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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

I invite you to my new webinar “Ethics and Project Success” which I will be conducting for the Ethics in Project Management Community of Practice of PMI on December 21, 2011 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM Local Time (UTC +0100) (1 hour), i.e., 12 noon EST.  What will it be about?  Let me share with you the abstract:

We all need and thrive for project success. But what does it take to get there? There is no doubt that good project management is a critical success factor. But is it really sufficient? I don’t think so. I claim that effective project management needs to have a solid foundation in holistic leadership. This leadership is embedded in strong project management skills, personal leadership, teamwork, and last but not least, a solid understanding and honest practice of the four codes of ethics, namely: respect, honesty, fairness, and responsibility.
Based on my own experience having managed projects of all sizes, from a few to 24000 person days effort in various industries, I identify 5 team leadership principles that put the code of ethics into the context of high-performance teams. They include building a common project vision, nurturing team collaboration, promoting team performance, cultivating team learning, and ensuring team delivery. These 5 principles combined with the 4 codes of ethics encompass the core of effective and holistic team leadership. The webinar will present these principles and show how they can help build and manage a performing and winning team, thus building project success.

Visit http://tinyurl.com/c27grmq to register for this free webinar.

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What would you say is the biggest problem on projects today? Is it the ever increasing complexity? Is it project sponsors who are absent?  Is it the impossible expectations that our customers have?

Robert Szilinksi and Michael Krebs (www.esentri.com and www.social-pm.com) say that it’s neither of these. Instead, our top problems are all internal to our project teams. They are communication, collaboration and integration of all team members and their knowledge into the overall project.

Robert and Michael’s answer to help improve project management is to enable our teams to work on a level that is more integrated, based on sharing and trust. Much of this in connection with Social media tools for project management. We’ll get a ton of tips, tricks and lessons learned from how they have used these social media tools on projects.

Want to learn more?  Visit Cornelius Fichtner’s latest podcast and spread the word.

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Everyone is talking about collaboration these days, especially in projects.  Hence it was no big surprise that “collaboration” was one of the key words at this week’s PMI Global Congress EMEA in Dublin, Ireland.  Social media, communication, collaboration tools, …, you name it.  Thank to technology it seems that collaboration is ever become easier these days.  But is it really? I am not convinced.  Yes, there are some new widgets and gadgets out there that make us think that all of us can become great communicator if we only use the right tools.  But it is not that easy.  As a matter of fact if we really think that tools are at the center of collaboration we are missing the point.  Collaboration is not about technology.  It is about people and relationships!  Therefore we have to understand people and their relationships first before we even consider any technology.  Once again I am catching myself having to admit that this is common knowledge – which is – what a surprise! – not common knowledge.

So, what do I recommend with respect to collaboration tools.
First of all, it is a fact that technical collaboration tools can enable collaboration if and only if you understand the critical success factors of collaboration.  These critical success factors include the power of team synergy, discipline, shared values, a simple yet strong structure of collaboration rules, results-orientation (especially in projects) and many more.  Have a look at the presentation I gave in Dublin on this topic.

Second, assess the collaboration requirements. This starts with an understanding of the purpose of your project.  Why do you want to start your project in the first place, i.e., what motivates you? And what do you envision as the ultimate outcome? What is the bigger picture where your project fits in? And more specifically, what do you want to accomplish in a given time frame?
Then ask what kind of collaboration you need to achieve those desired results? And, what kind of collaboration do you and your team value?
Don’t stop there. Instead think of possible impediments to this kind of collaboration.  What is that could prevent this desired collaboration to evolve?  Examples could be:

  • Wasted effort due to mismatch of goals or politics
  • Disconnect in understanding
  • Excessive time spent interpreting communication or artifacts
  • Time spent searching for information
  • Delays due to reviews, approvals, and bottlenecks
  • Incorrect use of methods and techniques

Identifying possible or actual collaboration blockades is one thing.  What you and your team want to do now is finding ways and means to overcome these blocks.  This brings me to the next point:

Third, select the right tools with your team.  Tools can help overcome collaboration inefficiencies; they can help enable and promote active and productive collaboration in your team.  Don’t select these tools by yourself.  Involve your team.  Find out which tools can facilitate your work, are in sync with your daily workflows.

Fourth, know how to use tools.  This should be a given, but often times this point is forgotten.  Bottom line: keep your tools simple, start small and invest in necessary trainings.

