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How to identify a Tiger!

How to identify a project. Or as we would say, ‘How to identify a Tiger!’

Projects are complex pieces of work and identifying them early on is important. Or as we would also say, it’s important to identify a Tiger in case it jumps out and bites you!

A simple way to spot a project is to consider all your regular work Look at all the stuff you do which is done day to day, week to week, month to month.

This can include meetings, completing documents, updating spreadsheets, writing blog posts, communicating with customers and lots of other stuff.

A project therefore is anything which is not one of these regular pieces of work. It’s a new piece of work. It might be a new way of doing an existing task. Whenever you see a task which is not part of your regular work, it could well be a Tiger.

Take a look over the past week to 30 days. Think about all the work you do and then see if you can identify new pieces of work. These are your projects.

Projects or Tigers can be small or very large, that take up a few hours or months of your time. It’s vital to identify new Tigers as they can have a massive impact on your success, that chances of achieving your goals and your stress levels.

Project management training includes how to identify a project early on. The last thing any of us want is to be bitten by a Tiger so spotting them early is vital.

 

How to identify a project

How to identify a projectHow to identify a project.

How do you know if a piece of work is a project or just a piece of work? There are number of ways to identify a piece of work as a project, or as we would say, how to spot a Tiger!

Usual v Unusual:

You know what your everyday work looks like. Regular tasks. Regular processes you complete. Regular meetings. Regular activities. Stuff you do in your everyday usual work life. You might not do them all the time. You might just do them once a year, but they are part of you everyday work life. A project can be identified as anything outside your usual. A piece of work which you are asked to get involved in, or which you identify which is not part of your everyday work. This is a useful definition as it implies you’re going to need to set aside time for it and probably prioritise time above some of your everyday stuff.

Complexity:

If a piece of work is complex then it can be helpful to call it a project, because then you are more likely to devote more time to planning it.

Number of people involved:

If there are 2 or more people involved, chances are the work will become a project. Again this can be useful so that you plan it effectively.

Potential for growth:

Take a look at the work and if you think it might grow then it can be useful to call it a project. That way you take it more seriously in terms of its impact on your everyday work.

Challenges:

The work looks like it could have challenges in it; difficulties which need overcoming.

Interdependencies:

This is where one person’s work is dependant on another person in order to progress. Again a useful definition as it implies planning.

You might notice that every time we say it’s a project the implication is that we plan it more thoroughly. It’s not always the case that we do plan projects properly, but this is one of the behaviours we’re encouraging. That is, see a project = STOP & plan it!

Why do projects fail?

Why do projects fail?So why do projects fail? By failing we mean anything from not being completed on time, or on budget, or not coming in at all!

Here are just some of the common causes that will help you protect your projects against failure:

  • Unrealistic timetable – one of the most common reasons why projects fail is because the timetable set at the start was unrealistic. This is a very easy trap to fall into.
  • Less than supportive senior managers – without your senior managers support projects can easily go wrong. This can be because they ask you to do other work meaning that you cannot focus on the project, or because they do support the project to other senior colleagues.
  • Blocking senior managers – other senior managers may actively block a project they do not agree with. They may do this by actively undermining the project or simply by not doing what they said they would.
  • Unhelpful colleagues – where they do not contribute when expected or are negative towards the project.
  • No sponsor – a sponsor is a person who can help you at a senior level to remove roadblocks and guide you. Without one the project can easily falter.
  • IT system failure – The IT systems in many organisations was built to handle what the organisation wanted to achieve sometime in the past. If your project project requires additional system capability it may not be able to handle this.
  • IT software issues – software is often written as a bespoke solution in many organisations, but will this work with your project’s software requirements?
  • IT unaware that your project needed their help or input – there is an IT implication in many if not most projects. It is very easy to forget the need to involve IT.
  • Budget shortfalls – the project turns out needing more money than planned form, but there is not the budget to support this.
  • Budget changes – the agreed budget has to change due to organisational or market changes.
  • Conflicting projects – other projects which have more strategic importance or more senior support gain are seen as more important. And with limited time or resource one of the projects has to be halted.
  • Takeover – your organisation is taken over and your project is no longer seen as important enough to continue.
  • New senior management – new senior manager wants to make their mark and changes which projects are going to be continued.

For more helpful tips and how to plan a project, download our FREE project management book here.

Online project planning tool

Online Project Management Planning ToolOnline project planning tool and how it works.

Each person on the training has their own login so that they can access the project planning tool. They can do this on computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

During the training you use the tool to plan your projects under guidance from the trainer. As interesting and relevant issues are raised the trainer gives instruction or facilitates discussion to share learning and ideas.

The session progresses and focuses on those areas of most relevance to you. For example, sometimes budgeting is a crucial part of the workshop, but in others it is not, because budgets do not form part of the project.

The tool gives you the opportunity to edit each part and go back to do further edits as required.

We use our project management framework of Purpose, People, Prices, Processes & Planning as a structure for the tool.

At each step you can discuss any part of your project with the training consultant and get advice and ideas on how to improve your project management.

A key principle is that better, more thorough planning results in better project management.

Project management training benefits

Project Management training benefitsProject management training benefits – find out what they are here.

1 You learn how to improve the planning phase of your project.

2 You work on your project during the training. Work while you learn is a key principle to ensure the training is practical and based in your reality, not just theory.

3 You work on the details of your project to uncover any hidden elements, or parts you hadn’t thought that much about, or hadn’t thought that vital. Feedback often tells us this depth of thinking is really useful and quite an eye opener.

