Managing Risks and Project Management

“Plans are worthless. Planning is essential.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

As we continue our discussions on effective execution of any project and initiative, a critical element to success requires robust project management, as we have discussed previously. An element of a good project plan is directly related to mitigating risks that will delay or worse, sabotage the project’s execution.

Assessing risks throughout the life cycle of any project or initiative will increase the probability of a smooth execution. As we state in our website:

Every Organization, regardless of size, is susceptible to risks. Some risks are common, while others are industry specific. Unfortunately, risks cannot be eliminated. However, risks can be mitigated. Understanding those risks that create the highest exposure should be identified and steps taken to mitigate them.

So how can a Project Team incorporate risk mitigation into its project management methodology? Here are some hints to mitigate risks:

  • Consider the risk impact to any changes to the project plan
  • Manage scope creep, as we discussed in a recent insight as it can often have risk implications
  • Anticipate potential delays that will risk the project’s deliverable
  • Plan for Staffing conflicts that mitigate the risk to the project
  • Consider the possibility that management might impose staff or budget reductions

The execution of any project or initiative is directly related to effective project management and risk mitigation. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization avoid the pitfalls of inadequate planning.

Testing Before Execution

“Quality means doing it right even when no one is looking.”— Henry Ford

Testing review before implementation

It is so frustrating when a software solution becomes available…. whether a new solution or an upgrade…. and it just does not work as intended. Why does this happen so frequently? In many cases, this is due to lack or inadequate testing of the software solution.

An intricate step in the success of any project is to include testing to ensure whatever has been developed will meet the requirements defined by the End Users. Testing should be part of every project regardless of whether it is a software implementation, a new market launch, training, or any other deliverable. It ultimately produces the quality deliverable that is desired.

What should be considered when testing? Develop a Test Plan that defines:

  • The focus of the testing to ensure the deliverable is working as intended and meets the needs of the End User
  • Define what should be tested – examples:
  •  If it is a software solution (or upgrade), ensuring the software is working correctly
  •  If a new process, testing its effectiveness, efficiency, and repeatability
  •  If documentation, is it communicated clearly and is it easy to understand the document’s topic
  • If a market launch, does it meet the needs of the User?
  • Select Testers who are willing to do what it takes to validate the intended deliverable is working as intended
  • Determine the requirements for successful results from the testing and measure the testing to those requirements
  • Do not settle for “good enough” – this ultimately results in additional work effort

Incorporating testing into the overall project plan creates a more successful, high-quality implementation. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization define the requirements for a Test Plan to ensure a successful execution of your project.

Managing Change and Scope Creep

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

Steve Jobs, as quoted in Forbes

Scope and Change Management

“Change is hard” is an adage that seems to be universal. Most of us do not like change and resist it whenever possible.   

Ironically, change seems to be easy during the execution of a project. Considering changes are a major factor why projects are delayed and/or are not completed. During the life cycle of a project, there are two challenges that often arise:

  • Scope creep and/or
  • Poorly managing change

What is “scope creep?” Whenever a project adds to the defined project’s scope that will impact the project’s timeline, costs, deliverables, and resources without appropriate consideration to the changes impact and/or approvals, this results in scope creep. Unfortunately, scope creep is a common obstacle to a project’s successful and timely execution.

In order to mitigate scope creep, consider the following:

  • Ensure the project’s scope is clearly defined prior to starting the project
  • Define requirements of End Users prior to starting the projectas we discussed in last month’s insights
  • Establish expectations for deliverables prior to starting the project
  • Manage End Users’ desire to include additional tasks during the project that will result in scope creep
  • Avoid making any changes without going through a formal change management process
  • Focus on executing based on the existing project plan instead of adding additional tasks to it. Once the project is executed, then look at addressing those scope tasks identified.

