CompTIA IT Project+ Notes
Domain III: Project Execution (29%)
This domain covers the knowledge required to track projects and related issues, manage change control, and perform quality, team and resource management.
3.1 Identify tasks that should be accomplished on a weekly basis in the course of tracking an “up and running” project.
IDENTIFYING TASKS FOR TRACKING PROJECTS
While projects are active or “up and running”, there are many tasks to do to make sure projects are on track. It is important to decide which tasks to do and how to adapt them to different situations.
NEED TO KNOW:
Weekly tasks in tacking active projects include:
- Checking the project’s scope status to determine whether project elements are “in-scope” or “out-of-scope”. Since it is easy for scope creep to occur, it is important to verify that work being planned and accomplished is within the scope of the project.
- Checking the evolution and status of project deliverables. Stakeholders expect projects to deliver products and services, so it is important to ensure deliverables are on track.
- Check the project schedule. As projects progress, it is essential to check current versus planned schedule progress. If schedules need to change, the project team should work with key stakeholders to negotiate a workable solution.
- Analyze variances by comparing “estimated” to “actual” resource time expenditure, dollar expenditures, and elapsed duration activities. A variance is a deviation from plan. For example, if the plan was to take one week to complete a tasks and it ends up taking two weeks, there is a one-week variance.
- Handle scope changes, if needed. It is very important to address requests for change to the project and handle them wisely.
- List, track, and try to resolve open issues. Open and up-to-date communications are crucial. Many project teams find that issue tracking improves project communications.
- Report project status. To keep stakeholders apprised of how the project is going, project managers should prepare some type of weekly status report.
- Look for opportunities to “push” for close-out of activities and sign-off of deliverables. Project managers must continually strive for successful completion of projects. Activities and deliverables must be closed out in a timely manner.
- Decide whether it’s necessary to kill the project, then do so if appropriate. It is very difficult for people to admit failure, but there are several good reasons for terminating or killing projects. If a project is not meeting organizational needs, it is important for project managers and senior management to end or redirect the effort.
ON THE JOB:
Perform tasks that are necessary to track project progress. Continue to focus on organizational needs.
3.2 Given an approved project and a significant budget increase in one area of the project, clearly identify the reason for and size of the increase, identify options for absorbing part or all of the increase in the overall budget, and identify stakeholders that must be notified or give approval and develop a plan for advising them of the change.
HANDLING BUDGET INCREASES
Sometimes projects are approved with a minimum amount of funds. Organizations may then increase the budget for various reasons, such as to fund overtime or to purchase items that were more expensive than anticipated. Project managers must handle these budget increases in a professional manner.
NEED TO KNOW:
There are several reasons for project budgets to increase, such as the following:
- Estimates for labour may have been low.
- Personnel may be required to work overtime to meet deadlines.
- Estimates for materials may have been low.
- There might be an opportunity to increase quality by spending more on labour or materials.
- The customer might increase the scope of the project.
The project manager should clearly identify the reason for the budget increase and the size of the increase, and use the funds accordingly.
If additional funds are not assigned to specific tasks, the project team must work with key stakeholders to determine the best way to use the budget increase. The person providing the additional funds should have a large say in how the money is used.
The project manager should inform affected stakeholders about the budget increase. The rationale for the increase should be clearly communicated.
ON THE JOB:
Project teams should be happy to receive an increase in funds for a project. it is important to use the funds wisely.
3.3 Given a scenario in which a vendor requests a two week delay in delivering its product, explain how to negotiate a lesser delay by identifying things the vendor might do to improve its schedule, clearly identify the impact of the negotiated delivery on the project scope, and present this impact to the appropriate stakeholders.
Many information technology projects involve vendors or suppliers to provide goods and services required for the project. It is important to manage vendor relationships well, even when vendors cannot deliver as planned.
NEED TO KNOW:
Vendors provide goods and services for many information technology projects. Vendors plan their activities and schedules, but sometimes they have difficulty executing their plans.
Changes to delivery dates from vendors often impact other project tasks. If a vendor asks for a two-week delay in delivering a product, the project team must assess the affect of this delay. If the delivery is not on the critical path of the project and has two week’s slack, there should not be any impact. However, there is rarely that much slack provided for deliverables.
If vendor a requests an extension in providing deliverables, the project manager should first see if there is a possibility of negotiating a shorter delay. There might be things the vendor could do to improve the schedule, such as working overtime or assigning a higher priority to this project.
