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Project Requirements Video

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Project Requirements: The Key to Stakeholder Management, Scope Control & Change Requests

Managing project requirements builds the foundation for:

  • Effective scope and change control
  • Strong support from stakeholders and users
  • Finishing your project without last-minute requirements surprises.

Stakeholders are the principal focus of managing project requirements. You must continuously try to identify new stakeholders so you can process their requirements and either include or exclude them from the project. That process determines the stakeholders’ enthusiasm  and support for the project.  You obviously can’t include every requirement that your stakeholders think of. But if you identify your stakeholders early and their requirements that are necessary for the project, you take a big step toward avoiding those very expensive last-minute requirements. You know what I mean; they’re the unidentified requirements that leap out of the bushes late in the project and surprise you. They often delay the completion date and bust the budget. Late arriving requirements can cost up to 100 times what they would have cost if you had discovered them during project initiation. Requirements Gathering Blunders

 

Project Requirements & Expectations

When you guide your stakeholders through the process of identifying their requirements and quantifying the acceptance criteria for each requirement, you are “training” them for your scope control process. Once you’ve documented the requirements, you guide them through the process of evaluating whether that particular requirement is necessary to deliver the project scope the sponsor wants. If the scope does not need that requirement, it doesn’t get added to the project. While the stakeholder may be disappointed, they have had their opportunity to submit requirements and have participated in the evaluation process. Once you’ve begun to execute the project, new requirements or changes to the project scope will go through the exact same process. So you’re training the stakeholders that you’re not going to add every new requirement they come up with. In many organizations, stakeholders are used to being able to add requirements whenever they wish. The requirement evaluation process is of particular value in those environments. Collecting Requirements 

Gathering requirements for your project does not involve making a long list of what everybody wants. Project managers often use that technique because it makes the users and stakeholders happy… in the beginning. The project manager can be like Santa with all the stakeholders coming to sit on Santa’s lap and describe what they want. They will also list expenditures that are good ideas/”nice to haves” or the things they didn’t get in their latest budget. The major flaw of this Santa Claus technique is that it doesn’t limit the requirements to what is necessary to produce the project scope. The unfortunate consequence is that you will be doomed to repeat it every week during the life of the project as people want to add more features and functionality to the project. Prototyping Project Requirements

Project Requirements Gathering Best Practices

The primary purpose of requirements gathering is to identify what you need to deliver the scope of the project. When you start from that perspective, you don’t add requirements that are good ideas or niceties. You’re only interested in adding requirements that are necessary to produce the scope. As a result, the process starts with defining the scope and the major deliverables that will lead to that scope from where you are now.  Each of those deliverables, from the scope on down, has its acceptance criteria. It includes the lower-level deliverables that you derived by breaking down the high-level deliverables. The acceptance criteria are metrics that let you and the sponsor objectively measure if you delivered the project scope. An example of an acceptance criterion might be, “Fewer than 3% of the customers are on hold for more than 30 seconds.” That is objectively measurable and everybody will know what they will get from that deliverable. As importantly,  they’ll know what they’re not going to get from the deliverable. They’re not going to get 1% of the customers on hold for more than 30 seconds. They will get 3%. This is not to say that these acceptance criteria can’t change. They can and do change during the life of the project. However, when you define your deliverables in the requirements process with objectively measureable acceptance criteria, you don’t have to argue whether a change request is or is not within the original project scope.

When requirements gathering begins, you will start with that overall project scope and 4 to 7 major deliverables that will get you there. Your next step is requirements interviews. You’ll talk to the individuals accountable for producing those high-level deliverables. You’ll find out what they need to produce the deliverable; what their requirements are for producing each one. Rather than asking the accountable individuals what they want, you’ll ask them what is required to produce that deliverable. You’re not going to add any requirement that is not necessary. This will be a very sharp departure from the Santa Claus technique many people are accustomed to. But when you take this focus, you gain two very significant benefits.

