Monday, September 10, 2007

Sept 10, 2007 – Project Management Warnings Part 2

Last week we established that project management should come with big yellow caution signs. The work place is a dangerous road trip and we need to look out for each other. Here is another batch of signs to keep us moving in the right direction.

  • Toxic Fumes. Status reports can be deadly if inhaled carelessly. First, never take at face value your team members’ status reports. You should expect a written report but it should be the opening statement in a conversation, not the sum total. Dig in and find out what they aren’t telling you. Second, get rid of the percentages unless you have metrics to back them up. How many tasks are currently 90% done on your project? How many weeks have they been “almost finished?” Instead, ask for specific completion dates and number of hours remaining. Finally, make sure your project status report is a fair and truthful representation of the current situation.
  • Maximum pressure 40 hpw. As I was getting out of my car Friday night I heard a hissing sound. I watched helplessly as my front tire slowly exhaled the last of its air. It no longer had a problem with too much pressure. Keep an eye on your team members, though, to make sure the pressure won’t leave them flat. Don’t set them up for failure by over allocating them. Forty hours per week should be the norm, not the exception. If overtime is necessary, keep it is in short durations at a time and ensure they are compensated accordingly. Grant compensation time for weekend implementations.
  • Dry clean only. Some of your cloths need special treatment. So do your resources. If you treat them right your team won’t wrinkle, shrink or fade. In general, people like to work where they are productive, provided for and appreciated. They like to be listened to and taken seriously. Take the time to understand how they prefer to be appreciated. Some want public recognition while others prefer quiet thanks.
  • Door must remain unlocked. Restaurants and stores sport this signs on side doors. The obvious reason is for easy exit in case of a fire or other disaster. There are 2 reasons to keep your door open and unlocked at work. The first is to allow your team to approach you at any time. An open door policy helps develop a connection with the team, both personally and job related. The second reason is to avoid misconduct or even the appearance of it. If you are meeting with an individual of the opposite gender, keep it visible. At the least you will avoid gossip and, at the worst, a harassment charge.
  • Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. At the beginning of a project everything appears achievable. You look out across the huge gap of time… 6 months… and think it is an eternity. In reality the end of the project is a lot closer than you think. One project I specked out was only 10 weeks in duration. It hardly seemed to start when we were in testing with only 2 weeks until implementation. Before you commit to a timeline, sketch it out with a realistic project schedule and review it with your team.

Unfortunately, potential problems with your project don’t come with warning labels. Perhaps these few reminders will help keep you on your toes without stepping in anything.

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