The project manager should also review the contract with the vendor to see if there are penalties for late delivery. Reminding vendors of late penalties could motivate them to deliver the product on time. The project manager could also consider providing a financial incentive for meeting or beating future delivery dates.
If it is determined that there will be a delay of deliverables, the project manager and team should clearly identify the effect on the project scope, time, and cost and inform all affected stakeholders as soon as possible.
ON THE JOB:
Develop good relationships with vendors and work with them to meet delivery dates. If vendor products are delayed, determine the impact on the project as quickly as possible and communicate necessary information to affected stakeholders.
3.4 Given a scenario in which there is a disagreement between a vendor and your project team, identify methods for resolving the problem.
RESOLVING PROBLEMS WITH VENDORS
It is important to develop and sustain good relationships with vendors. When problems arise, project teams should understand and use appropriate conflict resolution strategies.
NEED TO KNOW:
Many information technology projects involve acquiring goods and/or services from vendors. Try to prevent and watch for common problems, especially in the following areas:
- Vendors may not meet delivery dates. It is important to make delivery dates clear, check on the status of deliverables, and write contracts to motivate vendors to deliver on time.
- Vendors may not provide the level of quality expected. Contracts with vendors should specify the quality of deliverables. It is also important for the project team to work closely with vendors to ensure quality.
- Vendors may try to increase prices for goods and services. Vendors may bid low and then expect add-on work to make more money. Be careful to write contracts carefully and monitor vendor work. Also check references and past performance of vendors.
- Vendors may not be objective in making recommendations for products. Don’t expect a hardware vendor to recommend a competing company’s hardware. Be careful in selecting the proper vendors for goods and services.
- Should problems arise between vendors and your project team, use good conflict management.
- As mentioned in Objective 2.6, there are several conflict handling modes. Try to use the confrontation or problem-solving mode to resolve conflicts. Also remember that task-related conflict is often good for projects, especially when it helps the team brainstorm new ideas and find better ways to resolve problems.
ON THE JOB:
Realize that it is natural for people to have disagreements, especially when they work for different companies. Try to prevent common problems with vendors and manage them wisely when they do occur.
3.5 Identify issues to consider when trying to rebuild active project support from a wavering executive (e.g., the need to identify the source of doubts, interpersonal communications skills that might be employed, the need to act without creating negative impact, the need to identify and utilize various allies and influences, etc.). Given a scenario involving a wavering executive, choose an appropriate course of action.
REBUILDING ACTIVE SUPPORT FROM A WAVERING EXECUTIVE
An important factor related to success on information technology projects is executive support. If an executive is wavering on support of your project, identify the reason for the change in behaviour and try to rebuild support.
NEED TO KNOW:
Projects normally have executive support when they are initiated, but that support may subside as the project progresses.
Project managers and their teams often need executive support during crucial times of execution. Important decisions must be made that may impact many aspects of a company. It is important to maintain executive support for the project as it progresses.
In a situation where an important executive is wavering in support of the project:
- Identify the source of doubts: Find out why the executive is not as supportive. Ask the executive directly what is happening. If that approach does not work, talk to other people who might know what the problem is.
- Use interpersonal communication skills. Only 7% of communications are the actual words that people use. Project managers should know how to read body language and interpret voice tones so that they understand how people are really feeling during a discussion. Face-to-face communications are crucial so that the project manager can get to the heart of the problem when an executive is wavering on support.
- Acting without creating negative impact: Project managers must be sensitive to needs of the organization. What is in the best interest of one particular project may not be best for the entire organization. Executives may waver support on a project because there are more important issues to consider.
- Identify and use allies and influences. It is important to know who your allies are and how you can influence others to gain support for your project. The most productive ways to have influence are to have expertise related to the project and to use challenging work to motivate people.
ON THE JOB:
Try to maintain executive support throughout the life of the project. If an executive is wavering on support, find out why and address the situation accordingly.
3.6 Identify issues to consider when trying to get approval of a changed project plan that is still within expected budget, but has a schedule that extends outside of the original scope (e.g., the need to know and understand the proposed changes, the need to be able to justify and sell the changes, the need to alternative courses of action if the plan isn’t accepted, etc.). Given a scenario involving a new project with an extended schedule, choose an appropriate course of action.
ADDRESSING ISSUES RELATED TO EXTENDING A PROJECT SCHEDULE
Project managers must manage scope, time, and cost goals for projects. Meeting schedule goals is often the most challenging of these goals. It is important to communicate the need to extend a project completion date to all affected stakeholders.
