While looking over my notes for chapter 10, which deals with leadership. I began to compile my thoughts on what I believe what makes an effective leader. Great leaders are able to get team members to perform at their best when they can reach them on a more personal level. An example would be talking to them versus talking at them. Knowing what means of communication to use is key to managing a project. I would rather someone over communicate than not to communicate at all. Getting feedback from the team is also critical. I’ve learned from experience you get more buy in when you collaborate with team members. They feel like they are valued and are willing to go the extra mile sometimes. Another key to success is to build trust amongst team members. When you include your team member’s ideas and strategies you are building trust. Once a project manager or leader has the trust of the team then that’s when task begin to really roll along. When assembling teams for the first time everyone is feeling each other out. It’s not into the project manager builds that trust than you will see productivity increase. On my current job I built the trust of my employees by engaging in talks with them daily not only about the job but topics outside of the job. Then I began to work on other things that would make them more successful on the job. And once they see that I delivered on my promises. The trust levels increases. Now that the trust is there project managers can implement the game plan and began to tackle the critical path tasks. Leadership change for starters is not always welcome on the job. In my opinion more times than not workplaces does not stress change enough. From my own experience every time there is some kind of change whether it is a process or equipment implementation on a work cell. Operators are reluctant and always question why we changed. Great project managers are good at leading change and as mentioned above building trust. Once the team knows you have the project and team best interest at heart, you will then be able to lead change. Honesty is the last element I would like to add. Project managers must always be honest. Not just the project manager but everyone should be honest on the job. In my opinion, what makes people dishonest or with hold information is the fear of hurting team members feeling. To increase productivity of a project and stay on track project managers must be honest with himself and team members. Class I found the below article online an it discusses traits of a great project manager and leadership. What are your thoughts on leadership?
Clean Water for the Navajo Nation
On our first day of class, we learned that we had eight weeks to select a team, then a charity, organize a fundraising event, obtain donations, create a social network presence, and submit a final report and presentation. When we learned about our project assignment, we all agreed that we wanted to support a cause within the United States and a cause that would get everyone’s attention. Our group was lucky to have an individual who had both a personal and professional relationship with water charities. Through this connection and a CBS news story, we discovered the Navajo Nation.
Within the Navajo Nation, there are nearly 100,000 individuals without access to running water. Not to mention that these individuals also have unreliable electricity and unemployment is rampant. The CBS news story featured a woman called the “water lady” who drove miles away each day to obtain water for her fellow Navajo Nation residents. Unfortunately, so many individuals rely on her, she is only able to deliver to each family approximately once a month. We all reflected on how this would affect our daily lives, we were shocked this was happening in the United States. With this realization, we understood we had found our cause: it was local and it was definitely jaw dropping.
With the help of Kevin’s water connections, we formed a partnership with Water Is Life. Water Is Life is a charitable organization that has implemented water and hygiene projects internationally, Water Is Life has been active in Haiti and many African nations; and they were looking for a way to help the Navajo Nation. At this point, we evaluated the possible support options for the Navajo Nation. We set a lofty goal of raising $20k in order to purchase an item called a SunSpring. The SunSpring is a solar and wind powered water filtration system. Our plan was to work with Water Is Life to place the SunSpring near the Animas River to provide clean water for a nearby school. However, we knew that $20k was ambitious, so we developed less expensive alternatives, including permaculture and hygiene initiatives, which would cost approximately $5-6k.
As a group, we decided our primary means of fundraising would be by utilizing our own personal and professional networks, as well as through social media. We reached out to our friend, families, and colleagues via email. The email was standardized across our group, with a personal touch at the introduction. Also, as it turns out, our team included a social network genius and our Facebook page took off, beyond our wildest hopes (see us here: https://www.facebook.com/NavaH20Nation). Our main fundraising took place through our MyEvent page: http://www.depaulnavah2o.myevent.com/3/donate.htm.
As for our event, our goal was to make the most profit with as little overhead as possible. As a result, we ruled out places such as restaurants that would offer donations such as 15% of what our event spent at their facility. Our event went through many brainstorming phases, but we settled on a two day bake sale at the DePaul Lincoln Park Student Center. We all contributed our own baked goods and flyers and posters were created. During this event, we were able to not only raise funds, but also awareness.
