7 Quick Tips for Leading Dynamic Project Teams



Perhaps you have heard the phrase “It’s a double edged sword”? It refers to something that has the power to bring on both negative implications and positive benefits simultaneously. This is particularly true for project managers who are working with stakeholders, team members and other resources.


Cross collaboration can be powerful and positive when well-managed, but it can also be destructive if is not nurtured. Skilled project managers effectively harness the collective power of their extended team to maximize productivity. Here are 7 techniques that may help you do this:

  1. The KISS Principle “Keep it Simple Stupid.” This philosophy suggests most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated. Consider that that others may not need, may not want or may not understand the level of detail that you may possess. It is a best practice to minimize complexity and simplify communication whenever possible.
  2. Define specific metrics. Having a measuring stick is essential for monitoring progress. Defining and getting consensus around a set of metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) is critical. These KPI's can be presented on a dashboard slide to track the overall success the project. When creating your KPI’s be specific and make sure to consider the needs of all stakeholders.
  3. Creating clear roles and responsibilities. Clearly defining the roles for each team member will help build structure needed for success. When managing tasks that may involve multiple contributors having a single point of responsibility is important. Only one person should be assigned accountability for each managing delivery of each task/role. Cleary establish this accountability with that person and set expectations early.
  4. Create a high-level timeline for reference. Publishing a summary timeline and keeping it highly visible to all project participants at all times will help maintain focus on the key milestones and important deliverables. Consistent visibility is a simple management technique – the more team members and stakeholders set it the more attention they will give it.
  5. Know your team and leverage their strengths. Harnessing the collective intelligence and experience of a team can create strong momentum. The true power of team projects is the unique ideas, insight, and experiences each person brings. Leveraging this power requires you inventorying the skill sets available to you. This means taking time to know each person’s strengths, then working to align those strength with the project’s needs.
  6. Consistently seek feedback. It is a good practice to ask team members and stakeholders for critical feedback. This creates an environment of trust and provides useful insights that may not have otherwise surfaced. It does not need to be done formally or as part of a process but be done simply with open ended questions and focused listing.
  7. Assess and adjust. Even the best project managers cannot predict all of the changes and unplanned surprises that will come up. Although unpredictable, changes should be anticipated and a process for making adjustments should be built in advance and ready to be used if necessary. Everyone on the team should be aware of this process, so adjustment can be made with agility.

Using some or all of these techniques will lead to more powerful project collaboration and they will help you avoid the dysfunction of poorly lead project teams.


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How to Communicate with Your Stakeholders



Managing communications with stakeholders is a critical task that project managers need to create and manage to a specific communion plan. Creating a consistent plan enables the flow of clear and relevant information to stakeholders. A predictable communication process allows PMs to manage expectations better and helps keep stakeholders engaged and supportive.

Here are 3 quick tips for effectively communicating with project stakeholders.


1.   Crafting Your Plan Early: Spend the time up-front to define your plan and processes for communicating up and out. Setting up a consistent cadence for stakeholder communication, creates a foundation of predictably for you and for them.

2.   Knowledge of Audience: Work to understand your stakeholders and what success looks like for all parties. Try to understand their interests in the project and how its performance affects them. Be aware of the key performance indicators (KPI), they use to determine success and risks along the way.

3.   Collaboration and Engagement: Your plan should include bi-lateral communication where you seek and receive stakeholder feedback openly and objectively. This will involve and keep them engaged throughout the project. A good time to do this may be around key project milestones.


Stakeholders want to be informed. Project Managers need to be strategic in building a project communication rhythm with relevant messaging that is tied to their interests. They also need to be proactive in soliciting feedback on progress and whether it is meeting stakeholder expectations. Doing these things not only keeps stakeholders engaged but it also keeps PMs ahead of potential issues that arise and can help them mitigate any disruption from non-supportive stakeholders.


Crafting a clear plan is not difficult but it does take some discipline. These three guidelines can be used as the foundation for that plan. The trick is to build a process that works for you and is something you can stick to. Along the way, monitor it to see what is working and change or enhance it as needed. Doing this will ensure stakeholders will be up to date and engaged, which will help you make the project the success you want it to be.


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5 Steps to communicate projects like a pro


Communication is the very foundation of business. Effective communication is a powerful tool and differentiator for anyone working on a project. It can inspire colleagues, motivate teams, influence executives and reassure clients, all of which will increase project success rates.

The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through. - Sydney J. Harris

For many of us, stakeholders, executives and clients make critical business decisions based on the data and reports we provide. In order to have the greatest impact and value, it is important to develop a communications plan early.


Crafting Your Communications Plan

Project Managers should start by recognizing that every audience has different needs. For example, executives may only want to focus on the project schedule, budget and a few key performance indicators, without going much deeper than that. Armed with this knowledge, PMs must identify the right channel and altitude for communicating the right data at the right time. For example, the most effective way of communicating with stakeholders may be via a regular newsletter, while executives may request a PowerPoint scorecard.

Successful PMs understand that it is also essential to communicate consistently. Whether via regular team meetings, monthly project reviews, or planned milestone re-caps, project communication is most effective when it is rhythmic. Intervals can be determined by the nature of the project or by the reporting cadence of the enterprise, however, the key is to do it consistently.


