Winning Project Management Practices



Three best practices: Ensuring Good Front-End Planning; Adopting a Risk Management approach; and Tailoring standard procedures to the unique needs of the project


published by Rutencja Cengu

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Alan Lakein

Be Prepared! Boy Scout

I was lecturing in Denver this weekend on Six Sigma Project Management. The main question during Q&A section was:

Can you share your project management lessons learned?

I decided to do some project management soul searching. While I jotted down my lessons learned, three of them stood out, due to the approach that Project Manager’s work should focus on preventing problems and handle frequent change requests due to the complex nature of the projects:

(1) Good Front-End Planning
(2) Adopt a Risk Management approach to Project Management
(3) Tailor Standard Procedures to the unique needs of the project

Good Front-End Planning contributes to Project Success

Let’s look at the influence curve to see why good front-end planning is worth the effort!
Influence Curve

From the figure above we see that it is easier to plan upfront and make changes during planning than it is to make changes later in the project. The result of solid planning is a project team that is more informed and prepared to carry out the work required to meet the project’s goals. The planning processes make up 51% of all the processes defined in PMBOK 5-th edition:
Planning

Adopt a Risk Management approach to project management

Risk Management can help you to stay in control of your project. It’s never too early to start thinking about what can happen on your project. The time to start discussing risks is when your project is conceived. For example, the project charter has a section for high level risks. We do Risk Management to minimize the impact of threats and maximize the impact of opportunities. Planning for risks begins with Murphy’s Law – if anything can go wrong, it will.

The first step to success is to create a culture of Risk Management.

Risk management is a culture, not a cult. It only works if everyone lives it, not if it’s practiced by a few high priests. Tom Wilson

The second step to success is to create and follow a Risk Management process and equip the company with Risk Management toolkit. In this blog I will make use of the PMI’s Risk Management Process, which is defined as follow:

      Plan Risk Management
      Identify Risks
      Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis
      Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis
      Plan Risk Responses
      Control Risks

The table below lists some basic tools and techniques to be used during Risk Management Process:

Risk Identification
Qualitative Risk Analysis Quantitative Risk Analysis
Brainstorming Probability-Impact Matrices Monte-Carlo Analysis
Checklists Root Cause Analysis Sensitivity Analysis
SWOT Analysis Trend Analysis FMEA
Lessons Learned Pareto Prioritization Decision Trees

Tailoring standard procedures to the unique needs of the project

My thoughts on tailoring agree with NASA’s revised Program and Project Management handbook. Company procedures are developed to assist the project managers in achieving project success by establishing requirements and best practices. It is not possible to generate the proper requirements and guidelines for every possible scenario. Project managers and their teams need to use good common sense when developing their plans, processes, and tools so that they can be effective, efficient, and successful with acceptable risk.

Summary

Project Manager’s work should focus on preventing problems and handling frequent change requests due to the complex nature of the projects by:

(1) Ensuring Good Front-End Planning
(2) Adopting a Risk Management approach to Project Management
(3) Tailoring Standard Procedures to the unique needs of the project

I wanted to close out by adding few other best practices to the three project management best practices discussed in this blog:

  • Staff the project team with experienced, available, interested, & committed people
  • If collocating team members is not possible, ensure strong communications and team building tools so your virtual team really bonds with one another and with the project
  • Always keep in mind Customer Satisfaction by being in conformance to requirements and meeting a real need for customers (fitness for use).

    Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. Donald Porter

  • Set up a system that allows the ability to drill down to details. For example, when facing Vendor Performance issues, having a system in place that allows you to drill down to details will be a very beneficial tool
  • Report good news and bad news timely and in context
  • Deliver Solutions and Suggestions when reporting problems

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