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Apprenticeship Levy Set To Develop Young Project Managers

 It’s not always easy to make a career choice at a young age and, in any case, a career for life is increasingly a thing of the past. So schools equip young people with transferable, flexible skills that can be used in a variety of careers – including ones that may not even exist yet!

It is also becoming less common to need a university degree to ensure a respected career path and there is a recognition that higher apprenticeships can provide the skills and qualifications for many in-demand careers such as project management without taking a degree first. So many large organisations now work on a project-centric business model that it is essential that they can reliably deliver successful projects. Therefore, good project managers with skills learnt from the industry best practises are in high demand.

The project management profession has a range of internationally recognised qualifications that require discipline and rigour to obtain and that has been rewarded recently with the awarding of a Royal Charter here in the UK that recognises that project management is a skilled discipline along the lines of accountancy or engineering or even law, which requires lifelong learning and continuing professional development to succeed and flourish.

Lifelong learning is increasingly supported by both the UK Government and major organisations as they recognise the value of a well-trained workforce with respect to improved productivity and staff retention.

With the advent of Higher Apprenticeships that require at least 2 A Levels, the apprentice route is no longer seen as a “non-academic” route and can now lead to degree-level qualifications and higher accreditation such as chartered status for those with the desire and aptitude to pursue their career to the highest level.

Project management has been around since the 1960s but it is more important than ever in  our digital, project-focused world and is fundamental to the success of many businesses so it is perhaps no surprise that there are now new project management apprenticeships to develop the skills that organisations require. And we are consequently seeing the growth and development of this modern profession.

It first became possible to achieve certifications in project management in the 1980s and while the range and depth of those certifications and credentials has grown, variations of them still exist. As the profession has matured it has become more common for it to be a career of choice straight out of full-time education unlike in previous decades where someone was more likely to become a project manager after working in a field for some years and then progressing to the role.

Project management was initially confined to IT, construction or engineering industries but now it is to be found in all business areas. So it is no surprise that companies want a well-trained PM workforce and are embracing the new project management apprenticeship programmes, which enable them to recruit and retain the brightest and most motivated candidates.

Project management apprenticeships are based on the Association for Project Management (APM) framework; APM has over the years developed a progressive series of qualifications that start with basic training, develop skills and knowledge of best practices and eventually lead to Chartered Status. This Higher Apprenticeship offers opportunities for young people to be involved in a growing industry and develop an exciting, well-respected career.

By |March 10th, 2017|Blog Posts, project management|0 Comments

Project Management Essentials

In order to manage a project effectively the work that needs to be done to deliver the final end product or outcome needs to be broken down into a series of clearly defined tasks. Those tasks then need to be scheduled in the correct order taking into account any dependencies between them and any requirements for specialist skills or equipment. The tasks need to be assigned to individuals, groups or departments then tracked and monitored to final completion. That sounds fairly simple when put in those terms but the very fact that project management is a profession requiring training and professional qualifications suggest that the practise of project management is not quite so straightforward in reality.

The reason that real-life project management is not straightforward is because there are usually many interacting factors that can disrupt a simple schedule. Tasks can take longer than expected, new technology on which the project was dependent fails to work in the way it was anticipated; resources initially assigned to the project are diverted elsewhere within the organisation as priorities change (whether that’s people or money). Put simply, real-life rarely goes to plan. That in some way explains why a project manager needs to undertake training right from the very start of their career on courses such as the APM Project Fundamentals Course right through to the highest levels of accreditation such as the APM Registered Project Professional (APM RPP), all the while ensuring they undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to keep up with current best practises.

 

What exactly is involved in managing a project?

How does a project manager break down the work into tasks, how are estimates produced for how long each task take? Are there dependencies between tasks that affect when they can be done or when they need to be completed? Are any specialist skills or equipment needed? Is there fixed deadline to take into account? These are all questions a project manager has to find the answers to.