Inevitably, there will be times when it is necessary to extend the scope of the project. In those cases, a defined change management process should be following that includes:

  • Establish a process for change requests prior to starting the project, as was discussed in a previous insight
  • Define the additional requirements before incorporating the requested changes into the project’s scope
  • Determine the implications of expanding the requirements to the scope of the project, as well as the implications if the scope does not change (in other words, define the risks for changing the scope versus not changing the scope)
  • Evaluate the impact of the change to the project’s cost, resources, timeline, and deliverables
  • Document the requirements, including the impact to the project to ensure there is clarity on change requests
  • Obtain appropriate approvals prior to making any changes to the project
  • Update the project plan if the change is approved

Aldridge Kerr can help your organization execute your projects. We are experienced project managers.

End User’s Input

“Everybody who’s been successful has gotten lots of help and input from many, many people.”

– Carol S. Dweck, Author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”

The Project Team was excited that the project was almost completed. Then, they were surprised when they presented it to the End Users and there were major concerns. Those who would be using the completed product had not been consulted throughout the Life Cycle of the project and were not happy with what would be delivered.

This is, unfortunately, a common scenario when executing a project or initiative. Executing a deliverable without End Users’ input can create unnecessary issues in the success of the completed project.

Involving the End Users throughout the project’s Life Cycle increases the probability of a successful execution. Why?

  • The results of the execution effort align with the business needs being addressed
  • Reduces wasted time, energy, and resources on rework created due to a deliverable that does not meet the End Users’ needs
  • Addresses the “they versus us” mentally that is caused whenever the Project Team and End Users are able to work together to achieve a unified goal
  • Encourages a more successful and timely execution of the project/initiative  
  • Creates ongoing collaboration between the Project Team and the End Users

When should the End Users be involved?

  • During the Requirements Phase of the project’s design
  • At critical milestones of the project
  • As Testers of the desired outcome

The success of any execution requires involvement by those who will benefit from its implementation. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization more clearly define the End Users’ requirements and needs. We use a proven facilitated methodology to define the requirements needed for a successful execution.

Keeping the Project Moving Forward

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Conrad Hilton

Momentum: Merriam-Webster defines it as “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.” As we continue our discussions this year on effective execution, one of the challenges Organizations may face is a project not remaining focused or worse, stalling. The objective is to ensure that the project continues to move forward and gains momentum.

Here are several hints to keep your project moving forward:

  • Focus on the value the completed project will bring to the Organization: remember the end game and why the project is being done
  • Ensure all impacted Team Members, Stakeholders, and End Users are aware as to the “why” of the project: a project can stall when all involved are not focused on the project’s objective
  • Pay attention to the Project Plan’s due dates and dependencies as they drive the project’s success: the Project Plan is the roadmap to successful execution as was discussed in an earlier insight
  • Resolve the issues that may (and typically do) arise causing delays
  • Remain aware of risks that could occur and need to be mitigated
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate as defined within the Project’s Communication Plan

Don’t allow your project to stall, stay focused on the end game, and keep that momentum going by being mindful of these hints.

Communication and Execution

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

Communication is key to successful execution

A Client once commented: “People are seemingly constantly asking how the project is progressing. We are never going to get this project done with the interruptions.”

My response was simple: “Are you providing regular updates on the status of the project?” My Client then asked: “Why would I do that?”

I smiled and said: “The list is long!” And, yes, the reasons for establishing consistent, regular communication on the status of a project is long, including but not limited to:

  • Provides all impacted on the progress of the project
  • Reduces confusion and speculation
  • Creates positive anticipation
  • Effectively manages expectations
  • Reduces the regular questions due to lack of communication
  • Strengthens the Project Team as members better understand the role each plays on the project
  • Educates End Users on the project’s impact prior to its completion
  • Presents progress to Stakeholders and the Steering Committee reducing concerns
  • Contributes to employee engagement

Establishing and maintaining frequent and consistent communication on the progress of a project or initiative better positions an Organization to effectively execute, as we have been discussing this year. By creating a Communication Plan as part of the overall project’s management, all those impact by the project are now invested in its progress. Do you need help creating a Communication Plan for your project/initiative? Aldridge Kerr are experienced Project Managers and can provide the project management framework to successfully execute your project.

