How to Inject Life Back Into Your Project

July 3rd, 2012

The recent power outages in the Washington, DC metropolitan area have inspired me to blog about losing power (electricity) and the effect it has on people and communities from a metaphorical project management perspective.  

Keep reading if you are a Project Manager looking for signals or indicators that your project is losing ‘power’ and how to inject life back into your project.

How do you recognize a ‘power loss’ in a project?

It can be hugely beneficial to see your project from the outside-in perspective.  This is something that I have blogged about in the past to encourage PMs to occaisonally step away from the tactical details and see projects from multiple stakeholders lenses.  It has been my experience that there are a few ‘tells’ when a project is losing momentum;

  • Sponsors or key stakeholders have become uninvolved, uninterested, or have moved on to other priorities
  • Workstreams are not meeting agreed upon delivery dates or delivery dates are frequently extended as they near expected completion
  • Lack of integration and gaps in communication, both inside and outside the project team, have people feeling frustrated or disengaged

How do I turn around a troubled project?

It is not always easy to recognize – or admit – that there is room for project improvement, especially when you are at the helm.  Again, just like in real life, projects appear differently from multiple vantage points.  Perceptions are powerful.   The good news is, that while the bullet points above may not be preferred, they are totally normal and may be overcome with a push in the right direction.  Here’s how:

  • Address issues head on.  Avoiding them only makes them worsen and harder to correct the situation.
  • No fault, no finger pointing.  Hold people/teams accountable.
  • Talk about making a positive course correction(s) and others will usually appreciate being part of the solution
  • Integrate.  Explore and address intersections with cross funcitonal efforts/teams
  • Keep stakeholders abreast of status (recent accomplishments, next steps, issues/risks)
  • Seek out creative ways for stakeholders to share a common understanding of why we are doing what we are doing
  • Projects bring about change.  Recognize changes as you go along so other people can share the same understanding of the new normal

How VeriScope Can Help You?

VeriScope has built a leading project management consulting practice on deep functional expertise and unmatched ability to elevate business results.  Is your project in trouble?  Do you need a fresh perspective from the outside to help you and others see maintain a path to success?  Contact us today, let us be your strategic business partner.  We are available on a consulting or contractual basis to staff your project with one of our many competent, results-driven project leaders.

About the author:  Joe Giampa is a seasoned management consultant, Project Management Professional (PMP), and a Prosci certified Change Management practitioner.  Joe shares his experiences gained over the last twelve years while bringing to life the visions of senior leaders by implementing leading-edge solutions, systems, and processes for multi-billion dollar companies.  Joe is the Chief Project Manager at VeriScope, Inc. – a leading provider of Project Management consulting, staffing, and training to commercial and government clients looking to  mature internal project management capabilities and maximize successful project outcomes.

Follow Joe on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.  Read other blog posts.

Spring Has Sprung… Is Your Project Ready to Enter a New Season?

April 6th, 2012

Growing up in Northern Virginia, I, like most people, am always energized by the break in low temperatures, the bright pops of color, and the promise that the long, cold winter is behind us.  As a Project Manager, I take the same opportunity to revisit each of my programs and projects because I believe that applying a fresh perspective can have a huge impact on results.  Today’s blog builds off a previous posts that I have authored on considering an outside-in perspective. project turn arounds, and how to inject life back into a project

Projects bring about change, are you and other stakeholders living the change?  Successful projects bring about change.  These changes come in all shapes and sizes (e.g. changes to processes, operations, business support, technology implementations).    Project Managers are on the front line of change and have already adopted personal commitments to change.  But this is not always true for all stakeholders. 

Use your position as Project Manager to help usher others along the change path.  Resistance to change has the ability to seriously impede successful project outcomes.  Address this as part of your project planning efforts.  Most change management experts will agree that people need to hear messages five to seven times before the message is actually received (and more importantly, absorbed).  This is why it is imperative to take time to frequently communicate the need to change, the project vision and intended benefits, what has been accomplished to date, and where you are heading next. 

Break away from the mundane and shake things up!  Sometimes when we are in the thick of execution, things may become routine.  When things become routine, there is a tendency to become less engaged and overlook or minimize issues/risks that require greater exploration.  This is the perfect time to shake things up!  For example, do you still need to have that weekly stakeholder meeting?  Pulse the group about frequency and let them be part of the decision.  If you are feeling that things are becoming routine, trust your instincts because typically, you are not alone. 

