Project Management and Lessons Learned

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With the new year upon us, there is more to do and more to learn, but are we starting the new year off with the advantage of the knowledge that we gained over the last 11+ months? This year has flown by for many, and even if it hasn’t flown by for all of us, it is about to end. So, what did we learn so far that we can apply to make next year even better?

By now, many have started thinking about their New Year’s resolutions or at a minimum have outlined or established a career and personal goals for what we plan to accomplish in the coming year. A great way to kick things off is to do some reflection on the good and the bad of the last year to determine the changes we need to make in the coming months.

Even though this a great starting point for improvement, as a project manager, it does not take a new year to make our projects better. Making future and even current projects better can come at any time by using what you learned to date to improve our skills or processes as we move forward.

In the last article, I talked about managing communication. This article is about addressing ways that we can use the lessons learned from both prior communications and experience to make our next project more successful.

‘Lessons Learned’ are both records and examples of how to make things more successful for the PM and the Client as we roll into our future projects.

In many companies, a ‘Lessons Learned’ database is a requirement, but for others, although not a formal requirement, it could be used as a way to make a significant impact on how future projects are approached. Think about all the things that were learned through frustration and experience and the knowledge gained from the pros and cons of the projects recently completed. In our mind, we believe that we will remember the struggles we went through and will have a mental plan to make sure we address them on our future projects. Are these thoughts being recorded or tracked somehow? Good intentions are easily wiped out by the busy days we experience on a regular basis. Without a record, key points that could benefit us moving forward will likely be missed.

If there is not currently a formal method of tracking Lessons Learned, there are a few ways that this can be addressed for the benefit of our future projects. Below is a simple Excel example of a Lessons Learned record database. This is something that you can save to your drive or network to reference or share with our teammates to use.

Project Management and Lessons Learned

Although this is an Excel sample, many companies have databases on their intranets or SharePoint sites that track the same type of records that are easily searchable.

If the above paragraphs have not convinced you or at least peaked your interest into the value of why we would we track Lessons Learned, how about we look at some examples of how they can benefit us?

In any project, we will encounter issues and discover items that we never considered; but if all goes well, we will also learn to address them so that they do not have a negative impact on our future projects. Not all Lessons Learned are negative however, many are successes that allowed the project to achieve something that we did not know it could.

If keeping an excel database/list of issues and resolutions is not your thing, you could create another method by creating a checklist. I have learned with my team, checklists are not the most popular item – primarily due to the number of checklists that are already required in our work. BUT, checklists can be a powerful way to keep you on track and provide a fail-safe method to make sure all (or most) issues are dealt with as you start, execute, monitor and close a project.

A simple way to track what you have learned on previous projects and carry it forward is to create a checklist of things to account for and issues to avoid. As an example; are there items that came up in your previous project that you or someone on your team missed? Could you track that by compiling a list of those items as well as key contacts that you can then turn in to a questions list on future projects? Absolutely! This can be the beginning of your master project checklist.

Project Checklist
As you start new projects, you can go down through your list of items that have previously been missed or not considered – if it is not applicable, move on to the next one. If it is, make sure that someone is addressing it. By having a checklist, you are more likely to make sure that these items are considered and addressed. As your checklist develops, you can bring it up early in projects and ask the appropriate questions. This shows that you are aware of potential RISKS and show to your customer and consultants that you are an experienced PM. I will go more into the topic of RISK in a future article but know that checklists can be a major advantage to you and your project.

Generator Checklist

Whether you do tracking through a checklist or a formal Lessons Learned database, understand that this is a key tool to a project’s success.

Still not convinced on the importance of the Lessons Learned concept?  Let’s give a couple more details of its use and advantages.

All projects, as was discussed in the previous article on communication involve stakeholders. Stakeholders run the gambit from vendors and contractors, service providers – internal and external, to customers and end-users. Each of these stakeholders has requirements, expectations, and needs. The bigger the project the larger the list of stakeholders you will have.

