Project management fundamentals are helpful to decision processes. They are equally helpful for projects and in developing business strategies. Priorities and expectations must be aligned intentionally.
Starting a project includes a verbalization and agreement on the priorities and the tradeoffs. Project management gives us a tool which clearly states the highest priority and what will have to be sacrificed to fulfill the goal. There are three components; one will be the highest priority (least flexible), and the other two will be, by definition, more elastic.
We can define the terms and look at simple example to understand these three aspects. We also want to be clear that a project has a beginning and an end, otherwise it is not a project. Scope is the components of a project and can be identified as quality, features, or scale. Schedule is time allocated or can be thought of as the “deadline”. Resources are the funds, person hours, and other material goods committed to the project.
Some simple examples of the tradeoffs: I have a pastor friend planning the Easter service – clearly Schedule is the least flexible; the Scope and Resources have to be flexible. President Kennedy started the moon project by clearly stating the Scope was to land a man on the moon AND return him safely; Resources were not going to be the constraint; he also mentioned Schedule (by the end of the decade) as moderately flexible. Finally, my son wants another game for his X-Box: he has $15 (Resource is limited); he will have to sacrifice Scope (used vs. new) or Schedule (wait until the game he wants is in his price range).
The graphic attached to this post shows the 3×3 matrix you can use to indicate which of the three competing goals is Least Flexible, Moderately Flexible, or Most Flexible; only one can be selected for each priority. This is true for projects or for your business, you must decide if you will be the low cost provider, provide the fastest service, or offer premium quality – you cannot be all three.
Scope – Schedule – Resources: be deliberate in your choice. If you voice expectations at the beginning of the project, you can be satisfied when the project concludes.
It is important in any project to articulate roles. Lean project management provides a simple tool to determine how team members will contribute to aspects of any project. The RACI tool provides interaction guidance.
The RACI acronym stands for: R-esponsible; A-ccountable; C-onsulted; and, I-nformed.
The Responsible members are those performing a task; there can be multiple members involved.
The Accountable member (and there should only be one Accountable person) is the one person who can explain why a task has been completed, or not.
Those that are Consulted provide input but do not perform the task. We seek their opinion and do what is best for the overall project.
The other members of the project will be Informed about tasks and projects. They do not provide advice or perform the tasks. We simply keep them posted on progress.
In some formal projects there are RACI Tables identifying the stakeholders by their RACI role. These designations and tables are helpful for all team members. In every organization we need to trust each other; trust that I will fulfill my obligations and each team member will do the same. Missing trust will become evident when members are getting involved in aspects which are not in their purview; this often leads to that member’s duties being neglected.
In every project, keeping track of tasks (what, who, and by when) is important. In leading teams, we need to build trust between members. Tools like RACI help promote an environment of trust.
Resource link: http://racichart.org/the-raci-model/
Valley of Despair
Not everyone seeks out and embraces change. Our desired end-state is an overall increase in our Knowledge+Enthusiasm. Over time our Knowledge increases however our Enthusiasm can wane.
When we choose to engage in new projects, we set off a Chain Reaction of Change. There are a series of steps that occur; be prepared for steps 3 and 4.
- Here I am at the beginning. Very knowledgeable about my current world, but it is a bit dry; I am ready for something new.
- A new project begins (or a new job, city, ect.). Enthusiasm soars!
- Then something happens and I do not know the answer. My Knowledge about the new world is a bit light, so Enthusiasm drops.
- I start to wonder why I started this new adventure – I was so comfortable. Here I am in the Valley of Despair. (This stinks.)
- Then comes the first big win. I know the answer! My confidence is back and my Enthusiasm grows.
- A new high of Knowledge+Enthusiasm.
Sure glad I chose to start this project!
The Valley of Despair is out there…I hope to enter into it because I choose to not remain static. I also plan on reaching new levels of Knowledge+Enthusiasm.
What are you trying to attract? Whether a target customer or high performing employee, consider the Habitat. Any particular Habitat will attract certain inhabitants and be repulsive to others. Be intentional about the environment you build or be prepared to change the Habitat.
From College to University
I was talking with a leader at higher education institution in the process of making the change from college to university. The process is complicated and takes significant resources - time, money and focus. The trustees decided the benefits of making the change warrants the investment.
The accreditation organizations for universities have defined requirements to earn the designation of “university”. Colleges need to have a diversity of programs leading to undergraduate and post baccalaureate degrees. Other requirements include support for research and faculty with expertise recognized beyond the institution.
Habitat and Inhabitants
The university could hire faculty known for leading research in their respective fields or create an environment that attracts the desired faculty. The anticipation with the first method assumes the faculty will thrive in the new Habitat. Simply hiring new faculty and not changing the environment will result in unhappy employees.
Habitat, over the long term, will determine the inhabitants.
We can look at two different recreational environments and the inhabitants they attract. The first is a playground. If we start in the local park and install swing sets, slides, and teeter-totters, we can expect to find a certain type of inhabitant: human mothers with their young children. Should we decide to build a concrete skate park in the same location, the attracted inhabitants would be quite different. The skate park would find the dominant inhabitant to be human males ranging in age from 12-25.
One location with similar usages but different environments will result in the attraction or repulsion of different facility users.
Culture is Organization’s Habitat
The most challenging item to change in your organization is culture. The culture may be attracting the desired customers and employees; or not. Should you desire to change culture you will need patience and persistence. The process will take time – it could be years; and, the process of change will need constant attention. There will be pain as the Habitat is changed. The current inhabitants will either: 1. Find the new environment a welcome change; 2. Discover they liked the former Habitat and do not care for the change; or 3. Adapt to the change.