Revisit milestones, schedules, and deliverables.  Refine and refocus as appropriate.  In the spirit of progressive elaboration, it is always a good practice to revisit and refine as you know more information and when you can be more granular in planning.  Ask yourself, do these milestones make sense now that we are here in the current state Is the team focused on the most impactful actions that will lead to desired outcomes?

How VeriScope Can Help You?

VeriScope has built a leading project management consulting practice on deep functional expertise and unmatched ability to elevate business results.  Could your project benefit from a little Spring cleaning?  Contact us today, let us be your strategic business partner.  We are available on a consulting or contractual basis to staff your project with one of our many competent, results-driven project leaders. 

About the author:  Joe Giampa is a seasoned management consultant, Project Management Professional (PMP), and a Prosci certified Change Management practitioner.  Joe shares his experiences gained over the last twelve years while bringing to life the visions of senior leaders by implementing leading-edge solutions, systems, and processes for multi-billion dollar companies.  Joe is the Chief Project Manager at VeriScope, Inc. – a leading provider of Project Management consulting, staffing, and training to commercial and government clients looking to  mature internal project management capabilities and maximize successful project outcomes.

Follow Joe on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.  Read other blog posts.

Why You Should Use Contract Project Managers

March 14th, 2012

Here are the top four reasons why our clients engage VeriScope for all of their project management needs:

  • Strategic business partner dedicated to your results.  When you partner with VeriScope, you not only get a contract project manager, you get a strategic business partner dedicated to your results.  Our PMs have a deep reach into our team of experienced project management consultants who are able to collaboratively solve our clients biggest challenges.  Your success becomes our success when you partner with VeriScope.
  • Deep functional project management expertise.  Our project leaders bring real world experience to your organization.  They ensure your project or product is delivered on time, within budget, and with requisite quality.  Once our project leaders are engaged, they hit the ground running with very short ramp-up times.  We understand that failure is not an option and your project sponsor wants to meet targets and be successful.  We get to know your organization and your culture so that we are able to delicately balance the art and science of project management.  We bring results.
  • 100% dedicated focus.  Project leaders serve an important role as integrator and lead communicator.  It is imperative that this person have 100% of their time allocated/dedicated to successfully deliver the intended project results.  Matrixed resources are typically allocatesd only a small percentage of their time  (e.g. 10% – 20% or 4 to 8 hours per week).  In other words, these employees must still fulfill their day jobs and squeeze time in to support the project.  Let’s face it – only having slivers of peoples time is not the most effective practice.  This may be acceptable for smaller projects, but definitely not for larger, cross-functional efforts.  Another scenario that we have seen play out time and time again, is where successful functional managers are appointed to lead an new project or initiative, but do not have the skills or experience to be immediately successful as a PM (also known as the halo effect).  Take for example a senior software developer who is a rock star at engineering code, but may not make the best PM (yet).
  • Overall net costs of contract staff are typically lower than full time employees.  You cannot simply compare the bill rate of a contractor to the annual salary of a full time employee.  Many factors for consideration must be analyzed, like salary/compensation, bonus, cost of benefits (medical, dental, and vision insurance), 401k contributions, paid holidays, tuition reimbursement, training, employers portion of federal/state tax liabilities, other programs that you may offer, etc.  Consider all that it takes to attract, source, interview, and onboard new hires…  And when you factor in possible attrition rates as high as 50% within 2 years  – you may want to take another look at contract resources.  Best of all, once your project needs change, you are able to immediately remove contractor costs from your budget, giving you more control.

That bill rate doesn’t look so high now, does it? 

How VeriScope Can Help You?

VeriScope has built a leading project management consulting practice on deep functional expertise and unmatched ability to elevate business results.  Available on a consulting or contractual basis, allow us to staff your next project with one of our many competent, results-driven project leaders.  Contact us today for more information.

About the author:  Joe Giampa is a seasoned management consultant, Project Management Professional (PMP), and a Prosci certified Change Management practitioner.  Joe shares his experiences gained over the last twelve years while bringing to life the visions of senior leaders by implementing leading-edge solutions, systems, and processes for multi-billion dollar companies.  Joe is the Chief Project Manager at VeriScope, Inc. – a leading provider of Project Management consulting, staffing, and training to commercial and government clients looking to  mature internal project management capabilities and maximize successful project outcomes.

Follow Joe on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.  Read other blog posts.