Throughout this quarter, we have all become passionate about this cause and have vowed to keep our fundraising and awareness campaigns going. We have been blown away by the support we’ve received on Facebook, as well as the interest we received from our networks and the undergraduate students at DePaul. At this time we have raised nearly $3k on our MyEvent page and have secured the following additional donations: $2.5k match donation from a local bank, plus another $2.5k and an additional $5k match from one our team member’s employers, and another $3k donation from another one of our employers. This adds up to an astounding $16k!!
- Scope creep: We believe that our team avoided scope creep successfully. We had co-project managers who did an excellent job of keeping our team focused and on schedule. Without the guidance of these two, we could have easily ventured off our project plan.
- Communication: We utilized email and text message to share ideas and updates. Our project managers hosted a weekly phone call in which we reviewed our current progress and addressed the next steps. Our calls were well organized and kept to the designated appointment times.
- Shared responsibility: Each team member had components of the project that they were responsible for, some of which were shared. We trusted each other to be responsible and accountable. In the end, all team members met their objectives and communicated the progress clearly to the team.
- Organization: Our team, led by our project managers, was incredibly organized. We had a set timeline and plan, which we all understood. This shared understanding, which was rooted in our clear communication, was key to our success.
If you can, pick classmates you’re comfortable with and have compatible schedules with. Due to the short duration of the quarter, it will be important that you are able to communicate frequently and have times that you can meet with all team members. For our group, that meant that most of us were in the weekend program, because weekend days worked best for us.
Select a cause that everyone can support. If you select your charity well, you will see everyone’s dedication grow throughout the quarter. Your passion will also be conveyed during your donation request and awareness events, which makes a big difference in the support you receive.
For our team, the weekly phone calls were a great opportunity to summarize the emails and texts that had occurred, as well to finalize that week’s activities. While it may have been challenging for everyone to make it onto every call, we all made the effort and appreciated the outcomes of the weekly meeting. The summary emails that were sent out following the calls also played a large part in keeping everyone on task
Lastly, try to be prepared for the unexpected. None of us would have expected that bringing clean water to the Navajo Nation would be a controversial topic, but it turned out to be (see our Facebook page). In our case, the positive responses vastly outweighed the negative, but that may not always be the case.
Our team, Blue Demons for a Cure, chose to support the American Cancer Society (ACS). We organized a few micro-events, leading up to our main event, which was the 5K Making Strides Walk hosted by ACS. Our scheduled events and a brief description are below:
Pilsen Yoga Tribe: We presented our charity and main event at an established yoga community event.
Pink & Drinks: We hosted an event at a local bar where all proceeds from pink drinks (bartender specialty drink) were donated to our team and ACS.
5K Making Strides Walk: We created a team and walked 3.2 miles around the Independence Grove Lake.
Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW): 15% of all food purchases, with the voucher present, were donated to our team and ACS.
In conjunction with these events, we sold merchandise: T-shirts (shown below left) and Dry Cookie Jar Mixes (shown below right).
All our efforts were for the American Cancer Society, but specifically for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This nonprofit is over 100 years old and is the largest voluntary health organization in the United States. It goes by three values which is “saving lives by staying well, getting well, and fighting back” (http://www.cancer.org). They state that they have saved over 1.5 million lives in the past decade due to their relentless contributions.
During the planning phase of our project, we made predictions and established success measures. We did not achieve some of them, with some examples being as follows:
- 5K attendance goal: 30 people (12 people attended)
- Total fundraising goal: $3,050 ($2,524 was raised)
Although some of our actual results fell short of our original success measures, we still consider our project as highly successful. We executed our plans effectively and we worked very well together as a team. All members participated in project coordination and event/product marketing, thus gaining valuable project management experience. Most importantly we were able to meet all of our deliverables on time. From this experience we learned a few things that will utilized in our personal and professional lives:
1) Use the communication medium that works best for your team. A student from the previous MGT 598 class recommended we utilize Trello, as it could minimize the use of lengthy, confusing email chains. Our group did open up an account for that particular reason, but it was impractical for us to completely eliminate the use of email. It was much easier and more convenient for us to email each other via our smartphone. Trello became a calendar or deadline reminder for us.
