Personal Energy Audit: 5 Emotional Factors

If you want to improve your time management and productivity, start by boosting your energy levels. The healthier your energy levels are, the more you will get from your time. In this post, I’m going to introduce the first part of a personal energy audit, looking at five areas that can impact the emotional side of your energy. The second part of the audit examines physical factors such as diet and sleep.   Emotional Factor No. 1: Career and Work Choices  Are you happy with the career and work choices that you have made? Some people say to me, ‘Eamonn, work is not that important.’ I am afraid that I cannot agree. You work from pretty much nine am to five or six pm each day, and many of us probably longer. You do this from Monday to Friday and possibly weekends. You do this for roughly forty-eight weeks of the year. Some people sadly more.  You are giving the best hours, the best days, the best weeks and the best years of your life to work. You have no better time to give. It is madness not to be happy at work.  If this is the situation you are…

Get a Fast Start to Your Project – Track the Essentials

In this blog post, I will explore how you can track projects before you start fully managing them! And this ironically will help you manage them! “The secret of getting ahead is getting started” ~ Mark Twain Why Only Project Tracking? Why would we resort to, or maybe start with, merely tracking projects as distinct from fully managing projects? Well, there are at least two reasons: The project might be quite small or perhaps it’s a project that you find very easy to deliver as you have done it many times before. In these scenarios, it doesn’t make sense to deploy a very large amount of project management. You and the team may not be ready to deploy a large amount of project management. This can be the case even when the project deserves and needs lots of project management. Could be a lack of experience, a lack of time, a lack of budget, but in any event the team is just not ready for large amounts of project management.   In both of these cases, it seems wise to start with project tracking and do that well. A Project Management Spectrum Here is a very simple project management spectrum. In…

REP: 3 Steps to Successful Collaborative Project Management

 “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo   As you start a new month and a new quarter, it’s a good time to think about your goals and any changes you would like to make, both professional and personal. Is there a new skill you would like to learn, or a habit you wish to form? Is there an element of your collaborative project management approach that needs some attention? Perhaps you already know what you need to work on but don’t know where to start? Quite often, people struggle to make long-lasting, meaningful change. At BrightWork, we have crafted the “REP” approach to personal change management. REP stands for Research, Execute and Post-Mortem. REP is a play on the word ‘repetition’ and is a very simple but effective personal change management process. Effective project management involves more than developing and following a plan; you must invest in your leadership skills and personal development. REP is the key to this challenge.     Research Phase The purpose of the research phase is to gather new knowledge…

Situational Leadership: 3 Easy Ways to Adapt Your Approach

The journey to successful collaborative project leadership has so far included key leadership strategies for project managers and suggestions for positive team dynamics. Another important leadership technique is adapting to the current situation. There are several factors to help you understand the situation and decide what type of leadership is needed. Let’s look at four possible spectrums and three approaches to managing these situations. Four Situational Leadership Spectrums Capability Spectrum: Sometimes you will find the team members capable, competent, and able to do the job at hand. Other times, they are not capable or trained for the tasks ahead. Willingness Spectrum: There will be days when you will find team members energetic, enthusiastic and very willing. These are often followed by lazy, lethargic, and unproductive days. Time Pressure Spectrum: Project tasks are usually high priority or flexible. Environment Spectrum: Some projects live is a very stable and well-regulated environment whilst others occupy a manic, high growth, unstable environment, sometimes reaching crisis point.     Think of the spectrum as moving from positive behaviors on the right to negative behaviors on the left. Your goal is to move team members from the less desirable behaviors to positive outcomes, for example, training…

Boost Team Engagement in 3 Steps

An important step towards project leadership is team management. The importance of leading and supporting your team becomes even clearer when we consider recent studies and surveys showing that large percentages of the workforce are not properly engaged with their company. If you are interested in these surveys, a good place to start your research is at www.gallup.com. This lack of employee engagement is a sad reality. I really believe that the vast majority of people would prefer to be fully engaged and enjoy work. We spend so much time at work – who wouldn’t want to be happier and more engaged at work? Here are three ways to engage and lead your project team.*   1. Decide on a Team Model The selected model should be consistent with collaborative project management. There are many options to consider depending on your organizational structure and the project. One approach is the formation of project teams within or between departments as needed. Each project has a designated leader. At some point, individuals will lead projects and serve as team members on other projects.   2. Build Team Dynamics – the 4 Cs Create positive team dynamics using the 4 Cs: Collegiate /…

