Best Practices

Best Practices

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  • Andreas Rieger
    Andreas Rieger Executive Director Internal Operations, IT & Project Management, designaffairs

After offering a quick refresh of some technical project-management competences in Chapter 1, it’s time to get practical. In a design agency like ours, one of the main challenges is to get into what I call ‘performance mode’ with the project team.

When you consider that people are handling two or three projects simultaneously and have new projects every three months on average, there’s no time for a week of onboarding and months of “storming and norming” before you get to the “performing” stage (compare: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuckman’s_stages_of_group_development).

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. So what I’d like to do here is to share some thoughts to help you improve in terms of how and what you should be doing as a project manager.

In short, you need to be quick, strong, and beautiful.

Best Practice 01 | Project Journey

Why?

Project members, clients, and stakeholders need to understand what the project is about and – a picture is worth a thousand words. For efficiency reasons, it’s important to have a project world map. You can take advantage of it during the project kick-off when you have to onboard additional team members, for orientation to better understand project progress, for indicating change requests, etc.

For you as a PM, it’s crucial that you understand your order precisely. A project journey is a perfect way to give your sponsor a debriefing about the project approach, sequence, content, etc.

How?

While you study the SoW, a quote/contract, pitch presentations, scoping workshops, effort estimations, etc., you complete the project manifesto (see below) and you draw the project journey.  I recommend that you do this with a resource like MURAL or Miro. You need space and must not be limited by things like PowerPoint slides. You will notice that the project journey might help in deriving and/or validating the project vision.

The people involved don’t only need to know what has to be done, they also need to know why we’re doing this.

Project Journey
Project Journey

Best Practice 02: Project Canvas

Why?

Typically, the range of information you get at the beginning of a project is pretty diverse – from purchase orders, quotes, and e-mails to verbal and unstructured information. It’s essential to create a single fact sheet holding all of the project’s key data. A project canvas helps for debriefing all stakeholders when the project objectives and content are understood correctly. The canvas, or manifesto, also helps to design your project, define the baseline, and document any changes during the project.

How?

Create a suitable template for your organization. Find orientation for attributes by looking into other project credentials your organization may have produced or search the internet for a suitable project canvas. It may take you up to two weeks to get the first stable version of your project canvas. You will identify misunderstandings, interpretations, and contradictions when talking to sponsors and stakeholders. Put the information into the manifesto and shape it until the picture is clear. In the end, you can share the manifesto with the client’s project manager. Ideally, you reach a gentleman’s agreement that the manifesto is akin to a contract on top of the commercial contract.

Project Canvas – Sample

Best Practice 03: Resource Planning and Project Control

Why?

Some love it, others hate it. Who are the resources being made available for my project? Why are the ones I want not available? How do I split the budget across people on different cost rates? There might be an application + database in your organization to help you make your plans. Very often, however, these tools are not great at playing through scenarios and simulations. They require a fair maturity of the data you feed them with. Therefore, I always use a project-related resource planning tool – such as MS Excel spreadsheet – before the numbers are transferred to the central resource-planning system. Some Excel skills are necessary to make the work fun – practice makes perfect and, after a while, you’ll be the master of the numbers.

How?

Start from an empty MS Excel worksheet and orchestrate what you need on a step-by-step basis. You’ll probably delete your first four or five versions, but then things will become clearer in terms of what you want to achieve. If somebody in your organization has already set up something like a project planning .xls, you might be able to re-use it. However, I recommend you start from scratch – there is no better way of learning than doing it all yourself. Find the right mixture of data you need for your own work and the data you have to report to your client – ideally, everything will come from the same data sets.

Resource Planning & Project Controlling – Sample

In Chapter 3 | Project Management: Hazards, I will share a range of challenges and hazards a project manager may come across and some tips and tricks to help you find possible solutions.

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