2) Be able to adapt to “mishaps” and bounce back quickly. In the beginning, we were debating between logos and team names. After the initial T-shirt order was submitted, we received feedback from DePaul’s marketing director that we could not use the logo. Our team quickly revised the logo to comply with university policies, selected the design below, and had minimal impact to project schedule:
3) Expanding your scope is not always a negative thing, as long as you creatively fit the event into your overall goal. By our second week we had the final project plan and it did not include BWW. BWW finally responded to us and said it would donate 15% of food sales on the a specific day to the ACS. We initially scrapped this idea, however, we saw the event as low-risk and a “bonus” in revenue. We scheduled the BWW event on the same day as the 5K Walk to maximize attendance with hungry walkers.
As we reflect on the completion of our project, we have one primary recommendation for future teams: effective planning is crucial to project success. In a ten-week quarter there is surprisingly little time to execute the main event and the overall complexity of the project can be a significant hurdle. Each team member should have a clear understanding of what the team is trying to accomplish. For our team, we established a well-defined plan within the first two weeks. We were then able to prioritize activities and were able to complete some tasks in parallel. Our thorough planning allowed everything to fall into place.
Overall, it was a great learning experience and a great opportunity to work with new people. We wish you all the best of luck!
CIO.com’s slide show article “6 tips to identify project management red flags” seems to sum up our project management class in 6 key steps to avoid PM problems. These tips focus on preventing potential mishaps associated with project management while ensuring projects are carried out smoothly. I found some important and relevant similarities from the tips in this slide show to our PM class project. Here are 3 of what I consider to be the most important of the 6 “red flags” mentioned in the article:
Red Flag: Focus on output rather than outcome
Although project managers must ensure tasks are completed on time, budgets are met, and resources are allocated appropriately, it is of most importance to work toward a desired outcome. The individual steps of project management should all build toward the bigger picture. But when the focus becomes overly consumed with one individual aspect of the project, the goal/outcome soon gets overlooked. For my group’s class project, we did a nice job making sure that we did not lose focus of our overall goal. However, there were times were we caught ourselves up hyper-focusing on individual elements. Specifically, we spent a lot of time preparing what foods to bring and how to sell such foods during our bake sale. Although this was necessary, the real desired outcome was to promote awareness for our cause – obviously the food we sold was irrelevant when strictly considering our desired outcome.
Red Flag: Focus on process instead of people
One might think this is counter-intuitive, but projects are – at their core – completed by people. I had the pleasure of acting as my team’s project manager and what I quickly learned is that our success was only a result of the hard work, expertise, and personal commitment of each of my teammates. The reality is that each person brings a unique skill set to a project and it is essential to allocate that person’s time and energy effectively. For our group project, we assigned team members portions of our project the aligned with their expertise. This enabled us to be efficient and gave each member a sense of responsibility that only he or she would be able to effectively uphold.
Red Flag: Lack of clear communication
The slide show article mentions that clear communication is common and expected when things are going well during a project. But the real red flag occurs when communication falls short during times of difficulty. The ways to overcome this is to identity potential risks/issues early on and communicate them to avoid future failures. Our group encountered various issues during our early planning phase as we ran into roadblocks when trying to secure a venue space for our event. We maintained constant communication by email and phone conferences as we updated one another on the statuses of potential venues. In less than a week, we vetted out 5 different venue options and finally settled on one that fit our needs.
For those who made it this far, did you encounter any of these “red flags” during your group project?
I’ll always remember my first trip to my company’s site in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The circumstances of my involvement were that I was a local expert in the use of the data collection software application used in our facility. The same software was being implemented at the German site so that our two laboratory facilities would share a database and thus harmonize business practices. Prior to my departure, I was warned of the gruffness of our German colleagues, whom we had inherited through acquisition of their company. The Germans were criticized for passive-aggressively clinging on to their old ways, ostensibly because they feared their site would be divested anyway, and they’d all lose their jobs. It was in this environment that I needed to form some bonds with my German counterparts to help ensure the successful adoption of the new software.