15 Ways to Cultivate Your Project Leadership Style

If you are a new Project Manager, you really should think about leadership. It is very important to have a set of process steps to deliver successful project management. They will be your map for collaborative project management, without which you will get lost, your project may fail, and your project team will be disappointed in you. But even if you know how to navigate the project management terrain very well, you will need to do so with a leadership style that works for you and also works for collaborative project management. And if you are getting your stripes for the first time, this may be difficult for you. In this article, I will introduce 15 ideas to ways to cultivate your leadership style. In a follow-up article, I will outline elements relating to the team. Project Leadership Practices* Good leadership is a choice you make. Great leaders are not born thus. Great leaders make the necessary investments. Taking responsibility to lead yourself to a better place one day at a time will help you become a strong leader for others. Are you in that good place already or are you prepared to make the commitment to get there? If…

9 Strategies for a Healthier Attitude

I previously introduced the importance of having a healthy, positive attitude in both personal and professional matters. The next logical question becomes – how do you sharpen and nurture your attitude? Here are nine strategies to consider.     1. Find Your Motivation It is typically hard to make a change of any significance without some motivation. The bigger the change desired, the larger the motivation required. Can you think of any reasons that you wish to change your attitude? Find your motivation. Ask yourself, “what is my why?” Do you want to be happier? Perhaps you wish to be healthier? Or you would like to be more helpful to others (e.g. family, friends, work colleagues, etc.)? Might it be that you believe that you are not yet reaching your full potential? As you remember these answers, keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you get to the root reason, the real why. What is it that you really want and why is this? A true motivation will help trigger an attitude change. This motivation can be the foundation from which you start to sharpen your attitude.    2. Have a Life Purpose If you dig deep enough and search long enough you…

Sharpen Your Attitude to Life

On your project and in life, you have the cards you have for now. Maybe you dealt the cards to yourself or maybe someone else dealt them. What matters now is how you deal with the hand of cards you have. In this regard, your attitude really matters. On a project, as in life, we do not know for sure what is coming next. It is best if we ourselves and the people around us have a healthy attitude so we are able to deal with and navigate the natural ups and downs. If you wish to be a leader on a collaborative project – whether you are the project manager or not – it is important to exhibit a healthy attitude. A healthy attitude is not something that we easily attain. For most of us mere mortals, attitude is something we have to grow and sharpen from time to time, but this is very doable. Read on to learn more about the role of biology in attitudes and for some practical strategies to develop a positive, healthy attitude to life.   Take Your Own Drugs Recent scientific studies have advanced our understanding of the physiology of the brain and…

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Effective Project Management

To be an effective leader, you need to first know yourself and be self-aware. Applying models such as the Enneagram to leadership can radically improve management, collaboration and communication, the tools for successful project management. I am going to introduce a second popular personality model, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI), to inform your exploration of personality types. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) The MBTI was developed by mother and daughter, Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers, in the 1940s and 50s, extending Carl Jung’s theory of psychological type from the 1920s. Jung gave us Extrovert or Introvert, Sensing or iNtuition and Thinking or Feeling. The MBTI extends Jung’s work by helping us to see patterns in how we prefer to use our perception and judgement. Perception is how we come to knowledge, whereas judgement is how we come to conclusions. Since we all differ in how we perceive and judge, we differ in how we relate to the world around us. The MBTI mirror or instrument views personality through four lenses as follows: Extrovert or Introvert – Do you relate more to the external or internal world? Sensing or iNtuition – How do you prefer to take in or perceive information? Thinking…

What Is The Best Personality Type For Project Managers?

I recently introduced the nine Enneagram personality types and their impact on leadership styles. It is worth spending some time reading and considering the nine types before deciding which best describes you. Understanding your strengths and traps, or healthy and unhealthy behaviors, can positively affect your management and communication style. It is also worth remembering that self-awareness is key to emotional intelligence, an increasingly valuable skill for collaborative project management.   Find Your Enneagram Type You are very likely finding yourself in many of the nine personality types. To help you a little bit on this quest, your type goes to the root cause of why do you do what you do. I might appear extremely helpful to others and perhaps this is because I am a two (the helper/giver). Or maybe it is because I am being paid to be helpful and I want to be successful, so I am acting as a three (the achiever/motivator). I might spend hours cutting the trees in my front yard to a perfect height because I am a one (the perfectionist/reformer). Or, perhaps I do this because today it appeals to my artistic side (the romantic / individualist). Picking your personality type…

The Role of Personality Types in Project Leadership [Infographic]

You have a personality and there is no getting away from it! Who you are and how you are wired naturally affects how you lead and manage. Your personality, therefore, influences your project success rate, sometimes for good and sometimes not. At a very minimum, personality influences your communication style. Your team can definitely see your personality. Shouldn’t you also be able to see your personality?! There are a number of different models or ‘mirrors’ you can use to get to know the real you. I am going to introduce one such mirror – the Enneagram – as a starting point. Enneagram – a Number Ennea is the Greek for nine and gramma is a sign. The Enneagram charts nine personality types, as depicted here.     Enneagram – More than a Number I can hear you say already: there are seven billion people in the world and only nine types, no way! And if the nine types were very rigid, then you would, of course, be right. It is important to stress that which we all know: no two people in the world are exactly the same, yet there are recurring patterns. In Enneagram terms, you are a number…

