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When a Project Goes Wrong, then Stop; Breathe; Plan a positive review

Argghhh – the Project has GONE WRONG!… too often we freak out in an self loathing, whining mess. Especially when there’s more than one team involved. OK.

OK. Take a moment. Stop your teams from running around in circles and screaming.

We usually forget the good things! And,… there will be good things again.

Take a breath, and plan a “Lessons Learned” Project Retrospective:-

  1. to put things back in balance,
  2. to establish what needs to be done differently next time,
  3. to emphasise what was great about the project,
  4. to draw a line under the project so that negativity can’t damage us any further, and
  5. to get the teams talking again.

One tendency though, is that negativity can be brought into the Lessons Learned session.

So – how do we keep the Lessons Learned Positive and Productive?

Getting the Right Facilitator is really IMPORTANT!

Important attributes for your Facilitator:

  1. Neutral – was not directly involved in the project
  2. Positive – is self-starter, positive and always pushing for the best
  3. Pragmatic – has a grip on what is feasible and reasonable
  4. Some sense of humour – sees the humorous side of things
  5. Has knowledge of the area – understands the business in question

A good Facilitator must:

  1. take all points as valid, and record them carefully
  2. prevent defensive behaviour – “it’s happened, let’s get this point recorded”
  3. prevent arguments or tempers from flaring – “we’ll record everyone’s points – they are all now valid – remember the Prime Directive :)”
  4. keep track of time – be sure that everyone is getting their opinions in, and that noone is allowed to monopolise the available time
  5. encourage insights from quieter participants – there are likely to be dominant characters, so make sure the quieter ones get a chance to share
  6. be fair, and praise contributions – keep the atmosphere positive and light by being fair, listening well, and giving praise to brave or focussed insights

Focus on “How to do better next time”

Focus on “how to do better next time” rather than “Who got it wrong / what was wrong this time”.

Use Norm Kerth’s “Prime Directive”

Norm Kerth’s Prime Directive is generally accepted as a great way of staying positive in your retrospectives :

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

Set out your Lessons Learned Agenda

You can use this Agile Lessons Learned template as a good basis and structure on which to build.

This helpful Agile Lessons Learned Template lays out a good framework for your session, and includes helpful notes for the facilitator, guidance, and mistakes & pitfalls to avoid!

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  • Make it short and clear.
  • Set the times for each section.
  • Prepare the room for what’s going to happen.
  • Stick to your times.

Further help with your Lessons Learned Session

You can find a complete guide to how to run an Agile Lessons Learned Project Review here.

More Project Review and Lessons Learned Templates

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Status Report

Status Report with Dashboard

The Status Report is an important Project and Programme -level reporting tool – it should give all the important high-level project information on 1 page.

Status Report Dashboard

This image shows a Status Dashboard Template slide, which can be found in the Status Template pack.

A Status Report Dashboard may literally show some dashboard dials (as this figure shows), or may just be displaying key information, like a conventional dashboard.

The key similarity with a Dashboard is that you can get vital information AT A GLANCE – i.e. ON ONE SIDE.

Status Report Formats

  1. Dashboards
  2. Dashboard Dials
  3. Charts
  4. Agile Burndown
  5. Highlights
  6. RAG – Red Amber Green
  7. RAID
  8. SWOT
  9. Next Steps

Status Report Dials

Some status reports use the “Dial” format (i.e. just like a car dashboard speedometer dial).

Dial formats give a good sense of minimum, maximum, and where our “status” is in that spectrum. This is far better than just a numerical value.

Project Status Report Templates

 

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Project Plan

Powerpoint Project Plan Template

The most effective Project Plan presentations are individually tailored for your audience – one size does not fit all. Browse these plan formats.

Project Plan Template showing a 2 year timeline, workstreams and milestones
An example Project Plan – showing 2 years timeline in a roadmap format; milestones and workstreams

Your Project Plan – Who are you showing it to?

Be very clear about your audience – you will need different project plan approaches for each scenario:

  1. For executive audiences use a Roadmap format to show project plans: Powerpoint Roadmap Template, Visio Roadmap template.
  2. For Product Manager audiences, you should use a Product format: Powerpoint Product Template, Visio Product Template.
  3. To show your product team workstreams what they are doing, use a Project Plan Template format.
  4. For your developers, you should have a release plan, showing activity per iteration.

Some Agile Release Plan Formats

 

 

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RAID Log – Manage Project Risk

Risk Matrix used in the RAID Log
Risk Matrix used in the RAID Log

A RAID Log is a great tool for managing Project Risk.

RAID stands for Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies.

BEWARE – it is hard to keep track of these aspects of your project in your head. You can keep track of them using a LOG TEMPLATE for your own safety.

Risks (R in RAID)

Your project risks are the “issues waiting to happen”.

i.e. Ask yourself “What could go wrong?”, and the list of items in answer to that are your risks.

e.g. when planning for a race, an example risk could be “My shoes fail during the race”

RISK SHEET - Excel RAID log & Dashboard Template
RISK SHEET – Excel RAID log & Dashboard Template

Assumptions (A in RAID)

Assumptions are items that you believe to be fine,… but that may not be. Assumptions are aspects of the environment, or of the surroundings to your project that you believe will be in a certain state.

The purpose of tracking assumptions is that you need to be prepared for your assumptions being wrong.

Issues (I in RAID)

Issues are the things which are actually going wrong – i.e. Risks that have been realised, and have turned into issues.

If you were lucky with your Risks identification earlier, you may already be prepared to deal with the issues 🙂

Dependencies (D in RAID)

Dependencies are items being delivered- or supplied-  from elsewhere, and that may not be directly in your control.

i.e. in order for your project to deliver, your dependencies must be present / delivered / supported.

Dependencies are quite frequently what cause project failure – track these carefully!

 

Excel RAID Log & Dashboard Template
Excel RAID Log & Dashboard Template

RAID Log Template

This Excel Template is a handy format which allows you to track your RAID items, their status, and assign them to owners.

Some examples templates in the “Risk” area

 

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How to create a Transition Plan for your organisation

Visio Transition Plan Template - manage your cultural change

A Transition Plan is used to manage the change from an existing organisational configuration to a new configuration.

So – your organisation may need to go through a Transition to implement the new arrangement.

We have created this Transition Plan Template in response to a series of requests for a Timeline template to assist with Change Management.

A screenshot of the Transition Plan Template
This Transition Plan Template will assist you with your Transition Timeline

We have arranged this template into the following areas.

Team and Personnel Changes

It’s likely that you will have to change how people and teams are arranged.

New processes

There could be some business process re-engineering to be rolled-out.

Relocation

You may have to move locations, or start an off-shore supplier relationship.

How to plan the Transition

In all change situations, there is a gap between the planned new arrangement and where you are right now – a Transition is required.

Our Transition Plan Template will provide a solid communications and planning tool for your transition.

Features of this Template

  1. Timeline with draggable milestones.
  2. Event markers in each workstream.
  3. Management workstream (to show coordination activities in the transition project).
  4. Communications Workstream (announcements, comms).
  5. HR Workstream (transition HR issues management).
  6. Relocation Workstream.
  7. IT Workstream (PC and telecomms).

View the Transition Plan Template.