Even though I had traveled throughout Europe several times after college, I was excited to return and experience a foreign culture again. I didn’t mind that Ludwigshafen was a mostly industrial city, rebuilt after extensive World War II bombing, that didn’t have much to offer in terms of green space or other urban beauty. I enjoyed just being there, noticing the subtle differences in architecture, automobiles, public transportation, and how people behaved when walking around. I brought this enthusiasm to the meetings with our German colleagues. Although they were somewhat cold and reserved during the initial meetings, things really loosened up after we were able to interact socially. The Germans were quite eager to show us points of interest in the surrounding area. We toured castles, churches, breweries, vineyards, and museums, and our hosts were very proud to demonstrate their knowledge of these sites. Beer was consumed on many a late evening. I was truly appreciative of their hospitality, and our meetings became more open, honest, and productive because of the fun we were able to share. Elimination of these barriers helped put the software in place, which is still used by our company.
My bond with our German colleagues remains today, more than nine years after that initial trip. Trust naturally developed also because they were never laid off as they feared. I have been able to return the favor of hospitality whenever they visit our site. Besides our conference calls and WebEx meetings, which are important for our continued collaboration, I find myself frequently calling my German counterpart just as I would do to speak with an American colleague. We’re able to joke about topics like the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament (the USA women beat Germany in 2015). Furthermore, I sense something is missing when I don’t check in with my German colleagues often enough. From these experiences, I learned the importance of building and maintaining relationships with remote colleagues, to ensure success in business.
A recent blog post from the Project Management Institute (PMI) describes the challenges and successes of project managers who traveled to and lived in places far more exotic than Germany. What experiences have you had in your career with ex-US colleagues, and what tips can you provide for improving collaboration with them?
To me it’s rare that change comes without pain but I have experienced it. For one of my accounts, I noticed that we kept on delivering late to every ship to location. I decided to do a deep dive to understand the root cause and figure out a solution. I started with the “5 Why” and went from there. I worked with our transportation team to get their point of view on the carriers we were using and also with our data management team to make sure the locations were set up correctly. After investigation, the routes for each ship to location were set up incorrectly. This made the system trigger the orders later than needed. Instead of giving our warehouse up to 6 days to ship, we were giving them 3-4 days. I worked with our data management team on the recommended routes and adjusted the system. Now we increased our On Time for delivery from 68% to 97%. This was a huge win because this was a seamless change and didn’t impact the use of carriers or the customers.
Most people who ignore signals calling for change are afraid of change. Change can be scary and difficult to the point where most people just avoid it. They’re afraid the decisions they’re making are wrong and will end up failing. Failure can be a good thing though. You can always learn what didn’t work and move on to the next challenge. Nobody wants to fail, but it’s a part of growth that helps you get to the place where you want to be. I’m sure people think it’s harder to do something different that is more difficult than it is to do something new and less steps.
I was trained to run a report that will inform the sales department of the case fill rate for each account for each month and week. The person who created the report showed me how she ran it and I was to follow her steps. This report was monstrous and complicated but it gave the information needed. In the beginning, it would take me about an hour to run then I had to explain it in an email to the sales force so maybe about hour and half. As time went by, I got better and took me less time to run and send it to the team but still took me about 45 minutes to do it. My co-worker said he had a better way of running the report but I was hesitant because I just nailed down running this report. But I sucked it up and we created a faster easier report and now I love it.
Change can be scary but without it you will never know if something is better.
“Remote project management and virtual teams can be a great project model if your organization allows it and your staff is focused on productivity.” – Brad Egeland
Do you agree with the above statement? Virtual workplace or some might call it telecommuting was instituted in early 1970s when information technology started to play a greater role in daily operations of the companies. The Internet has had a revolutionary impact on our daily lives as well as our jobs. Today, some of our occupations would not be existent if Internet was not introduced. As internet connections become more common, workers have ample internet speeds to connect to their corporate headquarters through intranet right from their couch, beach or thousands of miles away from the office. We are starting to see more and more virtual teams as well as projects that are solely managed remotely. In his article Brad Egeland gives us few arguments why virtual project management is successful.
