Handling challenges in a project
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How do you handle risk/opportunities in a project?
When you hit a roadblock in a project what do you do? The correct answer is not “panic!”. The correct answer is “keep calm and carry on”. I have highlighted some steps that you can take to mitigate the impact of a roadblock.
As much as I would like to take credit for the above methodology, I cannot. Credit goes to ‘Ali Mehdi‘ for describing the steps.
Here are some strategies for handling delays in a project. You can read about them in my earlier blog as well.
As a manager I am expected to “get things done”. I use Agile Scrum or Agile Kanban to plan out my execution when it comes to ensuring that my team is planning and executing at it’s best. I also follow a strategy by David Allen called “Getting Things Done®” in which he outlines the following strategy that will enable execution.
I ‘capture’ the list of things to do for my team in a product backlog. I then go through the backlog and ‘clarify’ the items in it to ensure that they are actionable. Avoiding vague terms such as “improve speed of web application”, I replace them with more specific terms such as “web app has latency of ‘X’ ms, instead it should have latency of ‘Y’ ms.
Following that I ‘organize’ the backlog by priority and move items in a given sprint or release into the ‘To Do’ swimlane in Kanban at the begining of the sprint or release. I either have daily stand-ups or weekly standups to ‘reflect’ on the progress of the work that I have ‘engaged’ in.
There are of course other strategies of execution as well. Dr. Stephen Covey has written ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ which can help in improving personal execution. Tony Buzan has written about ‘Mind Mapping’ as a technique for unlocking our brains potential. Nick Cernis also has written about ‘todoodlist’ which is another way of organization to improve execution.
Managing people, process and technology is essential to be a successful project management. Stakeholder management falls under the ‘people’ management category.
According to PMBOK “A stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project.””
Without stakeholders active participation a project is likely to fail. A project manager should identify stakeholders and manage the relationship with them. Figure 1 shows some of the stakeholders that a project manager may have to deal with.
As an SRE manager, I have add to play the role of a technical project manager (TPM) in projects where a TPM was not available. Identifying stakeholders can be tricky, since in large projects one may not be aware of all the potential stakeholders. Stakeholder identification can take place when the project charter is being defined. This will help flush out the major stakeholders. However, it is not uncommon to find new stakeholder(s) throughout the implementation of the project. A project with unhappy stakeholders does not bode well for the success criteria of the project. Stakeholders influence can be expressed in the power/interest model as shown in Figure 2.
The division of stakeholders in the categories of ‘keep satisfied’, ‘manage closely’, ‘monitor’ and ‘keep informed’ is the role of the project manager. Stakeholders with low interest and low power require the least comparitive effort in terms of management, on the other hand stakeholders in the high power and high interest should be handled with utmost care.
The importance of stakeholders cannot be overestimated. For instance if you ignore sales as a stakeholder, you may end up with a product that the sales team has no knowledge of in terms of sales strategy.