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Project Management Essentials – Developing Project Team

While maintaining a team of resources, in order to maintain quality, health and progress of collective team efforts it is quite vital to engage team building techniques. To the benefit of team members as well as the subsequent project work to be undertaken by them it is of foremost importance to develop project team on a continuous basis. This benefits not just the teams members in lifting their moral, work interest and motivation, but any positive outcome derived from these techniques will also be reflected in the overall quality of end work produced.

  1. Interpersonal Skills- It is essential to use the soft skills like empathy, influence, creativity and group facilitation (ex- agile stand up meetings) to bring cohesion between team members and to be able to work collectively in tandem.
  2. Training – Regular training boosts team member’s confidence in dealing with a particular technology and keeps the on the cutting edge of new skillsets prevailing in the current market. Training also helps in guiding the team to work in the most optimal method that has been tried and tested while following the best standards set by industry veterans.
  3. Team building activities- There are five stages of team development- Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. Forming is the first stage where new teams are introduced and their skillsets are integrated into the flow of collective executive of their skills. The teams’ quality, attitude, work style is assessed and utilized in the best interest strategically. Storming is where every team member is exposed to the work culture by getting together and figuring out the work process, work responsibilities, individual contribution, their roles and things of that nature. There might be a clash of ideas or principles between new members which should be sorted out in this stage. Norming is where the team is acquainted with each other in terms of their work style, methodologies, interactive capacity and overall degree of comfort in working together. Performing is where the team will start performing at their highest level producing top quality results. Adjourning is when the project end and a team need to be disassembled or rolled on to a new project or a new engagement.
  4. Ground Rules – Expectations in every aspect of work should be clearly outlined and followed. This ensures a proper following of processes and rules as expected by the client.
  5. Co-Location – This helps build rapport between team members and helps with faster execution of project activities without going back and forth as much. This requires the team to be located in the same physical place rather than spread out and separate. This could be a war room or an agile form of project execution.
  6. Recognition and Rewards – This is the most overlooked area which if used efficiently can be very effective for the success of any particular project. Desired behavior should be rewarded and encouraged to maintain certain level of expectations. The reward could be a written gratitude for good work or bonus or advancement in their career.

Project Management Essentials – Techniques for Estimating Activity Durations

Estimating activity duration is often overlooked when it comes to different ways that can be used to reach a better metrics on duration. To more accurately assess how long an activity takes it is necessary to take into consideration the skill-set and capabilities of the activity owner while incorporating different techniques.

Some of the most common scheduling techniques used for estimating activity duration as discussed below.

  1. Analogous Estimating – This technique is also known as “Top Down” estimating. A reference point should be set using similar previous projects that matches best with the activities for which we are running the estimates for.  Adjustments would need to be made for any differences.
  2. Parametric Estimating- Also known as “Rule of Thumb”, this technique takes statistical relationship between historical data and other variables into consideration. For example: If a resource can finish testing 100 lines of code in an hour, it will take 10 hours to test 1000 lines of code.
  3. Three-Point Estimates (PERT – Performance Evaluation & Review Tool) – This is one of the most widely used estimating technique wherein three different points of references in terms of case-based scenarios are established and  calculated according to the formula. The three metrics are established according to the “Most likely”, “Optimistic (best-case)” and “Pessimistic (worst-case)” scenario. PERT = [Optimistic + (4 x Most Likely) + Pessimistic]/6
  4. Reserve Analysis – This technique takes into consideration the uncertainties that could surround the project work. A contingency reserves is added to the schedule in case of any adversities like bad weather, earthquake, political instability, etc.

Service Management

Typically customers will pursue the service provider that best enables them to achieve their goals and will offer the greatest advantages.

The true value of a service is comprised of

  • Utility or fitness for purpose
  • Warranty or fitness for use

Utility refers to how useful a service is to a customer. There are two ways of improving utility, the first one being performance improvement. This can be achieved by improving the skills of staff, providing cutting edge and the latest technology that will keep them competitive while also encouraging creativity and innovation.

