HUMAN NETWORK: Improving Project Outcomes Through a Customized Quality Process

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In previous issues of The Know How Network, we’ve written at length about prioritizing your projects based on your goals. This is the first step to success — before you can do a project well, you have to make sure it is the right project for you at this time. A project is “right” when it moves you closer toward achieving your long-term goals, aligns well with your unique strengths, and is achievable given the resources and people you have available to you. Once you’ve identified the “right” project for you at this time, you need to follow a systematic process for carrying it out: this is our focus in this month’s The Know How Network.

In this column, we’ll show you how to develop a customized, quality process for doing your projects. Following a consistent process that is specifically adapted to your unique strengths as a project manager will bring you high-quality results time after time. First, we’ll help you recognize your own unique strengths and challenges for doing projects. Then, we’ll talk you through the essential elements of writing a project plan — a document you can use over and over again for any type of project.

1. Your Strengths for Doing Projects.
If you have any background in project management, you know that there’s an abundance of resources available for project planning: templates, Work Breakdown schedules, and countless software programs. While each of these is potentially useful, they all miss something we here at Cheetah Learning have found to be essential to project success: customization.

A customized process for doing projects begins with identifying your own unique strengths and challenges for doing projects. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses will help you create a project schedule that is realistic for you, more accurately estimate project costs and risks, and help you identify the right people to bring on board to help you.

Let’s say, for example, that you have an ENFP Myers-Briggs personality type – Extraverted, Intuiting, Feeling, and Perceiving. Some of your project management strengths are likely your resourcefulness, willingness to take risks, and ability to problem-solve creatively. Your challenges likely include attending to details, meeting deadlines, and establishing a realistic project scope. Each of these tendencies is crucial to keep in mind when you move on to your next step: creating a project plan.

2. Creating a Project Plan.
After decades of teaching project management to both new and experienced project managers, we at Cheetah Learning have honed in on what we believe to be the most effective project plan template.

The project plan is adaptable to any professional or personal project, and consists of 5 major parts:
1) Scope
2) Tasks
3) Risks
4) Constraints
5) Team Rules

As mentioned above, how you plan out each of these areas depends on your personality’s strengths and weaknesses for doing projects.

In the “Scope” section of our project plan, we ask you to spell out 3 major elements of your project:
1) the objective (your goal)
2) the boundaries (the start and end dates)
3) the rationale (why you’re doing this project and who benefits from it).

If you’re the ENFP project manager we described earlier, this section will be easy for you; you’ll have a clear sense of how this project fits into the bigger picture of your goals, and you’ll likely have high ambitions for the project’s impact.

Next, you’ll need to define the project tasks. An ENFP project manager may be tempted to rush through this section, jotting down several major components of the project without specifying any deadlines. This won’t do for a project plan. In this stage, you’ll need to break down your project into specific tasks, assign them to a team member, and — most importantly — set a deadline.

The next 2 stages — estimating risks and constraints — are the most likely to be affected by your personality type. Simply put, if you’re an optimistic kind of person, you’ll likely underestimate the project’s risks and constraints; while if you’re more cynical, you may overestimate these. Being honest with yourself about whether you tend toward optimism or pessimism is crucial to generating accurate estimates of project risks, resources needed, and possible roadblocks.

Lastly, we ask you to establish some team rules. Even (or maybe especially) if you see your project team as a tight-knit family, you will achieve more success with your projects if you spell out a set of team rules for each and every project you undertake. Granted, many of these rules will stay the same across projects — what matters is that you and your team revisit them each time you start on a new project, and make sure everyone is on the same page — before you hit trouble.

To learn more about identifying your personality type’s strengths and weaknesses for doing projects, as well as how to apply these to carry out your projects more effectively, check out Cheetah Learning’s highly acclaimed Cheetah Certified Project Manager Program. In this 60-hour online program, students learn to recognize their own and others’ personality traits and apply these to make smart decisions about learning new skills, doing projects, and negotiating. Read more at www.cheetahlearning.com.

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About Author

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®, is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses. Cheetah Learning was named Professional Development Provider of the Year at the 2008 Project Management Institute (PMI®) Global Congress. Michelle is recognized by PMI as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world. For more information, visit www.cheetahlearning.com.

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