As a project manager, you will need to balance and address all the individual parties and their expectations. You will also be pulled in many directions, and it is how you address the expectations that will determine your success on not only the project, but your career as well. There are many skills required of a good project manager, and how you master them will help you mature and become an even better one.

People skills are important, as are organizational skills and financial and scheduling skills. Depending on what industry you fall in, each one may have a larger bearing on your success. With so many areas to work on, how can you minimize your frustration and learning curve? The trick is to learn your true strengths and find a way to address the areas that you need to improve on. One way to do this is to create a way to avoid surprises that can deter you from your success.

Although some surprises can be cool and invigorating, some can be costly and detrimental to a project’s success. Surprises in projects typically come from unknowns, and unknowns are often the result of poor planning. Good planning comes from knowledge and experience. As a project manager that may frequently deal with new projects where experience is limited, a resource of previous project experiences would be welcomed. This previous experience will typically come from others and the records that they provided; hence the concept of Lessons Learned.

Think of the benefit that you can derive from having a database of previous issues that came up and how they were dealt. If you work in a team environment, wouldn’t it be nice to help others and yourself on future projects by having this resource available? By tracking what you learned on your projects, you are creating a future resource for all project management players to pull from – yourself included.

I encourage you to start tracking issues and their resolutions through a database or checklist as you complete your current projects and start your new one.

Do you have questions about this or other project management topics or would you like to see more detail on a specific area? If so, please send an email to thepm@waltsparling.com with your questions or comments.

WES

Communication Management

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In the real estate world, an agent’s mantra is “Location, location, location”. This is because with all things being equal, location is the one key factor that can and will determine ultimate success in a real estate venture – whether it be commercial or residential. In the project management world, it is all about “Communication, communication, communication” and like the real estate world, all other things being equal, the project with the best communication will come out on top.

Ok, what does this mean and why is it so? I would bet that most experienced people would not argue on either the location or communication aspects of each respective industry, but how do we make sure that we follow the respective mantras? I am not a real estate person and although I have many friends that are, I can speak little to their industry. Project management on the other hand is what I do and have done for many years, so for this I have some insight.

To get things started, I am going to cover the various forms of communication, then dive into the ways that each method can be used on a project to help make it successful.

Communication happens through various methods, with each having levels of success depending on how they are implemented. As we know it, communication most commonly happens via one of three ways; verbal, written and visual. Each one of these has multiple subsets and often a combination of one or more is used to communicate an idea, concept or concern.

One of the most common and one of the oldest is verbal communication. Verbal communication is often done through face to face interactions, telephone or video calls or thorough voice messages. Verbal communication happens in meetings, presentations, video and voice recordings, and basic one on one conversations. Way before the current world of technology tools, verbal communication was the best way to convey a point, concern or idea.

Written communication is the best way to share very detailed information, as having someone go on and on about legal or statistical information can and will often be mind-numbing. Written communication is the most common way to archive and record information that requires a historical record, while providing the ability to share and review a communication at a time that is more convenient to the audience.

Visual communication is something that can be done as a stand-alone product or one that is included or added to one of the previous two methods to successfully get a point across or share information. Visual communication is often done through pictures, diagrams, or videos. In our modern world, visual communication has taken on a much more prominent role. As an example, consider the more common everyday tasks of portraying emotions or thoughts to friends, family and even business associates using emoticons. Simple symbols can convey emotions or opinions that most people will associate with a communication of ideas or feelings. When thinking visual, think of the common phrase that “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

Communication Management

A successful project manager will use all the above communication methods at various stages of their project to share data, convey the importance and keep the project team up to date. Verbal communications will be used in individual phone calls, conference calls, and one on one conversations. Written communications will be used to convey contract requirements, specifications and documenting historical data. Visual communications will be used to clearly define objectives, and show historical information through graphs, charts, and photographs.

As a project manager, how do you use these various methods of communication available to you to make your project successful? The important thing here is to know your audience. All projects have various parties involved that you need to communicate with and knowing the needs of your audience will help determine your communication method.