Decision Making and Personality Traits

Personality traits play a much bigger role in decision making than you may think. Some people are, by their very nature, indecisive. They find it quite difficult to make most decisions. I often find these people very loyal to the decision when they do make it. I am sure you know people like this. Other people make decisions way too quickly without considering all the consequences. These people are more impulsive. How you primarily react to the world will affect your decision making process; this also makes your decision making process unique. There are many ways to describe how we react to the world, but one simple way is to say that we react from the head, heart or gut. Your personality will determine whether you approach decisions in a rational or emotional manner.     Is one of the above more naturally prevalent than the other in how you react to the world? If so, be aware of this when making decisions. A good decision is made with the balance of the three head, heart and gut or when the three are eventually in balance, as described in the holistic decision-making approach. Hard decisions are just hard. There is…

Sharpen Your Decision Making in 5 Steps [Infographic]

I recently wrote about the importance of decision making to collaborative project management. Using a process will allow you to make decisions more effectively. I suggest a  five-step approach as follows: Remember the Privilege of Choice Frame the Decision Start with Indifference Continue with a Head/Logical Decision Confirm with a Heart Decision.   The essence of this approach is presented as an infographic with more information on each step below.     1. Remember the Privilege of Choice We can sometimes feel burdened by pending decisions and this is understandable. However, many times the decisions represent choices between options that all improve the situation. In these cases, it is important to cut ourselves some slack and enjoy the decision making process. Remember that in many situations, we are electing which path to follow – it is our choice. In decision making, try to enjoy the freedom of choice and free will that we have. 2. Frame the Decision Name and frame the reason for the decision. Remember that some items are not really up for decision, so be careful not to bring every matter though a decision making process. For example, you are behind on the project and you would like to…

Making Decisions – A Collaborative Approach

“Most high officials leave office with the perceptions and insights with which they entered; they learn how to make decisions but not what decisions to make.” – Henry A. Kissinger (Secretary of State, USA, from Sept. 1973 to Jan. 1977) I believe that Henry Kissinger has it right. We really only learn to make decisions once we start management. When I think back on my own management training, decision making was not a topic we studied very formally. However, on reflection, making good decisions is a key part of Project Management and making transparent decisions with the team is a critical part of Collaborative Project Management. Your approach to decision making impacts upon projects in two key ways: Project Decisions: Every decision you make as a project manager helps or hinders the project. Each decision can make the project shorter or longer, less or more expensive, simpler or more complex. Each decision can improve or disimprove team morale, making the team feel better or worse about their participation on the project Personal Decisions: Every non-project decision you make affects your mood, your disposition, and ultimately, your leadership. If you are happy as a person, then this will come across to…

Brainstorm Your Way to Project Success [Infographic]

Problems occur on all projects. Creative solutions are always needed to deliver on some of the project requirements. The team generally has or can come up with the solutions. You just need to give them the time and space. There are many ways to run the brainstorm style of meeting. We often use the “ABCD” method at BrightWork as illustrated in the below infographic.        Once your team becomes familiar with this template, you can use a shorter version of the “ABCD” agenda.    Option 1:  Ask questions; Agree the Aim  Blue-sky Brainstorm  Critique with Conflict  Discuss and Decide.    Option 2:   Aim  Brainstorm  Critique  Decide.    This article is an excerpt from the next edition of “Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook”. We would love your thoughts and feedback on this article and the handbook.  Leave a comment below or email cpm@brightwork.com.

Run a Successful Team Meeting

Running a successful meeting that energizes and informs your team does not happen by accident! Take a look at how you currently organize meetings and consider the question – “do you and your team need better management of meetings?” If the answer is yes, try at our sample agenda for your next meeting. Review and agree the agenda with the team Review, discuss and resolve – in so far as possible- any open issues. Be careful that the issues are “real issues” Look at upcoming tasks for next week Project process and approach – any adjustments needed? (Time Permitting) Look at tasks achieved last week, or at least, the highlight tasks from last week AOB Summarize the meeting outcomes.   These suggestions explain the agenda further. 1.Review and agree agenda with the team This brings the team to the same page as you start the meeting. Remember that the team are likely working on different tasks and on different projects, so this alignment can be helpful and necessary.   2. Review, discuss and resolve any open issues I like to get the problems out of the way at the start of the meeting when energy levels are high. As the project…