First, by breaking down the project into a hierarchy of deliverables and then identifying what you need to produce each of those deliverables, you are less likely to miss requirements. That is not to say it’s impossible. But this requirements gathering based on the scope and deliverables in the project is very effective in identifying everything you need. You avoid those last minute requirements that spring up out of the weeds near the end of the project. Surprise requirements kill the project duration and budget.project requirements

Second, when you focus on what is necessary to produce the project deliverables, you are less likely to add unnecessary “requirements” to the project.  This will allow you to finish faster and spend less money to deliver the scope the sponsor wants. When you extend this requirements gathering technique to change requests, you make change control easier. When a stakeholder or user comes with something they want to add to the project, you ask why this addition is necessary to produce that stakeholder’s deliverable. This moves the discussion about a change request from a debate over the general value of the addition to a discussion of why it’s necessary to deliver the project scope. That is a more effective basis for discussing additions to the project scope. Project managers almost always lose the discussion about the “value”  of the addition. The issue gets escalated over their heads or they have a very unhappy user. When you ask the user to explain why the addition is necessary for delivering the scope, the discussion is much more focused. If the stakeholder or user can’t make a case for why the addition is necessary, you have a reasonable basis for recommending that the sponsor not add it.

Project Requirements Management

Projects often fail because their project managers and sponsors have ignored the advantages of project requirements management. Some people think it sounds like an invitation to endless paperwork and pointless meetings. However, project requirements management helps you finish the project on time and within budget. That makes your stakeholders happy with the project results and with your work. If you are not doing a good job of project requirements management, you will be fighting a losing battle every week to control scope creep. Your projects will finish late and over budget and your stakeholders will not be happy.

Projects that lack project requirements management drown in scope creep. Despite the “Project Santa” adding lots of “goodies” to the project during planning, the users and stakeholders are unhappy because they spend every week arguing with you about things they feel are required. Those arguments end with the stakeholder going to their boss, who then talks to your boss, who then makes a phone call. The sponsor adds the latest “goodies” to the project without giving you an increase in the schedule or budget.

Good requirements management lets you avoid new requirements springing up every week. Instead of fighting all requirements, you should do everything you can to discover them early, during the initiation phase. Your organization probably has information about earlier projects that suffered the consequences of poor requirements management. It’s helpful to have some real-life project disasters to cite. You want the sponsor to understand that when there’s a lot of pressure to start work quickly,  requirements gathering is cut short. You want your users and stakeholders to understand how you are going to manage requirements on your project. You need the sponsor, users and stakeholders to invest the time to state their requirements on the front end of the project. These people are probably in the habit of putting off their participation in requirements gathering for as long as they can.  That simply ensures you can’t gather all the requirements before you start work. When new requirements arrive late in the project, they cost much more to add than they would have if you had planned for them during initiation.

To manage project requirements correctly, you need to convince the sponsor to allow sufficient time to gather them. Yes, that will mean you start the actual work later. However, when you do start work, everyone will know what is, and what is not, included in the project. That will shorten the overall duration of the project. You need to convince the sponsor that a few days or a week spent gathering requirements on the front-end is worth it because you won’t have the wasted time and money adding requirements every week.

You can learn the techniques for effectively managing your project requirements in our online project management basics course. You’ll work individually with your instructor at your schedule and pace. Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder analysis is one of the most important tasks in project management.  Stakeholders are the people who are affected, positively or negatively, by the project.  You must make an effort to the identify the project stakeholders early in the planning process.  Let’s look at an example of a small project and see how to identify the project stakeholders.

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Stakeholder Analysis Example: Part One

The boss calls you into her office and tells you she is getting complaints from other managers about items out of stock (stock-outs) in the supply room. This situation is wasting people’s time and delaying their work because they can’t get their materials when they need. She goes on to tell you that she wants you to run a project to cut the number of stock-outs in the supply room. She will be the project sponsor. Stakeholder Management Process

You ask some probing questions to quantify the project scope and the acceptance criteria. She states that less than five stock-outs a month would make the project a success.
With the initial scope defined, you tell her the next step is to identify the project’s stakeholders. Then you must do stakeholder analysis. That includes speaking with them to understand their issues with the supply room and their requirements for improving it. The sponsor shakes her head and says, “Let’s not turn this into a never-ending circus by asking other people to give us their to do lists. We’ve got to make a plan and identify how we’re going to deliver the project scope I just set. Let’s keep the planning group small so we can move fast. I don’t want to involve a lot of people who have other ideas we’d have to consider.

You say, “Well if I don’t identify project stakeholders and get their ideas, it may come back to haunt us at the end of the project.”