Projects have varying levels of complexity and with that comes varying levels of communication requirements. In a more formal project management structure there are methods to track what certain people need to know, when they need to know it and how the information will be conveyed to them. In my world of multi-million-dollar projects, with many people involved, I must have a method of determining how to communicate with them. But in any project, of any size, this is a critical consideration.

Projects have ‘stakeholders’. Stakeholders is a broad term that includes anyone that is directly involved in or is affected by your project. Stakeholders include design partners, contractors, customers, and end-users. All these individuals require a specific level of communication.

A simple way to determine how the communication is handled is through what is called a RACI matrix. RACI is a simple concept that can be applied to projects of any size and will help anyone develop a basis for a communication plan. RACI is an acronym that stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. What this boils down to, as that certain people on a project have Responsible roles, some are Accountable for specific outcomes in the project, some need to be Consulted on the steps and some just need to be Informed about what is happening.

By knowing the roles of people on your project, you can determine the communication methods used to ‘communicate’ with them.

Responsible and accountable are significant roles, and will typically be one of the areas where your role is covered. As a project manager, you are likely going to be ultimately ‘responsible’ for the project’s success. You may report to people that are accountable to a higher authority, which could affect your ability to perform your role. These individuals may require a high level of communication via a combination of verbal, written and visual presentations.

Accountable stakeholders are those that you often need to communicate with verbally and in writing to make sure that they are aware of what is happening and to get approvals from when required. The people are ultimately at risk if the project fails.

The stakeholders that you ‘consult’ with are important, in that they provide information to you that you share with others on the team to complete one or more phases of the project. This is an area where verbal, written and visual communications are key. You need to communicate the consultant’s information or requirements to all the other stakeholders.

The ‘informed’ stakeholders are those that you need to keep ‘in the know’. These stakeholders need to know what is happening overall, but do not necessarily need to know every detail. This is a great opportunity to provide minimal written and visual communications to provide a summary of what the project status is. An executive summary and some pictures or graphs may be all you need to keep them up to date.

RACI Matrix

Once you have figured out your audience and what needs to be provided, you need to figure out how to optimize those communications. This is where it gets fun.

Let’s talk about verbal communications. One of my favorite quotes comes from multiple books I have read;

“The Single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – George Bernard Shaw.

What does this mean? How many conversations have you had with individuals or a group that you feel that you made your point and that you both or all were on the same understanding about the point or topic, only to find out later that it was not the case? Verbal communications can be tricky, as they are often conducted in a private one on one setting or phone call and the others in the conversation may be distracted and not fully engaged.

With verbal communications, it is a good idea to follow-up in writing about the conversation to make sure the agreed-upon understanding is accurate. A quick way to validate this is to send a written correspondence (typically an email) to all those involved stating your understanding about the conversation and that unless you hear otherwise, you will proceed with those facts. Give the parties a reasonable but specific timeframe to replay to the contrary or acceptance before you move ahead. If timing is critical, follow-up with a phone call.  This is commonly referred to as a “CYA”.

When having verbal communications, a key skill is ‘active listening’. Conversations are meant to be a two-way street, otherwise it would just be you ‘talking’ and hoping that the other party or parties are truly engaged and are understanding what has been communicated. I recommend that you google the term and learn more about what it means, but a few key points are listed below:

Avoid evaluative listening:
· Hold off forming opinions until the speaker’s message is complete.
· Don’t obsess with or focus on emotional words or phrases.
· Concentrate on the speaker, not on your intended rebuttal.

Steps to take to ensure active listening:
· Truly listen by providing the speaker with your undivided attention.
· Reduce or eliminate noise or other distractions.
· Organize the message you hear.
· Check your understanding of what’s been said by repeating it back in your own words.

Written communication is a great tool too, as in the example above, it can be used to validate an understanding from a verbal communication. When it comes to conveying very detailed information or requirements, written communication is typically the best way to do so. Written communication can be shared with many stakeholders at once, it can be used as a historical means of tracking conversations and it can be used to spell out levels of detail that are not easy to do with a verbal conversation alone.

