Project Hero Blog

More Project Management Best Practice Tips

PM Tip, Week of 29 March 2020

6 Essential Tools for Project Financial Control

Use these six important tools to keep your project on budget:

  • Contracts: Contracts, whether formal or informal (e.g., MOU), can reveal what aspects of the project are most important. Incentive clauses in contracts can keep everyone on the same page.
  • Reviews: Short interval reviews, such as status reports, should include cost variance analysis. Long interval reviews can provide information about financial trends (e.g., burn rates, long term variance), and valuable lessons learned.
  • Audits: Conduct periodic reviews of budgets, invoices, payments, and other transactions in detail.
  • Earned Value Management: Even smaller projects can benefit from the trend analysis and forecasting available from a simplified use of EVMS.
  • Change Control: Be sure that all agreed-upon changes include financial impacts, including those from new risks, then track these separately until agreement is reached to re-baseline.
  • Control Waste: Educate yourself on the...
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PM Tip, Week of 22 March 2020

5 Superior Stakeholder Questions for Project Leaders to Ask

Whether you are a project manager or a business analyst, these five open-ended questions posed to the project sponsor and other senior executives can get you vital information you need for project success in a short amount of time:

  • What does success look like to you? – Learn what is most valuable to manage the triple constraints appropriately.
  • What are your biggest challenges and opportunities? – Confirm your project is solving the most critical problems.
  • What happens if we don’t change or succeed? – Determine the importance of project success for future reference and communication plans.
  • Who will be impacted, and to whom else should I speak? – Grow and confirm your stakeholder register, so no one important is missed.
  • What else may impact the project? – Grow and confirm your risk register, so priority risks, especially those outside your project, are not missed.
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PM Tip, Week of 15 March 2020

Project Leaders Tailor Agile

Agile is popular, but good project leaders know that there is not a “one size fits all” method.  If you are going to use Agile, consider how it may need tailoring to meet project goals better.

  • List the 12 Agile principles and consider how each might impact project objectives, positive or negative
  • Decide which principles to keep and which to reject
  • Analyze the results and see how Agile may need to change
  • Put the modified Agile into practice and periodically review progress
  • Adjust as needed and apply learnings to the next project

For example:  If a deadline is critical, the principle with a substantial negative impact is accepting change at any time.  If you eliminate that principle, your product backlog might need to be the result of a more robust, upfront elicitation to avoid delays.  You can still develop iteratively, involve the business owner, and deliver practical solutions at regular intervals.

If the process...

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PM Tip, Week of 08 March 2020

5 Tips to Improve Your Agile Project Management

As Agile and iterative methods grow in popularity, it is easy for those with a solid project management background to work in a new environment.  These 5 tips will help:

  1. Question traditional PM practices: everything you know still applies, but question how to tailor and improve past practices for the new environment.
  2. Use pictures over words: lighter Agile documentation benefits from images and diagrams more than written words.  Make a conscious effort to use more images.
  3. Risk and schedule management are still relevant: make sure these are included in lighter versions: more diagrams and schedules map out sprints, rather than details.  Use burndown charts to show progress. Re-examine risks when planning each sprint.
  4. Consider the user experience: customer involvement is critical.  Don't lose sight of who needs to use the project.
  5. Always re-evaluate your process. Frequent retrospectives will enable continuous...
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PM Tip, Week of 01 March 2020

Leaders: 5 Times You Should Cancel a Project


For over 10 years, stakeholders tried to make the Denver International Airport Automated Baggage Handling project work before giving up. The cost of continuing was around $120M, on top of an already over-budget project that was too complex to fix. Project leaders should know when to give up and cancel a project. Here are 5 circumstances that signal the necessity of cancellation:

  1. Project objectives are no longer attainable, and no useful deliverables will result.
  2. The project is no longer aligned with organizational goals and strategy.
  3. The project is very off track and cannot be economically salvaged (do not consider sunk costs in the decision).
  4. The project will no longer provide any value to the organization when completed.
  5. Any contractual terms for cancellation are met.
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PM Tip, Week of 23 February 2020