The sponsor interrupts and says, “We know what we need to do in the supply room. We don’t have to let other people stick their noses into this project.”

You say, “I really think that is a mistake…”

“Then it’s my mistake,” the sponsor said. “I want you to get started making the detailed plan.”

Over the next few days the planning went rapidly and you were able to develop high-level deliverables and a work breakdown structure. You identified procedure deliverables, training deliverables and a new workflow for managing inventory levels. The sponsor approved them all and she assigned people from her department and one from the supply room to serve as your project team and authorized you to start work.

Stakeholder Analysis Example: Part Two

Things went very well for the first week and you and your small team knocked off one deliverable after another. But as you moved into the implementation phase you ran into a couple of problems. FiInfluencing Project Stakeholders

First, the project sponsor called you and said, “The purchasing people have their nighties in a knot about how you want to manage the supply inventory. You better get down there and talk with them about what you want to do and get their cooperation.”After spending the next two days meeting with the purchasing people and modifying the entire workflow and procedure you had developed to meet their requirements, you were behind schedule. You knew you would have to hustle to avoid any more slippage in the schedule.stakeholder analysis

Then the human resources trainer finally returned your call. She explained that the training you wanted on the new supply room procedure did not meet corporate standards for training classes and needed to be extensively revised. You explained that the supply room procedure was undergoing modification anyway and the trainer explained that you should have involved her in this process from the beginning.

You stopped the team members who were revising the supply room inventory procedures and told them they would have to wait until the end of the week for a meeting with the human resources department trainer.

Stakeholder Analysis Example: Part Three

To bring an awful week to an end, you met with the project sponsor to submit your status report and explained why the project was at least a week and possibly two weeks late compared to the original plan finish date.

The sponsor asked what the problem was and you said, “We did not identify our project stakeholders in the beginning. That would have let us gather their requirements before we started work. Now we are discovering those requirements and having to redo much of the work we have done over the last two weeks.”

The sponsor’s facial expression went from anger to embarrassment and she said, “Next time we’ll identify the project stakeholders early and do a better stakeholder analysis.”

Learn how to do stakeholder analysis and management in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

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Enterprise Project Management

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

When we talk about enterprise project management, we’re talking about the processes organizations use to initiate, plan, monitor and control, track and close projects. We also include processes to prioritize projects and allocate resources to them. Quite simply, enterprise project management is an organization’s way of doing projects. At a minimum, these processes should include:

1.) How the organization initiates projects

2.) What criteria each project needs to meet to be approved

3.) Assignment of a priority for using organizational resources.

That priority allows the important strategic projects to get first claim on the organization’s resources. Projects with a lower priority have to wait until the high priority projects have the resources they need. The organization should also have processes that project managers and sponsors follow as they plan, schedule and track their projects. That gives the organization’s enterprise project management consistent language, plans and reports. It allows everyone to work together more effectively. Evolution of Project Management in Organizations

A consistent approach produces significant benefits across all projects in terms of people understanding the role of the team member, sponsor, stakeholder and project manager. The role each of them plays is standard in terms of the decisions they make and the accountabilities they have on the project. Those consistent roles and processes allow for executives to become accustomed to the format of a project plan and a proposed schedule. That allows them to be more efficient and exacting in their review of projects.  This doesn’t mean the organization does every project exactly the same way. Most organizations have an enterprise project management protocol that differentiates between projects based on their size, scale and strategic significance. So in most enterprise project management protocols, small projects do not need as much paperwork and documentation as larger projects.

Enterprise Project Management Protocol

The enterprise project management may have a basic protocol for small projects. The project plan may be a short document with fewer than six elements such as: scope, requirements, estimates, resources, schedule and optimization. They include little, if any, risk management and the project has no additional quality processes beyond what is standard in the organization. Status reporting is very straightforward, consisting of identifying variances and explaining the proposed corrective action.

As projects get larger, the project plan grows to cover more topics. Risk management becomes increasingly important so they implement a risk management process with risk identification, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, risk response planning, risk tracking and monitoring. There is a formal risk response for each identified risks along with contingency plans if the risk response does not prevent the risk from affecting the project. Is Your Project in Trouble?

