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Project Management Library

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Lean Project Management

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

One day you emerge from your Performance Improvement Project status meeting and realize your once “lean and mean” project is waddling toward the completion date. It’s destined to be late for lots of reasons.  How could this happen? You started out with Lean Project Management but then...

  • The engineers fell in love with a new nano technology that was critical to the first deliverable. But now they’ve added it to four more deliverables.  That added a few extra days of development and a few more of testing, then another few on installation.
  • You lost a couple of arguments about a “Do-it-Yourself” report generator that two stakeholders raved about.  You were willing to bet they would never use it but eventually they went to their boss about it. Then you got a phone call from the sponsor about the need to keep the stakeholders happy.
  • The sponsor insisted upon adding a training class to the project. He wouldn’t listen when you tried to explain that the class would delay the completion date.  The sponsor told you, “Find a way; use your leadership skills.”

Now your once lean project is a fat pig. Stakeholders want to talk about features, functionalities and fixtures, not the business value they will deliver.  Planning the project is difficult when executives talk about “getting started quickly” and finishing “as soon as possible.” They think you can plan the project as you go. Project Methodology Main Page

Lean Project Management: Techniques That Don’t Work

A never-ending stream of changes and additions make it difficult to stop projects from adding fat. So how do you cope? Well, there are a number of techniques that don’t work.  The first “sure to fail” tactic is to write long, rambling project scope statements that are so vague no one disagrees with anything in them.  This makes the stakeholders very happy with you…in the beginning.

The second “sure to fail” tactic is to focus on features, fixtures and activities. This delights the micro-managers in the stakeholder group as well as people who want to avoid conflict and making difficult decisions.  This last group is easily identified because they’re the ones who only talk about getting off to a fast start.

Lean Project Management Techniques That Do Work

We’ve talked about what doesn’t work. Now let’s talk about the lean project management techniques that do work because they let you “frame” the project.  You need to get all the project stakeholders to look at the business situation through the same frame. Then they must agree on the dimensions of the frame which are the project’s business value.

lean project managementA Short, Direct & Measured Broad-Brush Plan

Long windy narratives don’t give you the kind of framing you need because people don’t read them and the frame has no hard edges.  These “literary masterpieces” define the scope with such political correctness that everybody can see something in it they like.  What works best in lean project management is a short, 1 -1.5 page, broad-brush strategic plan that frames the measurable and verifiable business outcomes and the value of the project.  You can always write a more massive plan once the strategic framing is approved.

In lean project management, you must do the difficult thinking that’s required to frame the project in terms of measurable business results. You must resist talking to project executives about the  technical details of the approach that you’ll use. Few project sponsors are interested in the technical details of coding languages or design strategies.  Project managers who talk to sponsors at this level should not be surprised when they have difficulty getting the executives to meet with them.  Regardless of how fascinating you may find the technical details, most project sponsors are not interested in how you get to the end result.  They don’t care about the nitty gritty details.  They like the lean project management approach of what people will pay for the product and how many the Sales people can sell.

That’s why lean project management requires you to do the difficult task of probing the business situation and quantifying the project outcomes and the business value of the project. You must find out what business value the sponsor wants the project to produce. For example, it can be a new product or a solution to a problem.  You must express that business value in the sponsor’s language, not yours.

Spraying Gasoline on Smoldering Embers

Good strategic project framing doesn’t create conflict.  But if burning embers of conflict exist in the business situation or between the sponsors, good project framing sprays gasoline on those embers to ignite them.  Why inflame the conflict?  Because you’d much rather bring it out into the open before you start work than have the flames spring to life when the project is half done. We’re not talking about you having conflict with the sponsors.  That would be a stupid, career-limiting move. These people are your clients or organizational superiors.  No, we’re talking about inflaming the conflict between the sponsors and then facilitating its resolution before you start work on the project.

So how do you inflame this conflict? By being absolutely crystal-clear about what the project will produce and, as importantly, what it will not.  You do this with a short scope statement that is unambiguous and states measurable business outcomes.  That’s the gasoline and you spray it on the fires of conflict by distributing it to everyone in a very short, direct and readable form.  You want them to agree on how they will measure success when the project is done.

Decomposing From the Top Down

Once you have the sponsor’s agreement and sign-off on the measured business outcome the project will deliver, (the scope), you start the decomposition effort.  This process develops a network of supporting sub-achievements that will lead from the present business situation to the Measure of Success (MOS™). Once again, you’re spraying gasoline on any conflicts that exist by being very specific, quantifiable, and measurable in describing the supporting business achievements that will lead the project to the end result. This path to the MOS™ includes more than just your work.  It also frames the process changes and achievements that other people in the organization must deliver.