Examples of written communication in the realm of project management include; daily correspondence through emails, meeting minutes, status updates, questionnaires, specifications, process steps, task lists, etc. Written communications can also involve tweets and texts, although not typically used as means for business communication.

Once again, knowing your audience helps in how to format and share your written communications. Because written communication has such a broad range of possibilities, you need to consider the points that need to be made and how succinct or detailed you need to make them.

When spelling out specifications or project requirements, detail is important, but when providing status updates, brevity is the way to go. For specifications and specific requirements, you want to make the communication as detailed as possible which could involve pages of information to make sure all objectives are covered. When sharing status updates, you need to make sure that key points are communicated, and excess information is not included that could cause distractions or confusion for your audience. This is where an executive summary provides your best level of detail.

An executive summary is a short document or paragraph that is provided, typically for, as the statement indicates – executives. In the business world, executives are extremely busy, and their time is limited. You need to communicate your idea or update in a manner that gets your points across in a brief yet clear way. The readers need to be able to quickly become acquainted with the facts about something that may be pulled from a much larger body of material without them having to read it all. This summary will often include key project information, like the status of schedule milestones and budget adherence. To do this successfully, you may need to combine your written summary with the last form of communication – visual.

Visual is the third type of communication and one that can provide a lot of detail in the form of graphs, diagrams, charts, and pictures. Visual representations of a schedule, a budget snapshot via a screenshot from accounting software, and photos of the current progress of an ongoing project, are all very common and useful methods to communicate ideas and status. In the modern world of communication, PowerPoint is a very common way of presenting data to audiences of all sizes. Figuring out how to best present the data through PowerPoint or some other similar tool is a skill. Be creative, and as always keep your audience in mind. PowerPoint is a visual communication tool – don’t just fill it with slides full of text.

Over the course of a project, a project manager needs to keep all stakeholders up to date with a myriad of information. This information will include, schedule, budget, risks, resources and lessons learned. In future articles, I will cover these items in more detail. To keep your project moving ahead and get the approvals and buy-in that you need to make it successful, you need to know the various forms of communications that are at your disposal and how to best use them. To master the three forms of communication, I encourage you to study, read and follow examples of other successful project managers so that you can master your trade and ultimately be an example to others.

If you would like to learn more about communication methods and the associated skill sets, consider doing some research on your own on the topic. Although Google searches can provide some great information, a few books that I have read maybe provide a good starting point on this topic.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Greeny, Tron McMillan, Al Switzler and Laura Rope

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter – Celeste Headlee

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)–Sixth Edition – Project Management Institute

Do you have questions about this or other project management topics or would you like to see more detail on a specific area? If so, please send an email to thepm@waltsparling.com with your questions or comments.

WES

Meeting Etiquette

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As a Project manager (PM) we will do a couple of things a lot; attend and host meetings. In the early days of any project, there will be lots of opportunities to get together with various individuals or groups to discuss scope, schedule, funding, etc. Focusing on the building world, these meetings could be the early stages of vetting the need for a new building or a renovation to an existing one. In the last article, the concept of project phases or process groups was discussed. Continuing with that theme, let’s look at all the meetings that we could be involved in.

During the initiating phase of a project, the meetings can include the project sponsor, the project developer, members of the finance group or a specific management team. These meetings will be used to discuss the business needs and available funding so that we can fine-tune our scope and schedule so that we can move into the planning phase.

In the planning phase, we will meet with internal and external project stakeholders who could include architects, engineers, designers, and contractors. In this phase, we could be involved in months of design and status update meetings where we take the project requirements and come up with a set of plans to build or renovate whatever the project sponsor requested.

Once our plans are complete we are ready to move into the executing phase and bring the plans to life. During this phase, we will have kick-off meetings, pre-construction meetings, vendor pricing, and approval meetings, safety meetings and of course regular status update meetings.

The monitoring and controlling phase covers all the other phases, so the status update meetings will cover a lot of the monitoring and controlling activities.

The final phase is closing, and that will involve more status update meetings, inspections and punch list walkthroughs which affectively mobile meetings are. These all wrap up with a final close-out meeting to make sure we have documented and delivered what the project goals were.

