving activities considerably.

How is the root cause analysis performed?

Basically, a root cause analysis occurs when the need for a quality improvement project is presented.

This happens when there is a problem or a fault (causal factor) in the quality of a process or in the quality of a product.root cause analysis

When starting a root cause analysis (rca), it is important to get straight to the heart of the problem.

Here are the basic steps to be addressed:

  1. Define the problem: what happened, where and when it was identified, when it started and how much is significant?
  2. Understanding the process: what were the steps in the process that should have been carried out before the problem was discovered?
  3. Identify the possible causes: if things do not go as planned, which of the process steps could have caused the problem?
  4. Collect data: what information could indicate which of the possible causes actually occurred in order to create the problem?
  5. Analyze the data: which data indicate the possible causes that contributed or not?
  6. Identify possible solutions: what changes to project planning and execution processes could prevent these processes from failing in the future?
  7. Select solutions: which of the possible solutions identified is the most practicable?
  8. Implement solutions: plan and execute the selected solutions.
  9. Evaluate the effects: have the solutions been implemented and have they worked?
  10. Institutionalize the change: update the project management guidelines and tools in order to ensure that future projects follow the improved processes.

Steps 1 to 5 are generally performed cyclically, until the causes are found and proven.

Of course, it is not necessary to perform this level of investigation and action for every problem that occurs during a project.

Therefore, an important component of the corrective action process is risk assessment and agreement on a reasonable course of action. These are agreements that can also come during the work progress status meetings.

That is, for every problem that occurs, it is necessary to consider the relative entity and the probability as part of a risk assessment before confirming the need for a root cause analysis.

Other obstacles for project managers include:

  •  The tendency of an individual to try to investigate and solve the problem without help. A single individual will hardly know all the processes enough in order to be able to evaluate them effectively and without prejudice. Therefore, project managers must ensure that they involve more actors in the diagnosis of complex problems.
  • In the rush to solve problems, people make assumptions and jump to the causes or solutions without having the right data to support them. This leads to tampering with processes, which can cause further problems. Project managers must be sure that adequate information is available before deciding what actions to take.
  • Corrective action often has a negative connotation in organizations. However, many studies have shown that men and organizations learn more from their failures than from their successes. Corrective action must therefore be considered simply as a learning process.
  • Corrective action is seen as something added to “normal work” rather than as part of effective business management. In reality, however, it is an integral part of quality management.
  • Many organizations want to automatically assign the cause to an human error. The problem is that it is not enough to provide the identification of solutions, since the cause of such human error should be known. Many of the causes of human error are revealed in information, equipment and management processes deficiencies. Project managers should therefore focus on process failures rather than blaming people.

Conclusions

In conclusion, it will not always be necessary to use a root cause analysis to solve every problem in a project. But the problems that can not be solved or problems that are not familiar are the right ones for a root cause analysis.

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manage projects by telling the truth

Project Management and Truth: an inscendable binom

During project management, the temptation to solve problems in a simple and “silent” manner is frequent. Solve “silently” without, of course, informing stakeholders. But is it really the right choice? Is it worth hiding the truth while managing projects?

The temptation, for the Project Manager (as for any human being), is often to take the easy route and provide a distorted version of the truth.

“Is it not better to solve a problem without informing anyone and continuing as if nothing had happened? The problem is solved and nobody knows that this has appeared…”

Often hiding the problem is the simplest option, one that makes everyone happy immediately … but it is rather rare that this option, convenient in the short term, does not return back in the future with increased effects.

This choice can, in fact, damage in the long term a relationship with the client or the project team.

In each project, having the strength to be honest with clients and project teams can lead to a load of criticism and stress that we often do not feel we deserve. But when you are sincere and transparent, the trust and respect you get from the people are infinitely more valuable when compared to the reputational consequences you get from acting inappropriately.

Truth is actually a tool in project management. Let’s see why.

The importance of ethics and honesty in project management

Ethics is a concept commonly used to refer to the morality of an individual or an organization. If well applied, ethics can become a principle that improves decision-making processes.

However, ethics do not describe a specific standard or conduct. Ethics is linked to an intimate reflection and helps to determine what the correct path is and how people should act.

Ethics must be expressed and practiced within the organization by identifying:

  • the way a person should behave,
  • the correct and accepted behaviors, without ambiguity.

At the basis of ethics is honesty, which should be part of every relationship, interaction, decision or action taken by an organization and its employees.

Here are 6 steps to help improve relations between organizations and employees, orienting the application of ethics through honesty and truth.
manage projects

1) Build an ethics program that helps in project management

Leadership without ethics is not leadership. In fact, project managers must understand and live according to this principle.

Building a culture of ethics requires leaders to be clear about the organization’s vision based on values and passion for that idea.

In order to create a culture of complete honesty, direct dialogue and integrity, it is necessary to establish a culture that focuses on it as much as other topics such as quality, customer service, time management and costs, resources, procurement or the pursuit of market success.

2) Project management can be undermined by lies.

Tell the truth Abraham Lincoln said:

“Is it not better to solve a problem without informing anyone and continuing as if nothing had happened? The problem is solved and nobody knows that this has appeared…”

This means that nobody in this world can continue to lie successfully for a long time. A simple lie may, perhaps, not be considered once or twice, but it will not be a long-term strategy.

The person or organization with weekly excuses will soon be known as unreliable and a danger to the rest of the teams.

And some bad habits and people can even affect the reputation of an entire organization.

Always telling the truth, regardless of the consequences, is a significant first step. It is a modus operandi that can be implemented within organizations in order to support ethical behavior, starting from the leader.

Everyone expects the project manager to behave honestly and assume full responsibility. This sets a benchmark for ethical behaviors expected by all other team members. As the Project Management Institute itself emphasizes in the sixth version of the PMBOK.

To support this policy, it is mandatory to create a fear-free environment. Fear is the main cause of keeping the truth for ourselves.

It is important to recognize that listening to absolute truth requires an open mind. We must also have the ability to admit things that we may not want to hear. Finally, but not least, one must be mature enough not to take things personally.

In short, being honest is as important as using a good project management software or actively engaging in resource management.

3) Receive the truth

Although it is important to tell the truth, it is equally important to receive it. What people tell us is an essential part of the message, but non-verbal communication is equally important – or even more important – than the message itself.

As human beings, we tend to respond to criticism with a defensive behaviour. This attitude is an enemy of the truth.

It is essential to understand that it is not necessary to attack when we are exposed to a truth, even if inconvenient.

Truth examples could be as simple as feedback on a performance during a meeting. They can also be more complex as a criticism of how we think or how we conduct the project. Therefore, if we react in a receptive and non-defensive way to what others are trying to say, opportunities for ethical behavior are opened up.

4) Oppose and execute. Team support in project management

If correct and ethical behaviors and policies are in place, employees and collaborators should be encouraged to express their ideas.

When some decisions or actions are taken, if you do not agree with what is being said, the best way to proceed is to always say what you have in mind. It is not bad to disagree and you can provide arguments and examples of the possible consequences. In short, tell the truth about what you think.

It is hard enough to express disagreement, but once said, an action must take place. When project managers decide and execute, they need the full support of team members. Execution does not necessarily mean agreeing, but it shows discipline, loyalty and participation in the organization.

Doing and saying things behind a project manager is not constructive and causes further unethical actions.

Project managers must then establish guidelines that allow team members to express their ideas at any level, even for complex projects.

5) Reward the messenger

Project managers are considered models to follow. The way they listen and talk should be the right way to behave.

lies and truth in project management

Listening to the truth requires much more than accepting it. It requires the ability to look at the other person and try to understand his point of view. All making it feel at ease and appreciated in an environment free from judgments and prejudices.

6) The truth, sooner or later, always comes out.

No further comments on this are required. Not telling the truth does not buy time, it wastes it!

Postponing information, researching who said what and when, dozens of questions to eradicate lies and excuses… all this requires time and energy. This time and this energy would be better spent on doing things useful to the project.

