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Readiness: The #1 Predictor of Project Success

By Eileen Strider, Marie Benesh and Wayne Strider

The Vice President was worried. The project to replace their administrative systems was gaining support and speed, but was the organization really ready to start? Could they succeed or would they be added to the litany of organizations with failed software projects? They hadn’t undertaken a major project in years.  They had bad memories from recent past projects involving software packages.  This project was going to change the way the whole organization worked, certainly staff’s job duties and maybe even the organization structure. They were going to have to work together cross-functionally to gain any benefits. There were some seriously broken relationships that were going to be critical to the success of the project. He wasn’t sure how to get straight answers to address his concerns.  What he needed was a PCC Project Readiness Assessment.

In this blog, we are going to shamelessly promote our PCC Project Readiness Assessment.

A Project Readiness Assessment asks the question, “How ready are you and your organization to take on and complete this project?”  In order to answer that, you have to determine what “ready” means.

We look at five key areas that organizations need to address in order to effectively start and complete a project. They are generally areas of risk that can cause havoc as a project progresses.

The areas included in the assessment are:

Executive Sponsorship and Decision Making

We look at how your organization plans to manage project scope, user and stakeholder expectations, and whether you have clearly defined and communicated the project’s goals and objectives. Leadership support and sponsorship are the next areas that we evaluate – how clearly are the leadership roles defined, do the sponsors have a clear set of expectations for their own role and how that impacts the success of the project. In addition, we look for design principles for decision-making, or how decisions will be made. Is this decision-making  policy clearly written and communicated to all stakeholders?

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The Project Observer – What Do You See?

by Marie Benesh

In our most recent podcast, How To Know Your Project is in Trouble, we mentioned the role of observer. This is a person who is charged with looking at the project from a different perspective – from an observer point of view.

This doesn’t have to be a full-time role, and usually isn’t. It can be you, the project manager, who decides to sit back and observe the project and team without interjecting. Or it can be a shared role, something that everyone on the team takes on at one time or another.

But what are you looking for? What behaviors or indicators will give you more information than the words that people are speaking? Or what are the words you can listen for that might tell you something is amiss or that there is meaning and information under the words that are being spoken?

There are some obvious signals that most of you will be aware of:

  • Body language cues: in a meeting, a person sits with their arms crossed, doesn’t speak up during the meeting, and may look angry, disgusted, or “closed” to ideas and discussions going on in the meeting
  • Angry words or behavior from a team member; slamming doors or drawers, walking out of a meeting, raising his/her voice during a discussion
  • Isolation – this is when someone (or a sub-team) works in silence, does what they want to do and generally ignores anything else going on around them. This one can be a little tricky, as there are people who are just really good at staying out of the fray and are focused workers. Learn the difference.
  • Words that might indicate “more going on underneath” are: concerned, am not comfortable with, “whatever,” words of acceptance but with a different body language… Okay, (but with a sigh at the end).

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A Simple Framework for Decision-Making in Projects

by Marie Benesh

Decision-making is a critical process for projects. Getting people to make well-informed, but speedy decisions can keep a project timeline on track. Too many times, project delays can be attributed to waiting for a decision from someone – often an oversight committee or a team of representatives from various departments.

In many cases, the issue isn’t really that the decision is so hard, it is that the people making the decision don’t have enough information, or don’t have it all in one place in a format that makes it easier for them to weigh those options and decide. Developing a simple framework that everyone uses for every significant decision can help a project avoid delay due to indecision.

The first step is to articulate the conditions when the framework needs to be used. All decisions don’t need this formal process. Ask the question “Will the decision…

  • Cause a delay?
  • Change the direction of the project? (e.g. from fully integrated solution to integrated solution and one best-in-class module)
  • Impair the solution?
  • Hinder quality?
  • Alter the model? (e.g. Customize where you had intended not to)
  • Increase the cost?

If the answer to any of these is Yes, then you need to use the decision-making framework.

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