The difficulty in this process is avoiding the “activity trap.” Everyone (including project managers) finds it easier to talk about what they’re going to do than to define what they’re going to achieve. But when the backbone of your project is laid out in measured achievement terms, you frame the project for the stakeholders and create a foundation for crystal clear assignments to your team members.  You can communicate to the team exactly what end results you expect from them before they start work.

4-Corners™ Trade-Offs     lean project management

Now you’re ready to develop the “4-Corners” of your project plan and give yourself the best scope and change control tool available. That is the ability to quantify trade-offs between the four dimensions of the project.  Every project has “4-Corners” and changes in one corner always impact at least one other corner:

  • Business value (scope)
  • Budget (cost)
  • Completion date (duration)
  • Level of confidence (risk) in delivering the preceding three corners.

Unfortunately, in most projects only one (or two at the most) of these corners is explicitly measurable.  The completion date is always objectively measurable and usually rock solid.  But most internal projects have no other measurable dimension.  In some business situations, the budget for the project will also be measurable.  But even with these two measured dimensions, the business value of the project is usually unmeasurable mush.  As a result, you can’t quantify the impact of scope changes on the budget or duration except by whining loudly.

The risk corner is rarely measured. As a result, project sponsors assume there’s no risk and you are 100% confident of delivering the business value within the duration and/or budget.  Now 100% confidence seems ridiculous, particularly in light of the fact that most organizations experience a project failure rate near 50 percent.  Yet few project managers give their sponsors the opportunity to make decisions about the level of confidence they want and the level of “risk insurance” they’re willing to pay for.

The lean project management framing process we’ve been talking about gives you a scope.  You can use that quantified measure of the project’s business value when you build your project schedule and budget.  You can also present your sponsor with quantified trade-offs between the “4-Corners” of the project plan.  This data-based decision-making and “fine-tuning” is a far better approval platform than one based on arbitrary changes to one or more of the corners without any compensating changes in the others.

You will use these quantified trade-offs every time there is a variance to the plan.  Your lean project management status reports will include trade-off analyses between the “4-Corners.” That allows executives to evaluate alternatives for taking advantage of opportunities and recovering from problems.

 

Learn more about our Lean Project Management Methodology and the specific techniques for framing your projects and developing “4-Corners™” trade-offs in our online project management courses. You’ll 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. We can also customize a program for your organization and deliver it at your site or in online webinars.

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Project Contractors & Consultants

Project Contractors and Consultants

Often times on projects, the project manager must work with project contractors and consultants. These are outside professionals, consultants and other vendors required to finalize some of the project tasks. This enables the project manager to secure high-level professional Project Contractors and Consultantsresources. The key to success with contractors and consultants is setting up control mechanisms to ensure the work is finished on time and within budget.

Handled poorly, contractors and consultants can cause substantial budget overruns on your project and late finishes because their work is not completed on time. The worst of all circumstances is when the project manager does not establish the framework in which the contractor or consultant has to operate.  It is worth the money to offer these outside professionals a small incentive for finishing on time and budget. You should also have your written agreement reflect a penalty if they are late or spend more than planned.  Those steps give the contractor and consultant some “skin in the game.” That is, they have the same incentives you do, rather than simply focusing on maximizing their profits.

Project Contractors and Consultants: Steps

First, you should write a procurement Statement of Work (SOW) that contains the required scope of work, deliverables, duration, standards, conditions, and payment terms that the contractors and consultants will work under. For larger expenditures, you should find qualified contractors who can accomplish the tasks by sending them a Request for Quotation (RFQ) based on the SOW.

The SOW should include your payment terms. It is best to pay them based on measurable achievements, not by the hour or day. Depending on the type of work, you might use measures such as how many square meters are done or how many pounds are produced, etc. Always try to find a way to objectively measure the achievement. Paying by the hour is not the proper way to control project costs and will not help complete the project on time. For example, paying an IT contractor by the hour is a bad idea because he might spend days on a small issue to increase his fee. Payment should be based on measurable achievements like how many services are tested and running smoothly. These term should also include the incentives for on time and on budget completion and and penalties for failure.