On the other hand, by informing the interested parties about a problem, they could have the knowledge, skills and experience to help find a simple solution.

Moreover, other people may have planned some activities in relation to planned work through the gantt chart. Small changes to this could lead to a really important impact.

Another aspect to consider, is that a failure will diminish all the benefits that can be obtained by hiding the problems.

A failed project cost many times more than what could have been saved by solving the problems that have been hidden.

But it is not just about money, there is also the reputation of people.

A failed project can have a dangerous cascading effect. It’s not worth it!

Constantly showing a high degree of honesty, trust and integrity to everyone throughout the project life cycle helps to improve the chances of success. Cement the position of solid leader and gain the respect both of the client and of the project team.

A relationship based on honesty and trust with stakeholders, colleagues and project teams should create an environment of mutual respect.

As a result, this environment should produce a more efficient production environment in which the staff is willing to do ist best in order to provide a truly excellent product.

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How to planning a new project

How to plan a new project

Carefully planning the project right from the start is the key to a successful outcome.

The creation of a project plan is, in fact, the first thing that should be done in the case of any project, especially if this is new.

Often, however, this activity is ignored and the focus is straight away on concrete work. There are many people who simply can not understand the value of a project plan and how this can save time, money and problems.

So let’s see how to plan a new project.

What is a project?

A project is defined as a planned set of related activities that have to be performed in a given period of time and within a certain budget and other limits.

The word “planned” is crucial and the effectiveness of the programming has a direct effect on the result of the project.

Each project has a beginning and an end and follows a life cycle divided into various phases.

What is a project plan?

A project plan essentially serves as a roadmap for planning a project that a team will then have to follow.

The goals are defined in this phase and an effective project plan specifies how the various tasks will be performed and by whom. The purpose is precisely that of achieving the desired goal.

Resources are also determined in the project plan.

If effective and well thought out, such a plan is often an essential factor for the success of a project. It serves as a means of communication for the project manager, as well as a control mechanism during project progress.

The roles and responsibilities of project stakeholders are identified and shared, so that they can become familiar with what is expected of them.

The plan provides clarity and agreement even before the concrete and effective start of the work.

planning new project

Any problems that arise during its drafting can be promptly addressed and eliminated, so that they do not cause problems during the project process.

Identifying key milestones enables team members to prepare to work in order to achieve the goals listed in the project plan and establishes a time frame to complete the tasks.

How to manage the project efficiently and effectively?

The definition of the project management plan serves as a visualization of how the project management will be.

The work breakdown structure determines the end results, together with the dependencies of the activities and the critical path to follow during the project life cycle.

Be careful, however, that planning a project does not necessarily mean that the process will correspond 100% to the initial plan.

planning new project

Uncertainty is always a common factor in every project. There may be unforeseen situations that can lead the project to go out of its path.

What is important to underline is that the project plans make it possible to prepare for the uncertainties that may arise. As a result, they allow to reduce problems during the project.

An in-depth project plan may seem costly in terms of time and resources, but in the long run, it will save time for both the project manager and the team.

When thinking about how to write a project plan effectively, there are some specific points to consider, including:

  • Project vision: project planning and management notes should clearly identify project goals and include a detailed description of the project itself.
  • Stakeholders: for who runs the project, if there is a client involved and what he/she and the stakeholders expect from the project.
  • Roles and responsibilities: here you should describe who is involved in the implementation of the project and the individual activities with the assigned members.
  • Resources: here we include the necessary resources in order to complete the Project; they can refer to human, financial, material or other resources.
  • Budget: this should include a breakdown of project costs. This includes salaries, taxes, materials, travels etc. Furthermore, any received funding should also be included in this section.
  • Emergency Plan: this plan will identify the way the project will address any problems that arise and that require changes in the project. Planning for potential risks should include an allocation in terms of time and budget.
  • Communication plan: this will illustrate how communications will be handled with all stakeholders. It will also indicate the frequency of communication and any marketing or project promotion activities.
  • Monitoring plan: here we will specify how to measure the success of the project and what criteria will be followed for its evaluation.
  • Document management: this should outline the person, usually the manager, responsible for the conservation and management of project documents .

Following these steps is a great start in order to begin a proper project planning, but that’s not all.

It is fundamental not to forget to update the plan while the project progresses and continuously measures the deviations, if any, with respect to the initial plan.

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Manage conflicts in groups 2

Conflict management in project teams

Managing conflicts in groups is a conditio “sine qua non” of the team.

Avoiding conflicts is a pure utopia. A conflict is practically inevitable while working with others.

People have different points of view, and when these perceptions add up, these differences can turn into conflict.

However, the way in which the conflict is managed in the team determines the evolution of the situation. The conflict can, in fact, turn into an advantage for the team or contribute to its breakdown.

As a person, and as a Project Manager, you have more possibilities: you can choose to ignore the conflict, complain, blame someone or try to tackle it through techniques like negotiation or compromise.

It is clear that the best solution is always to face conflicts, but the question is how.

However, one aspect is always valid: the conflict must be faced constructively and with a plan. Otherwise, the risk is to create even bigger damage.

However, conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. If this is healthy and constructive, it can be a component of high-functioning teams.

Let ́s see why.

Conflict management in groups: how the conflict is born

The conflict arises from the differences between people. These are the same differences that often make various teams more effective than those made up of people with similar experiences and views.

When people with different views, experiences, skills and opinions are in charge of a project or challenge, the combined effort can surpass that of any other group of like-minded individuals.

Team members must be open to these differences and not allow them to turn into real disputes.

Understanding and appreciating the various points of view involved in conflicts are key factors for its resolution.

The important thing is to maintain a healthy balance between the constructive difference of opinions and avoiding negative and destructive conflicts.

Reaching and maintaining this balance requires well-developed team skills.

Let ́s first take a look at the common myths about workplace conflicts and how to resolve and prevent a conflict.

The common myths to debunk about workplace conflicts

  1. Conflict is always negative and should always be avoided at work. Actually, the opposite is true. When the problems are hidden or disguised, these are hardly solved, and consequently they transform into larger problems. The conflict must therefore be recognized and addressed.
  2. Difficult people are almost always the cause of a conflict. A bad behavior is certainly a cause of conflict, but even the failure to respect realistic expectations by the project manager can be a great contribution to a negative situation. If team members do not understand what the organization, project manager or their teammates expect, this can lead to confusion and conflict.
  3. The problem which is the root of a conflict is usually obvious. Problem solving is essential in conflict management, but the problem can not be solved until it is identified; in most cases this is not immediate. Getting to the source implies dialogues, conversations and, in some cases, some real investigative activities.
  4. In conflicts there are always winners and losers. When we deal with a conflict, we take a position based on our needs, desires and concerns. Focusing on interests rather than on positions is more effective for dealing with a conflict.
  5. It is the responsibility of the Project Manager, as Project Leader, to solve his team’s problems. Unless a problem affects performance or becomes really important within the team, a manager does not necessarily have to intervene.
    When managers intervene and exercise authority, employees lose the opportunity to develop their own conflict management capabilities.

Conflict resolution

The human experience of conflict involves our emotions, perceptions and actions. We experiment it on all three levels and we need to tackle them all in order to solve it.

The first step is certainly to recognize the conflict. Indeed, the tendency is to ignore the first negative signs, perhaps for convenience or fear, until these become really important.

As described in the sixth edition of the PMBOK, there are five general techniques in order to resolve conflicts. Let’s see them in detail.

1) Withdraw / avoid

This involves refraining from both actual and potential conflict situations or postponing the problem so that it can be better addressed or solved by others.

2) Smooth / accomodate

Here the points of agreement between the two “fronts” are emphasized, in order to try to maintain harmony.

It is therefore necessary to understand the situation and the point of view of each member and take time to make sure that each person’s position is heard and understood.

Each position must be clearly identified and articulated by those involved.

