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Project Plan Blunder #2 – Turf Wars

A project sponsor is meeting with the department managers who are her subordinates. She’s called them together to tell them their company is receiving terrible publicity. Their horrid customer service has made the front page of the local paper. She needs them to create a project plan to improve their customer service.

The sponsor explains that they need an integrated effort. Each of the four departments needs to cooperate with the others to bring about a significant improvement in the company’s customer service. When the project manager suggests that people in the various departments will work on tasks he assigns them, all hell breaks loose. The turf wars are intense. None of the managers accept the idea that people can work effectively on a cross-functional team. The project sponsor makes more speeches about the need for cooperation. The project manager tries to explain that isolated efforts in each department will not bring about the strategic improvement that the company needs.

Project Plans and Turf Wars

Project plan turf wars happen in many organizations.  When political battles exist between departments, the warring sides often suggest separate projects in each of the departments. They think that eliminates the need for cross-functional cooperation. But that never works. It also doesn’t work if there is a separate project manager in each department with the overall project manager coordinating all their efforts.  The idea of separate projects and project managers sounds good to people caught in inter-departmental conflicts. But successful project managers know that the way to succeed in cross-functional projects is not to subdivide them. That’s the easy step to take. It allows them to avoid solving the basic conflicts that exist.

Let’s look at the video and see how the project manager and sponsor do with their project plan. What would you do to end these turf wars and give the project some chance of succeeding?

Project Planning Blunders: Stakeholder Turf Wars

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Project Due Dates – How to Screw Up a Project Plan

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

Watch this video of a common way to screw up a project plan. Is it familiar?

Pretend Project Due Dates

The sponsor plucks a project due date out of the sky. Then the tells the stakeholders they’re accountable for meeting that date. No one believes this pretend due date is realistic. They back into the due dates for their deliverables but they aren’t committed to them.  Watch the managers faces in this video and see how much commitment they have to the dates.  These people know they are going to fail before they even start work.  They’re all trying to figure out  how they will throw something together by the due date. They know they’ll then spend months fixing it.

Project Planning Blunders: Due Dates

Realistic Project Due Dates

The way a project manager and sponsor should set the project due date is by calculating the amount of work that each task requires. An effective technique is to let the team members take part in estimating the number of hours worth of work their task will take. Then you convert the number of work hours into the task’s duration. The duration is also based on each team member’s availability to work on their project task. Main Project Planning Page

When you use that technique to develop your task duration estimates, you gain a significant number benefits. First, the team members have a reasonable amount of commitment to the due date because they participated in setting it. Second, you and sponsor can accurately track progress. You can measure the number of hours worked versus the estimated hours. That gives you an exact idea of the percentage of work completed and the percentage of work remaining. With that information, you can calculate when the work will be done. The third benefit is that the team members are not held accountable for finishing their task by a certain date. They are accountable for finishing within a certain number of hours worth of work.

You can learn the best practices for planning projects with realistic due dates in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your specialty.

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Project Team From Hell – Watch Them Fail Miserably

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

At some time in their career, everyone who manages projects has had a Project Team From Hell that failed miserably. The team not only failed to achieve the project’s goals, it also ruined several personal lives, careers and marriages. Let’s watch this one.

We’ll zoom in to Royster Industries and meet some of the characters that turned this group into the ultimate Project Team From Hell.  First we have Gilbert, the project manager, who would like to be a geek but isn’t smart enough.  Gilbert spends half of his time trying to suck up to upper management. He doesn’t realize they think he is the worst kind of lowlife. He spends the other half of his time assembling a micro-mini work breakdown structure (WBS) that is 5,739 lines long for a project with just two week’s duration. Every task is broken down into micro-tasks that may take minutes to complete. It is so complex that it takes Gilbert about 10 days to enter all of the prior week’s status reports. He falls further and further behind and convinces everyone that he is long past this point of incompetence.

Next we have Jasper, one of the stakeholders. He manages a department that is unimportant and has no impact on the companyProject Team from Hell‘s revenues or profits excepted to decrease them. His great pleasure is to bait project managers into telling senior management outright lies about the status of their project.  Then he delights in watching the water torture of executives questioning these deceitful project managers like prisoners of war.

Then we have Stephanie. On the basis of intelligence, initiative and common sense, she should be the organization’s CEO. Instead, she’s a lowly associate trapped in one losing project after another by Gilbert’s micromanagement.  She dashes from team member to team member trying to prevent them from sinking further into the swamp of their finger-pointing, blame avoiding and personal attacks. Unfortunately, she fails miserably.

Watch this Project Team From Hell. Have you worked with any of these personalities or in these situations? If you have outrageous examples of how to screw up a project, send them to us in a comment. We’ll try to work them into the next episode of 537 Ways to Screw Up a Project.