NEED TO KNOW:
There are many reasons why a project schedule date might slip. If a project can still meet scope and cost goals, it should be easier to justify and handle a schedule increase. That is much more difficult when more than one project goal is not met.
Issues to consider when trying to get approval for extending a project schedule include the following:
- Impact on other project goals. If the schedule cannot be extended, can you still meet scope and/or cost goals?
- Impact on the rest of the organization. If the schedule is delayed, will there be negative effects on other aspects of the organization? For example, will late delivery cause the organization to be unable to compete for a new project or lose an important customer?
- Impact on the project team. If the schedule is delayed, how does it affect the schedules of the people working on the project?
- Impact on vendors. Do you need to change contracts or make special provision for vendors if the project schedule is delayed?
If a project schedule must be delayed, the project manager must be able to explain the proposed changes and justify them to all the stakeholders.
If the project sponsor or other stakeholders refuse to accept a schedule delay, the project team should have some alternative courses of action, such as decreasing the scope of the project or increasing funding to meet the planned completion date.
ON THE JOB:
If a project schedule must be delayed, have clear reasons for the delay. Also prepare alternative plans of action if the schedule cannot be delayed.
3.7 Define and explain the function of the following financial management variables: the cost performance index (CPI), schedule performance index (SPI), cost variance (CV), schedule variance (SV), percent spent, percent complete, and the to-complete performance index (TCPI). Explain how to track the financial performance of a project, given the financial management baseline for a project, using these variables.
TRACKING PROJECT PERFORMANCE USING EARNED VALUE MANAGEMENT
Earned value management is a project performance measurement technique that integrates scope, time, and cost data. After setting a baseline, you can enter actual performance information to see how the project is doing in meeting its goals.
NEED TO KNOW:
A baseline is the original project plan plus approved changes. You must have a baseline to use earned value analysis.
Earned value (EV), also called the budgeted cost of work performed (BCWP), is the percentage of work actually completed, multiplied by the planned value. EV=PV*percent complete.
The planned value (PV), also called the budgeted cost of work scheduled (BCWS), is that portion of the approved total cost estimate planned to be spent on an activity during a given time period.
The actual cost (AC), also called the actual cost of work performed (ACWP), is the total direct and indirect cost incurred in accomplished work on an activity during a given period of time.
Cost variance (CV) is the earned value minus the actual cost. CV=EV-AC.
Schedule variance (SV) is the earned value minus the planned value. SV=EV-PV.
The cost performance index (CPI) is the ration of earned value to actual cost. CPI=EV/AC. The schedule performance index (SPI) is the ratio of earned value to planned value. SPI=EV/PV.
The budget at completion (BAC) is the original total budget for the project. The Estimate at Completion (EAC) can be calculated by dividing the BAC by the CPI. EAC=BAC/CPI.
The to-complete performance index (TCPI) is used to determine what cost performance factor will be needed to complete all the remaining work according to a financial goal set by management. TCPI=BAC-EV.
A negative cost or schedule variance means the project is over budget or behind schedule. A positive variance means the project is under budget or ahead of schedule. An index greater than or equal to 100% means the project’s performance is equal to or better than planned, while an index less than 100% means performance is worse than planned.
ON THE JOB:
Use earned value management to track project scope, time and cost performance.
3.8 Given an approved project plan and a specific scope deviation (for example; design change, schedule or cost change, etc.), demonstrate your ability to identify causes, prepare a status report for the user identifying problems and corrective action, determine the impact of the deviation on the scope of the project, quantify the deviation in terms of time, cost, and resources, distinguish between variances which will affect the budget and duration and those that will not, Also, determine and quantify at least one possible alternative solution that has less impact but requires some scope compromise, distinguish between variances that should be elevated to the sponsor and those that should be handled by the project manager and team, and develop a plan to gain stakeholder approval.
PERFORMING CHANGE CONTROL
Many information technology projects involve changes. It is important for project managers to be able to handle changes appropriately.
NEED TO KNOW:
When changes occur on projects, project managers must do the following:
- Demonstrate their ability to identify cause
- Prepare a status report for the user identifying problems and corrective action. A written status report is an important way to document scope changes.
- Determine the impact of the deviation on the scope of the project and quantify the deviation in terms of time, cost, and resources. Changes in scope normally cause changes in time, cost, and resources.
- Distinguish between variances that will affect the budget and duration and those that will not. Some changes will not affect the budget and schedule.