Project Management Techniques

Once a project manager has undertaken fundamental project management training and has a good grasp of the PM techniques required to effectively manage a project then that job can be made easier by the use of one of the wide range of software packages and apps available. However, a project manager must understand the basic techniques first in order to get the most benefit from these tools. The tools are not a substitute for good PM skills, behaviours, attitudes and experience.

Some of the most common project planning techniques that all project managers will employ at some stage in their career include Brainstorming, Cause and Effect Diagrams, Gantt Charts and Critical Path Analysis.

Brainstorming is a powerful method for performing business analysis and clarifying business requirements. It can also be used to identify inter-dependencies between project tasks, reveal ways to improve efficiency or make cost savings, and even help to identify potential risks.

Gantt charts are simple in one sense and yet a powerful tool to help visualise the schedule, progress, resource allocation and interdependencies. They can also help to highlight potential bottle necks in the schedule.

 

By |April 12th, 2016|Blog Posts|0 Comments

Why Throwing Resources at a Project Won’t Save It

Most project managers would kill for extra resources – many projects start with an optimistic budget and little or no contingency so when the plan starts to flounder (as they frequently do) a bit more time, a few more people and some more money would always be welcome. But would these extra resources really save a project that was doomed from the start or that was being run inefficiently without the proper structure and controls?

 

A well planned project, even one with minimal initial resources and little contingency, can be delivered successfully by an experienced project manager working with a well-defined business case, good project management planning and a well-motivated team. With effective communication and controls in place and a practical change and risk management strategy the effect of a lack of resources can be minimised. That’s not to say a project can be run on a shoestring but there are always areas where efficiency savings can be made if (and it’s a big if) the right foundations are in place to deliver a successful project.

All project managers can probably imagine the scenario: a tight deadline, imposed by a business need to get the product to market before a competitor or to develop a new product by year end or update a business process before a fixed date because of legislation changes. There are numerous cases where a specific business need has a fixed deadline and the project is initiated knowing that deadline and knowing that the chances of delivering on time are slim. But still the project is started – what that says about organisations’ approach to projects is a subject for debate another time – and the project manager has to plan and control the project within this immoveable constraint.

It’s tempting to throw money at the problem, or people, or both if they are available but it’s very easy to lose control of the project as it grows larger, particularly when more people become involved. Additional people working on the project can actually result in reduced efficiency.

Depending on the size and complexity of the project it may be better for the project manager to look for ways in which the team can work more efficiently. For example, are there unnecessary delays caused by gaps in the requirements or having to wait for decisions from stakeholders who are often otherwise occupied. Is it difficult to obtain agreement for changes or for the solution to an impending risk because too many people need to authorise the changes?

These, and all the other potential problems that can arise in a project, can be resolved by having a solid, proven framework in place before the project has started, or, at the very least, one which is very quickly put in place after initiation. A framework that has properly documented and agreed change management and risk management processes, and one in which everyone involved is focussed on making the project a success. So the project is the first priority for everyone involved including those with authority to make critical decisions.

Of course there may be cases when a few extra experienced people can make a difference with respect to meeting a tight deadline but equally don’t expect a poorly managed project with an un-motivated team and uninterested stakeholders to be rescued by additional resources. Discipline and control within a project management environment, using one of the recognised approaches such as that of the APM, PMP or PRINCE2, is far more important than simply the resources.

By |February 15th, 2012|Blog Posts|0 Comments

5 Essential Building Blocks for Project Managers

It would be good to think that there is a formula for projects that would guarantee their success. Sadly this is never the case, partly because a project consists of such a broad spectrum of activities so if projects are often very dissimilar, then project management is generally tough to get right. Yes, of course there are methodologies to follow and best practices but when you are embarking on something entirely new for your organisation, these will only help you so much. In addition to the well-recognised methods of managing projects for success there are some basic building blocks that are always an important foundation and that will help you when your project does not quite fit a standard mould.

 

If you focus your efforts on getting these building blocks right then you will have a greater chance of delivering a successful project that will contribute real business benefits to your organisation.