Regular communication also helps PMs mitigate project risk. Audiences who are engaged and current on a project will also be able to identify potential problems areas early and provide feedback to their Project Managers.Involving stakeholders, advisors and decision makers along the way helps keep your projects on track and on time. Projects that lack this valuable feedback often get into trouble. Effective communication should engage every project contributor and participant. It does not just convey facts or the work breakdown schedule, rather it helps people understand the role they play and why it is important for the project. To be effect PMO’s should:

1.   Plan ahead for communication and create a structured process.

2.   Keep all communication clearly aligned to the goal you are trying to achieve.

3.   Identify your audiences and customize communications for them. Be familiar with what metrics matter to your different audiences and utilize their language and data points.

4.   Use several communication channels and styles so information is easily received.

5.   Assess and refine your communication plan along the way. Don’t forget
the power of feedback.


A communication plan is foundational to the success of any project and it should be prioritized as a strategic enabler for any project’s success - not merely a mundane task. Creating a communication plan upfront and building communication tasks into the project schedule is worth the effort. Make the time to craft your plan now and reap the benefits in 2016 and beyond.


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Quickly Build Gantt Charts in Excel

Project plans, reviews, and proposals often need to be presented to team, clients and executives.  Gantt charts and timelines are the proper way to communicate to these audiences.  Clients and executives, in particular, expect these Gantt charts and timelines to be graphical, visually appealing and easy to understand.  However, creating a Gantt chart in Excel has been challenging and time consuming.

This post and video will show you how to quickly turn timeline Excel data into a professional looking chart, like the one below, with the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in.Turn a Gantt chart in Excel into a PowerPoint slide

Using existing tools to create professional looking Gantt chart and timeline presentations has not been easy.  Project tools, like Microsoft Project, are intended for large scale project management.  They are complicated to learn and they produce overly complex Gantt charts and timelines which are not suited for high level customer and management presentations.

Unlike heavy-weight project tools, visual tools like Visio are better at creating graphical images like Gantt charts and timelines.  However, they are painful to use and lack “smarts” which automatically adjust images when project schedules need updating.

Excel is often the place that project plans and schedules are created.  Most professionals and project workers find it easy to do this.  Once they have their project planned or tracked, they then need to quickly turn that Excel data into a graphical chart that can presented as a project status report, proposal summary or action plan.  This work is automated by the light-weight timeline maker from Office Timeline.

Office Timeline will immediately turn a Gantt chart in Excel into a professional looking PowerPoint slide that is easy to share and present.  It automatically manages updates, so if plans or project schedules change you can quickly update your Gantt chart or timeline without having to make major edits.

How to quickly build a Gantt chart with Excel

Once you have your timeline in Excel or Gantt chart in Excel simply cut and paste it’s data into the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in.  This video shows how to do that.

Since PowerPoint has size limitations Office Timeline also provides the ability to customize spacing and sizing to maximize the space of your slide.  This is useful for a  Gantt chart in excel that has a long list of action items (tasks).  The video below shows how you can optimize your project slide if you need to present more.

Suggested Reading
Tutorial for making a Gantt chart with Excel 
Using Gantt diagrams for business planning
How to paste Excel schedules into PowerPoint
 

Steps for creating a Timeline in Excel



Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

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Timeline Maker for Grant Managers using Grant Application Software

Last month I attended a workshop for Grant Managers.  It covered a wide range of topics ranging from writing a sponsorship proposal and grant administration to how to effectively manage funded projects with grant application software.   One observation I came away with is that grant management professionals are being required to provide increasingly more documentation concerning the distribution of project funds and tracking progress against the initial sponsorship proposal or charter.   I heard that the administrative tasks involved with gathering data, creating reports, holding status meetings, plus all other tasks has been increasing along with the ever higher need to communicate with colleagues, contractors, staff, funding agencies, and facilities managers.

My take-away was that more people needed clearly communicated information about status and the progress of funded projects.  I noticed in the workshop that the grant management process, including project reviews, are very often managed with Excel worksheets and similarly communicated as Excel tables in PowerPoint.  In discussing this at one of the break-out sessions, I learned that, although PowerPoint was frequently used, creating a grant management timeline slide for a project presentation is tough to do, even for those who had strong PowerPoint skills.

This is an area in which Office Timeline could help.  It is a free timeline maker embedded into Microsoft PowerPoint (2007, 2010, and 2013), so using it is intuitive and easy.  If you need to prepare the grant, compose a sponsorship proposal, or manage research projects, you can leverage Office Timeline to create visual, project timelines that will drive the narrative.

Any grant management professional needing to effectively communicate plans or funding status can use Office Timeline to quickly create and share slides that are easy for funding agencies and project teams to understand. It starts with a simple wizard, where a user chooses a template and Office Timeline guides them through the entire process, making the design and creation of project slides a quick and intuitive process.  I have captured the process in a series of screenshots below and would be interested in your experience with it.

Making a sponsorship proposal timeline template

Make a sponsorship proposal timeline in PowerPoint

Sponsorship proposal timeline template

Download Office Timeline Free Edition

Suggested Reading
Steps for making a timeline
Exceptional PowerPoint Add-Ons

Simplifying Gantts for important presentations

Suggested Video
Cutting and pasting your grant schedule into PowerPoint

 


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

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