Organizations without enterprise-wide processes for completing projects have lower project success rates. They also have trouble getting the most important projects completed on time and within budget. Even worse, the lack of consistent project processes creates chaos in the trenches. Project managers battle each other for team members and no one manages people’s priorities and workloads. Project Catastrophes

Organizations with project failure rates above 50% have trouble surviving, particularly in tough economic times. But their efforts to improve performance often fail because they aim at the wrong problems.Why Do So Many Projects Fail?

Based on our experience with over 300 organizations, there are four keys to improving an organization’s project results.

1. The organization must control the initiation of new projects. Managers and executives can’t start a new project whenever they wish.

2. The organization must prioritize the projects so the major strategic initiatives get the resources they need.

3. The organization has to allocate resources to projects based on the priorities they have established. Without this, hundreds of “puppy projects” that produce very little benefit will use up to 40% of the organization’s project resources.

4. The organization has to use a consistent methodology for all projects that is scalable for the size and importance of the project. If not, small projects will be buried in too much paperwork. Project Failure Warning Signs

Enterprise Project Management Protocol Implementation

Implementing the enterprise project management protocol is a major effort. Project menterprise project managementanagers, sponsors, stakeholders and team members need to receive some level of training on how to play their roles. Organizations also face the problem of “cleaning out the pipeline” of in-process projects that have not been managed according to the new protocol. Often times the best approach is to simply let these projects wash themselves through the pipeline. But all projects started after a certain date must comply with the enterprise project management protocol. How to Implement a Project Management Protocol

A major implementation issue is the sophistication of the project management processes. The temptation is to go too far and insist on more project management processes than necessary. The protocol then takes too much time and people don’t do it. When organizations and their project managers go overboard with exceedingly complex processes, they get less than 10% compliance. It is better to adopt a simple system that requires relatively little additional time from sponsors, project managers and team members. The organization should implement a bare-bones enterprise project management protocol and use it for one year. After that time their executives, project managers and everyone affected by it is better able to discuss what could be added to or deleted from the protocol. They decide what to add by comparing the value of the additions to the amount of time and money they would require. Project Management Office Types

You can learn more about implementing an enterprise project management protocol in our online project management courses. You work privately and individually with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at a course in your specialty.

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How to Run Project Meetings

One of the biggest complaints we all hear is that there are too many project meetings. They prevent people from doing “real” work.  Project meetings come in all sizes: sponsor meetings, cabinet meetings, stakeholder meetings, status meetings, working meetings, brainstorming meetings, etc. The types of meetings depends on the organization and the complexity of the project.  In this article we’ll talk about working meetings, also called brainstorming sessions or issues resolution sessions.  These meetings are often huge time-wasters and are viewed negatively by frustrated team members and project sponsors. Disgruntled participants complain about the  lack of progress in solving the project’s issues or risks.

How to Run Project Meetings: The Approachproject meetings

This approach helps project managers make working meetings more effective.

Why is a meeting needed?  Clearly communicate what the issue is and why it is important to meet and discuss it. Here’s an example: “Compliance is questioning the new software application’s security access which may require a programming change.” It’s important to keep meetings focused on a single topic. Don’t  try to “boil the ocean” and cover too much ground.

What is the goal of the meeting?  To review options and gain consensus?  To inform stakeholders about an issue? To determine the issue’s priority?

Who needs to be invited and why?  The more people you have in a meeting the more difficult it will be to control the topic.  However, excluding critical stakeholders may result in a lack of critical input and additional “repair” work.

Where, When, How – Ignoring basic logistics can be stressful, frustrating, and highly unproductive.  Make sure the meeting invitation includes these critical elements:

1) an agenda

2) the goal of the meeting

3) the location

4) the time. I f you have remote participants, be sure to confirm the meeting time for the relevant time zones (PST, CST, EST; International).  Otherwise you may have people calling in at 2AM!

5) a teleconference and/or video conference number, including host # and participant #

Summary and Next Steps – It is the PM’s responsibility to ensure that everyone leaves the working meeting with the following:

1) an understanding of the issue and what decision(s) were made

2) the next steps and/or who is responsible for each one.

A best practice is to follow up working meetings with clear, concise summary notes or highlights. This should be no more than ½ or ¾ of a page summarizing what was discussed, decided, and any additional action items, including due dates.

Meetings are a way of life for Project Managers.  Making them effective and efficient takes practice, but it is an investment that pays off.