Tracking the work of project contractors and consultants is very important to ensure the deliverables are submitted within scope, duration, and cost. Payments based on achievements controls the budget. You need to ensure the duration after controlling the cost. Penalties can be applied as a way to control the duration and motivate the contractor to finalize the work during the agreed upon time frame. Alternatively, you can establish incentives in the SOW like, “If the contractor achieves 40 square meters daily and completes the entire task in three days, the price will be $20 per human resource hour. The price will be $15 per human resource hour if the contractor completes the entire task in five days.” This will challenge the contractor and lead the project to success.

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Project Templates

Project Templates vs. Re-inventing the Wheel

Project templates can be a big time saver as long as they fit your project and your organization. The best way to secure templates that you can use on all of your projects is for you and perhaps a couple of other project managers to develop them yourselves.  It really doesn’t take a great deal of time and often project managers can pool and compare the formats and templates they use for the project scope, charter, stakeholder identification and so on.  Designing a common template obviously requires a little bit of compromise but it will save time for the project managers and the sponsors and stakeholders who will use these documents.  However, you should avoid at all costs the Excel template called “Factories” that sells hundreds of templates that supposedly “fit all projects.” They do not.

Project Managers are creative people and that’s a good thing. Without creativity, we would not be able to structure a project or react quickly to project templatesunforeseen challenges. However, it is also human nature to try to customize and alter things until they totally look the way we want them to or at least bear our undeniable mark. Unfortunately, this practice is not efficient and it might actually hinder your project success.  That’s why you reaching consensus on project templates with your PM colleagues is the best course.

Project Templates Save Time

We all hate those forms that we have to fill out to get a project approved and we don’t like the client’s format for project status reports. After all, we are experienced project managers. So why can’t the client use our artfully created project templates for the scope, charter, WBS, and status presentation? Of course we develop a new form for each project. If you work in an organization that always develops everything from scratch, please take a minute to read through the list below of the benefits of standardization. On the other hand, if you work in an organization with lots of standardization, these points might help you appreciate all the forms you have available. Obviously, over-standardization is an issue. But for the most part, having a standardized way of organizing, managing, and documenting projects has at least the following benefits:

Shorter Start-Up Time

If everyone uses the same project templates, everyone knows what to expect. Let’s call it the McDonalds Principle: No matter where in the world you buy a cheeseburger from McDonalds, its always the same: Two buns, one hamburger patty, a slice of cheese, a slice of pickle, mustard and ketchup. Customers know exactly what they’ll get when they order a McDonalds cheeseburger.

The same holds true for standardized forms and processes. Everyone knows what is expected and things can be compared, matched, and so on. All the decision makers in the organization know where to find the information they are looking for so they can make a decision more easily. Moreover, if you need to train a new PM, it is easier to show him/her a set of similar-looking project charters and plans than it is to analyze a set of completely different-looking documents. Last but not least, using tools that already exist and that have been tested by previous PMs will make it easier for you to start the actual project work. You need not wast time designing something that already exists.

Easier Lessons Learned 

Each project or project phase should end with a lessons learned session. Standardized requirements documentation, status reports, and plans make it easier to point out flaws and actually learn from our mistakes.

Easier Estimation Next Time

If all the projects in an organization use the same standards, it will be easier for PMs to use historical analysis for their next project’s estimations because they can accurately compare the current project with a previous one. The point I’m making here is this: Standardization has its place. Obviously, there is an extreme to that, but I hope you get my point. When starting with a new client, why don’t you ask your client if they have a standard for PM documentation?

Until next time.

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health care basics

Individual Online Mentoring Thru the Course & A Year Afterward $1,995

Healthcare managers and beginning project managers learn the basics of project management. Practice managing a project step-by-step with your instructor.

[twocol_one]

Healthcare Project Basics – Individual Online Instruction

Learn the basics by managing a healthcare project working with an expert project manager. Learn to use real world tools and techniques, not vague academic concepts. You master a straightforward, proven methodology for small and medium-size healthcare projects.

After the course you will be able to plan projects

  • Ask the right question of the boss, administrators or care-givers
  • Breakdown what they want into pieces you can manage
  • Present the plan to management for their approval

You will be able to schedule and assign tasks to your team

  • Quickly schedule in project software (several choices)
  • Accurately estimate work and time & finish as soon as possible
  • Make clear assignments that tell your team what you want

You will be able to track and report progress

  • Spot problems early when they are easier to fix
  • Plan your corrective action
  • Make a professional status report.