Manage conflicts in groups

Considering the facts, the hypotheses, the beliefs and the decision-making process that lead to the positions of others, the group will get a better understanding of the other points of view.

This can not only reveal new areas of agreement, but it can also bring to new ideas and solutions that make the best of each position and perspective.

3) Compromise / reconcile

This method involves looking for a solution that leads to a level of satisfaction for all the parties involved, even if it represents a temporary or partial solution of the conflict.

Once the parties have understood the positions of others, it will be easier to search for a common solution.

With all the points of view taken into consideration, it is easier to see the best way to follow and then reach an agreement.

4) Force / direct

This method is certainly more extreme than the others since it involves imposing a single point of view at the expense of the others. It is generally applied in cases of urgency and represents a strong solution.

5) Collaborate / problem solve

The most important thing in the whole process of resolving a conflict is that everyone keeps an open communication.

Active listening is equally essential, because in order to solve the conflict together, it is necessary to really understand the other person.

All the subjects involved, in this case, must agree to cooperate in order to resolve the conflict.

Conflict prevention

In addition to being able to manage team conflicts when they occur, project managers and their teams must develop ways to prevent conflicts from becoming harmful.

Team members can learn skills and behaviors that facilitate this process.

Here are some of the main aspects to focus on:

  • Deal with a conflict immediately and avoid the temptation to ignore it;
  • Be open: if people have problems, they must be expressed immediately, without the fear of being judged;
  • Adopt a clear communication and clearly articulate thoughts and ideas;
  • Practice active listening, paraphrasing, clarifying, questioning;
  • Practice the identification of hypotheses and ask “why” regularly;
  • Do not let the conflict become personal, stick to facts and problems;
  • Focus on viable solutions and do not think about what can not be changed;
  • Encourage different points of view and insist on an honest dialogue;
  • Do not blame anyone;
  • Demonstrate respect and, if the situation gets worse, take a break and wait for emotions and feelings to calm down;
  • Keep team problems within the team. Speaking of conflicts outside may lead to an increase in their severity.

Manage conflicts in groups 3

By addressing the conflict of the people in the group, it is possible to turn any disconnection or controversy into an opportunity, as well as increase the connection and trust between people.

Working towards a common solution leads the whole team to become more cohesive.

It is therefore possible to celebrate this moment, something as small as a congratulatory e-mail or a small gift promotes team bonding.

In conclusion, constructive conflict, if properly managed, can bring a team closer together.

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motivate team project

How to motivate a project team: 8 fundamental aspects

Why is understanding how to motivate the project team so important?

All experienced project managers know that there are times when Gantt diagrams, flowcharts, Work Breakdown Structure, or any other tool are not enough. None of those in those moments will help the project team members to advance towards the finish line.

These are times when the team needs something else: motivation.

In those moments, project managers must find ways to inspire and motivate their teams in order to overcome obstacles and stay focused. This is even more true when things do not proceed exactly as planned.

The figure of the project manager and team leader must therefore also be able to motivate the team that deals with the activities of the plan.

Of course, it is not possible to control all the emotions of the team members. But what is possible to control is the way in which projects are conducted in order to generate more enthusiasm.

Let’s see today 7 fundamental aspects to increase the motivation of the project team:

Set realistic goals

This is an obvious advice, but always valid.

The beginning of a project can be exciting, and it is difficult not to be into that at the beginning.

If a detailed agenda is not set from the beginning, team members may do extra work and not need to do so. The natural consequence will be that of not being able to respect the chronology of the project.

The feeling is definitely good when starting a new project, but do not forget to plan the workload correctly.

It does not make sense to start with a sprint and at great speed and then remain breathless during the rest of the race.

Setting realistic and smart goals prevents this from happening and not only works as a project development strategy but also as a powerful motivational tool, especially if individual goals are also set.

Give and ask for feedback from the first day

Project managers often give and ask for feedback only when things go wrong.

This is definitely a non-motivational remedy. It is wiser to ask team members to share their opinions throughout the project, from the first day.

motivate team project (3)

So, the team will feel empowered and respected and will be motivated to do their best.

Measure the performance

A tool that measures and tracks performance is critical in project management.

A project manager must always evaluate how the project is going compared to the initial planning. If the project is off the track, the project manager has to decide what can be done to get back on track.

Additionally, it can sometimes happen that a team member does not meet his performance goals. This can be because he needs additional training or experience in order to manage the tasks.

Measuring performance regularly allows to assess these aspects and also serves as a motivation tool.

Have informal review sessions

Informal review sessions during a project are important not only to discuss the status of the work, but also as a motivational tool.

These meetings should be simple, friendly and, in fact, informal.

Team members should consider these sessions as opportunities to learn, understand what they are doing well and where they can improve.

If team members know that every Friday, they will all be sitting together, in a friendly way, to discuss progress, without anyone being judged, they will be more likely to follow the deadlines and stay motivated to do their part.

Celebrate success

Celebrating successes not just at the end of the project, but all along the way, even in the case of small milestones.

The team or even a single team member can be rewarded for achieving small steps.

Recognition can also be showed by simple things, and here the examples are innumerable …

Do team members like pizza? A dinner at the pizzeria together will be perfect. Or are they all sports fans? An active trip can be organized. The ideas are endless.

In some cases, an incentive can also be considered. Although this is not always possible, there is often nothing better than an economic incentive.

Know the team

With this, we intend not only to know the skills of the various team members, but also to know them from the personal point of view.

When we talk about rewarding and motivating a team, we have to think about ad hoc prizes. An introvert must be motivated and rewarded in a slightly different way than in the case of an extrovert.

An introvert does not like much attention and most likely will not want balloons or colleagues applauding him during a surprise party. On the other hand, a treatment like this could please an extrovert.

Knowing these personal aspects also helps keep the team motivated and give everyone the chance to shine.

In short, knowing the team means understanding how to allow each member to have the opportunity to be in the spotlight, in his own personal way.

Use a project management software

One of the most intelligent, simple and, above all, welcome methods for motivating a team is the use of cloud-based project management software.

motivate team project (2)

Why this? Because it allows to give individuals and groups panoramic and updates in real time. It will give you a clear idea of what has been achieved, what the team is currently doing and where the team is heading.

Moreover, it brings everyone within the same environment and makes them feel part of something shared.

We have listed our 7 methods to motivate project team members to new levels.

But let’s not forget that there is an absolutely essential eighth point: you must be a motivated project manager yourself!

How can you think of a motivated team when the project manager is not?

Of course, it could be difficult, after all, even the project manager is human and can be discouraged like everyone else.

So, how to stay motivated?

You can create a list of activities that the team has already completed and look at them whenever you feel stuck and depressed. For example, if you use TWproject, you can filter the status of team activities.

Make sure you put aside all your personal problems when you go to work and always try to look for the bright aspects of life and work.

Of course, it may be difficult to keep your head up high and motivate the team, but do not forget that team members rely on you.

And one thing is sure: once you realize that you’ve been able to motivate them, this will surely make you feel good.

A project manager knows that his success also depends on the motivation and success of his team.

We know it too. That’s why we talked about the self-motivation ability in this article.

For this reason, moreover, the TWproject software was built to support the development of projects and make people feel really part of a team, sharing environments, topics, and opportunities.

Have you ever found yourself having to motivate your team in a moment of discouragement? What tools did you use to motivate them? Tell us about your experience.

Want to know more about Twproject Mobile app?

One try is worth a million words.
project management software

How to implement a project management software from scratch: 8 errors to avoid

A project management software can increase the efficiency and productivity of the project, but its implementation is not always simple.

It is often the case that organizations start the process of inserting a new software without a clear understanding of how to deal with its implementation.

The implementation of a project management software is important, but the process can be stressful and challenging. This applies to both the employer and the employees.

Whatever system should be implemented, a structured implementation process will be needed in order to contribute to the sustainability and successful long-term operation of the new system.

Let’s see today what are the 8 mistakes to avoid.