You can learn all of the skills for running meetings in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager and practice running meetings and giving presentations in private, online sessions with your instructor. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

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Project Management Process

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Organizations realize many benefits when they have a project management process that is consistently used by all the project managers in the organization. The process does not require a big investment in software, although some components are best done with automation. Many companies do the whole project management process on a PC. But the technical aspects are the easy part. An effective project management process gives executives control of the entire portfolio of projects and guides decision-making at all levels. Crafting the right decision-making processes for your organization and then training the executives, project managers and team members to play their parts correctly is the hard part. Enterprise Project Management Main Page

Steps in the Project Management Process

As an overview, project management begins with initiation of new projects. That is the biggest weakness in most organizations. In an effective project management process, the initiation steps include a brief document of the project’s costs, benefits and its justification. This allows the organization to make decisions about which projects to do and avoid spending time and money on losers. The one page initiation document also allows the organization to set priorities and then allocate resources based on the benefits of a project. Project Planning

Next, the executives and project manager build a project plan using templates the organization provides to minimize the paperwork. The templates also provide consistent project plans and schedules.

The last part of the process is monitoring with weekly status reporting on all projects. This provides central identification of problems and variances so they can be corrected. It sounds simple and it should be to get people to comply. How to Write a Weekly Status Report

The objective is to ensure consistency in how project managers initiate, plan, execute, monitor, control and close their projects. This is not to say that every project will be identical. However, a reasonable degree of consistency allows executives to be more efficient in reviewing project plans. It allows project managers to archive data and that is a key element in improving the organization’s project management results.

Key Components of the Project Management Process

A project management process can include many components. First, the system may provide templates project managers use to develop their business cases, project charters, project management plans, estimates, risk analyses, cost estimates, duration estimates, human resources plans, etc. The idea behind using templates is that the organization of the information is consistent across all projects. Using templates also facilitates archiving the project data for later use.  Project Plan Template

Second, consistently successful organizations don’t reinvent the wheel on every project. They archive project data and use it on subsequent projects. This requires archiving data on the actual amount of work tasks took versus the estimated amount of work. That data can be in the form of a completed work package, “lessons learned” documentation or it can be automated. In either case, the information is available for project managers to use on new projects. It can also include the risk analysis, procurement statements of work and requests for proposals from vendors on previous projects.

project management process

Accessing Data From the Project Management Process

As a  project manager starting a new project, you must put together a great deal of information. You can save a great deal of time if the organization has a mature project management process. You can start by going through the archives of previously completed projects to identify ones that are similar as a whole or that have major deliverables similar to what you anticipate in the new project. Then you evaluate that data from the previous projects.
For example, let’s say one of the archived high-level deliverables was a modification to a financial system that is similar but a bit simpler than the modification required for your new project. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the data from that project. It simply means that you’ll have to adjust the work estimates upward to account for the additional complexity of the new project. You’ll also review the risk analysis from the previous project to see if any of the risks, analyses and responses can be used on your new project. Additionally, you’ll review any procurements, stakeholder analysis, human resources plans, etc. to determine if you can modify the work previously done and save a great deal of time. Lessons Learned Documentation

Implementing a Project Management Process

As organizations strive to improve their project performance and become consistently successful, one of the least expensive steps that produces significant benefits is implementing a project management process. This requires the project sponsors and project managers to agree on the steps and templates to be used as well as the data elements to be archived in the system.  The use of templates and archived data have the largest impact and start paying benefits in as little as three months. Other elements can be added to the project management system to achieve consistency in status reporting, scheduling, variance reporting and change control.

You can learn more about using an effective project management process in our online project management courses. You work privately and individually with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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Project in Trouble

Is Your New Project In Trouble Already?