Industry Specialty Courses: ConstructionBusinessHealthcareIT/ISConsulting
[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]

How It Works

Individual, Customized Project Management Training; Instructor-led Online

Learn a simple methodology with templates that you can use on all your IT/IS projects. You will know how to plan, schedule, track and report progress.

You work with your instructor as you manage every step in a project

  • Private, customized hands-on training from an expert project manager
    • Do assignments when you wish; take up to 1 year
    • Get feedback within 24 hours & discuss it in private video conferences
    • Practice running meetings & presentations live with your instructor

Training Project Managers Since 1986Click for the BBB Business Review of this Management Training in Denver CO

[/twocol_one_last]

Healthcare Project Basics Online Course Tuition $1,995

Talk to a Counselor 1-303-596-0000

[button link=”https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/4pmnew/4pm-newsite/131.pdf” style=”info” color=”blue” window=”yes”]Brochure[/button][button link=”http://162.144.114.198/~jwkdwgmy/program-manager-assessment/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”blue” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Questions?[/button][button link=”http://162.144.114.198/~jwkdwgmy/about-4pm-com/student-course-evaluations/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”blue” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Student Comments[/button][button link=”https://learn-by-video.com/product/https://learn-by-video.com/product/healthcare-projects-131/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”red” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Enroll[/button]

Our Credentials

  • We have been training project managers for over 25 years
  • Our courses have been approved by PMI® for 30-60 education hours (PDUs)
  • Our courses have been offered for graduate school credit at major universities
  • We have had an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau for 17 years
  • Our staff is composed of experienced project managers who have worked more than a decade in various industries

Course Modules: What you will learn and how you will practice the new skills

Skills & Techniques in Reading & Lectures  Practice in Live Meetings & Presentations
1. Define Scope – Learn to ask the right questions of the healthcare administrator to unearth the project scope and the major deliverables. Learn how to use a strong scope statement to avoid scope creep. Learn to uncover the major constraints on the project cost and schedule. Lead a live project planning session with your instructor who plays the roles of the administrator and department heads. Ask them questions to define a clear scope for the healthcare project that will solve their problems. Then gain their approval of the scope.
2. Gather Requirements – Learn how to ask the right questions and to link requirements to project goals. Learn how to use this information to handle change requests. Uncover all the requirements so you can address them early in the project. Learn to document requirements and the project goals they support. Run a live requirements meeting with each department head (role-played by your instructor). Gather their requirements and define the achievements each department must produce using those requirements.
3. Build Project Plan – Learn to design a plan covering deliverables, resources, rough cost estimates and project risks. Make initial estimates of time and cost. Then identify risks and plan how to avoid them. Build a Power Point slide show of your healthcare project plan. Present your plan & slides to the administrator & department heads (role-played by your instructor). Answer their questions about your plan and gain their approval and support.
4. Create a Work Breakdown & Schedule – Learn how to sequence and estimate your tasks using project management software. Learn to build a healthcare project work breakdown structure (WBS) detailing all the deliverables your team will produce. Break down your high-level deliverables into individual assignments for your team members. Create clear performance expectations for each assignment. Review your schedule with your instructor when you complete the WBS, predecessors, estimates of work and time. Discuss the schedule’s strengths and weaknesses in live meetings with your instructor and make improvements after each review. 
5. Tradeoffs & Critical Path – Learn to develop alternative ways of doing the project by changing the scope, duration, costs and resources. Optimize your schedule to minimize cost and duration and develop trade-offs between them for the administrator & department heads to evaluate. In a live presentation to the administrator & department heads (role-played by your instructor), discuss trade-offs between scope, duration and cost to give them options for the project.
6. Conflict Management – Learn five strategies for resolving conflicts plus how and when to apply them. Learn techniques to minimize the impact of conflicts on your project schedule and budget. Watch a video of a conflict between two team members. Select the correct technique to manage the conflict and discuss it with your instructor.
7. Tracking & Status – Learn to give the administrator & department heads accurate forecasts of the completion date and final cost. Identify problems and model solutions using the project management software. Update your project schedule to reflect actual results to-date and forecast final dates and costs.  Using status data from your team, update your schedule, spot problems and develop solutions. Present the status to the administrator & department heads (role-played by your instructor) using Power Point slides. Answer their questions.