Fifth, align the tools with the purpose of your project.  Beware thought that your project and hence collaboration requirements can and probably will change during the project life cycle.  Keep your eyes on the goals and adjust your collaboration and tools accordingly.  Tools don’t exist for the sake of technology.  They are there to help you.  They need to serve your purpose and not the other way around.

Once again, I invite you to have a look at the presentation I gave at the PMI Global Congress EMEA in Dublin on May 9, 2011.  In addition, you can read the corresponding White Paper.

Related blog posts: The wise use of collaboration tools for project success, Effective Teams Don’t Need Collaboration Toos. Really?
Tags: #collaboration, #project management, #teams, #leadership

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Collaboration is and always has been a central factor for project success.  In times of international projects and virtual team environments collaboration is more important than ever.  Technology can help overcome geographical boundaries to active collaboration.  Indeed, technology has become an enabler of communication and collaboration.  This is no call though for the introduction of more technology in our projects.  Technology can enable, facilitate and promote collaboration.  However, collaboration is not about technology.  It is first and foremost about people and human interaction.

Effective collaboration in a project setting serves the purpose of the project; it is results-driven.  Hence, the key to successfully introducing collaboration tools is not the understanding of technology.  It is understanding the critical factors for project success of which collaboration is one element. In other words, collaboration is a means to achieve project objectives.  This is why we have to nurture collaboration.

The good news is that collaboration tools can help us achieve this.  Provided we are aware of the many possible pitfalls of collaboration tools.  In my upcoming presentation at the PMI Global Congress EMEA in Dublin, Ireland (May 9-11, 2011) I identify these pitfalls.  And I lay out a roadmap how to overcome them and successfully utilize collaboration tools. 

First, we need to have a good understanding of the real collaboration requirements in our project. 
Second
, we have to select the right tools which help enable, facilitate and promote collaboration. 
Third
, we have to know how to use the tools effectively and efficiently. 
Last but not least
, we have to align all collaboration tools with the project objectives and keep them aligned throughout the project life cycle.  Changing project environments require us to adjust our tools accordingly.  It also means that we must never forget that a tool is always a tool and remains a tool.  We must not let technology dictate our workflows and become an end in itself.  It is up to us to overcome the obvious limitations of technology and utilize its huge potentials instead.

Have a look at the preliminary ppt-file of my upcoming presention in Dublin.  Feedback is welcome and highly appreciated.

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Last February I had a chance to attend (and speak at) the NASA Project Management Challenge in Long Beach, CA. In a session about collaboration tools one of the attendants claimed that “effective project teams don’t need collaboration tools”.
I admit that this statement made me think. I am interested in your opinion about this provocative hypothesis:

  • What collaboration tools do you use in your teams?
  • What can you recommend?
  • And what impediments have you been faced with and how did you overcome them?

To give you an idea about my own thinking listen to a recent podcast http://tinyurl.com/63wj84a or attend my presentation at the upcoming PMI Global Congress EMEA in Dublin, Ireland (May 9-11, 2011).

My presentation at the PMI Global Congress North America 2010 in Washington, DC, on the possible pitfalls of introducing collaboration tools  is available at Slideshare.  Click here to view and download a copy.

I am looking forward to your comments.

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As managers or project managers we regularly prepare so-called status reports.  It is supposed to be a summary of the events, accomplishments, issues and upcoming milestones.  In my experience in project management I have seen numerous formats of status reports.  In many, too many cases I am overwhelmed by the amount of information presented in such reports; often the formats make you wonder how much time the preparer has.  This is not the space to list the shortcomings of such reports.  Instead I want to outline what a good and comprehensive report should entail.

It starts with an executive summary of the report.  I am not talking about a novel.  An executive summary is short and to the point.  In 1-2 sentences you summarized the main accomplishments, issues and upcoming milestones.  Sounds easy?  Well, it isn’t.  As a matter of fact I have found that it is easier to describe a situation in paragraphs rather than say 1 or 2 sentences.  The limited space you have forces you to prioritize the many issues you are dealing with.  The question which should guide you is this:  what are my top 3 issues I am dealing with?  It is likely that you are dealing with more than “just” 3 issues.  Still, you should always be able to pinpoint the most pressing challenges.  They require your first and utmost attention.  Other issues are important, too, but how much time and resources do you have to address them.  Unless you have limitless time you have to set priorities.  Acknowledging this you have to be in the position to identify the 3 most important issues and focus on solving them first.  This does not mean that you neglect the others.  You don’t; but you start with your top 3.