Dependencies and Execution

“Managing projects requires managing dependencies.” – Charlene Aldridge, President of Aldridge, Kerr & Associates, Inc.

Dependencies

Did you hear about the Builder that attempted to install the sinks before the foundation was laid? Or the IT Engineer developing enhancements to software before the original software had even been designed? Or that same Builder attempting to paint before walls were even built. Or the Baker icing a cake before it is baked? The answers to these questions are all the same: “of course not!” Some tasks simply cannot be performed until others have been completed.

As we continue our discussions on hints for effective execution, this month we will be focusing on understanding the role of dependencies in implementing any project or initiative. Although we may not think about it often, dependencies are an intricate part of our lives:

  • Plants are dependent on sunlight and water
  • Fish are dependent on water
  • Babies are dependent on caregivers
  • Ability to effectively function is dependent on enough sleep, food, water, shelter, etc.

Dependencies are sometimes, unfortunately, not considered when performing tasks related to any project or initiative. This can lead to the project stalling, creating wasted time, energy, and resources, or worse jeopardize the completion of the project.

Dependencies have a huge impact on any execution’s success. Here are some dependencies to consider:

  • Project constraints that drive dependencies related to time, cost, and/or the project’s scope
  • Resource dependencies: the resources available to perform the necessary tasks influence the ability to get the work done. The order in which tasks are done is partially driven by the availability of the resources as well as the expertise of those resources.
  • Expectational (or preferential) dependencies: the expectations of Leadership, the Project Team, the Customers, and other Stakeholders all impact what needs to be done and may become required dependencies.
  • External dependencies: the saying “the best laid plans” applies here. There will be some things outside the Project Team’s control that will impact the project’s completion. These unplanned delays should be factored into completing the project. In addition, subsequent tasks can easily be impacted due to these external factors.
  • Logical dependencies: the example of the Baker having to wait until the cake is baked before frosting it is a great example of a logical dependency. Some tasks simply must be performed in a certain order.

The success of any project or initiation is considering and planning for dependencies that could impact subsequent tasks. Planning for these dependencies will ultimately ensure a more successful execution of a project.

Clearly Defined Roles & Responsibilities

“Highly effective teams have clearly articulated roles and responsibilities.” – Author unknown

Effective Team

The Abbott and Costello comedy routine “Who’s on first?” entertained us with a great example of confusion and lack of communication! Unfortunately, that type of confusion often occurs when Organizations are working to implement a desired task.

As we continue our discussions on hints for effective execution for an Organization’s project/initiative, this month we will be focusing on the importance of clearly-defined roles and responsibilities with the Project Team.

When a Project Team’s roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined, a project can stall, impact the project’s direction, create confusion and disconnects. To mitigate this, establishing clearly defined roles and responsibilities reap numerous benefits including but not limited to:  

  • The Project Team works more effectively together
  • Communication is improved
  • Tasks are less prone to be missed and are completed by the person assigned to perform each task
  • It reduces confusion and finger pointing
  • Here are some hints when defining the Project Team’s roles and responsibilities:
  • Identify those who will be participating in the project
  • Review the tasks identified within the project plan
  • Align those tasks with the roles of each Participant based on expertise (skills and capabilities), experience, and availability
  • Identify additional Resources needed so that all tasks have the necessary expertise applied
  • Assign the tasks each Participant will perform (i.e., project lead/manager, communication coordinator, experts based on the project’s tasks) within the project plan  
  • Create a job summary of the specific role each Project Team Participant will perform that aligns with the tasks and timeline of the project plan
  • Establish performance reporting and milestone indicators to assess the progress of the project to ensure its successful completion based on the project plan, including defining how to escalate and address issues and delays

Clearly-defined roles and responsibilities support a project’s defined objectives and focus on what is most important as we discussed in previous insights. Collectively, these encourage a successful execution of any project or initiative within an Organization. Do you need help executing a project/initiative? Aldridge Kerr are experienced Project Managers and can provide the project management framework to successfully execute your project. Contact us today.

