This is the forth and last part of a series looking at managing your time and projects. Incase you missed the previous articles:
- How to manage projects: an overview
- Using Timebox and Sprints
- Kanban: breaking down and visualising your work
It has been claimed that more projects fail because of human behaviour rather than technology. And an important part of dealing with this is communication.
A clear and continuous communication is key. Make sure that the ones involved in the project have a common understanding of what we are trying to achieve, and what is currently being done.
A while back I experienced just how important communication is. My creative partner and I was working on a branding project in collaboration with a Norwegian agency. We had reached a stage where we finally had settled for a logo, and were ready to produce the print assets.
During this process we encountered a little communication problem; the printers struggled to create the gradients in the logo design. One of our contacts in the agency suggested we make a flat design version of the logo instead. We did this, but did not check with the project executive; ultimately leading to an error that could have costed the agency/client several thousands pounds. Luckily this was discovered in the last minute, before we went to print.
Looking back now, I see some simple tools that could have resolved this miscommunication before it became an issue. One of these is Kanban. Using Kanban, the project executive would see that work on a flat logo was planned, and he could have stopped us before any work actually started.
Another tool is making sure you know the chain of responsibility, so that you make sure you have the right sign off on the work before it starts, and especially before it is planned to go to print. A good idea can be creating a breakdown flowchart of who you need to talk to before you start any additional work or who needs to sign off any work that goes to print.
When breaking down the stakeholders in the project, you can often benefit from creating a stakeholder influence/interest matrix. This is a tool where you place the people involved in the project on a chart that has an axis of the level of interest they have in the project, and an axis of the level on influence they have on the project. The axis are split into two or three, divided into the categories: high, medium and low.
A typical high-high stakeholder is the client; they have a high interest and a high influence of the project. These are the ones that are key in the communication, and should be as involved as possible.
A great way of involving people is to have daily stand-ups. This is a very short meeting where the whole team stand (to not become too comfortable) and summarise what they have done since the last stand-up, and what they are planning to do till the next stand-up. This way everyone knows what others are doing, and any issues, questions or opportunities can be discussed. This is a great way to keep control of the progress and making sure that there are minimum misunderstandings.
So again, breaking down the components in a project is very often a great way to understand how everything fits together, and can make it easier for you to know what to be aware of. In the end a project is very much about a journey of continuous learning, where communication is essential in making sure everyone is on the same page. Using tools such as Kanban, daily stand-ups and prototypes can be effective ways of assuring success is being achieved.
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