 

But just what are these essential components? Broadly speaking they can be divided into 10 areas.

 

STRATEGY

The overall business objectives and goals need to be clearly defined, documented and communicated to all interested parties, both external to your organisation and internally. This will ensure that everyone is aware of what the project is aiming to achieve and if the benefits are clear it will be simpler to secure the budget, the right people and the commitment of those people.

 

PROCESSES

Best Practices and Lessons Learned from previous projects should all be captured into well-documented processes with standard templates for documenting, planning and reporting every aspect of the project. Where a Project Office team exists, it would normally be their responsibility to ensure that project management follows a common approach across all parts of an organisation, whilst, as the same time, recognising the need for flexibility within the standards when required.

 

PEOPLE

The commitment and motivation of the people involved at all levels with the project is a key factor in delivering successfully. There also needs to be a good balance of skill levels (just as you would not expect a team to consist entirely of junior staff, neither should it be composed entirely of highly-experienced staff) and all of these people need to be managed effectively.

 

DECISIONS

It is important that the decision-making process for all the critical elements within a project combine logical thinking with creative thinking in order to make the best possible decision. For this reason no critical decision should be taken by a single individual without consultation.

 

RISKS

Actively manage potential risks by predicting them before they occur, where possible, assigning responsibility for certain risks to experienced individuals or teams and taking immediate action to mitigate a risk when it does occur. Although, obviously, not all risks can be anticipated by being prepared for the risks you can anticipate will make it easier to deal with the unexpected.

 

Using these building blocks does not obviate the need for those working in project management to have the appropriate experience and training such as a PRINCE2 qualification,  a PMP Certification or one of the professional APMP accreditations. But they will provide a focus and a reminder that if the foundations of a project are strong then the chances of success are higher.

 

By |January 12th, 2012|Blog Posts|0 Comments

The Project Office and Why You Need It

Large corporations typically have a portfolio of projects all running simultaneously in areas such as Marketing, IT, Operational Improvement, Product Development, Product Improvement, Research, in fact, almost all areas of a business will have some sort of project running at some point. And being able to manage those disparate projects efficiently for the greatest business benefit can determine the overall success of the organisation.

 

All of the projects need to be planned, implemented and controlled in the most efficient way possible and senior management need have a good overview of the status of each project in the portfolio. But at the same time the stakeholders of each project – the sponsors, project managers and team members need to be allowed to work efficiently without being bogged down in bureaucracy.

 

Any project management framework has a number of essential components that determine success or failure across all projects in an organisation and it is the project office that oversees each component. The role of the project office should always be a supportive one and provide a link between the project manager and team, and senior management to ensure resources are always available and that the project manager is kept informed of business objectives and priorities if they change after the start of the project.

 

The Project Office also provides a single, central repository for all project documentation and, more importantly, access to this repository – a vital element if an organisation and its project managers are to learn from both their past successes and past failures. Many corporations are actively striving to use formal project management methodologies to bring improvements to their business or deliver better value to their customers (or both) and access to the documentation from previous projects is a vital part of this process. It allows members of the project teams to learn from other projects; it allows teams to easily shares best practices with other teams and provides an easy way to exchange knowledge. The Project Office may also enable forums to be set up for sharing knowledge that has never been written down or well communicated, which is particularly useful for teams within the same organisation but in different geographical locations who have no chance to chat over coffee and pick up tips and advice along the way.

 

So teams can learn from each other and, by doing so, improve their own projects more easily with the support of the Project Office but the Project Office also enables senior management to have easy access to the current status of all projects and review projects either from a strategic or a detailed level. Access to the detail of a project is vital for senior management to gain a full understanding of the status because facts and figures about budgets and schedules do not always present an accurate picture of how well (or how badly) a project is progressing. The detailed view of the project should always be provided by the project manager, not the project office, as it is only the project manager who can provide clear and accurate insight into the status of the project.