As project managers, we spend a lot of time and energy staying on top of the projects we’re responsible for.  project in troubleBut let’s say the boss hands you a project that’s already underway, one that you’re not familiar with and that has been managed by someone who is no longer “available” to discuss it with you.  How are you going to quickly assess the real status of that project and whether it is healthy or failing?  Here are a few quick tips about things to look for.  Enterprise Project Management Main Page

  • Stakeholder satisfaction.  Have the key stakeholders been kept informed about the project?  Do they know the status?  Do they feel like the project is on the right track?  Approaching just a few of the major stakeholders and getting some informal feedback may tell you all you need to know about whether the project is headed toward success or is on the road to ruin.   Stakeholder Analysis
  • Project documentation.  Does the project have a reasonable and adequate library of the key documents needed to properly design, resource, and manage a project?  The “library” will vary widely by the size and complexity of the project, so your assessment must be tailored accordingly.  But there should be an appropriate level of rigor about documenting project scope, schedule, WBS, budget, and key objectives.  A project plan, even a 1-pager, should be considered essential.  If it’s missing, there’s something wrong.  Project Plan
  • Roles and Responsibilities.  Failure to establish a clear definition of team roles and responsibilities is an invitation for team disintegration.  These should be clearly documented and unequivocal, and should be team “common knowledge.”  The first hint that disputed or misunderstood responsibilities/authority are afoot in the project should set off warning alarms.
  • Measures of success.  How does the project know if it is succeeding or not?  If there are project progress reports to review, are they meaningful?  Are there metrics that relate to project objectives?  If these questions do not produce quantifiable answers that address the customer’s requirements, then the project’s current track should be closely examined.
  • Documented requirements.  And speaking of requirements, if your initial review of the project’s documentation does not include some reference to specific, quantifiable requirements, the project is at serious risk of missing the target.  Without valid requirements, you’ll have no way to measure whether the project is succeeding or failing.  Requirements Management
  • Adequacy of the resources and staff.  Given what you can determine about the project scope and requirements, you’ll want to estimate whether your available resources are sufficient to meet the objectives and schedule—assuming there is one.  Is the staff sufficient in number and needed competencies to perform the work?  Are any physical resources you need available, such as lab support, test facilities, or specialized equipment?
  • Change control.  Don’t underestimate the importance of a rigorously followed change control process.  If it is clear that project changes occur without due process, you can quickly guess that the project is unlikely to stay on any sort of efficient course to achieve its primary objectives.  Change Control

There are other factors that you may also want to consider, such as team culture and morale, risk management process, external factors, etc., but if you keep the above factors in mind as you explore your “new” project you may give yourself a very timely opportunity to “right” the ship’s course before it hits the reef.

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Project Management Risk – Three Levels

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

The project management risk process has a bad reputation among executives. Often that reputation is well deserved. Too many project managers get carried away with fancy mathematics, too many meetings and far too much paperwork. The cost and level of effort are out of proportion to the benefits the project receives from the risk management effort. Executives who have seen project managers waste a great deal of time with endless risk meetings and generation of mountains of paperwork often decide they want no risk management.  Many executives won’t support risk management, even on large projects where it is vitally important. They want to get started fast and fight fires as they come up. Project managers face an uphill battle even if there are significant risks that can and should be addressed. Project Risk Management Main Page

Project Management Risk – Firefighting

In the eyes of the executives, firefighting instead of managing risks seems like a more prudent and economical course. It’s easy for people to convince themselves that when a risk event occurs they can quickly muster the resources to fight the fire, put it out and quickly get back to work. This mental model of firefighting is not very realistic. If one of the major risks occurs for which they have no planned response, work on the project comes to a screeching halt. People are pulled off their project work to take part in emergency planning for what to do about the risk and who should do it. Very often the team is simply frozen by the surprise risk event. It may take weeks or months to recover the lost initiative and productivity.

Project Management Risk – Three Levels

There is a middle ground between firefighting and overly elaborate risk management planning and implementation. This middle ground begins with an assessment of the project itself and then scaling the risk management effort to fit the project. You should tailor your risk management to the size of the project so the benefits exceed the cost of the analysis.

Project Management Risk Level 1 – for small projects typically done within an organizational unit. Small projects with small project teams and a relatively limited duration have risk management plans that you can formulate over a lunch with the sponsor and one or two team members. A very quick and subjective process can identify no more than four risks that could substantially reduce the project scope or increase its duration/budget. Then you do a “quick and dirty” qualitative analysis to judge the probability of the risk occurring and the magnitude if it does. You’re not doing any math here. You discuss people’s opinions about how likely and how big a deal the risk is. Finally, you’ll lay out the steps you could take to reduce the likelihood of the more significant risks occurring. Those are the risk responses that you put into the project plan. Your risk managproject management riskement planning is complete. This process lets you show significant benefits for a minimal investment.