Get More Results from Your Project Sponsor Meetings

Keeping your project sponsor informed about the progress of the project is incredibly important to the overall success of the work. After all, your project sponsor is likely the project customer, and has control over budgets and resources! Meetings are a great way to update the sponsor and get their feedback on any issues or upcoming decisions. Very good sponsors are really busy so you need to plan ahead to get more results from your meetings.   Here is a sample agenda that you can use for your next Project Sponsor meeting: Review and agree the agenda Update on progress and agreed goals Review, discuss and resolve any open risks, issues or change requests Review pending decisions Other feedback AOB (Any Other Business) Summarize the meeting outcomes.   Try these tips to make the most of this agenda outline.   1. Review and agree the agenda The sponsor might not be thinking about your project as you meet so it is a good idea to get an alignment as you start the meeting.  Agree the desired meeting outcome. Explain to the sponsor what it is you wish to achieve and ask what they want to get from the meeting.   2.…

9 Strategies for More Productive Meetings

Think about your most recent meeting. Did you and your project team feel energized or drained afterward? There are so many factors that can lead to unsuccessful meetings. In our DAFT template, I outlined four steps for meetings that connect, involve and inform your team. If you and your team are ready to evolve your meeting practices, try our nine strategies for more productive meetings. I recommend picking one or two suggestions to start with, gradually integrating the other practices over time. This will allow your team to test the new processes before deciding what really works. 1: “We will review each meeting as it ends to see if it was a good meeting or not.” As the meeting ends, ask, “are we more energized than before the meeting?”. If the answer is no, ask the team how to improve the next meeting. Bear in mind that with a collaborative project team, you will have many opinions. Some of the inputs may well be contradictory. That is the strength of a good team – many diverse inputs. Listen to the input of your team and decide what to accept. Implement these ideas at your next meeting for more feedback and…

Get DAFT for Better Meetings

“A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.”      James T. Kirk (William Shatner’s character from Star Trek) Although this quote is not likely from the original TV series Star Trek, the sentiment is very true for many of us. Meetings – so often such a waste of time! Good meetings are essential to collaborative project management. Poor meetings are detrimental to project harmony and project success. Be intentional about how you facilitate meetings and do not take positive outcomes for granted. A good meeting should energise the team, making them feel connected, involved and informed. Productive meetings are essential to making informed decisions, which in turn, keeps your project on track. Consider of the cost of a poor meeting. Four people in a meeting for one hour is pretty close to one working day when preparation time and follow-up are included. Ineffective meetings often lead to poor decisions, which carry the cost beyond the meeting itself.     Have a DAFT Meeting Think about your last meeting. Did you and your team feel more energized and positive afterwards? If you want to improve your meetings, try these three techniques: Desired Outcome, Agenda Facilitator and Take Aways…

6 Collaborative Project Management Challenges

An increasing number of organizations are turning to collaborative project management to secure project success.  Changes in the business environment and workforce now mean that project teams are moving away from traditional rigid processes to engaging the talents and energy of the group. However, collaborative project management brings its own challenges. We have identified six areas that new project managers should be aware of. Challenge 1: More initiatives than ever are now delivered, or designed to be delivered, as collaborative projects across different offices, countries and companies in organizations around the world. Challenge 2: Project teams are staffed with intelligent team members from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines who expect to be involved in the decision making of a project. They are no longer interested in the old ‘command and control’ type of projects where they were allocated tasks, did them, and didn’t think as much about them or their greater success and impact on the project. Challenge 3: Many project teams are using a project site and / or shared directories, or both! Often, these sites are populated with just some, but not all of the project information. Ideally, the project site should have all of the…

Get the Project Approved, Sponsored and Resourced

You are ready to start a new project – what’s next? You should formally initiate the project so you know what you’re getting into as a project manager before you officially start. This step will help to secure approval and resources for the project, and ideally enlist the support of someone to sponsor the project for you.   Why do you need a project sponsor? The sponsor will ultimately decide if the project is going to go ahead or will bring you in front of the people that can make that determination. The sponsor should also be able to free or allocate the people you need to work on the project and free up any other resources such as budget. During the process, you’ve also started to work and collaborate with your project sponsor through this approval and resourcing set of steps. This is a very important relationship for you to have. From time to time, you will need this air cover. How do you secure project sponsorship? It’s very likely that you will at least need a meeting with the project sponsor. It’s also possible that the sponsor will request a written project proposal, a project charter or a…

7 Common Distractions to Avoid

Do you ever find it difficult to focus? Distractions just keep cropping up and you allow your focus to shift? This can be a major time drain and a hindrance to goal achievement. In order to be successful, you need to set a specific schedule and keep to it as best you can. We are going to walk you through seven of the most common traps that completely trip up and distract you from a productive schedule, and we are going to give you seven tips to minimize these distractions.   Distractions Trap No. 1: I Am So Connected Trap: I know it sounds like a blessing that you are always connected via email, social media, text messages, mobile phones but it is also a trap because you can get interrupted by people who want you right now, but this may not be the best thing for you. Tip: Set aside specific times of the day when you will manage your email, your phone messages, and your social media. Typically, in the hour before lunch and the hour before you leave in the evening for example. There are advantages to this practice that are probably obvious, but it’s worth noting…

Work On Your Project – Where to Start?