Avoid keeping everything as before, while waiting for everything to magically improve

Often, we tend to keep the old settings and functionality unchanged, waiting for everything to change magically from one moment to the other. It does not work that way.

Processes are the most flexible component of the implementation process as they can be adapted in order to meet the requirements of technology and people.

It is therefore essential to define the new processes in the early stages of the implementation project. It is essential to define them precisely because their underestimation can lead to a decrease in productivity. In fact, it is easy to understand how productivity can be undermined due to the duplication of work and the refusal of users to apply new processes if these are not clear.

Therefore, the implementation of a new software solution offers the opportunity to redesign the workflow. New systems have to be designed in order to maximize internal resources and efficiencies.

This is why it is important to clearly define the processes and the way in which people will have to interact with the software. Vice versa, it will be necessary to understand if it is necessary to modify existing processes.

It is possible to do this by answering these questions. How is it possible to:

  • keep data clean and consistent?
  • record data and analyze information?
  • get answers to the questions?
  • manage the system on a monthly basis?
  • integrate other information systems with the software?
  • interact with the software on a daily basis?
  • overcome a software constraint by modifying the processes?

Moreover:

  • Is the constraint really a software limitation or a capacity limitation within the team?
  • Is it possible to work on improvements or adaptations in order to develop the personnel interface with the software?
  • Is it possible to take advantage of multiple functions by adapting processes?
  • What processes are needed in order to maximize the use of this new system?

The transfer of data from one system to another will also be a good time to eliminate obsolete and useless data for the project.

Interesting for this phase is the use of the brainstorming technique in order to involve and define the needs related to the implementation of the new project management software.

Do not dispel fear that is inevitably present in team members

As in all things, people need to try and, you know, mistakes can always happen. This is even more the case if the system is totally new.

If the fear of a mistake is so great and the consequences can be so important, one solution is to offer a trial version of the system. Thanks to this version it will be possible to experiment without risk all the features of the new software.

This will help to make the members of the team safer and avoid the fear of making mistakes that can have an impact on the project.

Moreover, it is necessary to provide one or more training sessions planned within the implementation plan.

project management software 1

Do not engage and trust anyone

Sometimes, project managers are so focused on the implementation process that they forget that other team members have the task to make the transition effective.

As a result, the project manager ends up being the only person who uses the software. The rest of the team will not feel involved and will have a reluctance to use something they do not know thoroughly.

Promoting values of openness, transparency, communication and above all sharing the “ownership” of software are the right attitudes.

The more we work together, the more efficient the implementation of the new project software will be.

Rely on the software to solve resource management problems

Softwares can certainly help in managing the resources of a project. However, offline management is always a fundamental and indispensable factor.

The tool can facilitate decisions regarding work priorities and tasks, but it cannot make all the necessary decisions, no matter how evolved it is.

A software does not have the sensitivity to understand moods and any perplexities or conflicts that can undermine a team’s productivity.

Therefore, it will be essential to organize meetings during all phases of implementation and to manage resources directly.

Lack of leadership in implementation

Regardless of the skills of the employees and the project team, the missing support and leadership are deleterious. They will inevitably lead to employees refusing to use the new software.

If leadership and support are lacking, the investment in the project management software will be useless. It will essentially be a lost investment and the efficiency of the organization will inevitably worsen.

project management software 2

It is therefore fundamental that the leadership, at project manager and at managerial level, is present throughout the software implementation process.

Failure to communicate expectations

If you try to make changes without notifying the personnel, you will inevitably find yourself facing a wall.

Before the implementation of a new project management software, it is necessary to communicate in detail the expectations on how the software will increase productivity.

This can include:

  • discussion of the motivations that led to change,
  • the timing with which the change will occur,
  • the type of training necessary or available,
  • how the team can communicate in case of questions and doubts.

Missing motivation for the use of the software

Expressing interest in reducing general costs does not represent a sufficient motivation to get employees to accept change.

For employees, change is simply a further effort, something that requires an investment of energy and time.

However, the transition can be facilitated by providing an incentive for employees in case they accept and use the software.

Lack of feedback

It is not enough to simply implement the new project management software, and have it used by the employees. In fact, once this has been done, it cannot yet be said that the implementation has been completed.

Creating a forum for regular feedback from users, in this case the employees, will give the opportunity to provide honest feedback on the perception of the new tool.

Feedback should also be given by the project manager and the management.

Only in this way it will be possible to understand if the software needs to be improved or updated. Feedback will give the idea if it was an optimal choice or if the new software is completely against expectations.

Conclusions

The chances of achieving goals for an organization are higher with a plan that is appropriate for software implementation.

By understanding what the pitfalls are to avoid, it is possible to make the transition to a new project management software easier and more effective

Moreover, regular monitoring of goals with respect to actual performance will make it possible to get the most from the investment.

Have you ever faced the implementation of a new project management software? How did you experience the situation? Tell us about your experience.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

work life integration 2

The integration of Work Life Balance: Work Life Integration is born

Work Life Balance has been a key concept in recent years, a goal for many.

Many managers and entrepreneurs have taken the path described by this concept, attempting a real balance between work and private life. The intent was to try to distribute the time equally between work and personal activities.

Currently, the concept of balance between work and private life is still very strong.

However, this concept is affected by the evolution of man and the new ways of working, in short, the new approaches to work.

Today, in fact, for many, the working day does not end when they leave the office.

The classic day, 8am – 5pm, begins to be surpassed by many organizations.

Work is transforming. It becomes less traditional and many offices evolve towards virtual spaces. You work more and more remotely in remote teams.

Hence the new concept of “Work Life Integration”, that is the integration between private life and working life.

The difference between the two concepts

The word “integration”, in the concept of Work Life Integration, defines a merger in a functioning or unified whole.

In this way, the integration of working life focuses on the incorporation of the different areas of one’s life in order to create a unique image.

The concept of Work Life Balance, on the other hand, means a balance, a uniform distribution between the two activities, in this case work and leisure time.

In this concept, work and private life are seen as two competing elements. They are essentially two completely different worlds.

Here are some examples of the difference between Work Life Balance and Work Life Integration

 

WORK LIFE BALANCE WORK LIFE INTEGRATION
Leave the office at 5 pm to pick up your child at school Bring your child to work after school
Leave the office at 5 pm and turn off the phone Hourly flexibility and being able to answer calls remotely
Use the lunch break to take the dog out Bring the dog to work
Offer employees lunch Have employees choose between a free lunch or receive the equivalent sum for holidays

What are the advantages of Work Life Integration?

This new concept is a great way to give equal time and attention to all areas of an individual’s life. All without necessarily having to sacrifice one or another.

Creating a division between work and private life, as in the case of Work Life Balance, may not always be feasible. This could lead to mood alteration and increased stress.

On the contrary, combining work with personal life could make everyday life less monotonous.

Instead of counting the hours left to leave the office as inevitably happens in the case of Work Life Balance, you could directly work from home and enjoy the company of the family at the same time.

Everyone will be able to manage their activities in an appropriate manner and according to their needs.

How to create Work Life Integration

  • Request flexible working hours. However, not all organizations and all roles allow this.
  • Discover your needs. Integration into working life is not the same for everyone. The way you choose to organize your time will depend on both professional and personal commitments.
  • Plan. Be sure to plan taking into consideration the biological clock. Are you a morning bird or a night owl? In the most productive phases, we need to plan the most important work that needs more effort.
  • Coordinating work and private life. If you have a family and / or other significant commitment, you need to make sure to organize work in conjunction with these other commitments. After all, the integration of work into personal life should make life easier, not more complicated.
  • Give importance to productivity and not to hours. It is easy to associate the amount of time spent at work with productivity. However, this is not always a measure of the real contribution. We must focus on the value that is created rather than on the hours spent at work.
  • Is it really the right method? Integrating work into private life is often a useful way to meet both personal and career goals. However, this is not a suitable method for everyone.