- Determine and quantify alternative solutions that have less impact but require scope compromise. Asking users to distinguish between mandatory and optional scope changes will help create alternative solutions.
- Distinguish between variances that should be elevated to the sponsor. Some decisions should be elevated to the project sponsor, especially if they cause significant changes to the scope, budget, or schedule for the project.
- Develop a plan to gain stakeholder approval. It is important to involve stakeholders in the change control process and plan for earning their approval.
ON THE JOB:
Plan for and manage changes to project scope, time, and cost goals.
3.9Identify and justify the following as conditions for initiating a change control process: resource changes, schedule changes, cost changes, requirements changes or changes in expectations, infrastructure changes, and as a response to scope creep.
IDENTIFYING AND JUSTIFYING CONDITIONS FOR INITIATING A CHANGE CONTROL PROCESS
Information technology projects often involve changes. The change control process involves identifying, evaluating, and managing changes throughout the project life cycle. It is important for project managers to understand this process and determine if changes have occurred or should occur.
NEED TO KNOW:
The main objectives of the change control process are:
- Influencing the factors that create changes to ensure that changes are beneficial. Project managers and their teams must make trade-offs among key project dimensions such as scope, time, cost, and quality. If a proposed change can positively affect any of these dimensions, the changes should be encouraged. For example, there may be a cheaper hardware solution than what was planned. If proposed changes have a negative affect on any of these dimensions, those affects must be explained.
- Determining that a change has occurred. The project manager must know the status of key project areas at all times and communicate changes to major stakeholders. Project team members may quit; direct costs may increase; the organization may undergo infrastructure changes; or a vendor supplying equipment for the project may go out of business. It is important for the project manager to keep his/her eye on the big picture of the project and know when changes occur.
- Managing actual changes as they occur. It is important that project managers exercise discipline in managing the project to help minimize the number of changes that occur. When changes are needed, the project manager must justify and manage the changes.
The change control process may be initiated as a response to changes in resources, schedules, costs, requirement, expectations, infrastructure, or as a response to scope creep. It is important for project managers and their teams to be aware of all types of changes.
Many information technology projects suffer from scope creep, the tendency for scope to keep getting bigger and bigger. If scope creep occurs, the project manager must manage the growth through the change control process.
ON THE JOB:
Know when and how to initiate the change control process.
3.10 Given scenarios involving requests for changes from sponsors, team members or third parties, recognize and explain how to prevent scope creep.
RECOGNIZING AND PREVENTING SCOPE CREEP
The first step to preventing scope creep is recognizing it. It is important to verify the project scope and develop a process for controlling scope changes. On information technology projects, it is crucial to have good user input and to reduce incomplete and changing requirements in order to help prevent scope creep.
NEED TO KNOW:
Scope verification involves formal acceptance of the project scope by the stakeholders. An important step in identifying and preventing scope creep is having stakeholders verify the project scope. The project scope should be well documented in the planning phases of the project.
The project team should have clear descriptions of the project’s products and procedures for determining whether they were completed correctly and satisfactorily.
To verify scope and control scope change, it is important to have good user input and to reduce incomplete and changing requirements.
Suggestions for improving user input include developing a good project selection process, having users on the project team, holding regular meetings, delivering something to users and sponsors on a regular basis, and co-locating users with developers.
Suggestions for reducing incomplete and changing requirements include developing and following a requirements management process, using techniques such prototyping, use case modelling, and Joint Application Design (JAD) to help understand user requirements, putting all requirements in writing and keeping them current, creating a requirements management database, providing adequate testing to verify that projects perform as expected, using a process for reviewing requested requirements changes form a systems perspective, and emphasizing completion dates.
ON THE JOB:
Use several strategies to help prevent scope creep, such as verifying project scope, improving user input, and reducing incomplete and changing requirements.
3.11 Recognize and explain the importance of communicating significant proposed changes in project scope, and their impacts, to management, and getting management review and approval.
COMMUNICATING PROPOSED SCOPE CHANGES TO MANAGEMENT AND GETTING MANAGEMENT APPROVAL
Senior managers hate surprises. Project managers must communicate significant proposed changes to the project sponsor and other affected senior managers. It is important to emphasize the reason for changes and any impacts they may have on other areas.
NEED TO KNOW:
Several project stakeholders are in senior management positions:
- Functional managers. Most information technology project teams involve people from several departments. The functional managers in charge of those departments (marketing, sales, engineering, human resources, etc.) must be informed of major changes to a project. They might want to reallocate their resources on the basis of those changes.
