As my current program moves into another sprint retrospective tomorrow I have been reflecting on some of the learnings I have been able to successfully incorporate in my day to day approach to the program and project management areas during the full solution delivery process. While there is not a one size fits all nor a magic bullet on what it takes to successfully deliver IT solutions there are some key theme areas that should be reconsidered periodically. This is not an all-inclusive list, and these are not in any priority order.
Building Real Accountability – Do the program team members exhibit behaviors that highlight ownership and engagement? One of the easiest ways to ascertain this is when you see people step forward after a mistake is made, own it, learn from it, and we can move on. Once your team feel safe that it is ok to be wrong they tend to be more apt to try new and innovative ideas.
Resolving Pernicious Problems – Are problem areas being raised to the right level and are they being resolved timely? If you have fostered an environment on your program where every stakeholder has a mechanism to report and support risk and issue management this becomes a continuous activity. The project management team should not have all the onus to document and manage risks and issues. By providing the tools and the expectation that this is part of the day to day team activity you will see more transparency in the internal workings on the program.
Creating Effective Plans – Has enough attention been paid to the planning processes? There is an art to planning a program. Identifying the work that needs to be completed, and supporting the internal processes that are built to ensure quality deliveries are sometimes elusive. The tendency is gloss over the importance of stakeholder analysis, activity dependency identification, and resource capacity planning. If these are not done well and continuously managed you could find yourself with a perpetual end date.
Reflecting Upon Leadership – Have you spent enough time thinking about your role as a leader and how you are affecting the outcomes? Each of us have our own leadership style. There are a multitude of factors that need to be considered based on our own comfort zones and the environment/culture we are leading in. For instance, you do not want to over use an authoritative style in a highly collaborative culture. Make sure and take the time to understand your own style and how that style can be leveraged in the corporate and team cultures you are delivering in.
Yenning Informed Thinking – Do enough team members consider the big picture, or is the big picture thinking happening at the top? Not everyone has the ability or experience to think both strategically as well as tactically. To ensure that the strategic thinking does not only come from the top you should work to identify key team members that have this ability and encourage them to participate in the overall planning efforts. Tactical thinking is made easier by process management.
Recognizing Beneficial Celebration – Are you taking the time to appreciate successes and celebrate key milestone achievements? We spend a great deal of our time at work, and most people have a need to be shown that this time away from their family and friends is worth more than a paycheck. It is important to recognize individuals for their successes. It is equally important to understand how your team members like to be recognized. You do not want to publically recognize an individual if they would prefer to be recognized privately. It is also very important to stop and celebrate key milestone achievements. This is an opportunity for the team to step away from the grind of the day to day and recognize each other for the commitment to the continued success of the program.
Supporting Avuncular Behavior – Do you have mentoring behavior on the team? It is important as you build your team to recognize where more experienced professionals could support more junior team members. Either by establishing a formal mentoring relationship or pairing key program activities up to support the transfer of knowledge and experience. It is not always easy to identify individuals that are willing to impart their wisdom with others, but once you find those that are willing and effective your program and project team will reap the benefits.
Evangelizing Solid Resources – Are there key tools in place to support content management, planning and execution, and defect management? You will want to make sure at the beginning of the program that you take the time to identify what tool will be used for what purpose. Once this is done you will want to ensure that all the team members are educated during the kick-off and subsequent on-boarding activities about what each of these tools represent and are used for. This will cut down on the amount of noise created by missing or misunderstood information.
Cultivating Sound Environment – Does the team culture align with the corporate guiding principles? Each organization comes with a defined culture and with that culture are focused leadership competencies and behaviors. It is important to take stalk and recognize what these are and ensure that you are consistently leading by example. If you are hearing the statement “this is the way we do things around here” you will want to spend time to understand at the core what is driving these statements and what you can do as a leader to either foster or dissuade the behavior.
In conclusion, there are a multitude of areas to ponder when you approach solution delivery and these are just a few that I have found helpful in achieving my program delivery successes. Many of these come through the hard knocks of the project management profession, so I would encourage you to APPLY CARE!