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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The 10 Hour Project Manager: Excerpt (Chapter 5)

Today I thought I'd publish a small excerpt from The 10 Hour Project Manager, my best-selling project management reference book. Take a read and then head on over to my website (or Amazon) to check it out and buy a copy.

The 10 Hour Project Manager
Strategies for managing successful projects

Amazon Top 100 seller in two categories
 during 1st week of release in April 2011!
(Please click picture)

"Clear, concise and valuable Project Management advice for the price of a beer (Two if you want the paperback)!"

5. Project Lifecycle – From dawn ’til dusk

“Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey.” (Unknown)

Understanding the level of Organizational Maturity

You may think this an odd choice for a first section on project lifecycle but without understanding organizational maturity you run the risk of completely under or over-estimating the effort needed to complete your project.

I like to think of the various levels of organizational maturity in a company as follows:
  • Defined – the organization has ‘defined’ many of the operational processes
  • Repeatable – the organization can demonstrate ‘repeatable’ operational processes
  • Standardized – the organization has, over time, ‘standardized’ the operational processes
  • Managed – the organization proactively ‘manages’ the operational processes to ensure they remain current and relevant
  • Optimizing – the organization actively ‘optimizes’ the operational processes to make cost and time savings and perform activities as efficiently as possible
There are many books on organizational maturity but suffice to say by looking at the list you can probably at least get an idea of what I mean.

The primary reason for understanding where an organization falls in organizational maturity is so that you as the project manager can navigate through your project lifecycle as efficiently as possible. An organization that has only a few ‘defined’ processes will need projects to be managed very differently than one that ‘optimizes’ processes on a regular basis. Simply put, if the organization currently has no templates or expectations for status reporting, be careful how much standardization you introduce. On the other hand if the organization currently has a complete project management methodology that you need to follow, including status reporting templates and distribution requirements, make sure you follow them to the letter!

Understanding the Project Methodology (Iterative v Waterfall)

Again, you need to understand just how the organization usually runs its projects, either as iterative (agile) or waterfall-like lifecycles. Trying to introduce a methodology that is counter to that currently employed will probably lead to disaster.

Once you have answered both the questions of organizational maturity and project methodology you need to combine these two pieces of information together in order to start designing your strategy of attack (This is also discussed in some more detail in Chapter Seven).

An organization that has only a few ‘defined’ processes and usually runs iterative projects will require a very different strategy than one that is ‘optimized’ and waterfall. Listen for key words as people talk to you about previous project experiences. It is especially true in today’s environments that many organizations do not fully understand iterative methodologies but use words like ‘agile’ to justify what they are doing. If you encounter an organization that is definitely in the ‘defined’ maturity stage but that tells you they use ‘agile’ methodologies, look out! You are in for a tough time. Usually this means nothing is ever documented, projects constantly overrun and testing is very rarely carried out.

So now that we’ve got a basic knowledge of how the organization sits in its understanding and performance of project management, we can run through the typical stages of a project manager’s project lifecycle (geared specifically neither to iterative nor waterfall) and discuss a little about what kind of savings we can help make...

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