- Senior managers. The project sponsor is often a senior manager, either within the company or from a customer organization. Senior managers in particular need to make sure that all projects are coordinated and continue to serve the best interests of the entire organization.
- Vendor managers. Many information technology projects involve purchasing goods and services from vendors. The managers at those companies want to know if any project changes affect their delivery schedules, costs, or workloads.
When communicating significant proposed changes to senior managers, it is important to emphasize the reason for the change and the impact of the change.
Project managers must get management review and approval of major project changes. Changes often require more money and/or time, and senior management can authorize the use of more funds and/or extend project deadlines.
Project managers should keep senior management informed of project progress periodically throughout the life of the project so proposed changes are not total surprises. Senior management should be involved in defining changes and have final approval of them.
ON THE JOB:
Always keep senior managers informed of project progress, and do not surprise them with sudden changes. Justify changes and explain the rationale behind them and how they will impact the rest of the project and the organization.
3.12 Identify and explain strategies for maintaining qualified deliverables, given a large project with many team members at multiple locations (e.g., communication standards, work standards, etc.).
The larger the project, the more difficult it is to manage. The same is true for the number of locations involved in the project. It is important for project managers to develop a strategy for ensuring that quality deliverables are provided on time and in budget to keep large and/or multiple-location projects running smoothly.
NEED TO KNOW:
Large projects present unique challenges to project managers. With more people and tasks involved, communications becomes even more important.
Projects involving multiple locations also present challenges to project managers.
There are several strategies for handling large and/or multiple location projects:
- Develop standards for communications. To avoid confusion and streamline communications, many large projects require all stakeholders to use specific standards for communicating information. For example, everyone may be required to enter project information into and track it on the same project management software system. The project may have templates for key project documents that everyone must follow. There may be a communication media grid suggesting when to use various media – written reports, face-to-face meetings, e-mail, web sites, videoconferencing, etc. – to communicate information.
- Develop work standards. Another strategy involves creating and following specific standards of work performance. For example, specific testing procedures might be required for all software development on a project.
- Focus on milestones. To keep large and/or multiple-location projects on track, it often helps to focus on achieving milestones, such as providing deliverables.
To ensure quality deliverables are provided on time and within budget, project managers must emphasize that deliverables are well defined and tracked. There should be interim milestones to ensure deliverables will meet expectations.
ON THE JOB:
Identify and implement appropriate strategies when working on large and/or multiple-location projects.
3.13 Recognize and explain the importance of quality testing in situations where tasks are being performed both by project team members and by third parties.
USING QUALITY TESTING WITH TEAM MEMBERS AND THIRD PARTIES
Many software related projects involve development and testing software by both the project team and third parties, such as vendors or consultants. It is important to define and follow quality testing procedures to make sure the software works properly.
NEED TO KNOW:
Many information technology projects involve testing software.
- Unit testing is done to test each individual component (often a program) to ensure it is as defect-free as possible.
- Integration testing occurs between unit and system testing to test functionally grouped components. It ensures subset(s) of the entire system work together.
- System testing tests the entire system as one entity.
- User acceptance testing is an independent test performed by end users prior to accepting the delivered system.
- Verification or alpha testing runs the system in a simulated environment using simulated data.
- Validation or beta testing runs the system in a live environment using real data.
- Audit testing certifies that the system is free of errors and is ready to be put into operation.
When both project team members and third parties perform software development and/or testing, it is even more important to follow a detailed, disciplined testing process to ensure software quality. Third parties can be vendors, consulting firms, individual consultants, or independent testing agencies.
Quality managers ensure that proper procedures are followed. Many organizations use software to assist in developing and testing software. Developers often have to check in new code after it has been tested locally, and test scripts are followed to make sure the code does not cause problems in other parts of the system.
For large software development projects, it is often helpful to have an outside organization assist in the testing process. Be sure the outside organization is well respected and familiar with the type of product you are managing.
ON THE JOB:
Don’t short-change testing. Plan and follow a disciplined testing process, especially when projects involve both third parties and the project team in development.
3.14 Identify and explain strategies for assuring quality during the turnover phase (e.g., user documentation, user training, helpdesk training, support structure, etc.).
IDENTIFYING AND EXPLAINING STRATEGIES FOR ASSURING QUALITY DURING THE TURNOVER PHASE
After information technology projects are complete, they usually become part of normal operations in an organization. It is crucial to plan for the turnover of the new products and services produced by the project.
