Why the story of a project matters

When you and your team are on your way to achieving the fantastic things in your project it can be easy to get side-tracked. This can be caused by tension in the team or other unforeseen and challenging issues. This side-tracking draws focus and effort away from core progress and can result in arguments, lack of progress and frustration. If left untamed such an environment can kill off motivation in a project – and that’s no fun for anyone.

It may seem like a childish aspect to consider, but the ‘story’ of the project is something that can often help bring focus and a renewed sense of determination to help push through such challenging times.

story

But what do we mean by the ‘story’?

Quite simply, the ‘story’ is the deep explanation of what the project is, why it exists, how the people in at are contributing (both individually and as a team) and the positive impact that the project aims to achieve. The story also extends into the world after the project. It describes how the project should be seen in the future and how it will be regarded by those whom it affects.

Project teams usually disband once the goal of the project is achieved and more often that not the lifespan of the project isn’t considered after this point. However, reminding the project team that their work will continue to have an impact long after they have finished their part helps to bring a positive and productive mindset.

team

Reminding each person of the value of their contribution, and the team as a whole, in relation to the project story is an approach well worth taking when tensions are beginning to rise, the sense of connectedness is started to diminish and a boost to team morale is needed.

The one-month project

If you’ve been looking for a way to test your project skills then what you need is a short project.
Something with community support, with clear goals, clear progress measurement and the opportunity to plan and manage your own workload. Granted, managing the workload of others is a key part of projects, but the fundamental principles of project management are there to practice.

So here’s our recommendation.

In November, the NaNoWriMo challenge kicks off. It’s the National Novel Writing Month.
The challenge is simple.
Write a fifty thousand word novel in thirty days.
That’s 1,667 words per day.

Simple.

writing

At the beginning you start with a broad idea of what your novel could be about, at the end you have a substantial hunk of wordage. It may be complete. It may be significant fragments of what you need.
Either way, it will be a massive step towards completing your book.

If you plan it out at the beginning, then it’s likely that you’ll have a nice, cohesive novel.

And, be honest, haven’t you always thought about writing a book?

nanowrimo

Head over to www.nanowrimo.org to find out more, or drop us a line for project tips to help you succeed!

The project plan estimating dilemma

We’ve all been there. Putting together a plan, either something big and formal or something quick and simple. Then you look at the work planned that is off into the future. And you think ‘will I need all of that time?’.

planning

And sometimes that work will need to be done by someone else. Are you more willing to compromise the planned allowance of time when it’s somebody else’s allocation?
How very naughty of you!

But it’s a legitimate conundrum. When you’re estimating your own work you have more of a handle on how reliable your estimate is likely to be, generally. But when it’s someone else’s estimate then it’s natural to be sceptical. Better, however, to ask what their estimate is based upon. Are they being optimistic? Pessimistic? Accounting for risks? Winging it?

future work plan

Then there’s the trap that can catch any of us out. We declare a need for a specific amount of time. Then that allowance gets vastly reduced. But, even with the tiny timescale, you still manage to get the task done. Phew!

But.

Next time around, should you keep the reduced timescale? Should you adjust your future estimates? Did the reduction in time add pressure? Did it cause emotional damage? Did it compromise relationships? Would it be sensible to reduce the timescale in the future?

As an example of this scenario, check out the video below. The story of how the effort of one man featured in the film project of Aliens. He had a planned allowance to create the film score – but things didn’t go as expected.

From how things turned out what would you do differently next time? If you were looking after the film project, how would you have dealt with the score composer and the film director?

The Icelandic Orca Project

Did you know it’s been twelve months since our Icelandic Project Adventure? That’s right, the twelve day, ten project, nine waterfall and one humpback whale adventure!

We traveled 2,890km around the amazing country of Iceland to explore the culture of the volcanic island to understand more about how they ‘do’ projects over there.

We have created a short video about one of the projects we looked into. The Icelandic Orca Project is fascinating, click on the video below to find out more!

 

When planning matters more than the tools

The planning tools industry is worth a small fortune – much of that being in the software arena. Since modern planning software has already made the shift from standalone products to software as a service (SaaS) it’s more accessible than ever.
And that’s a good thing.
It should be easy for anyone to be able to get hold of good planning software.

1726009-shut_up_and_take_my_money_super

As with all tools there is a sexy glamour associated with having the perceivably best and latest bits of software. It’s a thing of prestige to be able to state to your customers that you are using the Version 10.5 of Plan-O-Matic while all your competitors are using Version 9.2 (Oh! The fools!). And I get that. I really do.
In fact, lots of large organisations stipulate that to work with them you must use a specific piece of planning software. And I understand that too. It’s brilliant to be able to exchange compatible file formats. It saves lots of hassle when informations fits in to the system you already have.

connect-20333_960_720But there is an expectation associated with having the sparkliest planning tools. And that expectation is that the person behind the software knows not only how to use it, but also how to do planning. In the field of planning you need to be a software jockey as well as a planning master. The software makes it looks pretty, but the mastery gives meaning.

There is a very particular set of things that a plan must be able to do.
A plan must:

  • Show (to a useful level of detail) all of the work to be done
  • Show which pieces of work rely on other pieces (in the form of a sequence of work)
  • Show all of the expected people and materials to be used
  • Show who needs to do what and when
  • Show start, duration and finish dates for all of the work
  • Be able to be quickly modified and updated to reflect how progress (or change) actually happens
  • Show how much progress has been made to date
  • Be useful for everyone with a stake in the project
  • Forecast a completion date
  • Track costs expended, and forecast those still to be spent
  • Be organised in a way that shows an incremental completion of the project in totality
  • Show a comparison between where you thought you’d be, and where you actually are

If a plan that you’re using doesn’t include the features above, then see how they can be included.

I’ve heard a plan described as the ‘heartbeat’ of the project and it’s a term I agree with.
A useful plan is at the very core of a healthy project. Because it includes all of the communicable information as described above it is an invaluable tool to help guide good decisions – and projects are built on the ability to make good decisions.

choice-2692466_960_720

So when someone presents you with a fancy plan, run through the list above.
Does it satisfy all of the criteria? Is it easy to understand? Are there any peculiar features that make you wonder if the plan is realistic?

inestigate

Be dazzled by the sparkly colour scheme for a moment. Then look a little deeper. And if you need any help drop us a line at hello@preparedbyfornix.com