Archive for August, 2015

Being Nimble

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Of course strategy gets accomplished in many ways, not just via projects. Although . . . in this increasingly fragmented and yet networked world, I do wonder sometimes if most organisations can be seen as a set of projects, rather than functions with the occasional project overlaying the traditional departments of HR, Finance, Marketing, etc.

Everyone writes about being nimble these days, about living in a non-hierarchical world. Career paths are being adjusted so people can go deeper into their technical areas and not “have” to become a manager, for example. (Expertise getting deeper and narrower is another pet topic.)

Margaret Wheatley says in “Leadership and the New Science” that in this “dramatic and turbulent world [that] makes a mockery of our plans and predictions. . . . [it is] relationships not individuals [that] are our building blocks of life” (p.170) So, conversations and participation are more highly regarded now than individualism, and it is through effective teams that the full range of expertise that most projects demand, can be tapped.

Different expertise is required at different phases of a project, and there are different types of experts within each of the broad titles we assign ourselves.  Many projects could probably benefit from a change in Project Manager from one major phase to another; someone with expertise relevant to that phase, or someone more comfortable with managing a plan than developing one, for example.

It’s not only the assembly of a team that requires us to be nimble, and flexible; it’s in the design of the project outcomes that we have to be very open to change, especially as the organisation’s strategy changes.  We must try to fit our project’s objectives into the overall corporate objectives in play at the beginning of the project, and then keep that tie inextricable, so that as priorities change, our project adjusts to meet those.

Beginnings and Flexibility

Friday, August 21st, 2015

The beginning of a project can put railroad tracks to success in place. It’s the time to be vigorous and get the direction right.

Seth Godin, in Linchpin, talks about frank beginnings this way. “Get scared early, not late. Be brave early, not late. Thrash now, not later. It’s too expensive to thrash later.” (p. 106) Thrashing is a necessary brainstorming and tweaking we all want to encourage, but, as he puts it, “Professional creators thrash early. The closer the project gets to completion, the fewer people see it and the fewer changes are permitted.”

If we can think about technical and cultural readiness as an interconnected web, we can get every part of that web ready for our project’s results to land into, and this, I think is what all change management efforts are trying to do. Instead of pinning change management tasks onto one specialist on the team, often timed for later in a project, how could that orientation be in place from the beginning; and how could users be involved from the beginning?

Maybe our clients’ key people, in key roles, that will help sustain the project’s results into the future, is part of it. Or maybe we have to be more aware of ‘nearby’ projects with related scope, so we can “thrash out” more precisely our project’s realm and expected results.

Certainly we have to strive for very robust completion definitions – the ‘how will we know we are done’ question needs a crystalized, soundbite-like answer that everyone can keep top of mind. The earlier in a project that we facilitate all the interested parties through to a clear completion definition, the better.

Here’s a project charter template we’ve developed as a starting point – everyone ends up customizing it in their own way, but I like the writing in blue in here, the ideas for content and comments about what each section is really for. I use another version of the content here as a checklist for any project I get involved in (no matter how far along the project is when I join). The table of contents makes for a good kick-off meeting agenda, as well.

Project Charter  – a Template in MSWord