 

The Project Office also ensures a common approach to projects is taken across the organisation, which in turn, reduces duplication and minimises effort with, for example, the re-use of existing templates.

 

So these are just some of the many reasons why a supportive project office can make the life of the project manager and the project team easier by relieving them of some of the administrative tasks and reporting responsibilities involved in running a major project. The best project office will include some team members who have received professional project management training, such as APMP or PMP Certification so they will have a good understanding of how projects should be managed and can add value to their supportive role.

 

 

 

By |December 13th, 2011|Blog Posts|0 Comments

Effective Project Management and How to Achieve It

There is no doubt that every project requires good management if it is to deliver what the customer is expecting. And deliver it in an acceptable time frame and for an acceptable cost without any disasters along the way.

Even a team well-experienced in their individual roles need direction and every project requires efficient use of its resources: time, people and money. The right sort of management will also ensure a team achieves to their full capacity and doesn’t just trundle along in a low gear.

So we know we need to manage our projects effectively to achieve success but just what are the core skills that will enable us to be effective project managers?

 

Be Thorough

Well, the first “skill” is not really a skill at all or maybe we could call it the skill of being thorough. During the initiation phase and throughout the life of a project you must ensure that you understand all elements of the project and all external factors affecting the project. On complex projects this is a highly demanding task but without a knowledge and understanding of how all the elements of a project work and fit together there is little chance of understanding potential risks and how they might affect the end-result.

 

Plan Well

Once you have a good grasp of the basics of the project the next skill is thorough and detailed planning from the initiation of the project through to the delivered product and beyond. Although many projects, and particularly software development projects, usually end up being completed through an iterative process that adapts to change during its life, it is still important to start out with an end-to-end plan. The route you plan to achieve the objectives of the client may not always be obvious; there might be many inter-dependencies and options for scheduling particular tasks so this is not a process to be hashed together on a spreadsheet in a hurry.

 

Employ experienced team members

No project manager can hope to run a project effectively without the right team members and that doesn’t mean just the right experience but the right attitude and the right personality mix so that the members work co-operatively as a team and not as competing individuals. And when you have put your perfect team together don’t forget to put as much effort into retaining them as you did in selecting them. And if you can’t find team members with the right experience consider those that could become experienced with the right project management training.

 

Put Milestones in place

People always work to a milestone or deadline – without one we could all continue fine-tuning a task long after it was completed. Milestones should be set at strategic points within the project. As it is likely that some parts of the project will change as the iterative process starts to reveal more efficient ways of completing a task and a clearer understanding of the requirements the estimates of many tasks will change but try to keep milestones the same wherever possible to prevent the underlying structure of the project plan from changing too often. Focus more on achieving the milestone and less on how much is delivered at the end of every day, week or month. But at the same time keep your finger on the pulse of progress to make sure there are no impending problems.

 

Stay Calm

All good project managers will have put in place risk management and change management strategies to plan for a range of eventualities but it is impossible to be able to predict all risks or changes that could possibly occur. External factors that are outside your control can often throw up problems that could not have been anticipated in advance and for which there is no mitigating action plan. In situations like this you need to remain calm and level-headed – make a thorough assessment of the problem (remember skill #1) and consider all options before deciding on how to tackle the problem.

 

These are just 5 skills that will help you to manage your projects more effectively: be thorough, plan well, employ the right team members, set milestones and stay calm. With the right project management training (in any of the recognised methodologies such as PMP, PRINCE2 and APMP) and an understanding of these important project management skills you will have a greater chance of managing your projects effectively, and effectiveness equals project management success.

By |November 8th, 2011|Blog Posts|0 Comments

Controlling Change Requests in Projects

Changes requested once a project is underway are an inevitable part of any project. They can either be the result of external changes in the business or they can be internal changes requested because the original aims of the project were not clearly defined or clearly understood.

Change requests resulting from external factors are usually beyond the control of a project manager and there is usually little choice but to deal with them. Most successful project managers will have already put a process in place at the start of the project to handle such requests and the plan will be flexible enough to cope without unduly affecting the final outcome.