So, what did was apparent in the above summary? WE will be in a LOT of meetings!

The title of this article is “Meeting Etiquette”, so at some point, we need to cover what that means. Since we will not host all the previously indicated meetings, we will be both hosts and guests and each comes with its form of meeting etiquette. To kick it off, let’s cover the meetings we may host and what good meeting etiquette means for us. One thing that we all know is that etiquette is often a matter of personal beliefs and experience. Anyone can do a quick Google search on the term meeting etiquette and get lots of results – 39 million-plus to be exact as of today.

So, what I plan to share is some common themes combined with my own experience and beliefs of what good meeting etiquette is when hosting a meeting. The number one thing to remember is that although this is your meeting, you will typically be inviting a group of other people that are probably as equally busy as you and you want them to engage and be a useful contributor while at your meeting.

You can make your meeting successful by following a basic list of rules:

  • Be on time
    • Heck, as the presenter, you better be early. What if your tech doesn’t work, the video remote is missing, someone is squatting in your conference room and motions to give them a minute? Numerous things can go wrong – get there at least a few minutes early so that when the meeting is scheduled to start, you are ready.
  • PREPARE for the meeting
    • This could be what determines the success of your meeting. Did you prepare an agenda? Do you have handouts? Did you test the conference line? Bring a power cord incase the meeting goes over your battery life? Been there – done that – Once!
  • Provide & follow an AGENDA
    • Provide an agenda ahead of the meeting, even if it is a basic bullet list. If you know more detail, then give as much info as you can so attendees know what they are there for. Send it out as soon as you can – you can update it as the meeting gets closer if necessary.
    • Once you have an agenda, follow it. If you can set time frames as part of the agenda, that is even better.
    • Where I work, Safety is #1, so every meeting starts with a quick Level One Safety brief, letting everyone know where the emergency exits are located, where any first aid and medical equipment are located, who will lead the group out in case of an emergency, who calls 911 and who can do CPR if necessary. This has proven to be useful as it saved a person in a meeting just this year.
    • Collect a roster if you have a larger group and be sure to get the remote callers info as well. This helps in follow-ups and being sure who was in attendance.
    • As the host, it is up to you to keep the meeting moving and on focus. If it gets a bit sidetracked, offer to hold a follow-up call or meeting – you need to get through the base agenda items.
  • Define who is the LEADER or speaker
    • As the host, you are most likely the leader, but you may have some key guest speakers. Even those that may speak up or have questions need to feel that they can complete their thoughts. Let everyone know that the speaker has the floor and to allow them to complete their presentation, question or thought.
  • STATE your name before speaking
    • Many times, meeting attendees will not have met one another or maybe on a conference call, it is hard to distinguish who is talking. By stating your name, it gives others a reference to who is speaking and allows the note taker to indicate who brought up a topic or solution.
  • Do a brief synopsis
    • Do a brief synopsis with some key takeaways at the end of the meeting and let everyone know that minutes will follow.
  • Provide Meeting Minutes
    • Do this as quickly as possible, while it is fresh in the minds of those that attended. My goal is to provide minutes no later than 24 hours from the time of the meeting and usually less. On some days, when the meetings are back to back this becomes a struggle, but we need to do the best we can.
    • In some cases, you may want to bring a team member along as an official note-taker or record the meeting if it is an acceptable practice at your company. It will be hard to take good notes while answering questions and keeping everything on track and under control. When I do this, I still take a form of shorthand notes so that I can compare them with what the note taker wrote or typed. You may have to go through a few teammates until you find someone that is in sync with you on what level of detail you desire.

In the end, because we spend so much time in meetings, where people must make a choice, they will prioritize what meetings they will attend. The better their experience, the more likely they will attend your meetings.

Just like hosting, when attending meetings, you can help make your host’s meeting successful, and get more out of it by following a basic list of rules:

  • READ the provided agenda
    • To be prepared, make sure you look at the provided agenda. Make sure if your name or group/team is listed in the agenda that you are prepared to cover your required portion of the meeting. If you didn’t get an agenda, it may be hard to know where the meeting may go.
  • PREPARE for the meeting
    • As in the previous statement, try to find out what the meeting is all about. Understand the importance of the meeting. Prepare in advance any notes or questions that you may have for the meeting topic being discussed. Be sure you bring a notepad and pen or pencil. No matter how good your memory is, most people cannot possibly remember each and everything discussed during a meeting. A notepad helps in jotting down the important points for future reference.
    • Always keep your cell phone on the silent or vibrator mode. Cell phones ringing in the middle of meetings are considered rude and unprofessional. This is a huge distraction for others sitting in the same room and is a simple thing to avoid. If you do have to monitor calls, keep it on vibrator mode and try not to set it directly on a hard surface table as it will often be just as distracting as a ringing phone.
    • Unless it is an emergency or a critical call, do not take phone calls during a meeting. If you must, apologize quietly and step out of the meeting room.
  • BE on time
    • Show up early if possible, but if you are delayed because of a previous meeting or activity, be sure to come in quietly, find an open seat, acknowledge the host and start listening.
    • Showing up early allows for some handshaking and introductions that you may not get to do otherwise and of course, you can choose your optimal seating placement.
  • RESPECT the leader or speaker
    • Don’t hijack the conversation from the speaker, whether it is the host or another attendee.
    • As you may swap the host and attendee roles, the respect you give of other people’s time will likely get you to respect during yours.
  • STATE your name before speaking
    • Many times, meeting attendees will not have met one another or maybe on a conference call, it is hard to distinguish who is talking. By stating your name, it gives others a reference to who is speaking and allows the note taker to indicate who brought up a topic or solution.
  • MUTE your phone when not speaking
    • This is a basic conference call item that we all deal with on large calls – like monthly or weekly account updates. On some of these calls, there can be 100 or more people and if a couple of attendees do not have their phones on mute it can be HUGELY distracting.
    • Listening to people yawn, shuffle through a binder, slurp their coffee, etc. is so annoying when a simple press of the mute button ends it all.
    • Make sure you know where the mute button is and mute it as soon as you have introduced yourself and leave it that way until you need to speak.
  • FOCUS on the meeting (no multi-tasking)
    • The meetings you will attend are either to inform you of something or to get your input, but either way, you were invited for a reason.
    • Respect the host and the other attendees by not checking your email on your and cell phone laptop constantly.
    • Laptops are one of those items that are an often hotly debated item in meetings. Some, especially the newer generation do not take paper notes, they do it on their laptop. I get this, and if that was all they were used for that would be fine. I have sat in quite a few meetings where a person next to me is working on, emails, proposals or even Facebook.

Summary Thoughts:


laptop etiquette in meetingsSome people are unsure of the laptop etiquette when it comes to meetings, phone etiquette is usually understood, but I see way too many folks checking their email, texting or surfing when they should be focused on the meeting. You may think it makes you look industrious – likely the opposite.

When in a meeting, look around the room, look at your customers, and look at the managers, what are they doing?  Are they involved, are they paying attention, and are they focused on the meeting they are attending? What do you get from your observations?

How do you want to be perceived?  Do you think others are watching you?  Are they forming their own opinions of you? Do those opinions matter?

If you are not focused on the meeting because you are using the time to catch up on emails on your phone or laptop, or doing work not related to this meeting? Why are you there?  Maybe it’s better that you call in. At least the attendees won’t see that you are not focusing on the present meeting.

When you are not focused on the meeting, others will notice by your posture, cell phone in hand, or when 45 minutes into a meeting when you are asked a question, you must ask what project this was for.

There will be meetings that you are forced to attend for some reason, so there will inevitably be a time that you are bored, tired irritated, etc., but in those regular meetings where you are there as a guest to be informed or to contribute, don’t just focus during your portion of the meeting; – stay focused and be professional and you may just learn something new.

Each company has norms and expectations, learn yours and adapt as required.

Do you have questions about this or other project management topics or would you like to see more detail on a specific area? If so, please send an email to thepm@waltsparling.com with your questions or comments.