How to Facilitate an Effective Lessons Learned Discussion

February 19th, 2012

What is a Lessons Learned Discussion?

A lesson learned is defined as a good work practice or an innovative approach that is captured and shared to promote repeat application or avoid recurrence.  Well-documented lessons learned enable us to further mature our project management capability and our ability to deliver projects that leverage repeatable processes.  Both advantageous and adverse consequences within a project can result in lessons learned and those that are particularly positive may be communicated outside of the team and promoted as a best practice.  These lessons learned should become part of your organization’s process assets to provide future project teams with valuable insight into previous projects that were similar in nature about what went well and what did not go well or had unintended consequences.

  • Lessons learned should be documented throughout the life of a project
  • Lessons learned captured at the end of one project should be reviewed at the initiation of a similar projects
  • Lessons learned provide invaluable insight to project managers and team members of new projects

Why Facilitate a Lessons Learned Discussion?

When project managers pull together members of a project team, they should invite all who contributed to the overall effort.   The objective of meeting is to have a discussion and collectively identify lessons learned during the previous phase or project closure so that future projects may benefit from and usefully apply those insights that were gained on past efforts.  During the course of the discussion, the objective of the exercise is to recognize and document those insights so that the future project efforts incorporate more of the successful things and less of the unsuccessful things encountered by this project team.

Additionally, lessons learned exercises give members a chance to reflect on events and activities during the project and helps bring closure to the project.  It should provides attendees a safe and open opportunity for team members, sponsors, and stakeholders to talk about:
  • Successes that happened during or because of the project
  • Unintended outcomes that happened during or because of the project
  • Other things that, in retrospect, might have been better handled if done differently
  • Recommendations to others who might be involved in future projects of a similar type

How Do I Facilitate and Effective Lessons Learned Discussion?

To help guide the discussion, try to focus on major categories including people, process, and technology and then further define the lesson learned by type – wheter the lesson is beneficial, detrimental, or simply a good practice.

Capture lessons learned that address the following:

  • People – Project and organizational staffing  and training (e.g., loading, availability, skill mix) and training (e.g., available, required, provided, needed, etc.)
  • Process – Defined process and the organizational standard process (i.e., processes, procedures, standards, methodologies, templates, and guideliness
  • Tools/Technology – Organizational tools and equipment (e.g., statistical analysis/reporting tools, version control systems, simulators, databases, hardware, etc.)

Consider the impact/outcome of the lesson and how future projects may be affected:

  • Beneficial – Lesson learned from an actual project event with advantageous outcome.  Communications relating to beneficial lessons learned are normally limited to project personnel
  • Detrimental – Lesson learned from an actual project event with adverse consequences.  Communications relating to detrimental lessons learned are normally limited to project personnel
  • Good Practice – Practice promoting or resulting in a positive outcome (i.e., success story) that should be considered as a “best practice” within the organization.  Communications relating to good practice lessons learned are extended to personnel outside the project (e.g., natural team, firm-wide, etc.)

Before you begin your discussion, it important cover a few ground rules that will help to set expectations of all participants and ensure a productive meeting:

  • The point of the exercise is to recognize and document lessons so that the future project efforts of others do more of the successful things and less of the unsuccessful things encountered by the project team
  • Remain focused on discussions that will yield lessons learned within the define amount of time you have scheduled
  • Focus on behaviors or tactics that were successful or problematic, rather than people who were successful or problematic
  • Hear from everybody and recognize that everyone who contributed to the project may have input regardless of their amount of project/deliverable involvement
  • Most importantly, let’s keep the conversation positive and productive

What Types of Questions Should the Facilitator Ask During the Lessons Learned Discussion?

Here are some questions to consider before you begin your lessons learned discussion:

  1. Were the project goals attained?
  2. What went well?  Provide examples of successes that happened during or because of the project
  3. What didn’t go well?  Discuss unintended outcomes that happened during or because of the project
  4. What might have been better handled if done differently?
  5. What recommendations would you give to others who might be involved in future projects of a similar type?
  6. What was beyond your control?
  7. What things surprised you on the project that were not planned?
  8. What things did you anticipate happening that did not happen?
  9. What mistakes did you successfully avoid making?
  10. What could we automate or simplify that we do repetitively?
  11. What skills did you need that were missing on this project?