The university mentioned earlier will need to change the culture to be the Habitat which attracts the desired faculty and students. The existing personnel and students will adapt, change or leave; Painful, but necessary.
Create a Habitat that Attracts
There are actions which can be taken following the three step Educate-Evaluate-Remediate model. Take time to understand the current environment and determine if it is the Habitat which is best for the organization. Make plans which support the aspects you want to maintain or a path to drive the necessary changes.
Recognize the Habitat will attract or repel specific inhabitants; make the changes you need and enjoy the benefits.
Managing Your Business
You have a great market, thoughtfully created products and services. You are as busy as ever.
Is your business doing any good?
Business guidance can be challenging to any organization. You track the P&L each month, the numbers look good and it appears the business is operating to plan. Financial reports do not tell the entire story; there are aspects of guiding your business that go beyond those found in a spreadsheet. There are tools available to define and measure the effectiveness of your organization to grow your business.
One tool to provide structured guidance for several key aspects of your business is the Balanced Scorecard. This tool uses the concept of ”Metric-Target-Initiative” to each section of the Balanced Scorecard to track your business plan and progress. The four parts of the Balanced Scorecard are: 1. Customer; 2. Employee; 3. Operations; and, 4. Finance.
The goal with any measurement is to drive action and activity. Examining the Balanced Scorecard on a monthly basis keeps you focused on the important items and make appropriate course corrections. I encourage sharing the results with your staff and employees; it is the reward for the efforts put forward. The Balanced Scorecard also provides a concise, equitable tool have discussions which may be difficult – a discussion you may need to have with yourself.
Metric – the measure you use for items within each of the four sections. Keep the Metric simple to obtain; having a simple process will encourage the required discipline to maintain the Balanced Scorecard. The Metrics could be raw numbers, growth rates, ratios, or comparisons to industry standards.
Target – is the desired goal for each Metric to meet your objectives and plan. The Target could be a range or specified number. You could be looking to grow sales or manage expenses - every item in the Balanced Scorecard will have a Target. Each month compare the Metric with the Target.
Initiative – projects or programs in place which drive the business. The results of Initiatives are measured within a single segment of the Balanced Scorecard, but generally impact the whole organization. A sales training program may be measured under the Employee section and will also impact the Financial reports.
We know there is no business without the Customer, so here is where we start. In the early stages of the business or when a significant redifinition of the company is occuring this section may be defining the target market and how they can be reached. Measures for customer satisfaction, speed of service, cross-selling ratios, or other measures can be included for the monthly review.
I am intentional about placing the Employee section in the second position, just after Customer. Business reports often lead with the Financial results; comments about Employees appear as an after-thought. In this section, review training programs, staffing plans, or performance review statistics.
“The immediate pushes out the important.” The tasks of running a business can overwhelm the long-term view; setting aside time each month to review the Operations ensure actions and activities are driving the business toward the objectives. In this section review efficiency, process controls, quality, and other indicators of process.
The bottom line is still the bottom line. This is true of not-for-profit organizations as well. The key to understanding the profit and loss is defining which components require additional examination. Units sold and to which demographic, or which channels favor certain products are areas to include when measuring the Financial results.
There are no short-cuts, success takes work. I am a big believer in Incremental Improvement – the first pass at creating the Balanced Scorecard may not be elegant, but it is a start. Begin with at least one simple to measure item for each of the four Balanced Scorecard sections. Track the results each month, and the results will guide the definition of the future Metric-Target-Initiative.
Interested in developing a Balanced Scorecard for your business? There are many resources available. The Balanced Scorecard Institute can help: www.balancedscorecard.org. You can contact me if you are interested in personalized assistance.
I have been impressed by the time vision of Maurice de Sully. The Bishop of Paris saw the need for a replacement cathedral to house the growing population of his city. In 1160 the original cathedral on the site was demolished, and three years later the cornerstone was placed. Twenty-five years after the start of the building program, the sanctuary of Notre Dame was dedicated (but not completed).
And the building continued:
In 1196 de Sully died, but the work continued . The work on façades started in 1200 and were completed in 1225; the West Tower and Rose Window are completed 25 years later; and by 1345 the cathedral is complete. It was six generations after de Sully launched his vision before the iconic building was completed; and now, 852 years later, Notre Dame is still relevant.
Where does our vision end?
I ask myself if I am willing to take on a project that may not benefit me, my children, or even my grandchildren. Every person has a personal time horizon which impacts decision making. This time horizon is reflected in how much we are willing to give up today for a potential future benefit.
Leaders reach out and grab hold of the future and make it real today, communicating it to us in such a way to allow us to know our actions today can bring the about the envisioned future. The understanding that we can have an impact on the future motivates us to action, even though we may not personally be a part of that future.
I am preparing for the 22nd Century (88 years from now). There are many notable items that started eighty-eight years ago in 1924: IBM was founded; the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was presented; the first Winter Olympics were held; and, Edwin Hubble announced the presence of other galaxies. An individual had a vision of the future, communicated that vision to others, and 88 years later the result of their choice and action still has an impact.
My choices may not result in a work of art or an impressive event or organization; however, I do impact the lives of people every day. Co-workers, peer, friends, and family – I make a difference. I choose to make a positive impact, to leave a lasting legacy.
Integrity, loyalty, friendship, kindness, honesty, and love: although difficult, I want these to be my measure. I am fortunate to have leadership positions with several organizations, and I approach my work with these groups to emphasize long-term organizational development and structure. And more importantly, building of persons and impacting their lives.
My projects may not take 185 years to complete; however I want to inspire others to continue beyond my involvement. The grandchildren of my children will be the Leaders of the next century; I choose to be intentional on my impact to define who they will become and how they will Lead.