NEED TO KNOW:
Many information technology projects result in the creation of new products or services. Since projects are finite by definition, it is important to plan for the transition of the required support of these products and services within the organization. This transition work is often part of the main project, or it can be another project in itself.
Some of the transition work involved in information technology projects includes the following:
- User documentation. New hardware, software, and networks need good user documentation, even though many information technology professionals may dislike writing it. Technical writers often provide assistance in creating and/or editing user documentation, as do users themselves.
- User training. It is crucial to provide good training for users. Training takes many forms, including instructor-led training, computer-based training, and one-on-one training. The project team should clarify training needs early in the project and ensure that training is effective in helping users learn new systems.
- Helpdesk training. No matter how user-friendly systems are, there is still a need for helpdesk support. Helpdesk staff must understand the new systems very well, enjoy working with people, and be able to trouble-shoot user problems. It is important to train helpdesk employees so they can quickly and effectively help users.
It is also important to plan and implement a support structure for the new systems created. There may be a need to create a new organizational unit and/or hire new staff to support the new systems.
ON THE JOB:
Be sure to plan for a smooth transition of new information systems into the organization. Users need documentation, training, and helpdesk support.
3.15 Identify strategies for providing constructive, timely performance feedback to a multi-geographical project team with diverse skills, doing it in such a way that it enhances each individual team member’s value to the project.
IDENTIFYING STRATEGIES FOR PROVIDING PERFORMANCE FEEDBACK TO DIVERSE PROJECT TEAMS
People make or break projects, and it is important to treat them well. People need feedback to know that their work is valued and that they are doing it up to expectations. It is important to understand each individual on a project, even when they are geographically dispersed, and to provide timely performance feedback.
NEED TO KNOW:
Projects are broken down into specific tasks that are done by specific people. It is crucial for project managers to provide constructive, timely performance feedback to every employee.
On very large projects, there are often sub-team managers or team leads reporting to the project manager. These managers often provide feedback to their team members, but the project manager should be as involved as possible in motivating every team member.
It is important to understand individuals’ needs when providing feedback. People have different skills, personalities, and motivational needs. Feedback should be constructive and focus on improving performance.
For project team members in different geographical locations, project managers often have to rely on written and verbal communications, rather than face-to-face communications. It is important to have clear goals for each team member in order to provide feedback on achieving those goals.
Team members often have very diverse skill levels. Less skilled employees may require more feedback than more experienced ones. Project managers should strive to help people develop their skills and be sensitive to individual needs.
Some organizations have set time periods for performance feedback, but most companies have a minimum of one review a year. Project managers should provide both annual performance feedback and ongoing feedback for effective management of the project.
ON THE JOB:
Everyone needs feedback. Focus on providing feedback that will enhance individual and team performance.
3.16 Given disgruntled employees who are affecting team morale, demonstrate an understanding of when to encourage, punish, or reassign people and how to address these issues/situations within the team to restore team morale.
HANDLING DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEES
It is always difficult to deal with disgruntled employees. Project managers must focus on meeting project objectives, and disgruntled employees often hurt team morale. There are several strategies for handling these difficult situations.
NEED TO KNOW:
Employees may be disgruntled or unhappy for many different reasons. It is usually fairly easy to identify a disgruntled employee, but finding the cause for his/her unhappiness can be very difficult.
Project managers should address the problem with other members of the team and strive to keep team morale high. The negative attitudes of one person should not pull down the whole team.
Project managers and/or team leads should talk to disgruntled employees in an effort to understand the reasons for their unhappiness. Sometimes people just need more encouragement to work harder and be more supportive of a project.
In some cases you cannot change the behaviour of a disgruntled employee. If positive reinforcement or motivational efforts do not work, the project manager may need to punish or reassign the employee. Punishments can take many forms, such as pay cuts, undesirable assignments, or relocation. Sometimes the employee must be reassigned away from the project or even fired from the organization.
Project managers must work with functional managers and human resource managers to understand the organizational policies related to problem employees. There may be special social services, training, or counselling available to help the employee. Project managers also need to understand processes for reassigning or firing employees that will not result in potential litigation.
ON THE JOB:
It is difficult to work with disgruntled employees. Project managers must take actions to avoid hurting team morale and performance.
3.17 Given a management scenario in which there are individual performance problems, demonstrate how to recognize and understand issues, conditions, and underlying problems, and identify corrective actions that will help the employee return to productivity, including situations such as that of a top performer who has started to slack off or on a individual who reports to the manager substandard performance on the part of another person.
HANDLING INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE PROBLEMS
An important part of being a project manager is motivating employees and dealing with performance problems. Project managers must recognize and understand the issues, conditions, and underlying problems related to performance problems, and take corrective actions.
NEED TO KNOW:
Every project manager dreams of a team that never has performance problems, but an important part of any management position is dealing with performance problems.
Project managers must be able to do the following:
- Recognize and understand the issues, conditions, and underlying problems causing the performance problems. The project manager must be aware of unique factors that can affect performance on each particular project. Is the team being forced to use outdated technology? Is the company’s pay structure affecting performance? Is a particular individual having family or health problems?
- Take corrective actions. The project manager should work with the team or affected individual to help improve performance. There are often several options to help improve performance, such as clarifying performance goals, providing necessary training or support, and providing motivation.
A couple of common performance problems include:
- A top performer who has started to slack off. Most top performers are highly skilled and motivated individuals. When they slack off, there is usually a good reason for it. Perhaps that person needs a vacation or time off. Perhaps the person is becoming bored and needs more challenging work.
- Substandard performance of some team members. It is difficult to handle low performers, especially if another individual reports the substandard performance. This situation normally shows that the low performer is affecting other team members. The project manager should meet individually with low performers to try to help them, but in some cases they must be reassigned.
ON THE JOB:
Recognize and manage performance problems, keeping the best interests of the project in mind.
3.18 Given need to make up a severe schedule slippage, demonstrate understanding of how to lead the project team through an extended overtime period, including how to motivate and reward, how to show sensitivity to individuals, and how to lead rather than push.
LEADING A PROJECT TEAM THROUGH AN EXTENDED OVERTIME PERIOD
Sometimes overtime cannot be avoided. Project managers may be required to lead their teams through an extended period of overtime to meet important project deadlines. It is important to provide strong motivation while being sensitive to individual needs in such situations.
NEED TO KNOW:
Even if a project is well planned and executed, there are some situations where the team must work overtime for a period of time to provide quality products on time. Project managers should work with their teams to determine when overtime is needed and to plan ahead as much as possible. The team should state specific goals for the extended overtime period and track progress toward meeting those goals.
It is important to be consistent and fair in determining overtime procedures, if possible. The particular project and organizational context often determine the best way to handle overtime. For example, it may work well to require all full-time project team members to work the same amount of overtime hours. If some employees are not paid overtime and others are, however, this policy may not work. If some employees are not needed during the overtime period, it does not make sense to have them work extra hours.
It is also crucial to understand and manage individual needs during extended periods of overtime. Employees with young children, aging parents, medical problems, or other personal situations may not be able to work as much overtime as others. Employees working on degrees, practicing certain religious beliefs, or involved in important activities outside of work may also require special consideration.
Project managers should discuss alternatives for getting the required work done. Perhaps some people could put in extra hours at home rather than spending more hours in the office. Some people might prefer to work the extra hours on a Saturday versus during the week. Providing flexibility often helps meet individual and work needs.
Providing challenging work and recognition are strong motivators. Project managers should stress the importance of the work and challenge people to get it done. They should also lead by example and put forth their own best efforts during the crucial overtime period. When the job is completed, project personnel should be publicly recognized for their hard work.
Financial incentives can also motivate people to work, especially to work overtime. If you cannot pay for overtime, consider providing comp time, meaning people can take those overtime hours off in the future.
ON THE JOB:
Strong leadership is especially important during periods of extended overtime. Manage overtime well, be sensitive to individual needs, and lead by example.
3.19 Given team performance problems and the causes, demonstrate the ability to develop a plan to address/correct the cause of the problem, including situations where the team is not focused and is pulling in different directions or where the team is fragmented into special interests or social groups and not united.
DEMONSTRATE THE ABILITY TO LEAD A TEAM THAT IS UNFOCUSED OR FRAGMENTED
There are many reasons why teams may be having performance problems. Two particular problems project managers need to address are an unfocused team and a fragmented team.
NEED TO KNOW:
When a project team has performance problems, project managers must develop a plan to address the cause of the problem. Communications skills are crucial. The project manager should talk to affected individuals and the whole team as needed.
Two common causes of performance problems include:
- The team is not focused or is pulling in different directions. It is crucial for all project team members to work toward common goals. If the team is not focused on common goals, project success is unlikely. The project manager must pull the team together and emphasize the goals of the project. If people disagree on the goals or how to achieve them, the project manager should call a special meeting with the sponsor and key stakeholders to clarify project goals.
