The Bridge Building Plan

According to the PMBOK, the Project Management Plan defines how the project is executed, monitored, and controlled. Steven Sinofsky, the former President of Microsoft’s Windows division, adds that the how and why of the project is an important piece of the plan. The post, “Engineering and social science lead to plans“, is about projects to build technology products. Its lessons are applicable to all types of projects

The Plan as a Bridge

Bridge of Sighs (Cambridge)The team owns the how and the sponsor owns the why. Sharing these through the plan creates a guideline for the project team and the sponsors.

The team makes choices about the means to produce the deliverables. At the same time, the sponsor is making decisions in response to an ever-changing environment. This makes a shared and detailed sense of the overall plan a critical element for success.

The plan acts as a “framework for making decisions.” To make informed decisions, the team needs to understand the context of the project, the sponsor needs to understand how the solution works. “The point of a plan is to build a bridge made up of the how and why.”

About the Plan

Leaderfoot stepping stones tabletThe article also presents many key aspects of a project plan:

  • The most counter-intuitive notion of a plan is that the presence of a plan means you have the tools to change the plan, together as a team.” — Plans are not chiseled into stone and publishing them provides anchor points that avoid chaos, finger-pointing and accountability dodging.
  • The headline of a plan is a solution to a problem — A plan that gives the objective as a top-line business goal forgets the how. Setting the solution as the goal forgets the why. A plan’s headline needs two legs, the how and the why, to stand.
  • The plan is a team effort  — The best plans are the plans that have the best ideas from the most people and more people contributing is more people with a real commitment to the project.
  • Write down the plan – Slides are summary bullet points. The writing process helps you check the plan for completeness and consistency. It is as important as the contents of the plan.

Starting your plan with the how and why gives context for simpler, better decision-making. Including everyone in the preparation gets buy-in and improves the quality of the plan. Together they help create a plan that makes the execution, the monitoring, and the controlling of the project easier.

Anatomy of Trusted Project Manager

Question markDr. Ellen Weber‘s lessons from a positive experience with a contractor also applies to project managers. The post outlines five game-changers:

  1. Offer Reasonable Rates — Reasonable implies profitable for the vendor and affordable for the customer. The contractor in the story gathered the requirements, scoped the work, and talked about pricing. The contractor then went away to analyze the job before quoting the effort. This led to an on-budget delivery.
  2. Optimize Resources — Can you use customer documents to build your requirements document? Can you re-purpose an existing training program? Have you looked at what is already available?
  3. Inspire Collaboration — A project is a partnership with the sponsor. Discuss the work, give expert advice and listen. The sponsor is a member of the project team and your job is to deliver the solution to their problem.
  4. Project Vision — Future phases that complete a solution mean the first phase was incomplete. Future phases that take the solution to the next level are visionary.
  5. Build Trust — Earn trust by delivering on many factors: fairness, expertise, honesty … . Fail to deliver on anyone of the factors and trust is lost.

The story dissects and shows the benefits of delivering great service. Who needs advertising when the quality of your work earns you a case study on a widely read blog.

Eleven Behaviors of a Good Project Manager
Are You In Demand?

Classy Project Management

Classy Chassy5 Ways Project Managers Can Display Project Management Class from the blog gives project managers tools to lead successfully.

  1. Project Managers that Say “Thank You” — Appreciate the things others do for the project. Their work is helping you deliver the project. Thank them.
  2. Project Managers that Brag About Their People — Bragging about your team member’s contributions makes them want to keep their reputation for good work, and, seeing that contributions are recognized, makes others voluntarily more cooperative.
  3. Project Managers that Keep Their Cool — Stay calm when the going gets rough and objectively analyze the situation. Deliver a measured response.
  4. Project Managers that Take the Blame — It’s your project and you are its manager.
  5. Project Managers that Share The Credit — Team work, team credit.

A class act acts classy!

Eleven Behaviors of a Good Project Manager

Good MannersBrad Egeland gave his advice on how to react to feedback in two posts on the Project Management Tips site. A good project manager applies the suggestions in all situations.

From Reacting to Negative Feedback on Our Projects:

  1. Be truthful — A good reputation is essential for a project manager. Getting caught in a lie will give you a reputation for dishonesty along with a questioning of the integrity of your work.
  2. Deliver on your promises — Set expectations that you can deliver on. Creating unrealistic expectation means having to discuss unmet expectations later.
  3. Ask for clarification and confirm your understanding — Make sure you understand the other’s objectives. Efficiently achieving the objectives requires clarifying the objectives.
  4. Admit it — Admit mistakes.  Admit shortcomings.  Admit ignorance. Apologize and learn from the experience.
  5. Remain calm — Control your emotions and act rationally. Be a professional.
  6. Always accept the blame — As the project manager you are at least partly responsible for everything on the project. Accept the blame and work on resolving the problem.
  7. Correct misperceptions with tact — Telling someone they’re wrong will embarrass, and/or anger, and/or strengthen their resolve, and/or…
  8. Follow-up quickly — Identify the next actions, set due dates, monitor and regularly report on progress.

From Reacting to Positive Feedback on Our Projects:

  1. Listen carefully — Listen what they are saying and pick-up on what they are leaving unsaid.
  2. Share the praise — Team members will give unequal efforts. It’s still the whole team that delivered the project.
  3. Acknowledge accomplishments — To share the praise for a job done well, you have to recognize the achievement.

Eat Your Muffins Calmly

Muffin with melting butter“Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.” — Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

The Project Manager is the leader of the project team. When the leader overreacts, everyone on their team follows suit and it creates chaos and drama. When the leader is calm, the team works on their tasks. When the project members concentrate on their jobs, problems are solved.

Learn to stay calm and control your emotions. The title from The Tao of Project Management‘s post The Source of Your Ability underlines the importance of restraint in managing projects. Restraint is the source of power and excellence. A sign of leadership.

Are You In Demand?

VictoryUse how often customers ask for you to manage their projects to measure your success.

The Community Post “How do You Measure Your Success as a Project Manager?” on the PMI’s site looks at the definitions of successful project management. It is a digest of a conversation in the PMI Career Central group on LinkedIn and it looks beyond the classic triple constraint (Iron Triangle) of in scope, on time, and on budget.

Measuring success only by scope, time, and budget is ignoring a key measurement of true success — customer satisfaction. If your definition of success stops at the triple constraint, you risk upsetting the people who help you get more projects to succeed with. Riding roughshod over people to meet all the three constraints is a hollow victory. Match the importance you attach to the triple constraint to the customer’s attachment to scope, time, and budget.

Your definition of success is the goal you work towards and a happy customer who wants you back is great goal to have.

Stay Calm and Improve Your Reputation

Oslo BeachA big part of successful project management is the ability to stay to calm in the storm of activities and issues.

The relationship with the customer is one of the biggest sources of stress and conflict for a project manager. Dan the Project Manager Man tells the story of his adventure with an upset customer. He reminds us that just by staying calm and responding rationally, we can solve a problem.

A rash reaction makes problems bigger. A careful answer stops a situation from getting out of hand. It creates a setting to get to a solution and, sometimes, like in Dan the Project Manager Man’s Adventure, it solves the problem.

Composure during turbulence is a visible sign of a good a project manager. Stay calm during the storm and improve your reputation.