But change requests resulting from internal factors should be handled very differently. In an ideal project many of these would have been avoided by ensuring that the project objectives were well-defined and that the requirements were clearly documented and communicated to all stakeholders. And that the stakeholders understood what to expect from the final product. Of course, we don’t always live in an ideal world and no matter how thorough and detailed the initial stages of a project are there will always need to be an effective change process in place.

Not all stakeholders and end-users can visualise an end-product by reading documentation and studying diagrams. Even when prototypes are used to enhance the production of the requirements they are, by their nature, not fully functioning products and misunderstandings and assumptions will be inevitable on complex projects.

Nevertheless, good documentation and clear communication of the project objectives and requirements will minimise the number of change requests.

So what is the best way of controlling change requests in a project and still being able to deliver the completed project within an acceptable budget, time and scope?

Distinguish between the necessary and the “nice-to-have”

Every change request should have a business case to back it up in the same way as the overall project had. Of course, this can be a very simple and short description but is a necessary element of all change requests before they can be considered for inclusion in a project.

 

The most important element of the change request business case is the expected benefit, which should indicate the value that will be added to the project by the change. This, in itself, will indicate which changes are likely to be necessary. It is important to recognise that the description of some business cases may not necessarily benefit the project in terms of time and budget but are necessary for the client to remain competitive in their marketplace.

 

If the benefits are not explicitly stated then discuss the issue with the person who requested the change t determine if there is a genuine business benefit.

 

Better designed solutions, or nicer, more attractive features are not benefits unless they can be backed up by how this will have a positive impact on the project budget and schedule or a positive impact on the end-user’s effort required to complete regular tasks. Typical questions that the business case of a change request should answer are:

 

“What external business change has resulted in this change request?”

 

“What internal factor has resulted in this change request?”

 

“How will this change affect the time taken to complete the project?”

 

“How will this change affect the use of the end-product?”

 

“What cost-savings will be made by implementing this change?”

 

Avoid wasting time & effort

The most obvious way of avoiding wasting valuable project resources on excessive change requests and the whole change management process is to ensure the project starts with clearly defined objectives and requirements. It is also important that the criteria which will be used to determine project success are documented succinctly at the start of the project. Ensure that all of these documents are distributed to stakeholders and end-users and that copies are easily accessible.

Schedule time into the project plan for dealing with change requests and if that time has been eaten up then defer outstanding requests until the following week. Ensure that all interested parties know that this is how the process works.

 

Have clear acceptance/rejection criteria

Use some clear criteria to screen out those requests that will not, or cannot be, implemented. One essential criterion is a business case so any request without one can immediately be sent back to the requester. Do not waste time tracking down the requester to find out what the business case is – it should be their responsibility to provide it initially (even if you later need to have discussions to refine it).

Be prepared to back up your reasons for rejecting change requests with a well-thought out description of why there is no case to include the change. Stick by your decision unless the project sponsor is prepared to increase the budget or time available for the project.

But do be prepared to be flexible and negotiate a trade-off by dropping a planned task in favour of the change when no budget or extra time is available.

Always apply project management best practices throughout every area of a project if you want the highest chance of success. Your can study best practices, including change management, on project management courses for PMP Certification, APM Introductory Certificate or Prince2.

By |September 30th, 2011|Blog Posts|0 Comments

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome in a Project Management Environment

The US Marines mantra “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” could be adopted by project managers for projects not going to plan – adversity does not have to cause project failure. Be flexible and make the most of available resources for more successful projects.

The commonly used US Marines mantra “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” is used to remind Marines on missions which are not going to plan, that they can still succeed by taking a different approach to the mission.

This mantra could equally well be applied in a project management environment when a project is not going to plan, or when a project is initiated in such a way that makes it impossible to create a good plan at the outset. If, like US Marines, project managers could be trained to improvise, adapt and overcome all eventualities, this could improve the success rate of many projects.