How Instructor-led Individual Training Works: Course Features

Healthcare Project Basics Online Course Tuition $1,995

Talk to a Counselor 1-303-596-0000

[button link=”https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/4pmnew/4pm-newsite/131.pdf” style=”info” color=”blue” window=”yes”]Brochure[/button][button link=”http://162.144.114.198/~jwkdwgmy/program-manager-assessment/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”blue” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Questions?[/button][button link=”http://162.144.114.198/~jwkdwgmy/about-4pm-com/student-course-evaluations/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”blue” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Student Comments[/button][button link=”https://learn-by-video.com/product/https://learn-by-video.com/product/healthcare-projects-131/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”red” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Enroll[/button]

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Healthcare 131 Project Basics

Individual Online Mentoring Thru the Course & A Year Afterward $1,995

Healthcare managers and beginning project managers learn the basics of project management. Practice managing a project step-by-step with your instructor.

[twocol_one]

Healthcare Project Basics – Individual Online Instruction

Learn the basics by managing a healthcare project working with an expert project manager. Learn to use real world tools and techniques, not vague academic concepts. You master a straightforward, proven methodology for small and medium-size healthcare projects.

After the course you will be able to plan projects

  • Ask the right question of the boss, administrators or care-givers
  • Breakdown what they want into pieces you can manage
  • Present the plan to management for their approval

You will be able to schedule and assign tasks to your team

  • Quickly schedule in project software (several choices)
  • Accurately estimate work and time & finish as soon as possible
  • Make clear assignments that tell your team what you want

You will be able to track and report progress

  • Spot problems early when they are easier to fix
  • Plan your corrective action
  • Make a professional status report.

Industry Specialty Courses: Construction, BusinessHealthcare, IT/IS, Consulting
[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]

How It Works

Individual, Customized Project Management Training; Instructor-led Online

Learn a simple methodology with templates that you can use on all your IT/IS projects. You will know how to plan, schedule, track and report progress.

You work with your instructor as you manage every step in a project

  • Private, customized hands-on training from an expert project manager
    • Do assignments when you wish; take up to 1 year
    • Get feedback within 24 hours & discuss it in private video conferences
    • Practice running meetings & presentations live with your instructor

Training Project Managers Since 1986Click for the BBB Business Review of this Management Training in Denver CO

[/twocol_one_last]

Healthcare Project Basics Online Course Tuition $1,995

Talk to a Counselor 1-303-596-0000

[button link=”https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/4pmnew/4pm-newsite/131.pdf” style=”info” color=”blue” window=”yes”]Brochure[/button][button link=”http://162.144.114.198/~jwkdwgmy/program-manager-assessment/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”blue” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Questions?[/button][button link=”http://162.144.114.198/~jwkdwgmy/about-4pm-com/student-course-evaluations/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”blue” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Student Comments[/button][button link=”https://learn-by-video.com/product/https://learn-by-video.com/product/healthcare-projects-131/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”red” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Enroll[/button]

Our Credentials

  • We have been training project managers for over 25 years
  • Our courses have been approved by PMI® for 30-60 education hours (PDUs)
  • Our courses have been offered for graduate school credit at major universities
  • We have had an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau for 17 years
  • Our staff is composed of experienced project managers who have worked more than a decade in various industries

Course Modules: What you will learn and how you will practice the new skills

Skills & Techniques in Reading & Lectures Practice in Live Meetings & Presentations
1. Define Scope – Learn to ask the right questions of the healthcare administrator to unearth the project scope and the major deliverables. Learn how to use a strong scope statement to avoid scope creep. Learn to uncover the major constraints on the project cost and schedule. Lead a live project planning session with your instructor who plays the roles of the administrator and department heads. Ask them questions to define a clear scope for the healthcare project that will solve their problems. Then gain their approval of the scope.
2. Gather Requirements – Learn how to ask the right questions and to link requirements to project goals. Learn how to use this information to handle change requests. Uncover all the requirements so you can address them early in the project. Learn to document requirements and the project goals they support. Run a live requirements meeting with each department head (role-played by your instructor). Gather their requirements and define the achievements each department must produce using those requirements.
3. Build Project Plan – Learn to design a plan covering deliverables, resources, rough cost estimates and project risks. Make initial estimates of time and cost. Then identify risks and plan how to avoid them. Build a Power Point slide show of your healthcare project plan. Present your plan & slides to the administrator & department heads (role-played by your instructor). Answer their questions about your plan and gain their approval and support.
4. Create a Work Breakdown & Schedule – Learn how to sequence and estimate your tasks using project management software. Learn to build a healthcare project work breakdown structure (WBS) detailing all the deliverables your team will produce. Break down your high-level deliverables into individual assignments for your team members. Create clear performance expectations for each assignment. Review your schedule with your instructor when you complete the WBS, predecessors, estimates of work and time. Discuss the schedule’s strengths and weaknesses in live meetings with your instructor and make improvements after each review.
5. Tradeoffs & Critical Path – Learn to develop alternative ways of doing the project by changing the scope, duration, costs and resources. Optimize your schedule to minimize cost and duration and develop trade-offs between them for the administrator & department heads to evaluate. In a live presentation to the administrator & department heads (role-played by your instructor), discuss trade-offs between scope, duration and cost to give them options for the project.
6. Conflict Management – Learn five strategies for resolving conflicts plus how and when to apply them. Learn techniques to minimize the impact of conflicts on your project schedule and budget. Watch a video of a conflict between two team members. Select the correct technique to manage the conflict and discuss it with your instructor.
7. Tracking & Status – Learn to give the administrator & department heads accurate forecasts of the completion date and final cost. Identify problems and model solutions using the project management software. Update your project schedule to reflect actual results to-date and forecast final dates and costs. Using status data from your team, update your schedule, spot problems and develop solutions. Present the status to the administrator & department heads (role-played by your instructor) using Power Point slides. Answer their questions.