- You have access to the best talent in the world. Essentially you can hire anyone anywhere and communicate with them without any problems. This would allow your team to complete your projects much faster since you would have the best talent.
- Your profit margin increases and you can win more projects. By utilizing less expensive offshore teams you will be cutting some of the costs. Also, you do not need any extra space if your project would grow since every employee would be telecommuting from their home.
- Project managers are freed up for real work when it’s needed. Without actual commuting project managers can spend more time working on the project. Time is money and telecommuting not only gives you time but also flexibility on your working hours.
- The overall cost savings and productivity can be high. If everyone works on their time then we can assume that they will be working at 100% so the productivity will grow.
Since the invention of the internet, flexible work arrangements have increased and they are still on the move. With introduction of smart phones, virtual workplace and project management is gaining even more consideration. Today we can manage our projects from anywhere in the world, while eating dinner, at the gym or even while driving a car which I strongly do not recommend.
Have you ever experienced a project where you never faced other team members? Do you think there are many cost savings to having remote project management? Do you feel that you would perform better if you didn’t have set work hours? How does remote project management software help you do your job better as a project manager?
If you would like to read more about remote project management I strongly recommend Brads article that can be found here Remote Project Management
When I was a recruiter for an IT staffing firm, I would always wonder why IT firms would reach out to our office with a hiring manager in need of a contract software developer for one of their projects. These hiring managers were either Project Managers, Program Managers, or Release Managers, that had a group of software engineers that rolled out new software for their company. Our staffing agency sought out for these types of projects, and would find contract workers for these hiring managers on their SDLC projects. There is always a need for contract workers, especially for technology companies that run multiple projects. When reviewing project management topics, risk management seems to be a likely area where project manager’s account for staffing needs.
My curiosity lead to me to an article on how project managers account for risks in their SDLC projects. The article addresses risk management as a general approach for all project’s, and below are steps for project managers to follow:
1. Risk identification
2. Negative impacts
3. Prioritizing risks
4. Risk management or risk treatment
5. Auditing the risk management plan
The article states that firms can either have a full-time Risk Officer, or the responsibility be delegated to the project manager. It seems in my experience, the latter is true, where the project manager takes the lead on the risk management plan. Hence, why the contingency plan of needing additional human capital to fulfill the project included a staffing agency. However, the article addresses the importance of having a risk management plan based on the phases of the SDLC. Let’s briefly discuss what these phrases look like, and how a risk management plan is incorporated into each step.
There are five stages in a software development life cycle, and the stages include; inception, design, implementation, maintenance, and audit or disposal. For each of these steps, the article suggests what should be done to develop the risk management plan. In the inception phase, the engineers talk through some the risks associated with the software. The second step is the design phase, where the engineers take the risk into account, and how their software will support or manage the risks associated. Generally, these include a set of checklists that the engineers address when designing their software. The next stage is implementation, and in this stage, there are tests conducted to test where the software can pass the associated risks. The third stage, the article stresses the importance of ensuring the risks are passed, before going live. The fourth stage includes maintenance of the software, and problems generally occur in this stage. These problems are where the engineers debug the issues, and maintain the system to run as designed. The risk management plan takes into account that there will be problems with the system, and understands that if the system needs to be changed or altered, the risk plan accounts for alterations of the system. The final stage is auditing the system or disposing it, where the risk management plan refines the system.
When reviewing how the risk management plan fits into a software lifecycle, I understand why Project Managers can utilize contingency workers for their projects. When reviewing stages 3 and 4, these areas are likely where the project manager accounts in their risk management plan to have contractors mitigate the risk.These stages account for issues arising, and based on my experience as a recruiter, the hiring manager knew who to reach out to fulfill their staffing needs.
Has anyone worked with a staffing firm to mitigate risks in their projects?
A team is a group that shares responsibility for producing something together. Simply working closely with each other, wearing the same shirts, does not make you a team. Teams are unique because each member cannot complete the work without the work of other members. So the roles of each team member plays are critical for building high-performing team. Especially for dynamic project or new teams, the “role” of the word is more worthy of our attention than “job”. The ability of a role is relatively simple needs. And every successful team needs a mix of skills and roles. Therefore, the project manager should focus on diversifying the team member roles, rather than solely evaluating members on their individual talents. Especially just having a set of individual stars is not the key to build high-performing team.