In BrightWork, we advocate a 5 stage process to collaborative project management: Initiate Plan and Setup Work Track and Re-Plan And Close Once you have worked your way through the first two stages of Initiate and Plan and Setup (learn more about the process in full here) you can finally start your project!  So, at this stage, what are the ideal set of steps to kick off this work phase? Free Download: Collaborative Project Management Handbook In a collaborative project you as the project manager are essentially asking the team members for three commitments as described here. You might even try these words if you are very new to this! A. Find work Using one of the many notifications (e.g. My Work reports, automated emails, etc.), find your work so you know what you are committed to delivering for the project. B. Do work Naturally enough, go do the work! In many cases the actual work products (e.g. a proposal or design) can be created and updated in the collaborative project site. C. Update progress on work (recording any issues) Use the datasheets or forms provided in the collaborative site to record your progress on what is done or in…

Collaborative Project Management: Make the Leap

If you’re in an organization and you want to do something new, strategic, exciting, challenging, difficult – it’s a project. A project is a way to transform, to bring an organization, to bring a group to a new place. A project is a way to realize ambitions. A project is a way to help people in some cases achieve their dreams. A project is from here to a new place, to a better place, to an exciting place, to a different place. A project is a way to get to where you want to go. A really good project should be enjoyable because of the destination you want to reach but also because of the journey that you’re taking. With a project you should be thinking: “I really want to get there. It’s important to me. Or it’s important to my group, or my team, or my organization, and I’m enjoying the journey.” Proper project management, exciting project management is both an enjoyable journey and a fabulous destination. Collaborative Project Management There was a time when the workplace was different and some people were very rigidly trained in project management and the other people did what they were told. The…

3 Ways to Notify Team Members of Their Responsibilities

It is all very well to plan a project in detail but you will need to let team members know the plan for success. The more high quality communication on your project the better the chance your plan for success will come true. Project team members are very smart and capable, so be sure to empower them by letting them know what is going on.

How Much Project Management Does Your Project Need?

Here is a very simple project management spectrum. In this spectrum we have four sections. The sections go left to right, from Ultra-Lite to Lite to Standard and then to Structured. You will note that there are arrows on both ends of the spectrum. This denotes the fact that even though you start in one place, for example Lite, you might move left to Ultra-Lite at a later point or you may move right on the spectrum toward Standard. This spectrum is depicting the reality that different projects require differing amounts of project management at different times. Two questions for you: Where would you say your projects are on this project management spectrum? (i.e. how much project management are they receiving in reality) Where do you think your projects should be on this spectrum? (i.e. how much project management do they need?) We at BrightWork and our customers find this spectrum very honest and extremely real. A Natural Order A natural companion to the project management spectrum is the Start|Evolve approach. Many of our BrightWork customers successfully start with a reasonable amount of project management, enough to give their organizations immediate visibility into what’s going on by tracking the projects,…

Planning Your Project – How Collaborative?

When in the planning stages of your project, questions you will need to ask include: How collaborative can or should my project planning be? And How much should I involve my team in planning the project? At this stage, you have at least three approaches you can take: Bring the team together to plan the project in full Do all the planning yourself Bring the team in for parts of the project planning process 1 Bring the team together to plan the project in full The first option is to bring the team together and as a group, plan and desk-check the project plan. Once these two tasks are complete, you and your team can begin to notify everyone involved of their tasks. As a team, you plan the project in a workshop format, bouncing ideas off each other and reaping the rewards of the fantastic ideas and prior experience of those you are working with. As a team, you also desk check the resulting project plan, again in a workshop format. This is a ‘double-check’ of the plan to ensure all essential elements are in check. And thirdly, you can easily notify the team of their responsibilities because they’re with you in…

Time Management: 6 Schedule Traps and Tips

Once you have set your personal and professional goals, these goals need to spill into your schedule. So the question becomes: how do you make the most of your schedule? What is the most effective way? What traps do you have to avoid? In this blog post, we are going to give you six schedule traps and six tips to make the most use of your daily and weekly schedule.   Schedule Trap #1: Small Stuff is getting in the way Do you find that you are getting lots of small stuff done but nothing major achieved? Do you find that you are not making progress on the more challenging items on your list? Tip: Do Creative Work in Larger Blocks. Think about the creative work you have got to do and work in larger blocks. Do not do this creative work in interrupted time. Schedule 60/90 minutes and do this creative work early in the day before your head gets swamped with too many other things.   Schedule Trap #2: Meetings are killing my schedule Do you find that lots of time and energy are wasted in meetings? Tip: Have Meetings Later in the Day Meetings tend to have an energy…