Consider the very common scenario when a project manager is presented with a pre-defined deadline for the completion of a project (usually imposed due to sales and marketing activities) and a pre-defined product but with nothing more than a sketchy outline of the actual requirements and the ultimate business goal. Often the budget and other resources have not even been assigned so are unknown quantities.

This is a very familiar situation and any project manager with a substantial amount of experience will have developed their preferred way of dealing with such situations. This will depend very much on your industry and the corporate culture within your and/or the client organisation.

But whatever is your favourite method of handling such a situation, maybe we can all learn something from the US Marines, at the very least, “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” is a very useful phrase to motivate us when all is not going to plan.

Improvise

Improvisation is dealing with unforeseen circumstances by making the best of what is available. So in a project management environment when you have been assigned fixed resources (whether that’s funds or people) which are not adequate for the task you need to look for ways of getting the most out of those resources. This may mean thinking creatively or looking at innovative ways of completing a task.

Adapt

If a client has stated what they want as the final outcome and there is a fixed deadline then adapting to the clients needs is critical. Certainly you could go down the route of using your skills of persuasion to convince the client that the deadline is unreasonable and the budget too small, but this is not always feasible. But a lack of detailed requirements at the outset is not necessarily a disadvantage as it is then able to steer the requirements decisions to ones that will, of course, deliver the required outcome, but perhaps need less skilled staff or can be delivered more economically.

Overcome

You could view a lack of resources and a lack of detailed requirements as a hindrance to a successful outcome but they are merely obstacles and obstacles can be overcome by improvising and adapting to the challenge. No project manager was ever successful without relishing a challenge – that is, after all, what we all thrive on.

 

This approach is not perhaps one that would be advocated on a project management training course but, backed up by experience and the right training in a formal methodology such as PMP, PRINCE2 or APMP, a little bit of improvisation and adaptability can be another weapon in a project manager’s armoury to help overcome obstacles and challenges.

 

 

By |September 15th, 2011|Blog Posts|0 Comments

Ways to improve IT Project Success

IT projects have never had a great reputation for successful project delivery – of course, technology has always been complex but it is becoming more and more so with every year that passes. So it is understandable that IT projects are not the easiest to deliver on-time, on-budget and on-scope. Naturally, selecting a competent team helps, as does the right sort of skills, experience and training – even the most junior members of the project team can benefit from a basic PM course such as the APM Project Fundamentals – but remember there are three main areas of project management that are most likely to result in a less than successful outcome to an IT project:

  • Failing to recognise the importance of the end-users – they are the ones who will be using the system, probably on a daily basis so any concerns, requests or requirements of theirs (however seemingly trivial) must be taken into account during the requirements gathering and planning phases.
  • Being too stringent in defining the areas of responsibility of both the project manager and the team – it is not always clear where the boundaries of project management lie so some degree of flexibility and adaptability may be required on certain projects.
  • Sticking too rigidly to a formal methodology and not being prepared to be innovative where there may be some advantage in doing so.

 

If, as a project manager, or member of the project team, you are prepared to do whatever it takes to progress the project to the satisfaction of the client, you just might find that this leads to more successful projects. Naturally, there can be downsides to this approach – allowing changes to requirements and scope to go unchecked can also be a recipe for disaster. But in a properly controlled project environment with a strong change management process in place, one that manages change but doesn’t prevent it, the advantages can be significant.

When project managers become involved in every aspect of the project right from its initial justification, this can also contribute to a more successful outcome. Again you could argue that there are aspects of any project that are simply not the responsibility of the project manager but getting involved (without necessarily taking full responsibility) can give the project manager a better understanding of the business perspective and enable him/her to better judge decisions that have to be taken with respect to the business environment.

IT project teams, in particular, do not always appreciate the value to the business of various components of the project. There can be complex and time-consuming IT tasks in the project that do not always deliver good business value. The business users, conversely, cannot appreciate why seemingly minor features can be so complex to implement. Creating new ways of bridging this divide can enable both sides to reap benefits.