How an organization can implement Work Life Integration

1. Evaluate the current work-life balance programs

Many organizations are wasting resources on programs that employees do not evaluate or use.

This is why everything starts with an assessment of the real use of these programs. The collection of feedback on awareness of benefits will also be indispensable.

Sometimes, employees may not even know certain benefits. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the awareness within the organization, before abandoning any program that is not used.

2. Segmentation of pilot employees

Not all customers are the same and not everyone has the same needs. The best customer service adapts the experience to these values and needs.

Employee segmentation groups employees based not only on skills and functions, but also on their needs.

3. Expand the flexibility of virtual work and planning

An increasing number of organizations are investing less in physical offices and increasingly expanding into virtual workforce.

A remote work force requires many considerations and planning. However, it represents a great advantage in terms of Work Life Integration: time flexibility.

work life integration 1

4. Identify employee benefits and flexibility

Instead of offering some “general” benefits to everyone, it is sometimes more efficient to offer choice among multiple options.

This ability to modify benefits offers greater flexibility to employees and also allows the assessment of the use and ROI of programs aimed at integrating working life.

5. Be creative with the benefits of Work Life Integration

To get the most out of Work Life Integration programs, an organization must become creative.

There are in fact innumerable advantages that can be offered, and it is important not to take anything for granted.

Here are some questions that might be useful:

– What do employees do outside the office and want to do in the office?
– What would make the office more similar to the personal lives of employees?
– What are employees afraid of losing when they are working?
– Why do they feel the need to completely separate their work and their personal lives?
– How do they spend their free time outside work?

6. Start slowly and proceed step by step

Assuming that the organization has obtained the data and knows where to focus in order to adopt the method of Work Life Integration, the advice is always to start slowly and proceed step by step determining the success and ROI of the programs adopted.

This allows you to try many benefits simultaneously by increasing the positive buzz and employee engagement.

In conclusion, Work Life Integration is a trend that must be considered and monitored.

Work is increasingly integrated with personal life.

It is a fact that if the work aspect is not good, life as a whole is affected and vice versa.

Work is life and life is work and the two things are becoming one.

Change the way you work.

One try is worth a million words.
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Create the project team: 7 tips for identifying, approving and supplying it at the best

Creating a work team is a delicate but strategic phase for any project manager. The outcome of the project will really depend on the choices made here.

Stephen Covey, famous writer and author of the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” states:

 

Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success

 

Thanks to teamwork, the shared talent amplifies the value of each individual resource and increases the value of the group as a whole.

It is therefore essential that when defining the working group, particular attention is paid to all the people involved in the project. This means all the project associates, stakeholders, customers and partners.

But let’s go into detail and see some fundamental aspects of this delicate activity.

First of all, it is good to remember that, in order to create a high performing Project Team, it is necessary to follow three key steps:

  1. Organizational planning necessary for the identification of the team;
  2. Staff acquisition, necessary for approval;
  3. Team development.

Organizational planning

Organizational planning identifies, documents and assigns project roles, responsibilities and relationships.

Before the project begins, all roles and responsibilities must be given. This will reduce any confusion after the start of the project.

Each team member will know exactly what is expected of him (or her) and will be able to follow the assigned tasks.

Also, having a staff development plan and an organization chart will reduce uncertainty and conflict.

Indeed, a staff development plan describes how and when human resources will be transferred and removed from the project team. This knowledge of the already planned events will make the whole team smoother.

The organization chart, on the other hand, is a graphical way to subdivide the project’s reporting relationship. A detailed organizational chart will avoid superfluous questions about relationships and connections.

For a winning project, it is then essential that there is a good organizational planning. This also includes all the supporting documents necessary to outline each job title and description or any training needs.

Staff acquisition

The acquisition of the people that have to deal with the project is the process to obtain the necessary human resources assigned that will have to work in the team.

Choosing the right people for a project is almost as important as the project itself. Without an experienced and close-knit team, the project will be much more difficult.

Some things to consider when choosing the team are the previous experiences. In fact, the interests, personal characteristics, availability, skills, could give the work team additional determinant capacities.

Team members can be chosen internally from the organization, thanks to negotiations with managers and other project teams, or from outside.

It will also be necessary to determine if each team member will work on the project full or part time.

Team development

The development of the project team includes the development of individual and group skills in order to improve performance.

Working together as a real team, the project will be more likely to succeed.

Team development can be achieved in various ways:

  • Team building
  • Management capacity
  • Reward systems
  • Frequent feedback and personal meetings
  • Training

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If the team has been properly developed, the project will work efficiently and achieve quality results.

How to choose the members of the project team

Here are 7 key elements in order to choose the right project team members.

1. Project analysis

It is essential to devote time and effort in order to understand and thoroughly analyze the project. You will have to define the steps and activities that will need to be worked out for a successful completion.

It will also be necessary to break down these steps into individual tasks and sub-activities. In this way it will be possible to easily detect the resources needed to complete the project and its duration based on the set productivity.

2. Project requirements

It is essential to verify what is required by the management. Time limits, budget or resource constraints are essential to plan the recruitment and the project team members accordingly.

3. Meeting with the Human Resources Department

The Human Resources Department can assist in finding the most suitable project team members, especially in the case of outsiders.

It will also be necessary to prepare, in coordination with this department, a recruitment campaign for the project and the specific training.

4. Meeting with other managers

Together with the Human Resources Department, it is also a good practice to meet the managers of internal employees in order to obtain a complete view of the staff available for the project.

You can ask other managers to provide ratings for their staff skills, technical skills and teamwork skills so that you can make the best decision based on real needs.

create the project team

5. Refine the selection

Once the options have been assessed, a list of potential candidates suitable for the roles will be drawn up.

This will be the basis from which to select the members of the project team who will work for the implementation of the plan in the future.

6. The final choice

The list of candidates will be evaluated very carefully in all its details. Finally, the team members who will work on the project will be chosen.

These candidates should have the right mix of personal behavioral skills and attributes in order to become members of the project team.

If doubts continue about any of the employees, additional personal interviews can be conducted in order to collect additional information.

7. Analyzing the team

At this point the project team is made, but there still remains one thing to do: To conduct a continuous analysis in order to assess whether the team has the necessary balance to complete the project as planned.

It will also be necessary to regularly check whether there is a potential personality conflict between team members. Perceiving these conflicts and resolving them straight away, will avoid stress and creative blockages during the execution of the project plan.

It is very important to have a fully developed and dedicated project team in order to run the project properly.

The team includes several people who must work together to carry on the individual activities.

Organizations are constantly committed to forming increasingly performing project teams. Work teams that will be able to achieve even complex project goals and which will increase productivity, performance and returns for the organization.

Team members, together with the project manager, are the driving forces of a project, and it is therefore essential to know how to choose them well and to develop them to the maximum.

Have you ever created a project team? What process did you use to choose the project team members? Do you have any other suggestions? Write us your opinion.

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

Emotional intelligence3

Emotional intelligence and project management

When the concept of Emotional Intelligence entered the mainstream for the first time, the skeptics labeled it as a temporary fashion that would soon be forgotten.

However, since the publication in 1995 of Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence”, emotional intelligence has increased its credibility in the business world more and more, becoming an important skill for managers.

Today, indeed, the project manager’s work is not limited to defining the project scope, creating a plan or keeping track of costs and timing.

Other activities are entering the field and the agenda of the PM. We talk about activities such as relationship development, team building, influence, collaboration and negotiation.

Attention to the business climate has also increased. In order to optimize the results of the project, while maximizing the use of resources, it becomes essential that those who manage the project understand and apply the principles of emotional intelligence.

The project manager must be able to create a climate in which customers, team members, stakeholders and management can communicate clearly. A climate in which it will be easy to manage challenges more effectively and make choices in order to act strategically and quickly.