Next is to remove the constraints and bottlenecks on performance. Constraint is anything that impacts the execution or delivery of the service.  The constraints could be limited hardware or unavailability of resources, not having proper access to the information, administrative delays etc. Appropriate method or actions can be used to tackle each of the bottlenecks individually.

Warranty or Service level agreement –

An SLA or a warranty ensures continuity of service, security to offer reliable solution and dependency & support for after delivery of the service and reduction of risk from the customer’s side, on schedule delivery, type of support. Failing to provide warranty can reduce overall service for customers. Service level agreement is part of any client vendor contract agreements and it ensures consistent, timely and quality service.

Confronting to resolve conflicts

With employees and personals working closely in any organization, too often situations arise where difference of opinion and collision of ideas, opinions and thoughts are inevitable. This could be due to various reasons such as personality differences, egos, die-hard habits, own way of doing things etc. In corporate world, it should be an accepted fact that not everyone is going to be on the same level of understanding and it should not be accepted that all employees will get along well with each other.  In fact it’s the differing nature of the ideas in people that brings out the best outcomes when the resolution process is followed correctly and efficiently.  In my experience there were many instances when either party was wrong or both were right in their own way. Sometimes it is tough to be in the position to mediate or confront to resolve such issues due to the nature of circumstances and the type of people involved.

It is essential to be non-judgmental and leaving any preferences aside, the right and accepted process should be followed. The process could involve collaborating, confronting, forcing or accepting to achieve the right outcome. The forcing technique should be sparsely used but is effective and is needed where the conflicting party is too stubborn and non-conforming of the documented policies. In spite of the realization, certain employees due to the amount of time and energy they invested in their ideas would find it hard to accept the opposing decision. Managers would be left with no choice but to force them to accept and follow the correct protocol.

Certain cases need delicate attention due to the fact that your team members may be equally right about a certain issue on hand but have their own ways of doing things. But avoiding resolution of conflicts tends to make problems worse because the lingering issue still exists until fully resolved. It is essential to be assertive, clear, calm and firm while being non-judgmental. Confrontation can result in a positive outcome if the right negotiation skills and used with the right communication techniques.

To summarize,

  • Conflicts are part of life and should be accepted in terms of occurrence
  • They can bring out the better outcome
  • Conflicts should be confronted when possible
  • The resolution process should be followed non-judgmentally and without any pre-conceived preference.
  • Adhere to policies of the organization regardless of any personal opinions.
  • Right techniques of communication and negotiation skills should be employed.
  • Train your employees to follow the documented procedures.
  • Minimize the possibility of confrontational situation or buildup of circumstances that could lead to confrontations.

Problem Types and Model for Decision making and solving problems

A problem can be defined as unexpected disruption or gap between current and desired state. There are different methods of tackling any particular issue using analytical, practical or creative approach.

An effective way would involve the progression through following stages

  1. Ascertaining what the problem is
  2. Identifying causes and opportunities
  3. Generating solutions
  4. Evaluating and choosing the best solution
  5. Implementing and monitoring actions

A systematic approach leads to the best possible outcome and in a way guarantees that the steps would result in being positively accepted by the general public while backed up by a suitable rationale. The outcomes would also be more consistent with aligned agenda on hand.

Often we come across a difficult question or choices that seem to go either way. Sometimes people see decision making or problem solving as a single step process or a single action of affirmation or negation. Although it may seem as a straight forward course, the mind iterates though multiple levels of processing.  To break it down and study the steps involved would not only help make a better decision but allows being confident in the outcome that leads to desired state. Whether a decision is tough, easy, difficult it is essential to iterate through the flow of various process broken down at its lowest level

Six Step model

  1. Defining the question accurately
  2. Searching for all possible answers
  3. Examining the impact and outcome of each answer
  4. Weighing the pros and cons and related risks & rewards
  5. Choosing the best solution that is solely designed to fit the question
  6. Monitor the outcome
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