Archive for the 'PM Skills' Category


Project Managers Still Didn’t Get This Idea of Sign-off Criteria

Having working with so many projects, I see most of them failed in achieving project deadlines.  Reasons like scope creeps, unclear project activities are the common but most project managers always miss out on setting and follow through the sign-off criteria/goals for each phase’s milestones.

Getting the project team to work out and agree on the sign-off conditions allows us to know what we need to set as baselines to work out all the deliverables for each milestones and probably leeways or conditional sign-off with mutual agreement to get on to the next phrase.

I will probably see that project managers need to spend time to work on as this will helps in:

  1. Clear objectives on what to achieve for each phase
  2. Measurements on what had been done so far for each phase and to plan adjustment to project timeline if necessary
  3. Clear picture to the project steering committee and project team to know and understand what they need to contribute and work on to achieve for the target deadline(s).

The areas to include the sign-off criteria must be indicate in every project phase, and link this milestone with a set of deliverables (may it be some documentations or agreed activities to accomplish).  Importantly communication and sharing of each information are to be done to all levels of the project team so everyone is set to work towards the plan


Being a Forward Thinker and Good Decision Making Skill

Everyone will experience times when to decide  to raise an alarm to the stakeholders on any potential issues that post risk to the project schedule, cost and scope.   In fact, majority will feel that it is not the right time to do so or may feel that it is unnecessary while getting the project teams to solve those problem before the risks accumulate.  As the saying goes, the project team is supposed to solve the problems, rather than disturbing the stakeholders with trivial issues that do not post any risks at that moment.

Good decision making doesn’t means you have pointed out a good decision, rather it is the process to flag any issues for discussions and result in the decision making with the stakeholders.  Even if the decision is not made at that time, we have take the opportunity to reason, analyse and do not allow any chance for a problem to suddenly present itself as an obstacle to complete the project.

The process in decision-making involve:

  1. Collects all relevant information
  2. Asks for recommendations and advice from other stakeholders
  3. Sets deadline before the decision must be made
  4. Make the decision and announce it with the reasons behind it to all who are involved

Nobody will be a perfect decision-maker but without using the proper process to derive the reasonings, wrong reasons are dervied for the wrong decision after the project delay.


Effective Meetings with Stakeholders

Most project meetings are always over-do or not following according to the agenda or the topics are out of sync from what the presenter is really trying to bring out.

We need to acquire the effective ways to bring out the points to the stakeholders to deliver and close with the maximum impacts that are to bring to the stakeholders.  Herewith are my personal tips on how to prepare for effective meetings.

  1. Keep the meeting on time
  2. Keep it short and sharp
  3. Involve your audiences
  4. Open the meeting effectively to stimulate interest
  5. Communicate persuasively and effectively
  6. Involve your stakeholders in discussions

When preparing the presentation materials:

  • Understand your objectives for the meeting
  • Understand your audience’s needs and their expectations
  • Highlight key issues for discussion
  • Use visual aids appropriately

Conflict Management, to Negotiate and Resolve Them

Working as a Program manager, not only do we need to acquire the skills and knowledgeof managing projects, strategy alignments and understanding of financial analysis/reports, we must acquire the ability to negotiate and salve kind of difficult situations to maintain a win-win settlement between ourselves and the parties involved.

The relationship with the Customer is long-term and along the path problems may boil to surface from time to time.  There are ways to manage them and herewith are the negotiation styles tha can be used:

  1. Problem Solving – engaging both parties to try to find solutions that work best for each other.
  2. Compromise – a situation where both parties give in more or less regardless on how that will meet their needs.
  3. Agression – only one party forces concession from the other side.

When the negotiations gets aggressive, and involves threats and demands this will affect the relationship with the Customer.   As such, we need to resolve the conflicts.  The ways we can do to cool down the conflicts when facing the aggressiveness are:

  • Calm ourselves down.
  • Show them our willingness to work things out by talking about the issue rather then escalating it with more agressions.
  • State our point of view in a neutral tone than in an argumentive tone.
  • Try ways to resolve the dispute, and working together to find the solution that both sides can embrace/accept.