WES

Are you a Project Manager?

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Many people consider themselves, are labeled as, or actually hold the title of Project Manager (PM).

Project manager positions exist in nearly every industry; from construction to food service to medical care, there are PM roles everywhere.

Until recently, I worked in the AEC design industry as a Project Manager. During the 30 years that I worked in this industry, I basically did the same type of work, which for me involved managing design projects in the architectural, mechanical and electrical design disciplines for commercial buildings.  This management function involved monitoring and managing schedules, communication, and deliverables. From my experience, the vision I saw of a project manager was someone who coordinated, executed and oversaw a team or a series of processes on a regular basis in order to achieve a specific positive outcome – your vision may be a little different. In my new role, I serve as an owner’s rep/project manager for construction and renovation projects that range from $100k to over $10 million dollars. No matter the size or costs, the processes are the same.

Based on the AUGI salary survey, there are a fair amount of Project Managers in our ranks, but some may wonder what exactly it is that project managers do.  As the title would suggest, project managers, manage projects; sounds simple enough, but what exactly does that mean?  Even though project management comes in a variety of forms and industries, there should be a basic understanding or definition of what project management means.  Fortunately, there are organizations out there that have covered this in much detail.  The Project Management Institute (PMI), which is the largest project management organization in North America, provides the following definition of Project Management:

“Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. Project management is accomplished through the appropriate application and integration of the 47 logically grouped project management processes which are categorized into five process groups.”

This comes from PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 5th Edition.

According to PMI, every project goes through a series of process groups; Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling and Closing and within these groups, you follow a specific set of processes. A simple summary of the process groups follows, although you can get a much more detailed definition and explanation in the PMBOK Guide mentioned above. A project has a start and a finish, but it also has a series of steps or ‘processes’ in between. PMI’s 5th edition PMBOK Guide covers 47 processes in a project’s life cycle, which it organizes under 5 process groups.

Initiating

Initiating is the process group that is used to define a new project or a subsequent phase(s) of an ongoing project. This is where the scope is defined and finances are committed to the project, stakeholders are identified and the project manager is often assigned.

Planning

In this series of processes where the scope is better defined and refined, objectives are set and a course of action is developed.

Executing

This is where the work gets done on the plan – where the tasks are performed in order to meet the project objectives.

Monitoring and Controlling

This is the process group that covers monitoring and tracking in order to review the progress of the project and its overall health. This monitoring is what identifies possible issues that may require changes or updates to the project plan.

Closing

This is the end of the project cycle. This is where a project is finalized and reviewed to make sure that contractual obligations have been met.

Although most people will not think in the detail above, understanding the flow of a Project and what happens in each phase is important to make the outcome successful.

So, now that we have some definition of what project management is and have an idea of flow, what defines a project?  According to PMI, a project is:

“A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”

A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. This definition comes from PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 5th Edition.

As mentioned above, PMI is the biggest player in North America, and like AUGI, they are also an international organization.  PMI is not the only project management resource though; other organizations include the International Project Management Association (IPMA), the Association for Project Management (APM), and the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management (ASAPM).

The IPMA and the ASAPM are member organizations, which are comprised of other Project Management associations from around the world (APM in the UK, AIPM in Australia, PMAC of Canada, GPM in Germany, IPM in Ireland, etc.). There is no shortage of available project management resources out there.

Now that we have definitions of both project management and a project, what does that mean for the role or roles of the Project Manager?

The Project Manager (PM) has many roles, and because of this, requires many skill sets.  Some of the most critical skills of successful PMs are good communication, organization, negotiation, and discipline.  These and many other skills allow a PM to keep a project on track through its various stages. I will cover more about the Project Managers skill sets in a future article.

Projects happen in all industries, but for the sake of this article, let’s look at how a typical building design project may go through the previously mentioned flow.