 

Emotional Intelligence: the capabilities of the Project Manager

In fact, project managers must be able to do the following:

  • Operating in complex environments: project managers must influence, negotiate and collaborate with other departments and teams and understand the interdependencies of projects. The ability to build relationships and understand how to get the best out of others is a critical skill that the project manager must inevitably possess.
  • Creating effective teams: people are the key to the success of any project and project managers rarely have direct control over the staff they work with. They must therefore be able to motivate the team, manage members from the most disparate sources and manage conflicts, all skills that require the ability to understand people and their particular needs.
  • Managing change: by their very nature, projects cause change. Building a technical solution is just a component of a project; understanding and managing the impact of this solution on a population of users and the effect of this change is a critical skill for a project manager.
  • Leadership: project managers must have the role of leader with respect to the people involved in the project, to the stakeholders and to the other groups with whom they interact. In addition to the ability to make decisions based on analysis of the situation, the ability to make decisions based on understanding the impact on people is also an important aspect of leadership.
  • Results: the complexity of the environment and the degree to which the collaboration must be successful are unprecedented and the simple ability to draw a project plan is not sufficient to make a project manager succeed. Understanding your emotions, the emotions of others and how these can be managed more effectively, can have an important effect on the ability of a project manager to deliver results.

The ability of emotional intelligence is based on an individual’s ability to recognize, pay attention and understand the emotions in oneself and others.

This refers to the critical skills that demonstrate empathy, differentiate between emotions, and identify the impact that emotions have on a situation.

Research shows that about 55% of what we perceive from someone comes from body language, about 38% from the tone of the voice and only 7% from the actual words the person is using.

The perception of emotional signals for project managers is therefore a critical skill.

For example, misunderstanding the body language of a stakeholder when trying to negotiate a given factor within a project will not only be a critical factor in the outcome of that single situation, but also on the tone of the relationship throughout the whole project life cycle.

So let’s see in detail the role of emotional intelligence in the routine of a project manager.

Emotional Intelligence and Management: control and management of emotions

In this sense we mean the ability to manage, control and effectively express emotions.

Identifying our moods and the impact of our moods on our behavior is a critical aspect of self-awareness.

For example, if the project manager is stressed out and goes to the team directly after a negative meeting without understanding his personal stress level, there is a risk that this stress will be passed on to the team members. The consequence will be a dramatic reduction in staff motivation.

Emotional intelligence

In this case, the project manager must take time to calm down and rebalance himself and only then he can talk to his staff.

It is therefore essential to be able to perform a self-analysis in order to understand the emotions that are being experienced and how to manage them.

Emotional Intelligence and Decision-making: on whom do I impact?

With emotional intelligence in decision-making, we mean the ability to apply emotions appropriately in order to manage and solve problems, something that a project manager has to do on a daily basis.

Project managers must be able to make decisions by analyzing all aspects of a situation, without distorting reality in a positive or negative way, and understanding the aspects and impacts of people on any decision made.

Decisions often translate into changes and therefore part of the decision is the ability to identify and understand the emotional impact of change on other people.

Emotional Intelligence and Realization: inner motivation

Emotional intelligence with respect to realization is the ability to generate the emotions necessary to motivate oneself in the pursuit of realistic and meaningful goals.

A manager should be able to set goals and, if he fails, to step back, analyze what mus be corrected or changed and continue with corrective and proactive action.

Determination and vigor are feelings that help to advance towards action and realization and for project managers these are fundamental skills for success.

Emotional Intelligence and Influence: being the leader

Influencing, in the concept of emotional intelligence, is the ability to recognize, manage and evoke emotions in others in order to promote change.

It is the ability to assess a situation, interpret the emotional tone and understand the impact of this in the ability to build and maintain social relationships.

How a project manager manages his own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, can have a significant impact on the nature of a relationship.

Emotional intelligence2

Positive emotions tend to translate into a more collaborative relationship. while negative emotions tend to reduce the likelihood of collaboration.

Since a project manager almost always has a variety of heterogeneous groups to influence in order to succeed, the ability to positively influence relationships in order to obtain collaboration can have a perceptible effect on results.

Emotional Intelligence: Conclusions

In summary, project managers work in increasingly complex environments, and it is not enough for a successful project manager to just bring technical skills into the role.

Relationships must be developed, teams must be motivated, changes must be managed.

Improving the ability to perceive the emotions of others, allows you to empathize and adapt the style of management to get a better result.

When a person is able to manage his emotions, he can be sure that these are the right ones in every situation.

If it is possible to use emotions to improve decision making, then it is possible to improve the ability to solve problems.

If it is possible to self-motivate ourselves, it is possible to achieve more realistic goals.

Finally, if it is possible to improve the ability to interpret the emotional tone, it is possible to build more effective relationships and influence the goals and results of a project.

In this way, project managers can be more effective leaders and, consequently, experience greater success in project delivery.

Project managers who truly understand the talents, values and potential of themselves and their teams, who know how to manage their emotions and the emotions of others, and who can connect with team members have the opportunity to create a project environment that will not be second to none.

Leave us your comment and let us know what you think.

Simplify the management of your project.

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scope-management eng

Scope Management: managing the project scope

The Scope Management of a project is the set of processes necessary to ensure that the scope of a project is precisely defined and mapped.

Project scope management techniques enable project managers to assign the right amount of work required in order to successfully complete a project, particularly by controlling what is and what is not part of the project scope.

The management of the project scope is what ensures that the project includes all the relevant work in order to achieve the project goals.

Plan the Scope Management process

The process explains how to define, manage, validate and control the scope of the project.

You could even use the project management plan of another project as a starting point, because the Scope Management processes do not vary dramatically once the organization has opted for a successful method of working.

Scope management process planning includes:

  • preparing a detailed project declaration
  • creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
  • maintaining the WBS
  • obtaining formal acceptance of the project results
  • managing any changes in the project scope

Scope Management: Collecting the project requirements

At this stage, it is necessary to gather what are the needs of the stakeholders with the intent of achieving the project goals.

In this process, managers use different techniques and tools in order to gather the requirements.

If this process is executed in a complete and correct manner, it can greatly reduce the possibility of unpleasant surprises as the project progresses towards completion.

scope management

In this phase, it is therefore necessary to understand what the stakeholders want from the project.

Once found out, requirements must be documented and stakeholder expectations must be properly managed.

This is an important step, since it may happen that what is required is not realistic or achievable due to other project constraints, such as cost.

The output of the work of gathering requirements is a documented set of requirements.

Scope Management: Defining the project scope

Here the requirements and the needs are transformed into a detailed description of the product or service that the project will create.

The output will be a declaration of the scope of the project that can be referred throughout the entire project life cycle.

The document will also include a list of what is in scope and what is out of scope.

The scope clearly indicates what the project is supposed to achieve and what not.

Scope Management: Creating the Work Breakdown Structure

This process transforms the list of requirements into a structured view of what needs to be done.

The main work here is the subdivision of large tasks into smaller and more manageable blocks, called work packages.

The result of this process is the so-called Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

The WBS is an important element of the scope management process and the PMI places great emphasis on this aspect.

Many project managers often skip this step leading to inaccurate plans.

The resulting WBS should provide a complete list of all the work packages required to complete the project successfully.

Scope Management: Validating the project scope

This process focuses primarily on the acceptance of the project by the client.

In simple terms, it is when the client of the project formally accepts all the results of the project.

scope management 1

This process occurs at the end of each phase.

It is therefore important to know who will approve a deliverable and what criteria will be used to evaluate the success of the result.

Scope Management: Checking the project scope

This process involves the evaluation of additional requirements by the client or the proactive observation of the project’s scope by the project manager.

Managers measure the work product with respect to the forecast in order to ensure that the project remains on track, helping to prevent any unnecessary modifications.

This phase therefore involves monitoring the status of the project and managing any changes to the scope.