The above are strategized for win-win solutins for both parties.  It is not that simple to execute the above as it requires oneself to build the competence of self-awareness, self-confidence, self-control and empathy.


Fast-tracking the development work with additional resources

Full-fletch solution to be completed in 3 months.  Unrealistic but this is what we promised to deliver for the Customer to save the business.  We have analysed and it is not possible to do iterative development as this is a new, full-fetched system and it has to be delivered as a complete package.

Lots of the activities  are to do in parallel with the development work, possibly the test cases, test data, training etc.  I am worried with the one month’s testing (both SIT and UAT) to be done in the whole month of December.  Project team members have to work overtime and not sure how much resources we need to cover some of the project activities.

The difficult portion of the development is how to spilt the modules to the assigned 6 resources to do the development work and importantly to define the roles and responsiblities for each of the project team member assigned so that we can quickly resolve any disputes on the resources’ skillsets and expectations.

Next I have to review the project cost for the additional inshore and offsource resources, not to mention the travel cost as well for the lodgings and any allowances that the resources may need to claim when they are to reside in Australia for 2 to 3 months period for the project.

The biggest risk of all is that we do not have enough time to do comprehensive testings of all the modules and we are at the big risk that we may experience unforseen system issues when we cutover the new system in early January 2010.  Everyone wants to rush and get the system out on time but we need to do testing to ensure we are able to deliver quality solution to the Customer.  If we do not do well, this will bring more dissatisfaction for the Customer but the Management is aware and we all have agreed that this is the risk we need to take.  But they do not understand the pressure and stress this have put outfront to my project team members and this is very unhealthy.

Counting down, 4 months to complete all planned project activities and this is another project failure I am working towards to.


Proposal of New Project Timeline for Business Alignment

Project timeline delayed, communicated to Business Manager.  Nothing was communicated to the Customer until 2 weeks ago when they visited the Customer.  Anger, irritation arise as the Customer was not happy that no one has communicated to them about this information earlier.  Now, it has became a big escalation to our Senior Managements for  both IT and Business Development units, demanding us to fulfill the initial plan by end of Decemeber, by hook or by crook.

Today, we review on all possibilities, assumptions and derive all different types of project timelines based on these information for the business case’s presentation to the stakeholders’ meeting tomorrow.

It is important to state clearly and concise for what are the assumptions/risks/benefits considered that derive each of those project plans so that the stakeholders understands the risks involved and accepts the risk ownership for that project plan that is utimately agree with everyone.

All the cards are now lay on the tables and we are going to get the stakeholders to agree which project plan to move forward. )


Stakeholders’ Buy-in To the New Project Plan

We have revised the project plan and the project is going to be delayed by 3 months, with the reasons identified that are causing the delay.  This had brought out to the Steering Committee (or do we really have a Steering Committee in the first place???).  The reasons we have are:

  1. Resources that are to be involved with this project B were actively involved in earlier project A that conflicts with the activities that were being planned.
  2. The project A was on high priority list and it is a dependency to Project B.  We have to complete project A before we can start to engage with the Customer to work on Project B.
  3. The resources involved in Project A acquire the same knowledge that we need to work on Project B.

During last Thursday kickoff meeting, the revised time line was shown and  had presented to them the information for the delay.  Indeed this did not please the stakeholders in the meeting but the project team had done what they had to mitigate the risks and ultimately we tried all possibilities and this was the only way to move the project forward.  The action is now leave to the Business Manager to inform the Customer of this delay and alternatively what we are trying to do to see if we can speed up or agree on the iterative releases of the solution  at the end of the feasibility study phase (refer to link for information on DSDM –

The next step we need to do to get the stakeholders’ agreement that we are working towards the new go-live date and to inform the Customer about this so that all of us are aligned and start to plan the remaining activities to be involved for each party.

June 2018
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