Initiating

Initiating is probably the phase that many in the design world get brought in after.  This phase still happens, but it typically happens at the customer’s level with their executive team. If they think they are in need of a building, whether it be a new factory, office building or warehouse for distribution and storage, or just an expansion or renovation to an existing facility, they need to do some homework. The customer will create a list of their needs and resources, generate a business case and pitch it to their board of advisors.  At some point, they will reach out to a developer or possibly directly to an architect if they already have the real estate that they need.  Obviously, there is no one method that this starts, as architects, developers and contractors can come in at various parts of the initiating process – because as we know from the definition of a project, it is unique, so each one is different.

Planning

The planning phase is the most critical part of a project and it may include some or all of the previously mentioned parties. The planning phase is so important because it is where the majority of the work gets done that can make or break a project.  The design team is put together, the needs are established, vetted and organized on their level of importance, costs are determined, and a schedule is developed. During the planning stage, a methodology is chosen to move the project forward, which could be Design Bid Build, Design-Build, Construction Manager, or possibly Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Typically the more time spent in the planning stage, the better the outcome of the project.

Executing

The executing stage is where the work gets done and is typically the longest phase of the project. In the AEC world, this is where the contractor(s) start the actual building process.  The project shifts from paper or model to a real world building.  Depending on how well the planning was done, this part of the project can go very smooth or can be a rough ride.

Monitoring and Controlling

This phase is not a standalone phase; it actually starts during the Planning phase and covers the Executing and Closing phases as well. Monitoring and controlling is how the budget, schedule, and project methodology are monitored, reported on and of course controlled.  This entails verifying when extra costs come up or schedule delays happen that need to be corrected.  By constantly monitoring the schedule and budget, you can catch issues before they spiral out of control.

Closing

The closing process is where the record drawings are finalized to match what was actually installed (important for facilities maintenance), make sure all outstanding invoices are paid, liens are released, warranty information is collected and filed and a lessons learned review is done. The lessons learned can come in handy for future projects that the customer may do and will be very helpful for the design and construction team to make sure any issues or benefits that were discovered during the process can be applied to their future projects.

Do these process groups and steps seem familiar or fall in line with your day to day workflow? If so, you may be a project manager.

Resources:

https://www.pmi.org/

http://www.ipma.world/

https://www.apm.org.uk/

Do you have questions about this or other project management topics or would you like to see more detail on a specific area? If so, please send an email to thepm@waltsparling.com with your questions or comments.

WES

Build Your Own Cloud Server

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Build your own Cloud Server

Build your own Cloud Server for all types of media

So yesterday a friend asked me about the possibility of having his own NAS (Network Attached Storage) that he could access from work or out and about. And the answer is yes.  I have set up multiple NAS devices for clients and even have one myself and they are all based on Synology products –  – NAS is what they do and they are very good at it.

Most of use a cloud in some form offered by others like Dropbox, Sharefile, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc…  Having our own would be pretty sweet and a way to do this is with a NAS like my friend wants.  After some email discussion and a phone call, my friend finally made some choices for the hardware he wanted to get.

Disclaimer: Throughout my posts you will find links, some of which are affiliate links. If you’re not familiar with this term, you can find more about it and why I use them in my About page here. If you select a link that is an affiliate link and then purchase a product or service from that link, at no additional cost to you, I will get a small commission.

He is going to get a 2-bay Synology NAS with (2) Western Digital NAS hard drives at 4 Terabytes each so he can do a Mirror (real-time duplication and full redundancy).

Synology NAS and Drives:
         

4 Terabytes is a bit much for most of us, considering many are probably using the 20gig Google Drive or the free 2gig Dropbox account with room to spare.  So what can you do with a NAS or your own cloud?

For your house a NAS can be used as a central media server for music, photos, videos, etc.. or you can set it up as a cloud server to share these items.

For your business you can set it up as a:

  • Central file server
  • Backup server
  • FTP server
  • E-Mail Server
  • Web Server
  • Surveillance Server
  • And more…

Pretty versatile little box if you ask me.  I use mine as a personal backup server and cloud Sync server that backups up my Dropbox and Google Drive accounts locally and have plans to set it up as a family Photo Stream server  – someday when I have time…

WES