4 One outcome is a detailed plan of your project for future use.

5 Using our on-line tool means you can go back to the work you did in the training and edit it.

Tips for planning projects

5 top tips how to plan a project

Tips for planning projects – tip number 1

Tips for planning projects – when you consider how to plan a project one of the first questions to ask is, can I do this project successfully whilst also doing my regular work? You will probably get a gut instinct reply to this question which may well be enough. But if not you will also need to do some planning. The main thing to consider is how much time is this project likely to take and have you got the capacity to deliver this without cutting into other work, or your personal time.

To work out the time involved in the project here are some things you could do;

  1. Have you done similar projects previously? If so how much time did this take?
  2. Do you think you will need 1 hour or 2 hours per day to look after the project, or would half a day per week do it?
  3. If you would like to do this project, or have to do it, is there any other part of your work that could be reduced.
  4. Break down the project into big steps and estimate how much time each step might take to deliver.
  5. Ask your line manager, or a more experienced colleague how much time they expect the project would require.
  6. Whatever you decide as your likely time needed for this project, double it and see if this would still be acceptable. Why? Because if the project does overrun, as many do, you are prepared for it.

When considering how to plan a project, the first question to ask, whenever the project first appears is, ‘Have you the capacity to do it?’ The project may look like fun and interesting but first you need to decide on your capacity. If you consider this properly you may be able to negotiate passing on some of your other work in order to give enough time to the project. Either way you have to take a long hard look at the reality before committing to working on the project.

You can get more tips on how to plan a project by downloading our free tip sheet or our free mini book.

 

Projects fail – here’s why

project management trainingProjects fail or falter and there is lots of research on why. Some of these are mentioned below. But perhaps more interesting for all of us is why certain types of projects falter or fail, or why projects in our own organisation falter or falter.

Falter here means takes longer or costs more than planned. Fail means doesn’t achieve any of it’s primary goals, or is pulled due to reasons within the project itself.

To find out the reasons within our organisation it is useful to carry out a little research of our own. This can be done in two ways. Firstly using a questionnaire tool like survey monkey. Secondly through conversations, either face to face, telephone etc.

This can be done within a department or across the organisation. But the obvious hurdle to doing this research is that it might cause offence. So to get it started and successfully completed you will more than likely need senior support or sponsorship. And guess what, that’s one of the reasons why projects fail as reported in a Harvard study!

It can therefore be better to go about your research in an informal way with casual conversations with colleagues. This can focus on your objective to learn from their experience and to inform your projects based on what they say.

The next area to look at is to plan your research carefully. Bearing in mind most people are very busy, therefore you will only have time for a few questions. The need to focus is key. What are the questions which will give you most value? Make your questions specific enough to give a steer on how they should answer, but open enough to give them freedom to give you their thoughts. So, a tricky balancing act. One approach is, “I’m trying to give my projects the best possible start, so I’m trying to learn from others. What have you learnt in running projects here? What have you found works or doesn’t work?” And guess what, lack of planning comes up in lots of research as to why projects fail.

Another key area is unrealistic expectations. These may be because of a lack of experience or simply a lack of planning. What is achievable is a difficult question. My tip here would be to get a project mentor. Someone who has experience of running projects in your organisation but who is not involved in yours. They can share their experience with you whenever you need it. This can be invaluable.

Next is to get your users involved. These are the people who are going to use your new whatever it is. These people can often be ignored or their needs and wants assumed. Big mistake. Get them involved or get some of them involved from the start. This is crucial to make sure you start on track and stay on track. They can give you a reality check at every step.

In a KPMG survey of 2013 regarding projects in New Zealand they found that one of the key contributory factors to project success was trained project managers. Well we would highlight this one wouldn’t we, but really it makes perfect sense.

In their study of 2011 Oracle found that one of the less reported reasons for failure is risk management. That is, considering what might stop or hinder the project as it progresses through each step. They say that involving the whole project team on this subject can be critical in mitigating some of the risks.

I hope you find this blog post interesting and useful. If you would like to explore how our project management training can help in avoiding these challenges, then of course I would be delighted to discuss.

 

Born Free and Tiger-Taming

BornFree logoWe at Tiger-Taming have selected a charity to make contributions to in 2015/2016. The chosen charity is Born Free. These guys are committed to helping Tigers and other animals survive and prosper in their own habitat. As they put it, by keeping animals in their natural environment. To give to Born Free click on this link.

 

Projects – How big or small can they be?

Tiger-Taming Project Management TrainingHow big or small can projects be? Sometimes the ones that seem smaller are the most dangerous…

You’re doing some work and then a little task pops up. Doesn’t look like much. But then when you start it soon begins to grow. Maybe you’ve just caught hold of a paw. You look up and see a great big scary project. What seems like a small piece of work can grow quickly and scarily.

Why Tigers and Project Management?

Tiger-Taming Project Management TrainingWhy did we choose Tigers as the creative analogy with project management? Let’s face it project management training is sometimes not the most exciting subject. Useful, yes. Practical, yes. But exciting, probably not. So to get a more fun and interesting and ultimately engaging activity we wanted to use a creative angle. Whilst working with a client I noticed that projects were creeping around the organisation, unseen and unknown by most. But then they would appear and cause havoc. So the creative association with Tigers was really quite straight forward. Plus Tigers are beautiful, elegant creatures. And good fun as an analogy.