Monthly Archives: March 2016

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The Power of the Aligned Organization

When was the last time you rode in a car with wheels that were not properly aligned? Chances are it was a pretty rough ride. The car either pulled in one direction, making it hard work to keep it in your lane, or, it worked against itself as one tire pointed one way and another tire another way.


The same thing can happen in our companies. The ride can be pretty bumpy, not to mention noisy, unless everyone is pointed in the same direction. That’s why it’s important to understand the five benefits of an aligned organization

Benefit #1 – Ensures Everyone Works on the Right Things


The first benefit of an aligned organization is that with a common goal for everyone to strive towards, the right things are worked on. Here’s the trick – you need make sure that everyone clearly understands the goal and the end game. The best way to accomplish this is to clearly communicate the strategy of the company. What are the three to five most important things your company is working on? Once those are communicated and understood, you can then align everyone’s activity to accomplish those initiatives.

Benefit #2 – More is Accomplished


An aligned organization is structured and disciplined. This doesn’t mean the company lacks creativity or is oppressive. Rather, it means that projects not aligned with company strategy are not allowed to infiltrate the company. Alignment allows resources to stay focused on the tasks at hand and not waste time on other distractions.

Benefit #3 – Teamwork Increases


A third benefit of alignment in the organization is increased camaraderie. The ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality is nipped in the bud while everyone works toward the same goals together. Departments and groups of people that are not properly aligned have a tendency to look after their own interests. This will still occur in the aligned organization, but there is also more of, “what can I do to help?” Team members in the aligned organization realize that everyone must cross the finish line at the same time in order for the project to be successful.

Benefit #4 – Profitability Rises

 

An aligned company is a company that runs efficiently. Engaged teams that are working on the right things are naturally going to get more done. Getting more done in less time results in increased profitability. There are fewer misunderstandings and mistakes – and rework is few and far between. Alignment helps keep resource costs in check, and reduces expenses, both of which are areas that impact the bottom line.

Benefit #5 – Opportunities Abound

 

People like working with people and companies that have a track record of success. The aligned organization will have plenty of success stories to tell. That credibility allows salespeople to sell more, executives to explore new strategies, and managers to optimize opportunities. It generates more top-line revenue that ultimately trickles down to the bottom line.


A car that is not aligned will still run; however, the ride is rough and it’s not very efficient on gas. Once aligned, the car rides much more smoothly and fuel efficiency increases dramatically. Your company can still run if it’s not aligned, just not very efficiently. Take the time to align your organization and begin realizing the benefits!

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The Customer May Not Know Enough to Completely Define the Project

Sometimes the project manager places too high an expectation on the amount of foresight and vision that customers and sponsors have. In many cases, the project manager will go to the customer looking for answers to help define the project and the customer will not have all of the information needed. This happens all the time and it does not mean that the customer does not know what they are doing. In many cases, especially for large projects, the customer has a vision of what the end results will be, but cannot yet articulate this vision into concrete objectives, deliverables and scope. 

There are three approaches for when you don’t know very much information on the nature of the project.

Increase Estimating Range Based on Uncertainty

Based on having less than complete information, the  project manager may feel the need to guess on the details. This is not a good solution. It is better to state up-front everything that you know, as well as everything that you do not know. If you are asked to come up with estimated effort, cost and duration, you will need to provide a high and low range based on the uncertainty remaining. On a normal project, for instance, you might estimate the work within +/- 10%. On a project with a lot of uncertainty, the estimating range might be +/- 50%. 

Break the Work into Smaller Projects

Another good alternative is simply to break the work down into a series of smaller projects based on what you know at the time. Even if the final results cannot be clearly defined, there should be some amount of work that is well defined, which will, in turn lead to the information needed for the final solution. You can define a project to cover as far as you can comfortably see today. Then define and plan subsequent projects to cover the remaining work as more details are known.  For instance, you could create a project that gathered business requirements, and then use the results of that project to define a second project to build the final deliverables. 

Uncover the Details as the Project Progresses

If you are not allowed to break the project into smaller pieces, you should at least know enough that you can plan the work for the first 90 days. In this third approach, you plan the short-term work in more detail, and leave the longer term effort more undefined. Each month you should redefine and plan the remaining work. As you uncover more and more information, you can plan the remaining work at a more detailed level. As you uncover more details, you can refine your estimates and work with the sponsor to make sure it is still okay to continue.

This last approach uses an Agile philosophy. Agile projects are generally exploratory. The details of the project are uncovered as the project progresses. (There are many more differences in Agile projects, but this philosophy is one.) In a traditional project management model this would also be known as ‘progressive elaboration’ – which also means more details are uncovered as the project progresses.