Make Your Project Management Easier and More Effective
Just like in the picture above, projects are like operations; ones that no one on your team has ever done before. No wonder so many projects either fail, fall short or end up being harder work than they should be. A core reason for this is the lack of good preparation and foundation building in the initial set up phase of your project.
The most important factor in this is getting stakeholders and your new project team 'bought-in' and onboard so that they are engaged and have ownership of the project. Achieve this and your projects become easier to manage, better able to deal with unexpected events and more likely to deliver the anticipated benefits to your Project Sponsor and host organisation.
Instead of ineffective meetings, host an independently facilitated workshop as the most effective format for creating the best foundation for your projects.
Each of the workshops below focusses on a specific aspect of project set up (or review for the post project workshop) to ensure that the relevant information is created, captured and structured in a way that makes it easy for Project Managers to start managing the project and for Sponsors to feel confident that the project has the best chance of providing the anticipated business benefits.
The workshops can be booked individually or as a block to cover your entire set up phase.
Project Kick-Off Workshop
The single most important workshop to bring your people together and start the project. It will show you where your team are in terms of knowledge, understanding, agendas and focus.
You’ve decided who’s on the project team. The brief and business case have been written. Its time for the kick-off meeting. Depending on how you work, this might be the first time your new project team has met, or you might have done a fair bit of groundwork preparation already and talked to everyone beforehand. Either way, this is such an important gathering that it really pays to get it as right as possible. A workshop format is far more effective than a traditional meeting for this.
The Project Startup workshop uses a project canvas approach and takes a team through the following aspects of project set up: The Purpose, Scope, Outcome and Success Criteria (the framework or structure) Team members, Stakeholders and Communications, Approach (people). Resources, Constraints, Risks/Worries (the environment) Milestones and Actions (the plan)
This covers the broad overview of a project’s anatomy and is great for pulling a group of people together, pooling and focussing their ideas and generating understanding of what is involved. Because it covers the entirety of a project, it provides pointers for areas where the team is particularly strong or weak that might need further attention.
The final part looks at the project plan, decides who is responsible for each task and gives a likely level of effort, from which duration can be estimated based on your own environmental constraints. Finally, milestones are added and you have a group created project plan that the entire team or stakeholder group have created and own.
There is a twin workshop for digital projects such as websites or intranets that focusses on the unique requirements of these types of projects.
Already started your project but it’s not going fully according to plan? Correct this very common scenario with a project reset workshop to get everybody back on track.
This is similar to the kick-off workshop, aligning everyone’s thoughts and intentions for the rest of the project. It can also include a troubleshooting section looking at specific problems and how to move beyond them.
This workshop goes well with the Planning Co-Creation workshop (below) to enable your (now back on track) project team to work together to plan or replan the next stage of your project.
Project Planning Co-Creation
Don’t alienate your team by imposing a project plan on them. Get them to co-create it with you so it becomes their plan and you benefit from their specialist knowledge and engagement.
Focussing your team on producing the plan really creates buy-in but more than that, it creates a deep understanding in the team of what is involved in making your project happen. Ownership is built in through getting the group to agree who is responsible for carrying out each task and estimating the effort involved. Participants could be your project team but also wider stakeholders who hold important information or whom you want to be involved in the set up process.
This is a more in-depth workshop focussed on breaking down the work tasks involved in realising your project’s goal. It guides your team to create a gantt-chart style project plan. Your team will work on listing the tasks, putting them in sequence, assigning the owners and estimating the ‘effort’ (not duration) for each task. Finally, the important milestones and discussed and decided. This creates your first project plan that, instead of being imposed on a team, has been created by all of them.
The information this workshop provides makes the PM’s role not just easier but more accurate. A detailed plan can then be drawn up on the basis of the workshop output and used as the foundation for the project and future revisions.
It is recommended to bring the team together again every so often to revise and update the plan in a similar fashion and each time you do, you will get an increasingly knowledgable and detailed output.
Communication Planning & Stakeholder Management
Your project operates in a wider environment and failing to make stakeholders feel involved and heard can cause problems for your project right from the start. Poole the expertise in your team to develop your communication plan based on individualised stakeholder motivations.
This is great for pooling the expertise in the organisation on all of your stakeholders. It covers mapping out your stakeholders, persona development to define the communication needs for each group, what they want to know and how they are best communicated with.
The group creates a plan covering your communication to stakeholders: when and how often, by what medium, what kind of message, what kind of information and what not to communicate.
This workshop provides the project manager with a ready made communication plan that everyone understands and accepts because they have created it. This crucially important aspect of project management can then be implemented from the beginning to ensure your stakeholders are kept informed and onboard.
Predict the future by pretending it’s the past. The Risk Pre-Mortem is the best way to get the knowledge of risks out of your subject matter experts and into a risk plan. Don’t be blind-sided by unexpected events - get your team involved in looking ahead in this unusual workshop format that is very effective.
A risk pre-mortem imagines that the project team is in the future and the project is over. It was an unmitigated disaster. Looking back as independent auditors, the group work through what went wrong and what the organisation should have done to prevent such catastrophic project failure.
The cognitive trick this pulls on us works because we find it much easier to look back at the past to use hindsight and we also find it easier to think of multiple causes of a single known outcome (as opposed to causes of multiple outcomes). The workshop helps us to voice the imagined disasters first and work backwards to what might have caused them rather than thinking of the causes (the risks) first.
One of my favourite workshops to do and one that participants really enjoy as well because it gives people an environment in which they can safely and usefully voice their worries and concerns without fear of coming across as negative. The information that this workshop provides is gold dust to the organisation and the PM.
The group works through prioritised risks looking at ownership, potential causes, mitigation actions and early warning signs. It supports the group to become aware of what activities are needed to prevent things from going wrong and creates a risk management plan that the PM can use and build on. An essential workshop to carry out.
Post Project Review
Always recommended, often neglected, but so important, especially for the host organisation. This should be carried out after the completion of each and every project. Particularly suited to being facilitated by an independent person, this elicits what worked, what didn’t, recommended improvements and lessons learnt to be carried into subsequent projects.
All sorts of questions, roadblocks, opportunities and risks can come up in a project. I’m very happy to work with you to examine the situation you are facing, clarify what you need and co-design a bespoke workshop for you. Get in touch and we can have an initial conversation about solutions.
For an informal discussion of how any of the above could be of help to your organisation and projects, get in touch below