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Project Management in Plain English

A Simple Process for Project Management

Sometimes we don’t think one person can make a difference, but sometimes that is all it takes. If you think about the ground breaking potential one man with a shovel can make, we can see the earth moving capabilities that one person can have. If you think someone should be doing something about it, remember you are someone!

The trick is the age old adage that the hardest door to open is your own; first thing in the morning. It is the motivational tactics that get you going that will help you work through any issue. Once you have your own juices flowing, it is the cheerleading, coaching mentality that get the rest of the team moving. Once you have a team with forward momentum and defined target, you can set out to conquer the world. A project is just the beginning.

Six Steps to Success

The foundation that I use is the “plain English synopsis”: Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. If you are looking for a template to form your project plan, put these into a project plan and start digging.

  1. Who is it for? Who is the sponsor? Who is the stakeholder? Who can do it? Who will be affected?
  2. What do they “want” vs. What do they “need”?
  3. Why do they need it?
  4. Where is it going to get done?
  5. When do they need it completed?
  6. How do we get it done?

1. Who is it for?

Identify the stakeholders: Who wants something? Who will it affect? Who will pay? Who can do it? Who needs to be communicated with about it? Who will be affected and have we communicated with all of them or better yet had a conversation with them about it?

2. What do they need?

This is the tricky part and plays off of the why do they need it. It should be scalable, but you need to identify what they are trying to do - Develop a checklist of questions and get the answers; then find out “what they need”  – this could make a huge difference in the cost of the project.  I worked with a CIO that stated all he really needed was a little red pick-up truck and they bought him a rocket ship. This defeated the purpose entirely as he just needed to go across the street to the hardware store and he couldn’t even do that without going around the world; he did not have any astronauts; could not afford to hire one and who was going to pay for all of that fuel anyway.

3. Why do they need it?

Identify what it is they really need, not what they think they want. You can grow it from the foundation of what they need to achieve what they need to do. Did you hear that when the space program began, there was a need to be able to write in space – the US spentd millions trying to produce a pen that would write in space without gravity; while the Russians gave their teams pencils.

If people know why and are able to make informed decisions, you get better results then if you just have them fill in templates and they have no background information. Do you want a secretarial pool or a PMO? Set the expectations so you can procure the proper resources (define the scope).

Project management is making informed decisions based upon the knowledge you have uncovered, identified and documented with sign off. Program management is a group of projects and can sometimes be defined as doing a project and developing processes that can be used to supplement “all” of the offices or organizations being rolled out. Problem management, is what I refer to as elbow management – forcing something through and getting out the fire fighting equipment. The team needs to define which way to go – the WHY will help identify what is needed.

4. When do they need it?

This is one third of project management: Cost, Time, Quality. If they need it yesterday, it will make a big difference in all of the other questions. Perhaps they only need part of it yesterday? Maybe you need to bring in a really big team and get it done tomorrow, but this is where the true Project Manager stands out in getting the definitions truly defined and the expectation setting accurate. Get a timeline in place and remember Fire Fighting equipment can be expensive!

5. Where is it needed?

Does everyone need it? A special few? Global implementations? And how does this equate in the entire picture? Where do we find the resources? Where is the bluerint, the design, the architecture,  the expectations, the SOW or the RFP. Let’s architect something. Which brings us to step number 6.

6. How do we get it done?

Once again – all at once, a little at a time, or do they only need a piece of the product for now with another project to upgrade later. Once you have the plan you can start making these decisions. Most people don’t take a job to fail. The failing is in the expectation setting. Teams start a project excited, open and flexible. Once you have trained them and stated the rules they get confused, concerned and frustrated if there is a moving target.  Motivated people with no handbook for delivery is the beginning of chaos and confusion.

Learn and grow together though definitions and expectation setting

A good project manager is a person that can build and mentor the team to define the dimensions of the whole and keep moving forward to build the foundation. The rest is easy as long as you keep talking to each other and measure success. Remember your tool kit: Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. Define and set the expectations; Draw the picture; Implement the project; Measure and celebrate success. It is awfully hard for someone to meet your standards if even you are not sure what they are.


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I love this blog, its really useful for non-project managers to get their head around what and how to run a project.

Just a small point, it would be great to have the "Share" plug in so I can tweet, like, and distribute to my social media.


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