Why You Should Delegate More


Work delegation is an art that can be a win-win for both a leader and subordinates. Still rarely you find leads and managers do it right way. There are two extremes we often see in the workplace. A control freak, who is obsessed to do everything by himself, It might be a reflection of either a job insecurity or a false obsession with perfection or doing everything his or her own way. Both these approaches are killers (literally) and does not produce effective or efficient outcome.
What to Delegate:
Delegation is a fine line where one has to decide what need to be delegated and what needs to be kept. There is a clear choice between mundane or routine tasks which are not important but have to be done. These types of tasks are easier to delegate as they can be done by a junior staff with acceptable or desired level of quality. At times this may involve some on the job training. These tasks are best targets for delegation and require little or no supervision over a period of time and can be real stress reviler.
Contrary to this, there are some highly technical or complex tasks which require higher level of expertise or domain experience. For example, presentation of project report to steering committee or Proposal for an upcoming project. Delegation of these type of tasks are not easier and can’t be delegated to someone who is either not qualified so lacking the ‘expertise’ or someone does not simply have the skills or interest to perform this on your behalf. To be able to delegate this type of tasks, one has to groom someone overtime and spend quality time coaching on. Most leaders do not think delegating these tasks because these tasks are also something that reflects their key skills or so to speak USP and delegating these tasks may actually make manager’s position replaceable!
How To Delegate:
There are simple steps to ensure the delegated task get done to desired level of success and you don’t end up spending more time supervising.
• Select the task and Find a resource with suitable skills
• Provide sufficient work instructions & measurable goals
• Focus on task “Objective” of the task not procedures
• Supervise, Review periodically & give objective Feedback
• Step in to help if needed, else do not interfere.
Expect teething problems
If even after your clear instructions and support you see that the task is back on your table for your action, the delegation clearly did not work. Many managers find themselves in this position often and don’t know what to do next. Some even accept the fact that their team is not up to the mark for the responsibility.
First, in some cases, the subordinates who have been delegated the tasks bounce the task back to the manager because they don’t want to take the risk or be blamed for the failure. Second, it may also be possible that manager and the subordinate do not have the same understanding of the tasks to be performed and the empowerment going with that. Clarify the expectations and ask for his / her next action plan. Support with your inputs but do not micro manage or step in when not required.
It is important that these challenges are discussed and worked through before abandoning the idea. This is because if delegation fails, both parties loose. Subordinate doesn’t see any room to grow and Boss feels stuck with routine and mundane work load & not finding time for critical and strategic project work.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL v3
IT Project & Program Delivery Professional
This article is also available on http://www.prozenconsulting.com

New Year Resolution for Project Managers!



So its only few days before the New Year 2013 comes by, did you finally make your New Year resolutions? Well…so many people already made it. Now the big question, despite the best effort, how many of them would succeed! As per some analyst of hope syndrome, most of them would fail for the simple reason of unrealistic expectations. Interestingly, among New Year resolutions of 2011 the no.1 resolution for millions happens to be “Dieting”, I was wondering what would be top resolutions of a Project Manager in to New Year.

Here are few that I think would go a long way to bring about some sure positive changes if followed with some rigor.

  1. Track time and budget effectively: After all most project have schedule or budget as one of its success criteria so have a keen eye for these numbers. Set a regular recurring time slot to review them on weekly or bi-weekly basis and don’t forget to check the data source for any further data refinement needed. You may also plot these data points for graphical view to see emerging trends especially projects sensitive to budget, schedule or both.
  2. Use checklists: Despite advancements in processes or technology, we are ever busier by day and have to deal with lot of complexity and several critical tasks competing for our attention. A checklist is a very simple quality tool but one of the most effective one to employ for those critical tasks that need to be processed or can’t be missed.
  3. Meet Effectively: Some of the common best practices to focus for next year are pretty basic but also effective. My personal favorite is to send out your meeting material at least 1 day in advance not just before meeting start time! Another thing that helps is to have a well thought out agenda and expectations from the meeting participants so they come prepared. Keeping the meeting time short and discussion on tracking items too is a greatly appreciated
  4. Safety and security: With growth of technical advancement the safety and security concern to project personnel and assets is increasing too. This could be relevant to not only the core project team but the vendors and suppliers as well. So ensure your project safety goals and security policies are well laid out, your vendors and 3rd party personnel are vetted with right set of access, physical and IT security norms are followed per requirements. Don’t forget to set aside some time slot for any mandatory training too.
  5. Own your learning plan: Learning never stops in this highly dynamic world of today. As different sectors collide and collaborate at the same time, it is as chaotic today as never before. This demands continuous and exponential knowledge curve at the individual level. This is especially true since you can no longer depend on organizations to shape and take interest in your career goals. So one must have his or her career goals clearly defined based on the individual strength and personality.
  6. Set realistic goals: we often realize that in trying to accomplish too much we set up ourselves to fail by setting goals which are too hard to achieve. The solution lies in being objective and breaking these down to smaller goals. For example instead of setting a goal to say delivering all projects on time and on budget, why not breaking it in to better scope and cost management which ultimately leads to project delays and cost overruns.
  7. Networking: Don’t hang out just with your colleagues in Project management discipline. There is a greater awareness about importance of project management and many influential people like to hear about project management. LinkedIn and other professional networking sites are great places to build these networks.
  8. Volunteer More: This is my personal favorite and the reason for that is that there are so many organizations who cannot afford a project manager due to financial constraint but believe me several of them offer much more challenging projects with great learning opportunities outside the top sectors such as IT and construction.
Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

