Thoughts - Think about your decisions, but not too long!

Don't get caught-up in over-analysis - Yes easier said than done!

Depend on your team to address the risks as they arise.  But continue to move forward and respect innovative discussions - those are the sources of the game changers.

Good reminder below....

We all sometimes sit on the fence tooooo long before we make a decision.

This does not mean to rush into things..... you need to have information at hand before you make a decision.  Validate the credibility of the information and understand the capability of the people that gave you the information.  Then check the info as soon as you act and adjust accordingly, refer to a popular lifecycle from  Deming if needed:

Plan - Do - Check - Act

Build the trust, bring your team into the justifications and logic around the decision since they will also need to be there to handle the risks and unknowns - that surely will be present once you start to act on the decisions.

Remember, businesses and technologies are changing every day/week/month and the globe is so interconnected that you can be impacted.  If you are afraid to act, firm up your risk management and change control process, often failure to act costs more in lost opportunities and integration/procurement costs (others are waiting and being impacted) - so take that into consideration.

Buckle up - the world will only get more interconnected. Be timely in your decisions.

Tools - Checklist for Project Kick off - focus on non PM roles

You are kicking off a project, majority of people on your team are not project managers, so ensure everyone is on the same page to get the work done.  We all need to understand what is a project framework – essentially – the platform from which we all stand upon and follow and work together to achieve objectives and deliverables.

Below is a basic checklist to help stakeholders not experienced in PM.  It helps identify areas that may need additional support to get up to speed and enhance their PM understanding - so we all are on the same page :-)  
  1. Do you understand how to link the project with business value-add
  2. Is it clear to separate between the project vs operations vs strategy
  3. Do you understand how the project fits into the “real work world” once it is done
  4. Do you understand the support systems to help manage priorities, accountabilities, risk, change & stress
  5. Is it clear how the team and company will initiate the project in a formalized, structured format that also follows globally accepted best practices
  6. Does everyone understand the project lifecycle and how you will flow through the project start to end (initiate, plan, execute, monitor, control and close a project
  7. Is the project plan broken down into clear knowledge areas (Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, HR, Communication, Risks, Integration, Procurement, Stakeholders, Safety, Claims, Environment, Financials, Records, Relations)
  8. Is it clear who the client is and how to manage that relationship
  9. Do you understand how to clarify priorities and then when there is conflict how to manage the trade-off decisions
  10. Do you have a system to help manage influencers (risks, assumptions, constraints, dependencies)
  11. Is there a system to help identify future solutions that are aligned with the business to further maximize value (future strategies, lessons learned)
  12. Is there a understanding of the learnings you will get from this project and how it will also align with your career path
  13. Is it easy, clear and prepared so you can leverage templates for the project
  14. Is it easy, clear and structured so you can understand how the work will follow/fit within a management system (overall way that the project will be started, delivered and ended)
  15. Do you know of other systems, templates, methodologies that you can also bring to the table to help this project have a higher probability of success (we are all part of the success factor and each project is unique)

Often we spend so much time training our PMs and ensuring they have all the tools, but don’t forget the other 99% of the team that also needs to understand project frameworks and methodologies. The trick is to find the balance as to what level of detail do they need to know.  Today we have flatter organizations and also stakeholders that want to be more empowered and take a more active role.  Checklists help narrow down the areas that can be addressed or enhanced asap.

PMTip - Is PM Training all the Same? What is Project Management?

When someone talks about continuous PM Training - often a Manager/Exec states the company does not need it, since they already did the PM training.

Often I hear PMs telling me, they took a PM training course, but then are not allowed any more.  They tend to hear " all PM training is the same, and especially when it leads to certification (e.g. PMP) and thus we don't need more of the same thing".

I fully agree to not duplicate things, but, wow, PM is so diverse, and every few years the profession has major advancements - since it is an enabler of business (which is constantly evolving). One thing for sure, you want success in business, you must be open to creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and the ability to evolve and continue to learn.

PM is an incredibly tough profession.  Mostly because everyone can rightfully say that we are all Project Managers and we all do Project Management. Thus we can also technically say we are already doing it so do not need training, or we already know so much we do not have time for more, or there is not enough value to take a class since it is too subjective (not enough immediate, tangible results).

