Monthly Archives: February 2016

project tool

Four Responsibilities of Executives on Projects

A Primer on Processes and Templates

Recipes for cooking are a beautiful thing. A recipe tells you the ingredients and how much of each you should include in whatever you are making. It then describes what you need to do to these ingredients in order to make a dish that is not only edible, but tasty as well. It’s great that someone else has already spent the time in putting together a recipe to follow that nearly guarantees success each time.
To a certain extent we use recipes in our profession as project managers. The recipes we follow are the processes and templates that guide our projects to success each time. How can you put a process together and make the most of templates? Consider the following:
A Primer on Processes and Templates

Start with Phases

To put a process together, a good starting place is defining the major phases in which a project must go through. Think about how a project moves through your organization, and document those major steps. For example, a simplified software development approach would include the following phases: Planning, Design, Development, Testing, and Implementation. These phases are the framework in which you begin filling in details about the process.

Move on to the Outputs
The next area to concentrate on is the outputs, or end results, from each of these major phases. Ask yourself what tangible deliverable needs to be complete by the time you finish the Planning, Design, or Development phases. Focus on tangible results, or something you can see, touch, perform an action on, or feel. For example, the Planning stage is going to be filled with meetings and conversations that by themselves do nothing to move the project forward. However, the approved Business Requirements Document is an invaluable output that can propel the project forward to the next Phase of Design.

Back up to Inputs

Now that you have the tangible end results (or deliverables) of each phase defined, ask yourself what needs to be present at the beginning of each phase to create such results. Continuing with our example above, the output of the Development phase would be software functionality that can be tested. In order to accomplish this, the engineering team will need High Level and Low Level design specifications as Input. This will allow them to know not just what they are going to build, but more importantly, how they are going to build it.

Establish Conversion Activity

You now have the Inputs and the Outputs for each of the phases of your process. The final step is to determine what needs to be done to convert the Inputs to Outputs. Think about it this way…what has to be done to change the gooey mess of runny batter into a cake? You need to bake the cake. There’s your conversion activity. Likewise, what do you need to do to convert software that is ready to be tested to software that is production ready? You need to create test plans, execute test plans, and document the results.

What About Templates?

Templates are incredibly useful for all areas of process you create. You can use templates for your inputs (i.e. Business Requirements Document), your Outputs (i.e. an approved User Acceptance document from the customer) and all points in between. Create templates that will provide consistency and make it easy to transition from one phase to the next with confidence.

One word of caution when it comes to process and templates…don’t overdo it! Create just enough process and documentation around your project to float the boat. It can be tempting to have a process or template in place for every little thing. Resist that urge. Remember, too much of a good thing can ruin a good thing. Stick to the recipe and you’ll be able to guarantee consistent results time and time again!

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Manage Political Problems as Issues

The larger your project gets, the more you will find that the issues you encounter are political in nature. “Politics” is all about interacting with people and influencing them to get things done. This can be a good thing, a bad thing, or a neutral thing, depending on the tactics people use. Let’s consider some examples of how utilizing political skills might be good, but can also be bad.

  • You are able to move your ideas forward in the organization and get people to act on them (good), by currying favor, suppressing other opposing ideas and taking credit for the ideas of your staff (bad).
  • You have an ability to reach consensus on complex matters with a number of different stakeholders (good),by working behind the scenes with people in power, making deals and destroying people who don’t get on board (bad).
  • You receive funding for projects that are important to you and to your organization (good), by misrepresenting the costs and benefits, and by going around the existing funding processes (bad).


The point of the examples is to show that influencing people and getting things done in a company is a good thing and “office politics” can have good connotations or bad. 

Dealing with office politics is not a standard project management process. However, once the politics start to impact the project adversely, the situation should be identified as an issue, since it is a problem whose resolution is outside the control of the project team. You can’t utilize a checklist to resolve political issues. Political problems are people-related and situational. What works for one person in one situation may not work for another person in the same situation because people, and their reactions, are different. Identifying the problem as an issue will bring visibility to the situation and hopefully get the proper people involved in the resolution. Keep three things in mind to manage a political issue.

  • Try to recognize situations and events where politics are most likely to be involved. This could include decision points, competition for budget and resources, and setting project direction and priorities.
  • Deal with people openly and honestly. When you provide an opinion or recommendation, express the pros and cons to provide a balanced view to other parties. Make sure you distinguish the facts from your opinions so the other parties know the difference. 
  • If you feel uncomfortable with what you are asked to do, get your sponsor or your functional manager involved. They tend to have more political savvy and positional authority, and they should be able to provide advice and cover for you.

If you feel good about what you are doing, how you are influencing and how you are getting things done, then you are probably handling office politics the right way. If you feel guilty about how you are treating people and if you have second thoughts about the methods you are using to get things done, you are probably practicing the dark side of office politics.