My former boss is an excellent leader. She is experienced at identify people’s talents, skills, personalities. She can always put the right people in the right position, exert their advantages and compose a diverse team. Usually, she defined the work needed to be completed for the project, recognized the roles and what skills are required, then analyzed the character and team roles of every team member. It is worth mentioning she used FPA (Four-colors Personality Analysis) test as a supplementary tool to better and get a deeper understanding of personality traits and the potential of each subordinate. This approach is according to Dr. Carol Ritberger, a world famous behavioral psychologist and author. FPA states that there are four distinct personality types in the world, and each one has a special color: Red or Orange, motivated by power; Blue, motivated by intimacy; Green, motivated by peace; and Yellow, motivated by fun. Each color with their own unique way of seeing situations, expressing themselves, solving problems, and interacting with people. FPA has been widely used it in recruiting and team management in the companies over the world, it effectively helps manager or employee themselves to find out their personal tendencies, weaknesses, what they need from their peers, how they react to certain situations, areas of personal growth and their ideal work situation. Further, he stresses that human’s character is inborn, people just have one or two main characters and others are influenced by a variety of complicated things, such as grow-up environment, life experience, education and so on. So you can also find a way to develop some personality traits of other colors based on FPA test result.
In addition, one of the dimensions for determining whether a team is high-performing is capacity for continued cooperation. That is, team members want to work together in the future after accomplishing a project. They do not feel exhausted from all their resources, but get better at working together, they feel belonging and strive to learn from mistakes or from each other. So they can consistently continue to succeed.
If you are curious about FPA, please check the reference below, it has the test and results analysis.
I recently became the project manager for a project that was started this past August. The project contributes to a strategic corporate initiative and has high visibility. Given the project had already been in progress for 2 months, I assumed that much of project plan and reporting structure was already in place. This was not the case!
There was progress being made. However, there was no formal communication/reporting protocol with upper management and the various project stakeholders were not working to an aligned plan. Before I formally took over the program, my manager and I reviewed the overall status and decided we needed to hold a workshop to bring all team members/stakeholders together.
We held a two-day workshop with the goal of formalizing the project plan and WBS to meet the target launch date and shipment quantity. The workshop was very successful and the team left feeling aligned and empowered. However, there was also a feeling of uncertainty.
As project manager I was given the task of developing a dashboard to communicate the project status on a weekly basis: project timeline with key milestones, materials procurement, CAPEX (capital expenditure), and hiring. Being new to dashboard development, I embraced the challenge and compiled the required data.
Much like the examples found in the textbook, my dashboard includes a Gantt chart for project milestones. Within the Gantt chart I also included initial production quantities, weekly spend requirements for materials purchases and CAPEX expenditures, and weekly hiring requirements. Additional tables were included to better quantify the information in the Gantt chart. I was amazed at how much information could be displayed on a single chart!
Once the dashboard was complete, the reason for the team’s uncertainty at the workshop’s conclusion was clear: the project was significantly behind schedule and under-staffed.
How could such a discrepancy exist? No detailed planning was conducted at the beginning of the project. Yes, key milestones were defined along with primary deliverable, but the detailed investments required to support the project were not effectively communicated until the workshop. At this point, the only way to refine the project plan was to proceed like Dilbert:
After working backwards and compiling a daunting list of overdue expenditures, the team leveraged the dashboard to inform upper management of the current project status. Naturally they were not impressed and requested the team to drive improvement. We are now in catch-up mode and working to fulfill the initial plan as much as possible. The team is in a difficult situation as product performance has been agreed to with the customer, and senior management has mandated that all costs be minimized while fulfilling the target launch date and quantity.
We are committing to the realistic schedule/quantity and reporting this as baseline during our weekly meetings. Now we just need to get senior management on board.
Have you ever worked on similar projects that were behind schedule, over budget, and under-staffed? Please share your experience!