Why good estimates are only 50% correct!


As per one of the experienced project manager even a good project estimate using one of the widely used methodologies there is only 50% chance of it being correct. What it says is that if your estimates are even 50% correct on delivery, you should be happy and actually did a good job! This despite that Monte Carlo estimate is supposed to give you over 95% correct estimate and if you are using agile you don’t really need to make a full estimate because you iterate the development for multiple deliverables concurrently.

Sure there are tons of article on the ways to employ better delivery estimation debate with so very divergent views from each practitioner. The truth is that you deal with so many dynamic factors that are play at the same time; it is really an art to repeat and beat your estimates each time you take a plunge. So even if you have the past historical data on your side for a similar project type, a team as experienced (or inexperienced)

As the one which completed the project in the past, and you are using the identical technology in your project with same project methodology, you would face your own set of project issues which could take your project completely off track. In short, you can only plan and have mitigation approach for what you know and that should be done however as a project manager one deals with many different dynamics it is almost impossible to have all your risks managed and assumptions validated to be sure of more than 50% of project success.

The another prominent factor quite evidently came out through a recent survey is that when estimating a project, most managers tend to have narrow estimate ranges than what is required to have over 90% confidence. When asked to put estimate ranges for specific tasks, PMs came out with estimate ranges which were narrower than something required to have 90% confidence. In fact the estimate ranges were only comfortable for 40-50% confidence.

So when you ask someone for a range that provides 90% confidence, expect 30% confidence on average Reason? We are naturally hesitant to provide wide ranges-because we feel that narrow estimates are a sign of a better estimate. But narrow estimates are really self defeating unless you have specific data to support the narrow estimates.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11 

Basecamp for your poject


In one of my previous blogs I listed some really fine and affordable tools for managing your projects. Here I am including something that I must have included but missed out. Anyhow, I am sure you would like to know more about it once you go through below article.I like Basecamp for 2 reasons. It’s not only a great example of making a complex process simple through good web application design, plus it’s a very useful service.

In my last post on project management I mentioned how you can use blogs as a great project documentation, organization and collaboration tool. Today I am going to talk about a web service that has been built just for project management by the guys at 37signals called Basecamp.

Features
As you would expect from a tool built to aid project managements, there are features for discussion, collaborative documents, project tasks and scheduling, plus you can create users with appropriate permissions.

Pricing
There are various pricing levels, starting with a limited version at $0 (my favorite price!). You can do a lot with the free service, in fact you might not need more in a small one-off project. The main limitation is you only get two Writeboard documents, which isn’t too much of a restriction really. Depending on how many simultaneous projects you have on the go you could get away with the next level up which is only $12 a month and is well worth it considering what you get for the money. You can stop paying at any time, there are no minimum contracts.

RSS Subscriptions
An especially nice feature is your team members can subscribe to various feeds to keep up to date, plus there is a shared calendar that works very well with iCal. A huge part of project organization is getting everyone clued up on the latest changes and milestones so this works very well.

Messaging
There is basic messaging built in to the system. If keeping track of who said what becomes a burden, one additional service that I have heard good things about but have yet to try is HighRise. It’s a CRM and message tracking service from the same people that integrates with Basecamp projects.