How Instructor-led Individual Training Works: Course Features

Healthcare Project Basics Online Course Tuition $1,995

Talk to a Counselor 1-303-596-0000

[button link=”https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/4pmnew/4pm-newsite/131.pdf” style=”info” color=”blue” window=”yes”]Brochure[/button][button link=”http://162.144.114.198/~jwkdwgmy/program-manager-assessment/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”blue” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Questions?[/button][button link=”http://162.144.114.198/~jwkdwgmy/about-4pm-com/student-course-evaluations/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”blue” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Student Comments[/button][button link=”https://learn-by-video.com/product/https://learn-by-video.com/product/healthcare-projects-131/” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”red” border=”#940940″ window=”yes”]Enroll[/button]

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Lessons Learned on an Agile Project

Lately, the Agile Project Management approach has become very popular, and it seems that everyone is a scrum master. Here are lessons learned on an Agile project for every project manager. Now I have to disclose to you that I am not a certified Agile PM. I’m sort of a fan of the traditional approach, but more and more, Agile is taking over. What I would like to share with you today is a bit of a lessons learned from my first Agile project. Project Methodology Main PageLessons Learned on an Agile Project

First of all, Agile PM does not mean that we don’t have to plan, or that we can slack off on documentation. On the contrary, I want to warn you not to underestimate these two aspects of project management. When I was asked to take over one of our “projects in distress,” the project was three month behind schedule and the cost to implementation ratio was deep in the red. Our consultant had sold the idea of Agile PM and my company followed it. For the first three months of the project developers were talking to functional users and going through implementation cycles. The users rejected the implementations because something was missing or incorrectly implemented. Needless to say, there was not much documentation available. So when I took over this is what I did:

1) Organize a user training program about Agile Project Management. Being a newbie to Agile myself, I reached out to my colleague who had experience in Agile PM and we organized user training about this topic. We explained how Agile works, what we expected from users in terms of user story documentation, and what we would expect from our consultants. It turned out that this was a very important step because most of our users had no idea what a sprint was (gathering people involved in the project to focus on its development) and what was expected from them. Agile Project Management

2) Using elements from the traditional project management approach, I redefined and documented the sprint cycles, communications plan, and general project structure. As a result, each sprint now required an official sprint scope document that clearly outlined which topics were in the scope for the sprint. Moreover, I established clear deadlines for submission of user requirements and specifications. The goal was to establish a fair environment for both the functional users and the developers. I expected the users to tell me what they needed, I asked for agreement between functional users and developers on what was possible in a sprint, and I expected the agreed-upon scope to be implemented.

3) If you work in implementation sprints, it is easy to loose sight of the big picture. So I created a diagram that visualized the expected project objective and all user stories had to contribute to that goal. Project scope must be managed all the time.

Using elements from traditional project management, my colleague and I were able to turn that project around and I’m quite confident that we will end it with success. So what are the lessons learned? Even if you are not a certified Agile PM, you can manage an Agile project. Many aspects of a traditional project management approach should be used in Agile too. Planning might be a little different under Agile but it is still necessary. And so is scope management, communications management, procurement management, and cost controlling.

Until next time.