Some pitfalls of Scope Management

The problems that may arise during the definition and documentation of the project scope are:

Ambiguity: ambiguity often leads to unnecessary work and confusion. To avoid this, the scope must be clearly defined, both by the stakeholders as well as by the team, without being misinterpreted;

Incomplete definition: incomplete areas lead to planned deadlines which almost certainly lead to cost overruns. To avoid this, the scope must be complete, accurate and detailed;

Transitoriness: this is the main cause of late deliveries and “endless” projects. To avoid this, the scope document must be finalized and remain as long as possible for the duration of the project;

Non-collaborative scope: an area not managed in a collaborative way causes incorrect interpretations in terms of requirements and planning. To avoid this, the document should be shared with all stakeholders at each stage of the scope definition process.

Without Scope Management, the cost or time that the project will take to achieve its goal can not be estimated.

Scope Management is not difficult to implement; however, it requires effort, time and patience.

But it is worth investing it: with a proper management of the project scope, it is possible to have clear guidelines and deliver the project with minimum overruns.

Have you ever dealt with the Scope Management of a project? How was your experience and what are your opinions about it? Tell them below!

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Process or project? What differences? What goals?

People often confuse projects with processes.

Some might argue that this is only a question of semantics and that saying “project” rather than “process” does not change much.

In fact, there are some areas where projects and processes can overlap (which is why confusion arises), but there is also an essential difference that impacts the way in which the activities are managed in one case or the other.

Project vs. process: the definition

A recognized definition is that:

Projects concern actions never done before, while processes are actions that are done repeatedly.

A project is about creating something new or implementing a change. On the other hand, a process is designed to create value by repeatedly executing an activity.

In a project, the goals and plans can be modified by the stakeholders. The processes, on the other hand, are established procedures for work and can be generally modified only with planning and investments.

In fact, a project is ideally needed to change an established process within an organization.

A project is temporary because it has a defined beginning and end date, and therefore defined scope and resources.

Moreover, a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to achieve a singular goal.

Projects are designed to create changes.
On the other hand, processes are designed to resist change because they establish a repeatable and executable workflow.

Project vs. process: the common points

Both processes and projects aim to achieve something through a sequence of planned activities.

In general, they both need teams and resources that can execute them.

Moreover, they can coexist, as in the case where people work on processes and have a project going on.

process-project


Project vs. process: the differences

It should be underlined that between projects and processes there is a significant difference: the frequency with which the activity is repeated.

The projects are in fact one-off, even if there are cases in which the projects become repeatable.

In this situation, if the project becomes repetitive, it becomes a process.

The processes are in fact repeatable and create value by producing a given output on demand.

The fact that the activities are repeated means that it is possible to efficiently cushion the planning effort thanks to the many repetitions.

Instead, in the case of an already planned project, the effort must be repaid by the outcome of the single time it is performed.

When dealing with a project, much of the effort goes into the initial planning. After this step, the effort is focused on checking that everything is following the plan.

The process works differently. In fact, you can review the result from a process and learn from it, you can make changes to the process and you can experiment and see what works and what does not.

The “management effort” is less focused on keeping things on track and is rather oriented to learn how to optimize the process.

So this is the big difference regarding the “management effort” in projects and processes.

Further differences between process and project

In addition to this, projects and processes are supervised differently, making most of the tools incompatible for managing both of them.

Projects are supervised by a primary authority, usually a project manager, who guides the project towards its goal.

The processes are instead managed by all the people involved in the workflow in progress. In other words, they are everyday actions that are formalized with the goal of improving overall efficiency and productivity.

process-project1

Project management is a consolidated methodology for managing and executing changes within an organization.

It is interesting to see that the project management itself is a defined and repeatable process. Ultimately, all the work involves a process and the project management functions in the same manner.

The correct management of the project proceeds according to well defined principles and procedures that allow to manage organizational changes and new initiatives.

It is simply a very specific and carefully designed process that is repeated and performed every time the company makes a major change and is doing something new for the first time.

The process of implementing these changes is called project management and each change must be managed as a project.

Projects, projects and TwProject

All of what has been said so far shows that there are several reasons for extending project management with processes; often projects or processes are presented as alternatives for the organizational needs of the team.

With Twproject you can get benefits from both, in an integrated solution.

Surely it has happened over time to repeat some of the company’s projects and to standardize them and transform them into “business processes”.

Well, in our software you can find the solution to this situation …. And many others!

In TwProject, the integrated tool for managing business processes greatly expands the possibility of modeling in relation to the project tree. It improves usability even for complex cases, keeping the organization based on the project.

In our  meetings with customers we often present two ways according to which they can model their business processes:

  • with the projects, aimed at giving a minimal structure to work and collect a maximum amount of feedback, worklog, etc.,
  • using business process models, which are workflows. Workflows are more rigid but more accurate. They are more complex to plan but often easier for the end user, who has just to say “go ahead” on their tasks when this is the case.

In conclusion, we can say that there is no difference in importance between a project and a process. In fact, everyone plays an important role in achieving goals within an organization and it is necessary to make sure that they are both used appropriately.

Processes are continuous and repeated procedures that help to achieve business goals, while projects are ways to change processes, launch new products, or otherwise make changes within the organization in order to develop the goals in new ways.

Did you already know the difference between a project and a process? Are there any further differences that you consider relevant? Give us your opinion.

Projects and processes in an integrated solution.

earned schedule 2

Earned Schedule

The Earned Schedule (ES) is a rather recent methodology.

It was first introduced in 2003 and it is a method of analysis that extends and completes the benefits of the Earned Value Management.

Currently, the Earned Schedule method is used globally in projects of any type and size.

This method is taught in academics, is included in project management manuals and standards dictated by the PMI and is also a research topic at the university.

Not only theory but also practice. It is now widely demonstrated that the ES is useful for project managers for the analysis and control of project performance.

Why is the Earned Schedule born?

Everything is born and takes its cue from the EVM (Earned Value Management) method that offers the project manager and other stakeholders the possibility to visualize the actual costs of the project during its entire life cycle. This, as it is easy to deduce, allows a more effective management of the project itself.

In its original form, the EVM was used to evaluate project performance and predict the cost of the project upon completion.

Normally, project control is established at the level of the work package or the cost report.

In fact, however, this control, although helps in cost management, does not contribute to the control of implementation times. EVM data indeed are not generally used to estimate the time needed to complete a task, a work package or a project or to predict the completion date.

This can lead the project manager to make bad decisions about the Project in general.

It is precisely to fill this gap that the concept of Earned Schedule (ES) is born.

In fact, the ES can transform EVM metrics into time or duration metrics in order to improve the evaluation of the project planning performance and to predict the duration required for its completion.

When combined with an appropriate analysis, this approach can improve the understanding of the estimated time for the Project completion.  It can also provide further insights that allow to make better decisions about project planning and other related parameters.

So let’s see more in detail what it is.

Measure and indicators of the Earned Schedule

The idea of Earned Schedule is similar to the concept of Earned Value (EV). However, instead of using the costs to measure project performance, the reference unit is time.

If we consider the projects that are late, in fact, using the Earned Value, we will have unrealistic indicators. The obtained values will, in a misleading way, make the state of the project look better than it actually is.

The problem lies in the fact that the Earned Value is a value indicator and not a scheduling indicator.

This then brings the planned value at the end of the project to coincide with the budget upon completion even if the project is late.

Therefore, the fundamental concept of the ES is to determine the moment, in terms of time, in which the planned work should have corresponded to the value of the work carried out at that precise moment.

earned schedule

The formula of the Earned Schedule

The Earned Schedule formula corresponds to
ES = C + I.

Where  C is the number of intervals in which EV is equal to or greater than PV and I is the share of the intervals after PV.

In the researches carried out, the question asked was whether the ES is a better method of predicting the duration of the final project than the EVM methods.

The answer is that the ES is way better than any other method related to Earned Value Management.

Of all the methods and data sets studied, the ES is referred to as the best duration prediction method of a project.

For sure, this method is useful for project managers when they have to make decisions in order to meet delivery dates.

While the Earned Value provides an estimate of when the project is likely to end, the Earned Schedule produces an understanding of the probability of completion in precise moments over time.

