Last year I wrote about Map Days (search for Solera and you’ll find my entries). You may recall that Map Days are the face-to-face sessions used to develop plans under NSPM (No Surprises Project Management by Timm Esque). During these sessions, all team members get together to develop a plan that builds on the group’s knowledge to deliver the results that a project requires.
Since those writing, the program I’ve been managing using this method has successfully delivered, on time, two of its releases and is on target to meet its commitment for the third and final release. The IT team did not waver from its commitment while our customers had to delay due to various reasons.
So, how did this happen? You won’t find an active Gantt chart in this project (I say active because the execs early on demanded a Gantt chart until they realized it was not necessary and we stopped that effort). What was the process that I used to succeed? I did cover the follow-up in a prior blog but it is useful to revisit the approach.
Every week I review the list of deliverables that are a) late, b) those due within one to two weeks, and c) those that do not have a commitment date. I do it three ways:
- Early in the week I send out emails to the team leads of any items that are late asking them what’s the status, how do they plan to recover, and what can I do to help.
- During my weekly 1:1s I review the same information to with the project leads
- During our weekly meeting, once again, we review the information
- We run additional map days to further plan beyond the current planning horizon. During these subsequent map days we review the status of the various items too.
No one wants to be late when they’ve made the commitment. So, they don’t like to see their items in red, which the spreadsheet automatically sets to red when something is late. Plus, since they committed to the date, they try to meet their commitments.
But, enough about the process. The key question is what makes it work?
The process works for a number of reasons that Timm Esque has enumerated in his book and I’m summarizing here. You may want to read his book.
The dates are commitments made by the teams to each other, not dates dictated from upon high (I’ll talk about how to handle dictated dates in a future blog).
- The status of a deliverable is visible and clear to all.
- A deliverable is either done or not done. 90% done is the same as 0% done.
- If there are any questions on the “doneness” of a deliverable, the customer has the final word.
- The team looks forward to what is coming up in the next week or two and prepares accordingly.
- Issues are highlighted and help provided. There is no “killing the messenger”
- The noise of a Gantt chart is ignored
- People who do the work are the ones who commit the dates.
- There is no micro-managing.
- Adaptation is allowed as necessary (no “cast in stone” project plan).
How can this be done? The PM drives this effort with the necessary tool. I’ve refined the spreadsheet I developed to manage my program last year. At this point it will not only tell you when a deliverable is late or on time, it will also tell you when it is due in a week, how many days until it is due, how many days it is late; it will highlight if a customer needs a deliverable before the date the team has committed to; it will automatically generate a PAC (Performance Against Commitment) chart, and more. If you are interested, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward you a copy of the spreadsheet.
I’m happy to report that there are two other projects, run by other project managers, using this method. Plus I’ve trained about 20 project managers and plan on training more. Interested in learning more? Shoot me an email.
Jose Solera, MBA, PMP