Monthly Archives: January 2017

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Seven Steps for a Project Quality Review

Seven Steps for a Project Quality Review

In some cases, such as a government project, periodic audits may be called for as a part of the overall contract. This “outside party” could be any qualified person outside of the project manager. In some cases, your organization may have an internal project audit specialist. It is possible that the Project Director or the Project Sponsor could also perform this audit. The outside party could be an outside contractor or consultant, but they do not need to be.

The audit itself focuses on whether effective project management processes are being utilized and whether the project appears to be on-track. A project audit asks questions about the processes used to manage the project and build deliverables. The audit can follow this process:

  1. Notify the parties (Auditor) – The auditor notifies the project manager of the upcoming audit and schedules a convenient time and place. Other key stakeholders are notified of the audit as well.
  2. Prepare for the audit (Auditor) – The auditor may request certain information up-front. The auditor might also ask the project manager to be prepared to discuss certain aspects of the project. This ensures that the actual meeting time is as productive as possible.
  3. Perform initial interview (Auditor, Project Manager) – During the initial meeting, the auditor asks the appropriate questions to ensure the project is on-track. If there are any areas that are not on track, the auditor notes them as such.
  4. Perform as many other interviews as necessary (optional)(Auditor, Project Team) – On many projects, the audit might culminate in the initial meeting. If the project is large or complex, the auditor might need to perform follow-up analysis. This includes meeting with other team members and clients, and reviewing further documentation.
  5. Document the findings (Auditor) – The auditor documents the status and the processes used on this project against best practices. If the organization has standards and policies in place for managing projects, the auditor determines whether any of these are not being followed on the audited project. The auditor also makes recommendations on things that can be done to provide more effective and proactive management of the project.
  6. Review draft audit report (Auditor, Project Manager) – The auditor and the project manager meet again to go over the initial findings. This auditor describes any project management deficiencies and recommendations for changes. This review also provides an opportunity for the project manager to provide a rebuttal when necessary. The initial audit findings might be modified based on specific feedback from the project manager.
  7. Issue final report (Auditor) – The auditor issues a final report of findings and recommendations. The project manager may also issue a formal response to the audit. In the formal response, the project manager can accept points and discuss plans to implement them. The project manager may also voice his disagreement with certain audit points, and explain his reason why. In these cases, the project sponsor and the project director (manager of the project manager) will need to decide if the project manager should comply with the recommendations or not.
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Manage Communication – Large Projects (Part 1 of 2)

Manage Communication – Large Projects (Part 1 of 2)

In a large project, all communication takes place in context of an overall Communication Management Plan. Status meetings and status reporting are required, just as for a medium-size project. In addition, there are many other types of proactive communication that need to be considered. This creative and proactive communication is laid out in a Communication Management Plan, which is created as follows.

Beginning of Project – Plan Communication

  1. Determine the project stakeholders. In some cases these are stakeholder groups such as a project steering committee. In other cases, there may be a single person such as the sponsor.
  2. Determine the communication needs for each stakeholder. The project manager can categorize the communication needs into three areas.
  • Mandatory. This generally includes project Status Reports, legal requirements, financial reporting, etc. This information is pushed out to the recipients.
  • Informational. This is information people want to know or that need for their jobs. This information is usually made available for people to read, but requires them to take the initiative, or pull the communication.
  • Marketing. This communication is designed to build buy-in and enthusiasm for the project and its deliverables. This type of information is pushed out to the appropriate people. You need this type of positive communication if your project requires people to change how they do their job.
  1. For each stakeholder, brainstorm how to fulfill the communication need. For each stakeholder, determine the information they need to know, how often they need an update, and the best manner to deliver the information. At this point, be creative. For instance, all stakeholders still need an updated project status. The Steering Committee may need an executive briefing to provide strategic direction every other month. The project sponsor may need a personal briefing on a monthly basis. A quarterly newsletter may need to go out to the entire client organization for informational and marketing purposes. 
  2. Determine the effort required. Estimate the effort required to create and distribute each of the identified communication options outlined in step 3. Also determine the potential benefit of the communication to the recipient and the project team.
  3. Implement mandatory communications. Regardless of the prioritization, implement any communication options that are mandatory for the project. This will definitely include project Status Reports, but there may also be government-required reports, legal reports, etc.
  4. Prioritize the other communication options. Discard the communication options that require high effort for marginal benefit. Also discard those that provide marginal benefit even though they may take little effort from the project team. Implement the communication options that provide high value and require low effort from the project team. Also evaluate those options that have high value and require a high level of effort from the project team. Some of these might make sense to implement while others may not.
  5. Add the resulting communication activities to the schedule. This will include assigning frequencies, due dates, effort hours and a responsible person(s) for each communication option implemented.
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Escalate a Performance Problem with a Formal Plan