5 Tips for Leaders to Motivate their Teams


As a leader, you will need to manage by influence and motivate the team without full authority. Here are five tips to effectively motivate your teams:

  1. Be a good role model. Set the example you want the team to follow.
  2. Set smaller, shorter period goals. While having bigger goals is good, to drive day-to-day performance, set smaller, easier to reach goals over short periods such as days, weeks, or a month.
  3. Acknowledgment. Ranging from a "thank you" to a team outing to a quarterly performance award, acknowledge the achieved goals.
  4. Share power. Let team members lead various tasks and goals. It will let them know they are valued and prepare them for future
    leadership roles.
  5. Get to know each member better. Develop relationships which will help later when it comes time to determine task assignments and rewards. It will also help each team member feel more valued.

How do you motivate your teams? Share a tip!

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PM Tip, Week of 16 February 2020

Project Leaders: Time to Ask Another "Why?"


Decades of Project Management research shows that lack of user involvement/ executive sponsorship and requirements management are consistently high on the top 10 causes of project failure list. Over time, there has been a modest uptick in project success rates, but still, large percentages of projects fail to meet their goals. Why? Here is a short candidate list to consider:

  • Not enough of the right PM training offerings. There is more focus on certification than learning the right skills. Plus while the PMBOK® Guide has tripled in size, the education hours of many programs remain the same (how is this effective???).
  • Too many "accidental" project managers. Neither the PMBOK® Guide nor the MS Project manual are learning resources - they are references.
  • Huge tolerance for waste and quality issues. While waste and quality issues may not appear to be important to projects, they compound to impact the portfolio. - Too busy running the...
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PM Tip, Week of 09 February 2020

5 Tips for Project Leaders to Effectively Handle Issues


Ever work on a project where it seemed like there were constant issues? Here are some tips to both avoid getting into this state and effectively handling the issues if you do.

  1. Have a robust risk management process. Issues are risks that "happened", so proactively identifying potential issues upfront will help you avoid or manage them.
  2. Have a robust risk response planning process. A robust process will help you efficiently handle the potential, previously identified issues that do occur. It will also help you more easily form strategies to handle those issues not identified upfront.
  3. Learn a lesson from bank and airline customer service. One line, one list - avoid the temptation of multiple lists. Prioritize the issues and assign each in turn to the next available resources.
  4. Insert new issues in their priority order. Briefly review the top issues regularly to make sure priorities are still valid and that the issues still exist.
  5. ...
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PM Tip, Week of 02 February 2020

5-Step Roadmap to the PMP® for Highly Experienced PMs


You have accrued far more than the required three years of experience, have taken some classes in project management, and just learned about the PMP® certification. This is the same roadmap I followed in 2001 and passed on the first attempt. It's inexpensive and you can "opt out" at any step to pursue more learning if necessary, before investing too much time.

  1. Check eligibility. Download the Certification Handbook from PMI.org and check all requirements. If you meet them, apply for the exam and "start the clock".
  2. Get access to a prep book with practice questions per chapter. Go through the book, answer the questions, and compute the percent score.
  3. Study chapters with scores below 75-80%. Study and retake the practice questions until you score in 75-80% range. Brush up on test taking skills.
  4. Skim the PMBOK® Guide. Know the processes and how they fit the knowledge areas and process groups. Learn as many inputs and...
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PM Tip, Week of 26 January 2020

5-Step Roadmap to a Career as a Leader


Seeking a leadership career? Embarking on a career in Project Management and earning a PMP® is a good path PMs typically earn more than "experts" and PMPs typically earn more than non-PMPs. The skills you learn will benefit any future management positions. You can wait to become an "accidental" PM or be proactive and follow this high-level roadmap:

  1. Gain minimal knowledge. Learn the vocabulary and basics of PM. Take a basic training course, such as https://accidentalpm.online/accidentalpm to see if this is a career for you.
  2. Discuss with your manager. You will need their support in getting the opportunity for the experience you will need to be eligible for the PMP, and finding the right training for continuous learning. You may start as assistant PM, project coordinator/administrator, or similar entry role.
  3. With experience, consider taking the CAPM® certification exam. It will demonstrate your ongoing commitment to learning about the...
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