I work with project managers from countries all over the globe. I ask them: “what is the single largest challenge you are currently facing?”
The majority say their biggest problems come from the resources who work on their tasks. The issues that the project managers report vary and are many, but in all cases I find a lack of good leadership at the core of the problem.
I have worked with several outstanding project managers and I credit their performance to the fact that they are excellent leaders. They all have the ability to inspire others to follow their lead — including those that have authority over them.
They know how to effectively communicate what success is, encourage excellence, and place great value in others. They know how to guide others to success, while ensuring everyone is performing at their best. They also understand that true leadership is to serve those they lead.
Leadership skills are learned and take time to develop. Each manager has their own style and develops their own techniques.
Tasks need to be released at the correct time, to the proper resource, and be confirmed to be successful.
This article presents 3 essential steps that are needed — before the Tasks are started.
1. Task Scoping & Definition
The high-level work breakdown structure (WBS) created during the planning stage a of a project is usually sufficient to create preliminary task definitions.
After a preliminary definition is created, the next step is to have a resource, who is a good candidate for the task, confirm the Task definition.
Do your Tasks finish late? If so, there is a high probability that they are improperly scoped.
My last article discussed how to properly create task definitions. Since task scoping directly effects the task definition, this article discusses Task Scope — that is to say, just how much work is defined by a single task.
Over the years I’ve observed that tasks tend to be over-scoped — they have way too much packed into them. I also find that when they are over-scoped, they tend to finish late. Interestingly, they are not late because the scope of work is large — they are late because too many individuals are responsible for their completion.
Show me a project that lacks task clarity and I’ll show you a failed project.
I have participated in hundreds of “Lessons Learned” project closure sessions. As you might expect, the greatest interest and attendance at these sessions is when a project fails. Everyone wants to know what happened, how to prevent future failure, and for some — who to blame.
In all cases I am able to trace the failure back to a single common root problem — poor task definition.
Most of the companies I work with have projects with tasks that need to be worked by a single department, group, or individual. An example of this is a department of technical writers, or an individual with a highly specialized skill.
It is common for these single points of work effort to become bottlenecks. Contention for limited resources creates an environment where individuals are pressured to work on multiple tasks and projects at the same time.
I have surveyed hundreds of project managers around the world and found resource motivation to be their number one frustration. Most resources have sufficient skills to accomplish their tasks. So why do so many resources perform poorly?
There are many reasons. Certainly the greatest control managers have is over their own individual behavior. I find that managers can significantly improve resource motivation. Even more, I believe it is the responsibility of the manager to do so.
Due to the predominance of this frustration, I wrote this article. It presents methods for managers to significantly improve their resource motivation.
Task estimates must be accurate to achieve project success. Most of all they effect the budget and schedule of a project. Currently worldwide, 7 out of 10 projects fail. And they fail because they are over budget, or finish late. This is tragic, not to mention expensive.
The good news is project managers can overcome these problems. The solution is to create excellent task estimates. This article focuses on Execution Task Estimates, including how to use them effectively.
I recently from 54 countries and they all reported that their resources are a major source of concern. Perhaps you can relate to the frustration—their resources:
And perhaps you have experienced this: Your leadership assigns you a project with the usual constraints including scope, budget, and schedule—and you are expected to make it happen. So, you pull together the best team of resources you can hoping, that they will deliver what is expected, on time, and with quality.
If you are experiencing any of these challenges, the good new is it can be better, much better—you can significantly improve the performance of your resources and have confidence they will delivery you as you have planned. This article explains several simple techniques you can implement right now that will greatly increase your success. Simple things that, amazingly, few project managers do…