Project Management Risk Level 2 – for projects that span organizational departments. That means it has stakeholders from a number of different functional areas or technical specialties. You’ll do a bit more analysis of the probability and magnitude of the impact of the risks, if they occur. You’ll also develop a formal risk response plan.

Project Management Risk Level 3 – for projects that impact the entire organization and possibly external customers. You’ll do quantitative risk analysis to provide data on the probability of a risk occurring and the magnitude if it does. You will most likely gather data on the probability of various risk events occurring. This data may come from project teams’ own experiences. Alternatively the scale of the project may justify hiring consultants who would conduct the data gathering as well rigorous statistical analysis.  But the end result is the probability of the risk occurring and the magnitude of the dollar or duration impact if it does. From those numbers you can calculate the expected value of each risk. This allows you to put a ceiling on the amount you can spend on each of your risk responses. This level of risk management also requires you to develop a formal risk response plan.

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You can enhance your PM skills and master the art of managing project risks in our online project management courses. You work privately and individually with an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with them as you wish.  Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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Matrix Project Team

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In the matrix project team, you borrow people from other departments, not from your own. Matrix project teams have always been popular with project managers. They are a way to get resources for your project without paying consulting fees or persuading people in your organization to give up some of their staff.  That sounds like a fabulous bargain but managing a matrix team is not easy. There are a number of challenges. Leading Teams Main Page

Acquiring A Matrix Project Team

First, the project manager has no inherent authority to borrow people from other departments. So the project manager asks the sponsor to contact the lending department and use his/her power and authority to secure resources for their project team. That doesn’t always work because the sponsor, no matter how high-ranking in your part of the organization, may be ignored when he/she contacts another department to borrow resources. It’s understandable that the lending departments are not enthusiastic about acting like a resource pool for matrix project teams. They lose time from some of their valuable people and the project doesn’t compensate them for the loss. They often must have other employees work overtime to make up for the hours lost to a matrix project team. Those factors often result in lending managers loaning the person they can most easily afford to lose for a few months.

Second, the borrowed matrix team members can be recalled to their “home” departments whenever there is a need. From the perspective of the lending department manager, the work there will always take priority over work on someone else’s project.  So the project manager who borrows matrix resources can lose them in an instant and face immediate project schedule problems.

The third problem with matrix team members is that they earn their raises and promotions in their home department, not on the project. The project manager may have some input into their performance review or may write a complimentary memo or note for their file at project completion, but that doesn’t count for much. Understandably, matrix project team members are often focused on their department’s interests, not on completing challenging project assignments.

Managing A Matrix Project Team

Even if the project manager overcomes the issues we’ve discussed above, they face the very real challenge of managing these borrowed people so they have some level of enthusiasm and commitment to the project goal.

Forget about all the platitudes and well-intended phrases you hear about matrix management.  Every person on a matrix team does not carry the same weight or have the same influence.  Matrix project teams are often composed of and led by people from a primary organization and supported by resources from “outside” the organization.  Some examples include:

  • mixed government-contractor teams
  • Project Management Office-led teams supported by engineering, logistics, business office, etc.
  • primary contractor-led, subcontractor-contributing teams
  • teams led by “graybeards” and supported by less experienced members.

Total equality within a matrix project team is neither possible nor desirable. A hierarchy of authority is necessary on any project. But one of the PM’s most important “people duties” at the outset of a project is to make every member of the matrix team feel included and that their role is as important as any other.  If the PM fails to establish that perception early and clearly, matrix project team members can quickly develop the attitude of project “outsiders.” They feel their contribution is secondary or unimportant to the project manager or even the project itself. They quickly develop the attitude that the project is not worthy of their best effort.

To address this challenge, you should have a project “kickoff” meeting  as soon as all your resources have been identified.  Although this meeting serves many purposes (e.g., to discuss roles and responsibilities, processes, requirements, etc.), one of its greatest benefits is to give the message that every team member’s contribution is critical to the project’s success.  Not establishing an early atmosphere of inclusiveness and investment in achieving the project objective is a lost opportunity with potentially large consequences.

You can learn these team leadership skills in our project management basics courses. You’ll work individually with your instructor at your schedule and pace. Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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