Gone Scrummin': Three Ways to Improve Project Management
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
When projects stall or fail, there’s usually a root cause. Here’s how to address three of the most common pitfalls:
1) Employ a framework for the project.
One of the latest buzzwords resurfacing in project management circles is "agile," which generally involves using frameworks to accomplished milestone tasks in short bursts in small teams with dedicated roles. Scrum is a form of agile project management pioneered by Australian technology provider, Atlassian, with its collaboration software, Jira. The principles of “scrum” can be translated across PMO formats.
At its core, you have a lean team of individuals with defined roles on the project – not just the organization. In scrum, you have: (1) a Product Owner or champion for the job who is prioritizing the work and is empowered with decision making, (2) Scrum Masters are the technical experts and coach others on the team, removing roadblocks along the way, (3) Development teams then execute in the field. There is not normally a per se project manager. The team manages the project collaboratively. The scrums work through milestones, which are small goals within the greater whole. Work is measured in short iterative cycles involving sprint planning, sprint reviews, daily stand-ups and debriefings. The daily meetings last no longer than 15 minutes and gets the team on the same page. A new milestone cannot start until the prior is completed. The beauty of the scrum is the frequency of short bursts in meeting frequency and the dedicated roles which keeps focus on the short-term rigid goals.
Many organizations bring line of business representatives into projects without ascribing them dedicated roles which leaves room for persons to define their participation beyond the expectations of the PMO. This is closer to an agile Kanban project management model which is better suited to open objectives, perhaps where a concept is less developed. However, Kanban still requires use of a framework. The team still has greater accountability than any one individual.
Ultimately, if you have one individual driving the process with few individuals managing the workload, yet multiple individuals participating idly, then you're likely utilizing an inefficient framework.
2) Get the right people in the room at the right times.
Time is an asset. Imagine the unproductive labor cost if a large number of impactful members within your organization were held captive for no reason on a recurring basis? When projects move in short-focused milestones, you only need to incorporate the persons involved in reaching that immediate milestone. This limits the number of participants that need to be included on a recurring basis, and can streamline the conversation, limiting unnecessary tangents. Generally, one project team participant should be able to speak for a line of business; a line of business does not normally need multiple representatives at one meeting. Peers and colleagues should have a level of comfort that the line of business representative or PMO will broadly communicate any important information.
3) Established a system of accountability for failure to meet targets.
Teams rely on each other to accomplish objectives. Team members are there to deliver solutions or alternatives to keep pushing forward. The value of a team member who is constantly obstructing progress should be re-evaluated and/or replaced by someone who can contribute to progress. During debriefings and at the conclusion of projects, feedback should be shared in an open and honest context. Themes that evolve from these discussions, including unproductive members or all-stars, should be communicated to senior management for use in assessing talent within the organization for future projects. If persons were involved as team members, but did not meaningfully contribute, then you may be able to run with a leaner team next project or iteration. Ultimately, a system of reward and recognition from executive leadership upon conclusion of projects will reinforce an environment of accountability.
In sum, to improve the success of your projects: (1) utilize an issue tracking tool and project management framework involving milestones and frequent brief meetings, (2) involve solutions-oriented task owners at appropriate times, and (3) reward those who help achieve objectives in team settings.