Project Management is extremely diverse, unique, complex full of risk and varies greatly depending on the:

  • sponsor, 
  • project manager,
  • team, 
  • risk thresholds, 
  • stakeholders, 
  • culture of the organization, 
  • tools available,
  • clarity of success,
  • etc, etc, etc.

Thus the type of training, or education or coaching/mentoring and delivery approach can also have tremendous variances based on different instructors, methodologies, learning approaches, technologies, experiences, knowledge, tools, certifications, etc.

I like to think if you really wanted to get a few degrees to help master Project Management, in no order of importance, I recommend getting:  business, commerce, engineering, psychology, sociology, law, science, drama, physiology, computer science, statistics, math, education, HR, marketing, etc.

So how can we define Project Management then???
In its essence, PM is a structured approach on how to successfully deliver business. 
We must remember, business is fluid and there is no perfect answer as to how to do it (not like math or science).  We must always try to apply specific science around it (process and workflow and tools and templates) however one must be adaptable since each scenario will carry a level of uniqueness around it (so can be very different based on the situation) and has subjectivity since it will involve many human interactions and expectations.

Couple more points of interest, included below are definitions of Project Management from leading organizations:
  • PMI:  Application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.
  • ISO:  Note: now has a PM set of standards called ISO 21500:2012, best definition I found was:  Application of methods, tools, techniques and competences to a project, includes the integration of the project life cycle accomplished through processes.
  • Prince 2 Definition: Planning, monitoring and control of all aspects of a project and the motivation of all those involved in it to achieve the project objectives on time and to the specified cost, quality and performance.
  • Wikipedia: The discipline of carefully projecting or planning, organizing, motivating and controlling resources to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria.
  • Merriam-Websters Dictionary:  believe it or not, this dictionary does not have the word project management defined
So when you get a chance, take training from multiple instructors, multiple associations, multiple methodologies, and store all those tools and techniques in your toolbox, you can never have enough for your next project - and keep the learning going  :-)

Thoughts - Project Design Perspectives (solution focus vs requlatory focus)

Just attended Weftec (worlds largest Wastewater Conference, over 20,000 people).

Is amazing when you discuss project solutions and ask for diverse perspectives from multiple areas of expertise.

When I discussed wastewater (sewage) projects, the majority of the time people that worked the booths (vendors) raced to the technical side of things.  They would ask what do the regulators require, and that their solution will meet or better those parameters of treatment.

I am an Agrologist with a huge passion about water.  I look at it very differently; asking what can we do with the clean water after it is treated, identify concepts/options, then work backwards from that to a category of treatment, then continue to go from there (e.g. MBR, SBR, MMBR).

The regulatory guidelines must be met, however, they should not drive the project objectives. They can be seen more as deliverables.

The End-Users (people that pay and receive the value) generally want an integrated solution - water is complicated so solutions must be understood at all stages of planning.

Often regulations, permits and the technology recommended is based on traditional, legacy ways of doing things - this gives us comfort.  People that bring new perspectives are seen as dangerous, or naive.

However, the legacy approach (recommend what has been done 100 times before) is not meeting standards of "up and coming communities" that are growing and also have educated, active, involved, progressive Mayors, Councilors and Citizens.

Often when talking with the end-users (town officials looking for solutions) they wanted to discuss the entire treatment cycle with a focus on the water.  They did not have a focus on regulations since many thought that Canada is lagging in that area when compared to rest of the world.

I was quite surprised at this, our culture can change quickly so be adaptable on how you manage your project planning.

Once again, if you were designing a sewage plant, imagine how different the approach becomes and who is involved in the planning if you looked at these two perspectives:
A) - mechanical design of the sewage technology that meets existing government regulations (Mechanical/technical perspective)
B) - solution design starting with understanding what can you do with the clean water once it is treated, then work backwards from there, involve the right people first, then get to the details second (Agrologist/water/soil/holistic perspective)

On your project, don't be afraid to involve people that are not normally involved in your project planning.

Work backwards and identify if their expertise can play a major role to give you new perspectives, then involve them more and focus on objectives before the deliverables.

Come up with solutions that help the end-user, not just systems that are driven by regulation. Diverse opinions drive innovation, both mechanical and Agrologist perspectives are needed but be patient and get feedback from each, and ensure you know when to involve them within the project planning lifecyle and steer the feedback in accordance with the objectives.