The ES can also provide useful information to the project manager and analysts and is not difficult to calculate.

Of course, additional work is needed, but it is not as time-consuming as a complete bottom-up review of the entire project program.

EVM and ES have been integrated with statistical confidence limits in order to obtain probable results for the final cost and duration of the project.

The results of this work have shown that the proposed approach is sufficiently reliable for the general application of the forecasting method, both in terms of cost and duration.

earned schedule 1

Moreover, it is shown that the ES approach can be applied effectively no matther what the type of work or the extent of the cost and duration of the project.

Big deviations between the project status and the forecasts usually attract the attention of management and translate into corrective actions. Small deviations are usually not taken into account.

By quantifying and highlighting these deviations, it is possible to bring the focus of management on projects or work packages that require more attention.

As a result, these tools support the effective management of projects and improve the management of the portfolio of business projects.

Consistent use of these techniques that predict project outcomes provides an optimal approach to project reviews, increases confidence in project delivarables as time progresses, and improves management’s ability to take corrective action and appropriate decisions.

Conclusions

In conclusion, we can say that the EVM is a powerful methodology that helps project managers and other stakeholders managing projects and programs more effectively.

By integrating it with the ES method, it is possible to produce valid indicators and reliable predictions on the duration of the project.

The research found out that, compared to other methods based on the EVM, the ES produces the best predictions on the duration of the project.

The Earned Schedule method has a lot to offer to the project manager in order to help him drive and control his project from the beginning to the end.

Have you ever had the opportunity to apply the Earned Schedule to one of your projects? What are your observations? Write them in the comments.

Analyze your projects with the right tools.

If the project manager motivates others … what motivates the project manager? (self-motivation ability)

Much has been written and said about the motivation of people and the team in general.

Certainly, in a project team, a project manager who personally cares about each individual, personal ideas and concerns can contribute enormously to the motivation of a team.

And it is found that well-motivated teams achieve greater success than their disinterested counterparts, as detailed in this article.

But this assumes that there is a well-motivated project manager that instills enthusiasm into the team.

So what motivates the project manager?

Motivational techniques

There are two main types of motivation that can be described in general as:

  • Intrinsic = love. In other words, “I do it because I want”
  • Extrinsic = money. In other words, “I do it because I have to”.

Both in work as well as in life, we can meet people motivated by both factors and, more often, by a combination of the two.

People’s motivations also change at different times and also in front of different tasks and challenges.

To be an effective leader, it is necessary to be aware of the balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. In particular, we need to know what are the things we love and which we would accept even without being paid – in a figurative sense of course.

Being self-motivated means doing your job well because you want it and not just because you receive your salary at the end of the month.

Individuals, and therefore self-motivated project managers, want to be the best they can, regardless of where they work or what they are working on. Often they take responsibility even when they are not directly concerned.

Self-motivated individuals tend to:

  • Work longer
  • Learn new skills and regularly follow training courses
  • Take ownership of problems
  • Go beyond the job description of their role.

There are five general methods that can help a project manager find the motivation in the workplace. Let’s see what they are:

1. Check what you can and let the rest go

As a project manager, there are always things that are not under your control, but that does not mean that one has to give up.

You need to have clear in mind what factors and dynamics you can control and, consequently, focus on doing those well.

In short, it is about managing current responsibilities to the best of one’s capabilities.

2. Continually test yourself

The job is not particularly difficult or demanding? Then find another way to test yourself.

Take a training course, help a colleague that may have difficulty, just improve your skills …

Do not let the time goes by by sitting on your laurels and then say you are bored and without motivation.

As adults, we tend to stay still with what we have and not look for new opportunities for growth.

If you can not get this challenge in the office, you can always search elsewhere, through hobbies, new experiences, etc.

Not only continually improving your skills is important for team members, but also for the project manager.

3. Mindfulness

Books could be written about the application of mindfulness for a manager.

In today’s stressful environment, it is necessary to take a step back and take time for yourself, even if it is just 10 minutes.

Life is simply too short to be stressed and to run all day.

Everyone, even the project manager, must find a way to maintain the balance and find a healthy stability between work and private life, between obligations and free time, whatever this means for a person.

On the other hand, if a project manager does not listen and does not first manage himself and his needs, how will he be able to manage the team members?

4. Having fun, even at work

Entertainment is not intended here as an expensive or time-consuming activity.

With fun in the office, we mean the planning of a team event where also the project manager can participate directly.

An internal prize game, a treasure hunt in the office, an activity for the whole team outside of the office, there are endless possibilities.

Project management is a serious topic, but that does not mean that you can not have fun at work.project manager

 

5. Write down the reasons why you chose a project manager career

What do you like about the job? What makes you excited every day? What would you absolutely not want to eliminate from your work routine?

When times become difficult, there is a tendency to forget the positive elements of a situation, even in work.

This is an excellent exercise not only for the project manager, but also for the team members.

In this way, all the positive factors of the profession will be learned and will be clear in mind and, consequently, it will be much easier to find the motivation and continue successfully.

So, we have seen the methods for a general self-motivation of the project manager, let’s now see four specific tips to stay motivated when it comes to a particularly challenging project.

1. Focus on small but significant results

It is not necessary to be satisfied only once the final goal of a project has been reached.

There are intermediate milestones, which could be equally important throughout the whole project life cycle.

These can be used to find satisfaction at the end of each working day.

2. Reassess the goals

If you are facing a dead point in the project, focusing again on personal goals can always be useful and stimulating, as well as a way out.

By working on these other aspects, you can find the answer to the problems that are stifling the project.

3. Indulge in secondary tasks

It is important to feel fulfilled every day. But when the project seems to be extended to infinity, it is difficult to obtain this satisfaction.

In this case, the key is to make yourself useful in other ways, for example by briefly contributing to another task, helping a member of another team, offering yourself as an extra resource for a temporary project.

4.Everything will pass

Probably the most important advice of all.

When you are in the middle of a long and complicated project, it seems like this never ends. But one thing is certain, everything will pass.

Even if the project does not end successfully, the malaise will pass.

If you consider work as a way to continue learning, growing and developing, there is a truth: having managed a difficult experience is the best curriculum you can have.


What can block motivation in a project manager?

Bad habits: In order to meet the desired results, project managers should be able to evaluate the factors that prevent them from achieving the desired goals and replacing them with positive or productive habits.

Lack of adequate resources: In the absence of adequate resources, leaders fail to achieve the desired goals. They may have problems related to lack of funds, lack of qualified personnel, technological limits or management disruptions.

Pressures or external circumstances: Pressures and external circumstances hinder the level of self-motivation of project managers. These may be, for example, lack of support and cooperation from stakeholders or team members.

project manager

Many factors hinder the self-motivation of project managers, these may vary from personal factors such as bad habits to environmental factors or circumstantial factors.

Efficient and highly motivated leaders, however, are able to overcome all challenges by exploring ways or alternatives in order to achieve the desired results.

We can therefore conclude that self-motivation for a project manager is a fundamental prerequisite and those with a high sense of self-motivation are in a better position to achieve strategic results and drive growth and productivity of themselves and their team.

Self-motivated leaders stimulate passion among team members that in this manner want to achieve ambitious goals.

These individuals play a crucial role in leading organizational excellence by creating examples and best practices that can inspire the team.

What are your motivations in the office? Have you ever had problems motivating yourself? How did you deal with the situation? Tell us about your experience.

Manage your projects easily.

delegating project activities

Delegating project activities effectively: (7) key suggestions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delegating project activities : Learn to let go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delegating project activities : Establish a priority system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

delgating project activities

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

delegating project activites - priority od assignment

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

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

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

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

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

Delegating project activities : Always include instructions

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

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

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

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

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

Delegating project activities : Teach new skills

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

Have you ever thought about it?

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

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

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

Delegating project activities : Trusting is good, communicating is better

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

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

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

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

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

Delegating project activities : Use feedback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delegate in effective way.