How to Screw Up Project: Status Reports

You can learn the right way to manage a project team 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 course in your specialty.

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Project Disasters – Comedy Video

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

Project DisastersIt takes a lot of work to make a project disaster as bad as this one. Our 4PM.com cast members show you how in a Project disasters comedy video about how to screw up a project.

The PMs and team members are preparing their failed project for a big project status meeting. You’ll see micro-managing PMs frantically hiding problems and berating team members for finishing early. Other team members point fingers at each other while sleazy executives maneuver for their political advantage.  Whacked-out IT staff members use a million phony excuses about why the system is late.  While the Human Resources people back-stab the Sales people to avoid blame for a  pointless employee survey. You’ll see all the things NOT to do on a project.

You’ll also see how the PM deals with the inept executive sponsor of the project, Mr. Lonegan. He starts more projects than the organization can possibly finish. His projects never have a clearly defined scope so the project managers and team members have to guess about what they think Mr. Morgan wants the project to deliver.  Because the project managers are not sure what Mr. Lonegan wants, they make very vague assignments to their team members. That way they can’t be blamed but the team member can.

The final icing on Mr. Lonegans’s disastrous cake is the red hot anger he directs toward any project manager or team member who admits to being late. Mr. Lonigan probably convinces himself that he is a dynamic leader with very high standards. In truth, Mr. Lonegan is a complete failure as a project sponsor. And he drags down and rest of the organization with him.

These characters may remind you of some of the people on your projects and the interpersonal challenges they give you. If you remember characters or situations from your experience, share them with others in the blog.

If you have outrageous examples of how to screw up a project, send them to us in a comment and we’ll try to work them into the next episode of 537 Ways to Screw Up a Project.

How to Screw Up Project: Status Reports

 

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Bad Project Planning Tools – A Project From Hell Video

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

A Project From Hell always begins with bad project planning tools. Watch as a project manager uses fairly typical, but poor, planning tools and estimating techniques to develop the hours and due dates for the project team. Then you’ll see private interviews with each of the team members and hear their reaction to the project manager’s planning techniques. They clearly reveal their lack of commitment to their tasks and the entire project.

The project sponsor is demanding an “on time finish” for the project and really tight control. The project manager thinks tight control means an extremely detailed plan broken down into small tasks for each team member. So he launches into the planning process with this mind set. The plan and schedule list hundreds of small tasks and he thinks that gives him tight control.

Listen to the project team talk about the planning process and the kind of assignments they’ve been given.  We soon understand that the project manager is not going to have tight control. Instead, he’ll be working with demoralized team members who fully expect the project to fail. And they’re right because the project manager is unable to make a proper plan aimed at producing the project’s scope. All this project manager can do is list hundreds of micro-tasks for the team complete.

The project manager should have used a very different tactic. Instead of micromanaging the project team, the project manager should have planned crystal clear assignments. That means that each of the team members understood what they had to deliver and what the project manager expected of them. The project manager also needed to tap into each team member’s creativity by making assignments that are as large as they could handle. With this approach, the team members would be challenged and committed to completing their assignment. And they would use all their creativity and experience to deliver their assignments on time.

Project Planning with the Team: see how they react

You can learn the project planning best practices in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your industry specialty.

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Project Team From Hell – Video

Watch the Project Team From Hell point fingers at each other just before a big status report meeting with the company president. These people have so many excuses they don’t know which ones they’re going to use or who they will blame for all their screw ups.

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

Listen to the hysteria, the deceit and the finger-pointing. Does it sound like what goes on in your organization?

Project Team From Hell – Status Report Video

It’s Friday, the last day of the month, and time for project status reports at Royster Industries. Every project manager will have to stand up and deliver their status report to Mr. Lonnegan, the company president. The project managers at Royster Industries are in a frenzy today and every Friday. Not only are they trying to prepare their own status reports but they’re actively engaged in trying to sabotage other project managers’ status reports. People are starting rumors that make absolutely no sense but people still overreact to them. Some of the folks from the IT department are seeking solace in marijuana edibles while others have taken to hard drink in the morning. The rookie project managers are particularly vulnerable to the lies that older PMs are telling. Several of these rookies are nearing a nervous breakdown by overreacting to the horror stories of what Mr. Lonnegan has done to project managers who don’t make positive status reports.

Still other project managers are busy developing excuses for the poor performance of their project. Some will point fingers at the project team, accusing them of treachery and sabotage. Others are giving erroneous status data to less experienced project managers in the hope that they will use it in their report and fall prey to Mr. Lonnegan’s harsh tongue. It’s a typical status report Friday at Royster industries where they have never completed a successful project (not a surprise). Amid the comedy, see if you can spot some of the mistakes made in your organization.

How to Screw Up Project: Status Reports

You can learn the correct way to work with your team to prepare and present professional status reports in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with an expert project manager who is your instructor and coach. 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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