After your lessons learned discussion be sure to thank your participants for their time and participation and them that results of the discussion will provide valuable insights into future endeavors.  Offer your attendees an opportunity to provide additional input (i.e. something you did not want to share in front of the group, or something that comes to you later) and provide an email address to send these comments.

Now That You Have Facilitated a Great Lessons Learned Discussion, What happens next?

Now that you have facilitated your lessons learned discussion, here are some helpful hints for next steps:

  • Fully capture the essence of the discussion and finalize a formal lessons learned document
  • Validate lessons learned, seek clarification when/where necessary
  • Summarize lessons learned  and provide teams with a summary deck
  • Socialize and refine; disseminate lessons learned within each project team
  • Ensure your lessons learned are stored within your project management system to serve as project assets for future endeavors

How VeriScope Can Help You?

VeriScope has bulit a leading project management consulting practice on deep functional expertise and unmatched ability to elevate business results.  Available on a consulting or contractual basis, allow us to plan and facilitate your next lessons learned discussion and ensure outcomes are translated into actionable learning across your organization.  Contact us today for more information. 

About the author:  Joe Giampa is a seasoned management consultant, Project Management Professional (PMP), and a Prosci certified Change Management practitioner.  Joe shares his experiences gained over the last twelve years while bringing to life the visions of senior leaders by implementing leading-edge solutions, systems, and processes for multi-billion dollar companies.  Joe is the Chief Project Manager at VeriScope, Inc. – a leading provider of Project Management consulting, staffing, and training to commercial and government clients looking to  mature internal project management capabilities and maximize successful project outcomes.

Follow Joe on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.  Read other blog posts.

How to Calibrate Stakeholder Perceptions

January 7th, 2012

In a previous blog post, I challenged Project Managers to step back and look at their projects from the outside-in perspective.  The post explored the power of perceptions and how stakeholders view projects from different vantage points and elevations.  Today’s post will build on that information previously shared and  provide a deeper dive into calibrating stakeholder perceptions.

A common technique that I use with my clients and project stakeholders to calibrate perceptions is something that I call “What, Why, and How”.

What answers the question, in a sentence or two, what are we doing?  What is the current challenge or opportunity that we are facing?

Why is to remind people why we have chosen to undertake the project and to reiterate the intended benefits and expected outcomes.

How is demonstrating our roadmap to success by articulating a series of high-level goals (milestones) from start to finish

When to use the What, Why, and How technique…  I think that projects have ‘tells’ just like poker players have ‘tells’.  While projects may not have nervous throat clearings or funny eye/lip movements, they do have the following:

Pace changes.  It’s no surprise that project paces vary throughout the lifecycle, sometimes the pace is lighting fast, and other times may feel like things are moving at a snails pace.  Take the opportunity to remind project staff why you have set out on this particular journey and what has been accomplished to date.  Times when your project pace may be slower represents the perfect opportunity for deep-dives or lessons learned sessions.

Team composition changes.  At some point or another, project teams gain and/or lose team members.  Resource changes  can have both positive and negative implications on a project.  To gain expertise or resources is good, whereas losing critical skills is not so good.  New players can have a profound impact on your project, so ask them to share their fresh perspectives at the onset.  Not all attrition is bad…  Healthy attrition makes room for new staff by shedding staff who may be clinging to the old way of doing things, spewing negatively, or may simply not have the time to allocate to the effort which in turn, slows down progress.

Stakeholder/sponsor needs change. It not uncommon for stakeholder/sponsor needs to evolve over time.  Internal or external factors may fuel these changes, such as regulatory/compliance changes or an increase/decrease in project funding.

Success and reaching milestones.  Projects that span over long periods of time tend deliver changes to organizations, processes, and environments.  When major milestones are reached, new normals are introduced and experiences will change.  To navigate these changes, project managers should stay agile and motivate others to maintain a healthy level of agility.

Whatever the case may be, keep an eye out for these types of scenarios and be sure to seize the opportunity to reiterate What, Why, and How.  By doing so, you can help your project sustain a positive momentum and ensure that you are communicating effectively.

About the author:  Joe Giampa is a seasoned management consultant, Project Management Professional (PMP), and a Prosci certified Change Management practitioner.  Joe shares his experiences gained over the last twelve years while bringing to life the visions of senior leaders by implementing leading-edge solutions, systems, and processes for multi-billion dollar companies.  Joe is the Chief Project Manager at VeriScope, Inc. – a leading provider of Project Management consulting, staffing, and training to commercial and government clients looking to  mature internal project management capabilities and maximize successful project outcomes.

