Category: Project management

Should you manage project risk?

July 20th, 2009

Amazingly, doing nothing is an acceptable response in some cases….

Recently, I was quoted in Projects@Work in an article titled, “A Guy Named Murphy” about whether you should manage risk in a project: “I’ve led project teams, it is common to have unexpected events and challenges arise. But once you have established an effective project team and defined a critical path, stop risk mitigation activity, as it will be a waste of time and resources.”

Of course, we do not leave the reader hanging on “what to do”. In my experience in working with many project teams across different industries, sized companies, etc, it all boils down to the following: “First, it starts with the people. Immediately bring the project team together to understand the situation in order to brainstorm and develop plans. Then, I advise reviewing the project schedule. “Will the unexpected circumstances affect the critical path?” If not, rework a solution and remain steadfastly focused on the critical path. If yes, utilize the team to brainstorm and develop alternative critical path options.” Finally I believe it is critical to ensure that the communication channels are in place so that everyone knows what’s going on, “Ensure the critical changes to the project plans are communicated with clear next steps, project milestones and with accountabilities assigned. The only time it is too soon to communicate to the organization or relevant sponsors is before the project team is in the loop.”

Read the entire article here

The bottom line to project management…

June 5th, 2009

RIGOROUS FOLLOW-UP. Although there are other ingredients, the absolute best projects will fail without rigorous follow-up. And, conversely, so-so projects can become wild successes with rigorous follow-up.

Projects are commonplace. Throughout my career, I’ve participated in projects, performed tasks for projects and led projects. In working across multilpe industries, companies ranging in size from a 1-2 person shop to Coca-Cola Enterprises, and across borders, I estimate that 70-80% of employees participate in a project in one way or another. Therefore, it is rather critical to ensure a worthwhile return on investment on projects – after all, by virtue of the time spent, there is already a significant investment……the only question is the return.

Typically the potential for the return is viable or the project wouldn’t be considered, as few companies have people with extra time on their hands to work on known, non-value add projects. Therefore, the key is execution. And one if not the largest compoment to successful execution is rigorous follow-up.

Why? In my experience, management is often times disappointed in the results of projects, as they continually move out, other priorities arise, people lose focus, etc. One way to combat these issues is through rigorous follow-up – essentially, focus alone resolves the plethora of issues. For an example of the benefits that can be achieved through rigorous follow-up, here is a case study illustrating the situation, results & how it was accomplished:

Who Has Time for Projects?

May 31st, 2009

Typically no one; however, it is critical to make the time. In our current, turbulent economic times, it is all the more essential to prioritize your activities and focus on key projects. I hear the comments all the time – we reduced staff and don’t have the time, we are struggling to get our normal jobs done and don’t have the time for extra work, etc. So, why is it so important? Many times, the quickest path to increasing productivity, profitability and cash flow is to get the right group of people together to focus on a priority activity that will directly relate to driving profit to the bottom line.

For example, throughout my career, greater than 80% of the most successful activities that directly impacted business performance were the direct result of a project. At first, I thought it was surprising that I haven’t seen more examples of solely individual successes (including my own) that impacted the bottom line. I believe this demonstrates the value of a team effort towards a common purpose – and typically delivering bottom line business results involves multiple functions, partners (suppliers, customers etc), etc. Thus, think about reprioritizing your activities and/or learning more about project management – what is most impactful to your organization and for your career path?

Why Does 2 + 2 = 7?

May 27th, 2009

From a relationship, alliance and marketing perspective, 2 + 2 = 7 or you shouldn’t pursue it! What in the world am I talking about?

We can waste an incredible amount of time working on marketing ideas and business partnerships and alliances where 2 + 2 = 4. Why bother? If you aren’t going to significantly better your results, why invest time, resources and potentially money into something that is likely to turn out as a negative return on investment when everything is considered? For example, I pursued a potential business alliance that would be the equivalent of each of us contributing the effort of $1 in order to make $2. What’s worse is that I also spent considerable time and wasted energy in the process. With that said, there are times when I still deliberately follow this course if I’m not sure whether it could turn into $7. OR if I am getting enjoyment or some other benefit from the process – money is definitely not all that matters.

On the other hand, I’ve recently had several examples of 2 + 2 = 7. I’m extremely glad I took the opportunity to pursue those alliances/ marketing ideas, as they delivered! I spent much of the Memorial Day weekend working on website updates, and if it wasn’t for the valuable input/ feedback of a relatively new friend and business alliance partner, Andrea, I could easily have spent twice as much time to achieve half the results. Another example relates to a friend from my most recent consulting project, K: we have kept in touch, and I’ve driven 3-4hrs round trip (in bad traffic) on multiple occasions to have lunch and keep in touch. One might wonder if I was off my rocker in terms of time management – and I think some did; however, my friendship and business association has definitely turned 2 + 2 = 7. She is not only a valued friend but she has also helped me overcome what seemed like insurmountable obstacles (isn’t it funny how they usually seem that way at the time?) on numerous occasions. I have not typically been known for pure creativity (re-application in new ways, seeing trends and hidden opportunities I can do, but I’ve typically left pure creativity to the experts). Therefore, I panicked when I had to develop a new graphic for my first case study – had no idea in the world where to start. I might as well have been trying to write in Russian. So, I called my friend and asked for help – of course, she not only helped me think through the process but also had a key benefit to add to another section of the case study that I had overlooked. Since leaping over the first hurdle, I suddenly had the ability to develop the next set of graphics on my own. I could give you at least a 1000 examples….

Have you considered re-thinking how to create an environment where 2 + 2 = 7 for you or your business?

Why Does Persistence Matter?

April 9th, 2009

Perhaps I should be concerned, as I’ve been compared to several different animals as symbols of persistence.   For example, earlier in my career, I won a service award largely related to my persistence, and the award was a solid glass bear  – why animals seem to be a symbol of persistence, I’m not sure.  Maybe we can learn something from them…  After all, my consulting mentor constantly says that we can learn something from dogs in that they do not have a bad self esteem after a failure (for example, not receiving the desired treat); instead they consider every opportunity to try again.  If you take a step back and think about that, it is quite interesting…..if we didn’t know / realize we had “failed”, would we try again, and end up far more successful?

© Lisa Anderson 2009. All rights reserved.