Ultimately, projects can be delivered more successfully by a creative and flexible team that is focussed on the business objectives, understands the value placed by the business on different aspects of the project and is prepared to go the extra mile to achieve what is required.

But how exactly can innovation be incorporated into project management? Here are just some examples:

 

  • Don’t assume the client knows exactly what they want. Question their stated business objective to elicit further information that might help in clarifying what the client really wants to achieve.
  • Try to deliver the system in stages so that the business starts to see benefits early on in the project. This motivates the project team and ensures the client continues to support the project through the subsequent stages to completion.
  • Educate the business to understand the capabilities of the team and what is possible.
  • Educate the project team to focus on business value and to view the project from a business rather than technical perspective.
  • Treat the project plan as a guide not as an inflexible schedule and expect to rework the plan at various points during the project.
  • Establish a no-blame culture but one which actively looks for solutions to problems and implements them as soon as possible.
  • Encourage everyone involved in the project to question decisions and think creatively.
  • Put together a team with complementary skills, both technical and personal, who can be motivated throughout the life of the project. Train the team, where necessary, on appropriate project management courses so that they all work to the same principles.
  • Formal project management methodologies (such as PMP or PRINCE2) are important factors in controlling projects but just be prepared to break the rules every once in a while.

 

By |July 26th, 2011|Blog Posts|0 Comments

Motivating your Project Team

Projects, of course, involve people; those who have initiated the project, the end-users and, more importantly, those who will manage and carry out the work to make the project a reality. And the success of any project depends on these individuals, which is why good teamwork is essential for successful project delivery. So let’s consider how a project manager can improve teamwork.

It is never enough to have a good project plan, a well-defined risk management process and effective communication even though plenty of project managers would be glad of those right now. For a chance of delivering a project successfully, the project team also need to be motivated and work well together. One way of encouraging and motivating a team is to identify their strengths and any opportunities that might be presented by the project. By having frank and open discussions with the whole team you can also highlight the weaknesses in the team and any risks to completing the project successfully. Openly discussing such potential problems can help to minimise the risks. This in turn motivates the team because they pro-actively tackle issues instead of just reacting when a problem occurs.

A project team can range from a few people from a single business area to several groups from different organisations across the world. Whatever type of team it is, it has just a few clear, but vital, objectives: to understand what activities must be completed and to finish them to a defined timetable, at a specified cost and level of quality. During the course of the project they must also efficiently report progress, issues and changes to priorities or requirements to all concerned.

By supporting and encouraging individual team members, with the aim of developing a fully-motivated team, the project manager can ensure that these objectives are achieved. To this end, the project manager would typically gather the whole team together in person, wherever possible, at the outset of the project. The purpose of such a gathering is to build the confidence and enthusiasm of the team by putting in place a detailed project plan that includes the team’s input,  ideas and concerns.

What needs to be done to gather the information needed can be very different from project to project but some basic questions that should always be raised are:

  • Has the project been allocated a sufficient budget?
  • Are the required skills and experience readily available?
  • What benefits will the finished project bring to the organisation?
  • Are end-users enthusiastic about the new project?
  • Has the project manager or team worked on similar projects?
  • Who will decide deadlines and provide time-estimates?
  • Will contingency funding be available if required?

Encouraging honest and realistic discussions about both the positive and negative aspects of a project, and promoting a flow of ideas about what tasks can be done well and what problems might occur will motivate and enthuse a team. Remember to build on your strengths, tackle weaknesses, exploit opportunities and monitor risks, and you will find yourself with a team capable of delivering even complex projects successfully.

Less experienced project managers can learn more about team-building by attending one of the readily available project management courses which provide guidance on the importance of a motivated project team. All of the internationally recognised project management methodologies such as PRINCE2, PMP Certification and APM PQ can be particularly beneficial.

 

By |July 11th, 2011|Blog Posts|0 Comments