6 Challenges of Collaborative Project Management

Ironically as organizations strive for more and more collaboration, it has the tendency in some cases to make project management more challenging. Who would have thought that this would be the case?! 6 Challenges of Collaborative Project Management Let’s run through six challenges of collaborative project management: 1 Collaboration Difficulties At BrightWork, we help many customers implement collaborative project management using Microsoft SharePoint. We find that more initiatives than ever are now delivered, or designed to be delivered, as collaborative projects in organizations. So the organizations are saying: let’s deliver these projects with a team collaborating well together. Sometimes across different offices and across different countries and across different companies. 2 Team Member Involvement Number two, project teams are these days staffed with very smart and intelligent team members from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines who just expect to be involved in the decision making of the project. They are no longer interested in the old ‘command and control’ types of projects where they got tasks, did them, and didn’t think as much about them or their greater success and impact on the project. 3 Unpopulated Project Site Number three, we’re actually seeing more and more projects set…

3 Process Improvement Models to Aid Project Management

If you’re serious, or indeed, very serious about implementing and then improving project management across a group, a knowledge of process improvement models can be extremely helpful. 1 The Deming ‘PDSA’ Model W. Edwards Deming was an American quality expert brought to Japan in the aftermath of World War 2 to help in the reconstruction of the nation. Deming had been influenced by the Shewhart cycle from 1939 and brought what was later called the Deming wheel to Japan in 1950. The Deming wheel was PDCA, or Plan, Do, Check, Action. Deming himself later changed the cycle to Plan, Do, Study, Act, PDSA.  In later years the Plan, Do, Check, Act or Plan, Do, Study, Act cycles have been used as a cycle for continuous improvement of processes. They’ve been famously associated with the Japanese quality assurance and total quality control and process improvement movements. These simple but powerful cycles can be very helpful in improving project management in an organization. You can think of it in the following terms: Firstly, plan the process change you want to introduce. Secondly, do or implement the process change. Third is check or study the impacts of the change And fourth is act on…

What are the Characteristics of a Project?

So how do you know that you’ve got a project on your hands? What makes a body of work a project? If you’ve found yourself asking these questions recently, then this post is for you.    Six Characteristics of a Project A project is typically for a customer. The project is temporary in nature. It typically has a defined start and a defined end-point. The project will have a unique set of requirements that need to be delivered within the boundaries of this project. A project can typically be more of a once off endeavor, rather than something that’s happening all the time in a repeated fashion. A project is not ‘business as usual’, which is more akin to a process. A project can very often be cross-functional, or indeed cross-organization.   Projects and Conflicting Constraints You will also find that your typical project is impacted by conflicting constraints. Here are four  typical constraints to watch out for: Scope – defines the needs that the customer has, or the requirements expressed and implied. Time – a project is usually required by a customer by an agreed date. Quality – to what standard is the project expected to deliver? Resources –  the…

Three Project Management Meeting Templates

A few weeks back I wrote an article 10 Practices for Better Project Management Meetings. The essence of the article was that a meeting should leave the participants with the same or ideally more energy as they leave the meeting compared to when they walked in. Do your meetings achieve this? In the prior article, I gave a set of 10 best practices that I believe could achieve this objective. I suggested that you could start with one practice and if it worked then later come back and take some more ideas from the list and implement. The first best practice on the list included the notion of having an agenda, Radical, I know! This article has three sample Project Management Meeting Templates to get you started. Enjoy! Project Management Meeting Templates – Project Sponsor Meetings Very good sponsors are really busy, so you need to make good use of the time, to gain respect (and thus the help). Here is a sample agenda you as a new Project Manager might consider using with your Project Sponsor: Review and agree agenda (i.e. agree the desired meeting outcome). Update on Progress to Agree Goals, ideally using pre-agreed dashboards, milestones, budgets, metrics, etc. Review, discuss…

10 Practices for Better Project Management Meetings

Meetings – so often there are such a waste of time. Sad really. Years ago my sister sent me a poster – “Meetings – the practical alternative to work”! I will not say which of my four sisters – to protect the guilty one! My test of a meeting is simple enough these days – did we leave the meeting with the same or more energy as when we came into the meeting? Or did we feel lower energy than when we entered the meeting. A good meeting should energise us. If you stop reading this blog article and get nothing more than the idea of this “meeting energy test”, I feel your reading time will not have been wasted – unless of course you do not try out this test! At BrightWork we are exponents of the Start | Evolve approach to improving project management success. None of us have time to get every process perfect today. Was it Saint Augustine in the 4th century who said? – “make me perfect, but not today Lord!”. (At the time of going to press I did not have the time to check my sources on this one, so do correct me please!)…