Escalate a Performance Problem with a Formal Plan

One of the hardest jobs of a manager is to take an employee down a path that may ultimately result in termination.  It is hard enough for most managers to provide performance feedback to begin with – even when the employee performance is good.  When the employee performance is not where it needs to be, it is even harder. 

The first thing you need to do when you see a performance problem is sit down with the employee, discuss the performance observations, try to determine a cause and put a short-term action plan in place so that the employee has a chance to turn the situation around. 

Unfortunately, sometimes the initial performance feedback and short-term plan do not have the desired effect.  If this occurs, the manager needs to take additional actions.  In some companies and in some positions, the next step might be a demotion or termination.  This might also be the case at smaller companies where the management team needs to make personnel decisions quickly, and where the company is not under as many obligations from a Human Resources standpoint. 

In larger companies, however, managers normally don’t have the authority to fire employees on their own.  The Human Resources Department normally has processes in place to make sure that people are treated fairly and within allowable legal guidelines.  If a manager tried to resolve a situation on his or her own but was unsuccessful, it is time to bring a formal Human Resources process into play.

Managers sometimes hesitate to take personnel-related actions because of their concern for how the rest of the team will react.  If the employee is a popular one, there is a tendency to believe that the team will react negatively.  In fact, that might be the case if the manager acts arbitrarily.  However, if the manager gives an employee plenty of time to improve his or her performance but the problem does not go away, termination may still be necessary.  In this situation, the manager should be able to explain to the rest of the team how every effort was made in the employee’s favor.  The rest of the team should understand first-hand that the employee’s performance was weak.  Also, they should understand that replacing that employee is in the best interest of the team, the entire organization and perhaps in the employee’s best interest as well.   

A team knows its weak links.  In many situations, the rest of the team ends up working harder to compensate for the person with the weak performance.  In the best cases, the team does so willingly (and perhaps subconsciously), but their actions mean that they cannot be effective.  In the worst case, teammates start to turn against the poor performer, causing resentment, animosity and friction among team members. 

Sometimes a perceived performance problem hits the team member totally by surprise.  However, in most cases, they already understand the situation.  Poor performers should see that they are missing deadlines or that “completed” work requires a lot of rework.  Once they get on a short-term improvement plan, they become keenly aware of whether or not their performance is meeting expectations.  If they still cannot meet expectations, it will become increasingly obvious to them.  This situation will cause them more anxiety, which can drive performance down even lower.  The situation should be resolved as soon as possible for the sake of the employee as well as the organization. 

Remember that putting a formal performance plan in place is not the same as termination.  The performance plan is really a way to save the person from possible termination.  A good performance plan puts everything into black and white, and it should precisely set expectations.  The performance plan should include the length of the plan, the expectations and how the progress will be communicated.                

     

Once the performance plan is signed, it is activated.  The employee should strive to meet the expectations of the performance plan.  The manager must provide ongoing feedback on the employee’s performance and whether the employee is meeting expectations.  This entire process is set up to manage expectations.  If the employee is not meeting expectations, the manager must continue to say so in the ongoing written feedback.  This ensures there are no surprises.