Focusing on Priorities

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” – Stephen R. Covey

Focus on priorities

Have you ever seen someone working on a project and never seem to get it done? This may partly be due to not focusing on the priority tasks needed to complete the project. Often, more and more tasks are added to the project until it takes on a life of its own causing unnecessary delays and compromising the ability to complete the task. (This is often referred to as “scope creep.”)

As we continue our discussion on effective execution insights, clearly understanding the focus and priority of what needs to be completed is a key factor in successful execution. Last month, we discussed the importance of clearly defining the project’s charter and creating a project plan to move forward.  

Once it is time to “roll up your sleeves” and begin to work through the tasks (that should have been identified in the charter and project plan), it is essential that the Project Team stays focused on what is to be accomplished.

As we discussed in last month’s insights, a project plan is similar to a blueprint when building a home. Both define what the end product will be. If during the course of building, additional rooms get added or the layout changes, it negatively impacts the completion of the build and can compromise the integrity of the end product. This is what can happen when “scope creep” creates additional tasks outside the project’s priorities.

It is important to note that those additional tasks that are identified during a project may be needed and valuable. However, adding those tasks to a project’s scope should be fully considered. (Change management and the value of a phased approach both will be discussed in later insights throughout the year.)

The value of a clearly defined charter and project plan provides the structure for focusing on the priorities required to execute a project. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization focus on the priorities required to execute your project. Contact us to discuss how we can assist you.

Clearly Defined Objectives for Executing any Project/Initiative

“Clarity of vision is the key to achieving your objectives.” – Tom Steyer

You need a blueprint

In 2021, I built a new house. Before the ground was dug or the build began, a blueprint with specifications was designed to ensure both the Builder and I agreed on what the end-product would be. This is not the first house I had built; and the same approach was previously used as well. We started with establishing the parameters of the size, shape, structure, etc. so that I would be happy with the house I had built.

It is fascinating to me that Leaders jump into to an initiative or project without a clearly defined end result. We at Aldridge Kerr believe this is a common first mistake that Organizations make when attempting the execution of any project or initiative.

As we continue our 2022 discussions on execution hints, here are some insights to consider when beginning a new project (or any initiative):

  • Create a Project Charter that defines the project’s objective, scope, and responsibilities. It summarizes what the project will have accomplished once it has been completed.

HINTS:

  • A Project Charter is the project management version of a blueprint for building.
  • Ensure that the project size is achievable within a realistic timeframe. Aldridge Kerr’s proprietary Doable, Chewable Chunks® methodology encourages our Clients to scope a project to achieve this.
  • Obtain appropriate approvals and buy in from Key Stakeholders.

HINT: Stakeholders include those who will fund the project, who will manage and participate in the project, and a representative of who will benefit from the completion of the project.

  • Develop a project plan once the Project Charter is approved that includes a timeline, budget, milestones, dependencies, roles and responsibilities of the Project Team, defining methods to mitigate risks related to the project, a communication plan, and success metrics.

Leaders often think that smaller, less complex projects do not require this rigor. However, we at Aldridge Kerr believe a project’s success is more easily realized when the above tasks are performed.

NOTE: If you have already started a project (or an initiative of any kind), it is valuable to pause and create the above in order to enhance your chances of a successfully executed project.

We will continue discussing the importance and the role of the project charter and its plan in the coming months.

Similar to a Builder creating a blueprint before starting the actual build, a well-defined Project Charter provides that blueprint so the execution of the project will be completed. This provides defined objectives that ensures clarity on what it will take to execute successfully. Aldridge Kerr are Experts at managing projects. Contact us to discuss how we can assist you.