Categories
Project Management

Get Your Projects Fit with The Lazy Project Manager

Peter TaylorThis interview was first
published in 2014.

I am not fit. Since having my two boys I am heavier than I have
ever been, except while pregnant.

My only exercise is balancing in small spaces while standing on
the train to work. I fuel getting up for the night feeds with
cereal bars and chocolate croissants.

Luckily, my projects are healthier than I am. All projects
benefit from a health check now and again. Peter Taylor, the Lazy
Project Manager, has just written a book about it, Get Fit with The
Lazy Project Manager.

I spoke to him about how to make sure our projects are as
healthy as possible and don’t become the ‘ex-projects’ of
tomorrow.

Peter, how does the Lazy Project Manager get
fit?

Well, not through excessive physical activity in my case,
although there is nothing wrong with that at all of course.

The new book is a look at the reason, the value, the process and
the opportunities to assess the ‘health’ of your projects in
order to sleep easier at night, safe in the knowledge of inevitable
project success (and I am using the word ‘inevitable’ with the
common meaning of ‘more likely than before’ you
understand).

My inspiration for this book comes from many sources and many
experiences of doing the right thing and running a ‘health
check’, a ‘lessons learned’, a ‘retrospective’ etc and
also from seeing the real consequences of submitting to all of
those pressures out there in project management land that we all
face, and not doing the right thing.

So in fact this is the ‘productive lazy’ thing to do, work
smarter (in the short term by running a health check) and not
harder (in the long term by letting project issues grow).

What’s the point of a health check?

It doesn’t matter where you are in the project lifecycle, even
if you are nursing a wicked hangover from the post-project live
celebratory party, there is always benefit and opportunity to do
some sort of ‘health’ check and learn something of value.

Perhaps not for this project but certainly for the next one, and
the one after that, and so on.

Peter Taylor quote

OK, so perhaps we should start with a clear
understanding of the terminology. Tell me what you mean by health
check.

There is often a lot of confusion with regards to the three,
incorrectly interchangeably used terms – Audit, Health check and
Post-mortem.

I was even astonished to hear someone once talk about going
‘agile’ with their companies post-mortems – really!

Agile – Quick and well-coordinated in movement; marked by an
ability to think quickly; mentally acute or aware combined with
Post-Mortem; occurring after death.

For clarity and intelligent application here are the dictionary
definitions:

  • Health check: A thorough physical examination; includes a
    variety of tests depending on the age and sex and health of the
    person.
  • Audit: An official examination and verification of accounts and
    records, especially of financial accounts, a report or statement
    reflecting an audit; a final statement of account or the inspection
    or examination of a building or other facility to evaluate or
    improve its appropriateness, safety, efficiency, or the like.
  • Post-mortem: Occurring or done after death, of or relating to a
    medical examination of a dead body (also autopsy). For further
    clarity and greater intelligent application think of it like this:
    When was the last time a person survived multiple autopsies?

Therefore a ‘health check’ for a project is an opportunity
to assess likely success or outcome and take actions to improve
that prognosis for the good of the project and the business.

Peter Taylor

OK, so what was the inspiration behind writing a whole
book about it?

My inspiration for this book comes from many sources and many
experiences of doing the right thing and running a ‘health
check’, a ‘lessons learned’, a ‘retrospective’ etc and
also from seeing the real consequences of submitting to all of
those pressures out there in project management land that we all
face, and not doing the right thing.

So in fact this is the ‘productive lazy’ thing to do, work
smarter (in the short term by running a health check) and not
harder (in the long term by letting project issues grow).

That sounds like the same overarching philosophy as I
wrote about in my book, Customer-Centric Project Management. In
that, the project manager creates continuous dialogue with the
stakeholders to avoid the same problems and not let issues
fester.

Does the project manager do the health check
to?

Ideally a health check is run by someone external, but
sympathetic, to the project – for objectivity.

There are tools that can be used and these are OK but the
downside to them I have found is that they highlight the negative
but don’t praise the positive.

The act of reviewing a peer’s project is one that requires
tact, understanding, and strength of belief as well – not
something a tool does.

The PMO, if you have one, can be an ideal source of facilitators
who have the rights skills and experience to undertake the health
check.

Get Fit with Lazy PMOK, that’s clear. But
what role does the project team have in the health
check?

The project team are definitely to be involved; the facilitator
will interview personnel from the project including but not limited
to the project manager, project sponsor, end users and members of
the project team and the health check will typically assess:

  • Project organisation and staffing
  • Project processes
  • Project planning and reporting
  • Requirements
  • Budget and spend
  • Benefits and outcomes.

There will be other aspects of course depending on the type of
project that is under review – an IT project for example may take
a close look at the technology e.g. software release/design,
testing, systems architecture etc.

Social project management

OK, I’m convinced and I know what to do. When should
project managers run a health check?

At the very least I would suggest a health check is regularly
undertaken at the end of the plan phase but ideally it can be done
many times throughout the project.

There is a second time when a health check should be initiated
and that really is ‘when it is needed’, that is if something
has occurred that makes an urgent demand for an objective
assessment of the project.

Don’t wait if this is before the end of the planning phase,
and don’t discount a further health check just because you
conducted a health check earlier in the project lifecycle.

What do you do get after the health check?

The output from the health check will be a formal report which
will detail actions and recommendations that need to be agreed by
the project steering board.

Fine. So what do you do with the results? Any tips for
communicating the output to your stakeholders?

The work to do will include assigning the relevant actions with
owners and planned completion date. It is the responsibility of the
project manager, perhaps supported by the PMO, to chase up the
actions to ensure they are completed in the appropriate time frame
and report further to the steering board.

However you choose to report back on your health checks it is
advisable to offer a visual representation along with any
‘wordy’ report.

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor, co-author of Strategies for Project
Sponsorship

Thanks, Peter. Tell us about your other
work.

I have three more books, a follow up to Leading Successful PMOs
which is called Delivering Successful PMOs, and a book on project
marketing called Project Branding (RMC) along with a book all about
what attracts and challenges young project managers to our
profession called Real Project Management (Kogan Page).

Peter Taylor’s alter ego is The Lazy Project
Manager.
Peter’s book, Get Fit with The Lazy Project
Manager is available from his website and from Amazon in eBook and printed
format.

The post
Get Your Projects Fit with The Lazy Project Manager
appeared
first on Girl's Guide to
Project Management
.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *