Project Management Worst Practices Tip #2


ThumbsdownWorst Practices Tip #2:

Minimal communication between team members will usually suffice.


 The communication between team members on a project is a vital component throughout the entire development life cycle and can be the difference between a project’s success or failure. The importance of a project manager’s ability to communicate to team members cannot be overstated. Each team member’s role and responsibilities should be made clear and expectations should be agreed upon from the outset of the project. Ambiguity surrounding roles and responsibilities will likely cause unnecessary interpersonal friction, duplicated effort and delays in the project’s development, so it’s best if these issues are addressed at the start of a project.

A comprehensive Project Communication Plan is a useful tool in letting everyone in (especially stakeholders) on information about a project and its status. Project Communications Plans should address the issues of the recipients of information, the type information that should be conveyed, the delivery method and frequency, and who is responsible for delivering the information. Keep in mind that different phases of the project may necessitate additional types of communication (and some may no longer be relevant). Successful project managers make sure everyone involved in the project is 100% clear about important metrics such as project status, milestones and deliverables at regular intervals. Don’t fall into the all-to-common trap of thinking that the team is working too hard or is too busy to have a meeting to discuss these issues.

Tracking and monitoring a project’s progress is an important responsibility of the project manager during every phase of the project. What tools should be used to track and monitor a project (as well as how to communicate this information) can vary from project to project depending on factors such as the project’s scope, schedule and team size. Remember that the goal should always be to provide clear information to your audience, so don’t automatically settle for the method that you used on your last few projects just for the sake of convenience.

While email communication is a convenient method to communicate with team members, it may not always be the most effective means for delivering important product information. Formally scheduled meetings, video conferences, impromptu face-to-face meetings, Internet-based tools and intranet sites should also be considered when appropriate. Be sure to encourage an open environment where feedback and questions are encouraged (and timely answers are provided). A good rule of thumb is that the more transparent the reporting of project information is, the better for the team and the project itself. Too often the tendency is to hide bad news about a project’s status, which can result in reducing the number of possible ways the problem can be addressed. When communication breakdowns occur, frustration, resentment and finger-pointing are a common result and team morale is likely to suffer.

While project communication must be a collective effort of everyone on the team, the project manager is critically important to this process and should always try to lead by example. The more that information is frequently communicated clearly and without ambiguity, the higher the likelihood that the project will run more smoothly.


Project Management Worst Practices Tip #1

Project Management Worst Practices

Welcome to my Project Management Best Worst Practices blog!

Nobody kicks off a project with the intention of developing a product that is delivered considerably over budget and substantially late, but let’s face it — we all know that it can happen all too easily, especially with inexperienced project managers at the helm. In this blog, I’ll be posting tips about things I’ve learned in my 20+ years of product development (often the hard way) about what to look out for when managing a project, as they are usually major red flags of a product that won’t be delivered on time, within budget or within the original scope.

ThumbsdownWorst Practices Tip #1:
Starting the whole team working on a project that all stakeholders have a vague idea of what the end product will be.


If all stakeholders have just a high-level concept of the end product, it’s pretty likely that each of them will have a different vision in mind. And it’s highly likely that most of those visions will be different than the vision in the development team’s minds. Before one line of code is written or one final art asset is meticulously rendered, all stakeholders must have a clear understanding of the end product, so that everyone is on the same page.

If your team has worked with the stakeholders on a previous product (especially if that product shares many of the same features as the new one), conveying what the end product will be shouldn’t be a major challenge. This task is more difficult with new stakeholders, especially when the stakeholders are from other industries or disciplines. The more that you can use previsualization tools (like wireframes or rough storyboards), the easier it will be to get everyone on the same page. Keep in mind that it can be easier to get “buy in” with rough visuals than with something more refined, as it can be confusing for some stakeholders to know what to focus on with partially complete graphics and what should be ignored (to avoid questions like, “Is that really what that character is going to look like?”). Also, don’t waste the stakeholders’ time with too many of the “under the hood” details at this point, since simply uttering a phrase like “optimized lossless data compression algorithm” can easily make some of your audience’s eyes begin to glaze over. As much as possible, don’t stray from what the end-user’s experience will be, as stakeholders (rightly so) are generally hyper-focused on the customer perspective.

It’s highly likely that the stakeholders will have feedback when initially presented with the product concept, all of which should at least be considered. It’s also likely that some of the feedback received will impact the project’s budget, schedule or scope so those implications need to be clearly communicated and discussed. Even though this phase can sometimes be frustrating or take longer than expected, an important thing to keep in mind is that stakeholder feedback about a product’s definition is easiest to incorporate during this stage of development. That’s why it’s critically important that everyone is exactly on the same page and no stakeholders have merely a vague concept of the product before your team moves on to the production phase.