On this token, the rest of the status report is almost self explaining.  List the 3 most important accomplishments (or met milestones), the top 3 upcoming milestones or deliverables.  Then you move on to the top 3 issues and risks.  Alas, it is not sufficient to list the top 3 issues and risks.  Briefly describe the impact of the issues and risks, outline how you plan to resolve or control them, who is driving this solution (i.e., who is accountable for the issue and solution) and by which date you expect a solution or at least a new update.

A word on lengths and formats.  Expectations differ, no doubt.  In my own experience I have found that a 1-page long dashboard is more than sufficient.  On 1 page it should give you a mutual, exhaustive, comprehensive and exclusive overview of what is happening in your project or organization. This can be done in Powerpoint, Word or Excel format.  And maybe you even have the luxury of using a more elaborat collaboration tool.  Regardless keep it simple and on the point.  It may actually take more time to prepare a 1-page dashboard than a 2-5 pages status report.  But chances that your 1-page dashboard is actually read and acknowledged by your sponsor our your management is greater than the longer version.

Have a look at this sample report and feel free to use it.

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I have just finished preparing my presentation for the upcoming PMI Global Congress North America in Washington, DC.  On October 10 I will be speaking about “A fool with a tool is still a fool:  Overcoming possible pitfalls of introducing collaboration tools”.

Abstract:
Collaboration is and always has been a central factor for project success.  In times of international projects and virtual team environments collaboration is more important than ever.  Technology can help overcome geographical boundaries to achieve collaboration.  Indeed, technology has become an enabler of communication and collaboration.  And yet collaboration is not about technology.  It is about people and human interactions.  Technology can enable, facilitate and promote collaboration.  Provided we are aware of the limitations and possible pitfalls of introducing collaboration tools.  This presentation / paper identifies possible pitfalls.  And it lays out a roadmap how to overcome them and successfully introduce collaboration tools – without becoming slaves of our own collaboration tools.

Click the link below to view and download the paper of my presentation.  Feedback is welcome and appreciated.  A manuscript of the presentation will be made available shortly before or after the actual presentation in DC.

A Fool with a Tool is Still a Fool_ by Thomas Juli, Ph.D. – October 2010

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I dare say that I have created a number of good PowerPoint presentations.  At least according to the feedback I received from the audience.  And I am working to become better, i.e., create even better presentations – if I really have to use PowerPoint.  Still, my skepticism about the value of PowerPoint has been growing for some time now.  Maybe it is because I witnessed so many PowerPoint presentations which were sooooo bad and boring that you didn’t really have a choice but to dislike PowerPoint.  Then, on the other hand I witnessed some great presenters who made use of PowerPoint.  But differently.  One of the things I have seen more and more in good PowerPoint presentations is the use of simple photos which little if any text.  Pecha Kucha presentations serve as an example.

Still, bottom line:  if you can, don’t become a slave of PowerPoint; instead, try to carry your message across without any digital aids.  On this token, have a look at Lee Cockerell’s blog post:
One of the comments states:  “... the program [PowerPoint] does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters. The news media sessions often last 25 minutes, with 5 minutes left at the end for questions from anyone still awake. Those types of PowerPoint presentations […] are known as “hypnotizing chickens”.”

Remember the saying, “A tool with a fool is still a fool“.  It applies to the use of PowerPoint, too.  So, if you think just because you are apt using PowerPoint and claim to be a good presenter, think again.  If you cannot tell your story without PowerPoint, chances are, you are not such a good presenter after all.

If you do have to use PowerPoint or are expected to do so, become knowledgeable of the immense technical features of PowerPoint.  But again, don’t become a slave.  PowerPoint is a tool and should remain as such.  There are quite a few good books on PowerPoint.  Two of them I’d like to recommend:

(1) “The Say It With Charts Complete Toolkit” by Gene Zelazny.

This is considered one of the standards for learning how to create good presentations – with or without digital aids.

(2)”Slide: ology:  The Art and Science of Presentation Design” by Nancy Duarte.

This book reveals the huge potential of the right use of PowerPoint.

These are great books.  Still, never ever forget the potential perils of PowerPoint.  Becoming a greater presenter and speaker doesn’t require to master PowerPoint.  If, however, you do have to use PowerPoint, you better master PowerPoint, too.

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