European SharePoint Conference, Barcelona – Trip Report

I was lucky enough to attend the SharePoint Conference in Vegas in March and wrote this trip report on the BrightWork blog … SharePoint with Office Graph and the Office Family. The next few blog posts I write will be the update from the fabulous 2014  European SharePoint Conference held in sunny Barcelona last week. Yes, the sunny weather did play a big part in the happy atmosphere. It was great to be able to walk outside for a coffee or lunch break and to have meetings in the sun. On the Thursday night there was a spectacular gala dinner by the pool outside, that included a short ceremony to present the annual European SharePoint Awards (as voted by the European SharePoint Community). Summer is here for sure! The part of the conference I really enjoyed was access to so many speakers from Microsoft Corporate in Redmond. It was great to see their commitment to travel to Europe and spend so much time talking to customers and partners. This access is hard to get, as naturally enough these folks are very busy developing new versions of SharePoint and Office 365. There were lots of take away’s from this conference and the…

Mature with Project Management Software

I was reading a book over the weekend and it had a blindingly obvious statement. “You have to go through immaturity to reach maturity. There is no other way”. How does this relate to Project Management Software? In a post last week I shared that so many customers we meet have a lack of a shared knowledge and had no shared approach to project management. (many individuals did have good project management training and great instincts but no shared group behaviours). Very frustrating for them. Put another way – the groups we meet (not necessarily the individuals) currently have a common low maturity level when it comes to Project Management. Project Management Software – use SharePoint We at BrightWork believe that there is a great opportunity to help customers mature their sometimes immature Project Management practices by using SharePoint as the Project Management Software platform of choice. We find that customers love and are successful with the pragmatic nature of this gradual improvement. Frankly customers do not believe in miracle cures from Project Management Software any more! If you feel that your group would like to do more with Project Management Software, then the BrightWork 101 training guide will give you some very good ideas. It…

Why BrightWork for Project Management – What is our Why?! (TED Talk inspired)

Why BrightWork for Project Management? Last week a colleague shared a TED talk with me. I must say I do like TED talks. I find the quality of speakers and ideas very high. So my interest was immediately peaked! I now recommend the same TED Talk to you – Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action. 14million people have watched it already. Need I say more! I will not spoil the surprise, but in summary in this talk Simon Sinek encourages us to start with “Why”. I must say I love the “Why” question – so I was bought in from the start of the talk. The talk did get me thinking – “Why BrightWork for Project Management” – and “What is our Why”? History I guess a good place to start this story is to relate how we got started. What triggered the very start of BrightWork? Why BrightWork for Project Management? What came first?! I spent almost 10 years in the Army in the 1980’s, a few of those years in an IT department. It was an exciting time and we had to get organised to achieve all we needed to deliver. That was our “why”. To get organised we…

Apple – Steve Jobs – Insanely Simple Project Management

I read a book last weekend on the recommendation of Markus Westerlund the CEO of Rdigo (a BrightWork partner company). The book is titled “Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success“. It is a good read for a few reasons: It tells a great story – the story of Apple as seen from the inside – so it is a compelling industry read It carries an important message – keep business simple It has a section on how to be successful with Simple Project Management – the Apple / Steve Jobs tips I guess I liked the book for more reasons than the above. At BrightWork we see customers struggling with the complexity of Project Management and we also see customers being very successful with their Project Management when they START simple and then evolve. When reading the book I was triggered to relook at the famous Apple Ad – Think Different … and I was directed to a version narrated by Steve Jobs – well worth the 1 minute. You have to love the message in this. So in the spirit of the Apple Ad – be a crazy one and implement Simple Project Management at your shop. I commend this…

Project Management Wishes – I Dream of Genie!

I was catching up on the week’s work related reading over the weekend and I came across a good but challenging article in CIO Magazine … “7 Top Wishes of IT Project Managers” (If IT managers were granted three project management wishes by the IT genie, what would they wish for? Here are the seven desires you’d find on the list.).   As the CEO of BrightWork I thought it would be interesting and important to rate BrightWork alongside the Project Management wishes in this excellent article. Are we at BrightWork the IT genie or no? Wish No. 1: To be involved from project inception. This is a tough one for IT groups. We see organizations battling to do well with Project Management because they have too many project on to go. One way to grant this wish to establish a New Project Request process. Maybe start small to begin with. Wish No. 2: The ability to put — and keep — together the perfect team for each project. It is hard to put the right team together if you do not know who is free and who is committed to other projects and who you could move about. Maybe you start…

