Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Back to the basics - Project Tasks part 4.0: Let the games begin

link to 3.1 http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com/2007/10/back-to-basics-project-tasks-part-31.html
Now you have a good pass at the list of tasks and details behind them. Most importantly you got to meet the team face-to-face (hopefully) during the task gathering and definition process. You should have picked up various clues, such as:
  • importance of each deliverable and the assoc. tasks
  • maturity level of all involved (not talking nose-picking here talking dedication, how they handle issues/risks, etc.)
  • what the developers consider the 'difficult' areas (you know, when you mention a task and they laugh and sweat at the same time)
  • potential other groups that need to be involved
  • past projects and issues (yes - the good ole' war stories) - history repeats itself
These cues should give you an idea of what project areas will need special 'attention', where the high-impact-potential risks are, who you need to schmooze, etc.

Once you string out the tasks, you'll most likely realize that they time-frame/costs exceed the sponsors expectations.....gee, that's a surprise. Don't worry, this always happens. After you look over your shoulder to see who else has noticed and take a deep breath, it's time to get to work. There's no 'formal' approach to right-fitting a plan, but the steps are consistent from project to project:
  1. recheck your work - chances are this won't get you much
  2. identify the tasks that are the most critical, will take the most effort and provide the most benefit to the sponsor...you'll usually end up with about 20% of the project
  3. make sure those tasks are well defined, if you have a background in the business and/or technology review them and see if the effort is in line with the task..sometimes it's a miss understanding of what is being asked...just sometimes
  4. think through some options...but keep them to yourself
  5. inform the sponsors that there are time line issues that you're working on - they'll expect that (those IT people always require more time then what is needed..........)
  6. gather the worker-bees back together and discuss the high level objectives of the project again, let them know the time line/effort (aka cost) exceeds expectations - wait for the moans - reinforce that the est. have to be real, so they don't just reduce them to get the go-ahead with the knowledge that later the time line will change.....
  7. come up with REAL options OR decide that the effort provided is the real effort to get the job done
  8. go back to the sponsor and see if they're willing to move time lines - add costs - reduce scope, etc. (PM 101)
Repeat steps 6-8 as often as needed. The most important aspect of this stage of the game is to keep the information and communication real. Don't just take a reduction in time/effort without HOW it will be done (or later you'll pay the price most PM's do). Don't take that ALL deliverables are essential - if they were then the sponsor would be willing to pay what ever it takes to get them done. Most importantly don't take your eye off those areas being contested the most...this is where the risk is the greatest.......Try to keep the sponsors away from the developers during the 'gaming' phase so they don't influence each other...keep the focus on the issues not the personalities. Once you're near the end of the gaming...get everyone together for a final pass prior to the execution phase. Have a project walk through...identify any missing tasks, keep on eye on reactions to make sure you haven't missed any critical deliverables/tasks or risk areas. Make sure to do it over lunch.....food makes people happy and gives them something to do while you're talking.

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