Follow Joe on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.  Read other blog posts.

What Does Your Project Look Like from the Outside-In Perspective?

December 2nd, 2011

Leading and motivating matrixed staff, handling client concerns and competing priorities, balancing the triple constraints, maneuvering tight schedules, producing rock star status reports… Sound familiar?  Yep, all in a day in the life of a Project Manager.

You are a talented Project Manager with your finger on the project pulse…

You know the implications of slippages of your dependent activities…

If you were asked, “where are we at right now on XYZ project“, you could pinpoint your exact location in terms of status and delivery with laser precision…

In Summary – you know your project INSIDE-OUT.

But when was the last time that you took a strategic pause to observe your project from the OUTSIDE-IN perspective?

Because Project Managers are handling so many of the project mechanics as previously described, it is easy to get down in the weeds.  And don’t get me wrong, getting down to the gnats eyelash is required at times to get the job done (right).

So what do I mean when I say to observe your project from the outside-in and why you should do this regularly?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when a fresh perspective is needed:

1.  Am I acting as an integrator, helping my project team and other stakeholders connect the dots?

2.  How does my project sponsor perceive the current status and health of my project and is (s)he able to clearly articulate merits to other senior leaders?

3.  Are key stakeholders kept in the loop about efforts that are currently underway as well as upcoming milestones?

4.  Has it been too long since you reminded all involved why we have undertaken the project (what are the intended benefits and expected outcomes)?

Perceptions are powerful.  Project Managers spend more than 70% of their time communicating.  Some would increase that figure in upwards of 90%.  Either way, both statistics reinforce the need to incorporate multiple perspectives into our messaging.  Building awareness and keeping stakeholders apprised is vital to project health.

The next time you are updating that status report or pulling together your dashboard content, take a look at your project from the outside-in.  Who knows, maybe a fresh perspective is exactly what the PM doctor ordered.

About the author:  Joe Giampa is a seasoned management consultant, Project Management Professional (PMP), and a Prosci certified Change Management practitioner.  Joe shares his experiences gained over the last twelve years while bringing to life the visions of senior leaders by implementing leading-edge solutions, systems, and processes for multi-billion dollar companies.  Joe is the Chief Project Manager at VeriScope, Inc. – a leading provider of Project Management consulting, staffing, and training to commercial and government clients looking to  mature internal project management capabilities and maximize successful project outcomes.

Follow Joe on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.  Read other blog posts.

How to Give Employees Constructive Feedback

November 20th, 2011

As managers, we intuitively know that giving and getting honest feedback is essential to grow and develop, and to build successful organizations.

So why is it that many of us put off giving feedback to our employees?

Maybe it’s because there are so many ways to mess it up.

Here are some common feedback mistakes:

  • Speaking out only when things are wrong
  • Providing generic praise without specifics or an honest underpinning
  • Waiting until performance or behavior is substantially below expectations before acting on it
  • Giving negative feedback in public
  • Criticizing performance without giving suggestions for improvement
  • Not conducting regular performance reviews

Clearly, giving and receiving constructive feedback is a skill that must be honed. Developing proficiency in this area is essential to building good relationships with, and motivating peak performance from, your team.

To help get you started, here are four tips for providing feedback the right way:

1. Be proactive. Nip issues in the bud and avoid messy interpersonal tangles that result from neglected communication. If you meet with employees regularly to give feedback, it conveys, “Your success is important to me, so I want to be accessible to you.”

2. Be specific. Although it’s not easy to provide negative feedback, it’s important to be as clear as possible by giving specific examples that illustrate your point. Instead of saying, “Your attitude is bad,” say, “When you miss deadlines, then cross your arms and look away when I discuss it with you, it gives me the impression that you don’t care about the quality of your work. Can you help me understand this behavior better?”

3. Develop a progress plan. Be clear about the specific changes in behavior that you expect in a specific period of time, and follow up as scheduled.

4. Link employees’ performance to organizational goals. Reinforce the value of your employees’ contributions by giving specific examples of how their work and positive behaviors serve the organization and its customers.

At VeriScope, we understand and appreciate the value of constructive feedback. So we’d like to hear from you.

Please contact us with your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Veriscope, Inc.
P.O. Box 721
Ashburn, VA 20146

703-436-5001 Office
703-436-5006 Fax
info@veriscopepm.com