RiverRhee's one-day course on project management is built around the topics shown in this summary slide:

Project Management summary slide

We have found that exploring the mindsets and toolsets associated with these topics provides the essential and valuable starting points for the many people that we work with who are new to project management.

Some of the most important and common themes that emerged were documents in our RiveRhee's November-December 2015 newsletter and are summarised and added to here:

Working in a matrix environment

This topic was also explored in Addressing the challenges of "multi-teaming" in project management.  Many of the people on our courses are working in a matrix environment, where they, and the members of their project teams, are dealing with at least two levels of complexity:

  • Reporting to a line manager who is different to the project manager
  • Working on more than one project at a time

This can lead to all sorts of stresses and strains as people can lack clarity about, and time and commitment for what is expected of them in the project.  On-going discussion and agreement on expectations, roles and responsibilities between all those involved, and documentation through tools such as project charters can go a long way to resolving these issues. 

An active focus by the project manager on the stages of their team's development, the strengths and interactions between different personality types, the team's working practices including communication within the team in general will all also help!

Managing budget, time and other constraints

Many of the managers that we work with ‘inherit’ their project from someone else.  Sometimes this is the business development team who liaises directly with the company’s customers.  Or it may be another member of the management team.

The consequence is that the project comes to the project manager with the timelines, budgets, resources already defined.  They are not necessarily realistic, and may not be open to renegotiation.

Some organisations we work with are building up a knowledge base, or spreadsheet, of the types of projects they do, the tasks involved, how long they take, and the costs and resources involved.  This is of course easier to do with 'standard' projects, with those that may be different every time!

Another approach is to invite those who initiate projects, such as the business team, to project reviews. That way they hear first hand what the impact of pre-defined timelines, budgets and resources have been on the project, what happened in practice, and what might be done differently next time.  There is more on learning reviews below.

Recognising the value of learning reviews

How to capture and make optimum use of learnings from projects is a perennial topic of conversation amongst both project and knowledge managers.  Project teams often do not make the time to reflect on how the project went, and to identify what successes they might build on in future projects, as well as what they might do differently.  Where they do capture such learnings, organisations seldom have a mechanism to act on these learnings in their future work.

We also facilitate retrospective learning review workshops for teams and organisations. In one such workshop participants identified 21 recommendations to act upon as a result of the learning review.  This organisation also planned to adopt a simplified version of the learning review to support all their future projects.

Project managers can ensure such reviews happen by scheduling "close out" or "wash up" meetings as part of their project plan.

Adopting risk management strategies for projects

We introduce our delegates to a variation of risk management tools used in Health and Safety and for Quality Assurance audits.

Project teams that take the time to go through a risk analysis at the start of their projects, can do so with the insights that they and others have learned in previous projects.  They can document this analysis with the associated risk mitigation plan in a risk log such as this one:

Risk analysis matrix or FMEA.jpg

Like all project management tools it is one to keep very much alive, constantly referred to and updated throughout the life of the project.

For more information see RiverRhee's one-day course on project management

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