- The team is fragmented into special interests or social groups. Unfortunately, project team members sometimes act like junior-high students instead of working adults. They may form cliques and focus on keeping their political or social groups intact instead of doing what is best for the project. In this situation, the project manager should again emphasize that everyone must focus on meeting project goals versus individual or subgroup goals. In severe cases, the project manager may need to reassign individuals to break up unproductive teams.
Project managers must be aware of political and social aspects of their own project teams. Spending time in team-building activities early in a project can help to form team cohesiveness. More team-building activities can also be used if team-related problems surface.
Project managers should remember that they can get assistance, if needed, from other people in the organization. The human resources department can provide facilitators to help dysfunctional teams, and functional or senior managers can also help resolve problems with specific individuals.
ON THE JOB:
Projects run much more smoothly when the project team is focused and united in meeting project goals. If there are problems, project managers must address them and seek assistance, if needed.
3.20 Recognize the need to provide leadership that is sensitive to the knowledge, skills, and abilities of team members, and to the corporate culture, while at the same time motivating the team to accomplish the goals defined in the project scope. Recognize and explain the need for a project manager to perform in a manner consistent with a leadership position, adapt leadership style to a specific situation or person, influence or motivate others so that the requirements from a given situation are accomplished, build positive relationships to be accepted as a leader, and provide personal leadership as well as positional leadership.
PROVIDING LEADERSHIP IN A VARIETY OF SITUATIONS
The most important trait of good project managers is their ability to lead others. Project managers must be able to adapt to a variety of situations and build relationships.
NEED TO KNOW:
Project managers must possess leadership skills to be effective. They must provide the vision and inspiration for others to work toward project goals.
Leadership can be personal, meaning people want to follow you because they respect you. Leadership can also be positional, meaning people will follow you because you are in a position of authority.
Project managers must be sensitive to several items in order to be effective leaders:
- Knowledge, skills, and abilities of team members. Some people have a difficult time working with and following leaders. Some team members may need mentoring and personal contact to help them be good followers. It’s important for effective project managers to care sincerely about the members of their project team and address their individual knowledge, skills, and abilities.
- The corporate culture. Some companies or organizations have a very distinctive corporate culture that expects leaders to act in a certain way. Project managers must understand this culture and perhaps adjust their personal leadership styles to fit into it. Sometimes very strong leaders can use their own unique styles, as long ad they produce positive results and do not hurt the existing culture.
Project managers must recognize their role as leaders of their project teams and adapt their style to specific situations or people. Project managers must also be able to influence and motivate others who may not fall under their authority.
An important skill for leaders is the ability to build positive relationships. Project managers must make the time to nurture relationships with key project stakeholders.
ON THE JOB:
Remember that project managers must lead their teams toward meeting project goals. Building relationships is an important part of being an effective leader and project manager.
3.21 Given an initial high level scope, budget, and resource allocation, demonstrate understanding of the need to investigate which aspects of the project could be modified to improve outcomes (i.e., find out what is negotiable, prepare to negotiate). Provide evidence of the following competencies: recognition that individual project team members’ needs must be addressed to the extend that project activities can be modified without significant impact to final scope, budget, quality or schedule; the ability to evaluate alternatives to a scope change request that stakeholders may find acceptable; the ability to recognize which aspects (schedule, budget, quality) of the project are most important to the stakeholders and be able to propose trade-offs during the project that can be made to meet or exceed those aspects; and the ability to identify all the individuals and groups with which you will need to negotiate during the life of the project.
NEGOTIATING TO IMPROVE PROJECT OUTCOMES
It is important to make sure project outcomes are realistic and achievable. Project managers need to manage and negotiate resources throughout the life of a project.
NEED TO KNOW:
Various aspects if information projects change during the course of the project. It is important for project managers to sense what can be negotiated and what cannot, in order to produce a positive outcome.
Project team members are crucial resources. Project managers must work with individual team members to meet their individual needs and the needs of the project. For example, there may be situations where the project manager needs to ask an individual to reschedule a vacation or work on something he or she doesn’t like to do in order to meet project goals. In turn, the project manager might provide an extra day of vacation or authorize a special training course for the individual.
Stakeholders often want to change the scope of a project. Project managers must work with their teams to negotiate scope changes that are in the best interests of the organization. They must identify and propose trade-offs between changes in scope and effects on quality, time and cost goals.
Project managers must be aware of all the people involved in or affected by their projects and know when negotiations are needed.
ON THE JOB:
Understand that negotiating is an important part of a project manager’s job.