Does your organization need to do more with less, while increasing your service delivery? Then, a Project Hack Culture (PHC) may be just what you’re looking for. A PHC gives you a roadmap and a toolkit that streamlines operations and increases productivity.
Project hacks strike a balance between process and action. Your organization needs enough process to organize your work, gather metrics and assess value, but it does not need so much process that teams see it as just another box to check.
Creating a project hack culture can jumpstart project management best practices and be the catalyst for organizations to evolve to more advanced practices. Project hacks are small, easy-to-do baby steps that help organizations efficiently complete valuable projects that meet mission-critical business needs at the right time with the right people. They can be done without the significant investment of time and money it takes to implement full-blown formal project management processes.
A good way to begin is to use these hacks with small projects or even your daily operational/tactical work. The efficiency gains will appear early and often and will motivate you to take it to the next level. (In future blogs, I’ll drill down on some of these tactics.)
- Develop Relationships: SMART Conversations® principle 1 states that Connecting Precedes Content. This simply means that successful working relationships are at the core of successful, low stress projects. Develop trust-based relationships by learning the best way to work with each stakeholder and by following through on your commitments.
- Communicate Effectively: Whenever possible, be transparent and share information. Manage stakeholder expectations by using multiple media and forums to communicate often. Be proactive and plan strategies to help people deal with change.
- Be Intentional: Prioritize and manage your work time. At the end of each day, decide on 1-3 critical things that must be done tomorrow. Minimize distractions, so you can focus and get them done.
- Minimize Meeting Time: Evaluate which meetings you really need to attend and the essential people needed in your meetings. The most important project meetings solve problems and remove roadblocks—they don’t just report status and re-hash what’s happened.
- Plan Meetings: When you facilitate meetings, prepare yourself and others by…
- distributing agendas and pre-work in advance
- starting and ending on time
- moving off-agenda topics to a parking lot list to discuss later
- gaining consensus on ground rules and holding people to them
- Empower Staff: Figure out what people are good at and leverage and develop their skills. Encourage team members to think creatively and create a fault-tolerant environment. Clarify team roles and responsibilities, set high standards and lead by example.
- Listen Well: When someone’s talking, try to stop yourself from thinking about your response and really focus on their words, tone, and body language. Think about listening more and speaking less.
- Plan for Contingencies: Take small steps towards risk management by preparing high-level contingency plans around the biggest project risks. For example, what would you do if the vendor does not deliver on time? What if a key subject matter expert leaves the organization?
- Stay Focused: Prepare a simple project scope document that’s agreed to by all stakeholders. Refer to the scope document to acknowledge when the scope changes and determine change impacts.
- Document Tasks: In Excel or Word, create a list of the tasks that need to be done, who’s responsible for them and the start and finish dates. Share this list with your stakeholders and use it to keep track of the work. This simple list will evolve into your project plan.
Creating a Project Hack Culture is not something that can be accomplished overnight. It takes time, tools and people who see the value and are willing to make a change in the way they plan and execute their work. At the same time, the above hacks will give you a few ways to start thinking about the value of a PHC and to implement small changes that promise to make a big difference.