One Problem
You might tell already I am a big fan of Basecamp. It just works and you don’t have to spend ages explaining to people how to get around and do what they need to do. That said, now I have used it for a while, there is one big limitation, and that is with the project milestones feature.

When I first checked out Basecamp I was expecting to be able to do away with Microsoft Project. Unfortunately if you want to do a good job of a decent sized project, I think Basecamp is a great addition to but not replacement for the Microsoft product.

For example, critical to good project planning is being able to take account of what order tasks have to happen in. Dependencies can have a massive impact on both timing and outcome. The ability to run tasks in parallel shortens project length while knowing this can’t be done until that is completed is vital. With only milestones and to-do lists you could be missing a key piece of information so the project chart is only useful for sharing what you have already worked out in Project or on paper if you are really old-school.

You can find this and many more informative articles on cogniview.com

Tame your Inbox!


How much project time do you spend going through your emails box and reading or replying to the messages that don’t really deserve your attention. You can reduce this waste without missing that important message that your customer wants you to act on today! It’s the simple art of doing, deleting, deferring or delegating.

Once you set up your mail system, you are ready to begin managing incoming e-mail. By making your Inbox the central place for receiving important e-mail, you can go through it with the confidence that each item is something you need to deal with. For every message in your Inbox:

  • If it isn’t important, delete it immediately.
  • If it can be done in two minutes or less, do it (reply, file, call, etc.).
  • If it isn’t for you or if you can, delegate (forward) it.
  • If you need to do it, but it takes longer than two minutes (including reading),defer (hold off on) it.
  • If you need it as reference (even if you have decided to defer it), move it into your reference folder. The goal is to reduce the number of times you touch each e-mail message.

Delete it

Delete messages that you don’t need to read. If it is junk, delete it.

Do it: In 2-minute or less

It is amazing what can be done in two minutes. But if a message takes longer than two minutes to deal with, defer it. To get a sense of what two minutes feels like, try timing yourself. Once you have dealt with the message, do one of the following:

  • Delete it if it is something of little consequence.
  • File it in one of your reference folders (for example, 1-Reference).

Delegate it

Sometimes you receive a message that is really meant for someone else to deal with. In these cases, reply and include the person to whom you are delegating the message on the To line. If you want to follow up later, flag it for yourself before sending. In your To-Do Bar, mark the task with the “@Waiting” category.

Defer it

Deferring a message means that you will come back to it later, when you have time. Reasons to defer a message:

  • It cannot be dealt with in less than two minutes.
  • It will take a while to read.
  • It will require a carefully crafted response.
  • It requires additional action in another program (for example, “Need to add to document”).

Read the full article by Melissa MacBeth here: http://tinyurl.com/26v5e7b

Shyam Verma,
PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

Why Project Charter?


Have you ever wondered how most IT projects get started in a hurry as if they were required last month! Delay in project launch adversely affects the appointed PM in particular and delivery organisation in general because there is generally not much time to put required project processes in place because the focus is more on getting the work done! In such a situation you are more likely not find an approved statement of work from sponsors or a Project Charter summarizing business needs and objective of the project and it’s deliverables defined clearly.

So, what do you do if you are in such a position? Unpleasant as it mind sound to some in your surroundings, you must insist to have one on your project even if it is a one page document. You must insist because it is not only the Project Charter that names the Project Manager officially assigned to the project but also it specifies the authority of PM on the project & other key stakeholders.

Coming to the structure, most charters have the followings, depending on your specific requirements you can modify the same as applicable;

  1. Business Need: Evidently, this describes why the project is there in the first place or what opportunities it want the organization to take advantage of.
  2. Project Sponsor: This identifies the business group head that would assign the budget for the project and would have all encompassing authority in terms of project finance & at times to stop or terminate the project mid way.
  3. Project Manager: This section has the name of authorized project manager who is supposed to run the show and be accountable.
  4. Project Description: This section should outline the project scope in short highlighting what would project cover and what it would not cover as project activities or requirements. This can be found in Statement of Work if it exists or provided by the end customer.
  5. Project Duration: Here it specifies as to what is project start and project finish dates and year.
  6. Aim or Goal: This section highlights the project goals in specific and measurable terms e.g. reduce cost of quality of organization by 25% from current in 3 months
  7. Assumptions & Constraints: Here it highlights assumptions that are applicable for the project e.g. cabling and wiring work to be done by the customer where project aims to provide installation and ongoing support for POS systems of a retail store. Similarly the constraint can be that vendor teams would can work only between non business hours of the store.
  8. Risks: This covers high level risks to the project such as delay in system procurement or exchange rate risks in case of international procurements.
  9. Resources: It is important to note how and which resources would be used as they directly impact the project work  along with reporting relationships. Mention the resource skills and their requirement duration.
  10. Budget: This specifies how much budget is made available for the project on a high level. In your planning phase you would ensure to keep for contingency and known unknown!
  11. Approach: You may like to touch upon the project methodology to be used e.g. Waterfall, Agile or Spiral