Project Management Professional – Chicken or Egg – Learn or Do

What is the best way to become a Project Manager?  Should you go to a training class?  Should you just go and manage a project and skip training?  Maybe you should go to a training class and then go manage a project with your new learnings?  But then do you go back to professional Project Management training after your first (or second project)?  Which is better for your development – excellent training classes or practical experience?  It really is hard to select!  Real chicken and egg stuff. Maybe the best advice comes from Aristotle?  “For the things we have to learn, before we can do them, we learn by doing them.“ Perhaps Confucius had it right?  “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” So perhaps the answer is that we need both (professional training and practical experience), not separate but interchangeably.  Maybe the divide between the two is very artificial?  Perhaps we need the opportunity to deliver projects and at any stage take professional training for a few minutes or a few days if we feel the need.  This is the answer that we came to at BrightWork with our partner the International Institute…

BrightWork and SharePoint – Best Friends Forever – Part 2

Last week I wrote a post (BrightWork and SharePoint – Best Friends Forever – Part 1!) talking about the protocols that you should observe if you are building project management (or indeed any application) into SharePoint.  I explained that many of the protocols are written in the extensibility guidelines provided by Microsoft (e.g. never write straight to the database, rather use the SharePoint API’s, or you will be in upgrade hell!).  I further explained that most of these rules and protocols you get with experience.   I then went on to give some sample questions you can ask yourself (or your IT department or your SharePoint vendor) to see how “friendly” your application is.  I also committed to giving more examples / screenshots – hence this follow-up post! Is it usable? – does it for example act and look like SharePoint itself, so that your customers find it easy to use?  [Your customers should look at a home screen like this and not know that it is “Enhanced SharePoint” –  so it makes deployment faster and easier ] Does it use standards lists and libraries to store information? [All standard list functionality should work – but extra configuration options should be…

BrightWork and SharePoint – Best Friends Forever – Part 1!

If you are building project management (or indeed any application) into SharePoint, you want to do so in a manner that is “friendly”.  There are certain protocols that you should observe.  Many of these are written in the extensibility guidelines provided by Microsoft (e.g. never write straight to the database, rather use the SharePoint APIs, or you will be in upgrade hell!).  Most of these rules and protocols you get with experience.  There is really no substitute for experience.  You absolutely need to be a 1st class SharePoint citizen or you will run into trouble during operation and if not then certainly at upgrade time.  You might be able to write something simple and quick but ask yourself these questions before you proceed:   Is it usable? – does it for example act and look like SharePoint itself, so that your customers find it easy to use? [Yes] Is it easily maintainable? – as customers will ask for changes very quickly – especially as they evolve their project management capabilities [Yes] Is it architected as per the SharePoint extensibility guidelines?  Yes or No?!  [Yes] Does it use standards lists and libraries to store information?  [Yes] Does it use web parts…

For Project Management – BrightWork on SharePoint or Microsoft Project Server

We often get asked whether customers should … “manage their projects on SharePoint (with a plug-in like BrightWork) or on Microsoft Project Server?” Of course, the answer is – “it depends” – and the other part of the answer is – “in certain scenarios you can and may need and will want to use both platforms”.  In fact, as organizations mature their work, project and portfolio management, we see the latter scenario as more usual. This earlier blog article answers the question posed in this new blog post pretty directly and clearly  …. Work, Project and Portfolio Management – Crawl, Walk, Run – Quickly!  If this earlier blog post answers the question to your satisfaction, you need read no further! It is also important to point out that BrightWork is a partner of the Microsoft Project Server team and product set and we are not comfortable competing with Microsoft Project Server and see no benefits to our customers to do so.  To compete would imply we are a real alternative (either/or) choices, which is not the case. We often then get asked a related question … “what is the main product difference between BrightWork (which sits on SharePoint) and Microsoft…

Better Project Professional 2010 to SharePoint 2010 Sync Experience

We have released a new collection of templates (now available for Trial on the website) that make it easier, and safer, for our customers to use the Project Professional 2010 to SharePoint Sync. This work is based on extensive customer feedback, as well as a large amount of our own investigation and research into Sync best practices. Here are some of the enhancements we are excited to bring forward: Each SharePoint template comes with a Document Library containing a Microsoft Project Professional 2010 file pre-loaded. The SharePoint template embedded MS Project file has extra smarts baked in, such as new MS Project file location detection, and custom column auto-population, to make it easier and more robust when performing the initial and subsequent Sync’s. Each SharePoint template also has a SharePoint Project Tasks list with extra fields and computation added so that more information from MS Project can be Sync’ed easily out of the box (e.g. baselines, costs, durations, etc.). On opening the MS Project file in a new SharePoint site the user is offered an option to Sync the MS Project file to the new SharePoint site and the population of the correct site URL is done automatically. (This helps…