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Dec 16 – Unmanned and Out of Control!

December 2016

Written by Evelyn D. Brooks, MSM, PMP, SSGB

A train has several interconnected compartments, each serving specific purposes. Like a train, a project without proper controls can cause the project to derail or cause other serious consequences! Imagine missing the train that you’re supposed to be controlling! Most likely there will be panic and chaos. Passengers will be looking for someone to take control. That’s the role of a project manager, managing and controlling projects including those that are already in motion (before your arrival). To come in midstream and effectively manage a project that’s already in motion, one must first perform triage.

Triage is a process of determining the project’s priorities and then assessing their current conditions. You’ll be going around each component to assess if all is as expected. Typically, the three most significant priorities and restraints are referred to as the triple constraint; they are Scope, Time, and Costs. The project’s deliverable must meet the agreed scope and requirements, no more or less than expected. It must also be delivered on time and within cost.

It is critical that you understand your project’s objectives, budget, and schedule. In a perfect world, your sponsor, hands you that official document (charter) that formally authorizes a project and provides you (project manager) with authority to apply organizational resources. This should be one of the first documents to get your on. Because as you may know, the charter describes the business needs, projects goals and purpose, requirements, stakeholders, budget, levels of authority and other pertinent information. Unfortunately, and too often organizations tend to leave this part out of their project management processes. If this is the case, then as a project manager, it is your responsibility to create one as quickly as possible!

Since one of the top reasons for project failure is a result of poorly defined scope and expectations, which occurs at the beginning of the project and of which you were not involved, schedule time to meet with your sponsor and key stakeholders immediately! Inquire their understanding of the project’s goals, objectives, and requirement. Also, request copies of other support documentation, such as:

  • the scope of work
  • proposals
  • contracts
  • work breakdown structure
  • schedule
  • organization chart

Find out the status of each component. How well are you doing with your resources; are the appropriate team member in place and will be ready when needed? Does everyone clearly understand the project’s requirements? Are the activities starting and finishing on time? Are any changes coming down the pipe?

Spend your initial time on first understanding your project requirements, triaging key components, then balancing your triple constraints. The key to project control and success is by monitoring, controlling, and balancing the triple constraint.

PLANNED VALUE (PV) – The authorized budget assigned to the scheduled work

EARNED VALUE (EV) – The measure of work performed expressed in terms of the budget authorized for that work.

ACTUAL COST (AC) – The realized cost incurred for the work performed on an activity during a specific time period

BUDGET at COMPLETION (BAC) –The sum of all budgets established for the work to be performed.

Tips/TricksThe Do’s and Don’ts to Creating Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes aren’t minute by minute accounts of meeting proceedings. Meeting minutes are meant to capture important details about the meeting, such as:

  • motions and decisions made,
  • attendance,
  • votes, and
  • identified issues & risks
  • action items status

For heaven sakes, don’t combine meeting minutes to the meeting agenda, then expect your team to read and react to them for the first time one minute before the meeting starts. Meeting minutes should be created and sent out to team members soon after the meeting adjourns. By doing so, the information is fresh in one’s mind. By sending out the minutes in advance, they serve as a proactive way to help prepare your team for upcoming meetings, work activities, and events.

Do’s & Don’ts

  • Include a brief background regarding decisions
  • Use consistent format (template), fonts and tense
  • Be clear and concise
  • Avoid inflammatory language
  • Avoid personal observations and individual names unless noting assignments and votes
  • Attach or refer to support documentation, do not paraphrase or rewrite its content
  • If possible, securely share in the cloud

Creating meeting minutes doesn’t have to be a thorn in your side. Be creative and have fun with it by testing out different collaboration tools such as Evernote, Google Docs, OneNote and many more! I hope you found these tips helpful. We would love to hear some tips and tricks that have work for you and your organization.

“Working backwards from a fixed project completion date is a sure way to guarantee project failure and yet, unfortunately, this is an all too common practice in the IT community. Managers may make a decision about when a new or re-engineered system would be useful to have in production without the necessary technical knowledge to determine whether or not it is possible to accomplish successfully in the given time.”
~ Unknown
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