Remember, if there is no project charter for your project, or none has been provided to you by the sponsors, it only going to affect you as PM. That’s the reason PMI says in absence of a project charter, the PM should create one and have it approved from sponsors of the project. Good Luck!

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

10 PM Tools to Turbocharge Your Project Planning


 I am frequently asked by new PMs and some experienced PMs as to what are the other PM tools that could be used for managing projects in addition to vastly popular PM tools offered by the Top 5 Industry majors. I noticed that majority of the people were looking for free or inexpensive tools which are efficient and affordable. So in this post, I would touch upon some of these options for you as project management professionals to explore.

PM tools are not just  for managing software based projects but they also contribute in bringing standards and consistency in practice. They  can be used for variety of other tasks to increase personal or team productivity too through collaboration, remote access and notification features. Though there are numerous tools for planning, organizing and managing resources to achieve project goals and objectives, there are few notable and relied by large number of professionals.Pl note each tool would have some advantages and some drawbacks but I am sure you would find something that may suit your current requirement.

  1. Daptive: It’s Software as a Service delivery model ensures a high value web based project management capability including robust task management, fully interactive Gantt Chart, and integration with Microsoft Project. In addition it gets teams collaborating around Documents, Issues, Discussions and News with portal approach. Starts at $50/year for a group license.
  2. @Task: This wed-based tool focuses on An easy-to-use interface. The Gantt charts shows some impressive utilities. You can drag and drop information to avoid unnecessary typing, easily schedule individuals for specific tasks, and view real-time reports showing your project’s status claiming superior scheduling power than MS Project!. It offers a variety of pricing plans depending on the number of users and the number of projects you need to manage.
  3. ZOHO Project: It’s a web-based application, meaning that you don’t have to install project management software on every computer you use. You can access your schedule from anywhere and, if you’re only working on one project, ZOHO Projects is free. ZOHO Projects can generate Gantt charts, but doesn’t offer PERT charts.
  4. Open Project: It’s a good fit for enterprises that have deployed Open Office as cheaper alternative to MS Office. It runs both on Mac, Windows as well as Unix machines. For a few dollars a month, users can host a virtualized edition of OpenProject on Projity’s servers, making this tool an ideal hybrid of desktop and web-based project management software.
  5. Active Collab: It is a PM & collaboration tool that one can set up on your own server or local network. It allows team collaboration with access control features or differentiated privileges & time tracking. Starting with $ 299 it can be answer to your global projects management requirements.
  6. eProjectTracker: It is a web based project management software focused exclusively on helping project-intensive businesses manage their entire project portfolio lifecycle, including projects of all sizes. It goes one step ahead & provides the project execution and control capabilities at program and portfolio level. Other notable features are Executive Dashboard, Project Management, Task tracking and Management, Issues tracking and Management, Resource Management, Customer Management, Document Management. It starts at $29 for up to 15 projects.
  7. GanttProject: GanttProject is a cross platform desktop project scheduling application featuring gantt chart, resource management, calendaring, import/export (MS Project, HTML, PDF, spreadsheets).
  8. FastTrack: Available for both Mac and Windows, it is easy to update and offers an easy introduction to the software and a gentle learning curve for new PMs while robust enough for experienced project manager wanting to put it through its paces. A license for FastTrack is significantly lower compared to one for Microsoft Project.
  9. ProjectPier: It is a Free, Open-Source, self-hosted application for managing tasks, projects and teams through an intuitive web interface. It is completely web based, has great usability to provide an easy to use solution. It organizes projects into Milestones, Messages, Task lists, Tasks and Files. You can set E-mail notifications for new milestones, tasks, messages and comments to stay in loop for changes.
  10. RedMine: It is a flexible project management web application. Written using Ruby on Rails framework, it is cross-platform and cross-database. It includes calendar and gantt charts to aid visual representation of projects and their deadlines.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter:Shammy11