PART 1 of 3
Jeff Schlageter
President, Project Acceleration

Wouldn’t it be great to have a list of project management “best practices” that would help you benefit from the experiences of hundreds of other program managers? In a way, these best practices would be like having your own project management mentors, each sharing what they have learned.

Some of these best practices may be new to you, and many are common sense. However, have these common sense best practices become part of your common practice? If not, you could increase your chances of negative project surprises possibly leading to committing the dreaded Career Limiting Move (CLM). The goal is for the team to review these best practices during the concept and planning phases, and pick the ones to follow in order to minimize risks and improve the probability of the project being finished successfully on time. We have found from our clients that project success seems to correlate to the number of best practices used.

Now in this three-part series, I will sample from 150 best practices that are explained in detail in our book “Projects at Warp Speed with Quality Rapid Product Development” which is authored by my partners and myself. Since 150 of anything is a lot to grasp, I will organize the best practices for you into 11 Commandments as follows:
1. Scope or Vision: Commandment 1 – This will be today’s blog

2. Project Leader and the team: Commandments 2-5

3. Project Management Flow Process: Commandments 6-11


So, let’s begin with Commandment 1:

Commandment 1: FOCUS ON A CLEAR, LIMITED, ON-TARGET VISION (as in high level goals or scope). The team needs a focused overall goal (before all the requirements can be nailed down) in order to make trade-offs, avoid late changes, and to achieve commitment and accountability. Here is a sampling of 8 techniques:
a. Innovate incrementally, and restrict each product to a manageable number of major innovations (innovations not yet done in house) – typically three.
b. Avoid breaking new ground simultaneously in all three areas: technology, applications, and markets/customers.
c. Justify all innovations using a benefit-cost-risk analysis, which is a form of ROI.
d. Find an optimal balance of features, time, cost, and risk. Ask how management would prioritize these four, in order to make the best tradeoffs.
e. Interview a good sampling of leading customers, mass market customers, and make sure to satisfy their needs before wants.  Stay close to a number of them to use as future beta sites.
f. Know your competition (and their customers), including possible competing technologies.
g. With the entire core cross functional team, write a one to two page Project Vision in order to align the team and ensure focus throughout the project. This Vision is a guiding document used throughout a project, but especially while the detailed requirements are being hammered out. It should include the following seven sections:
          1. Project/Mission description and case for action (one or two sentences).
          2. Target customers and how the product will meet their needs.
          3. Key measures customers will use to judge quality.
          4. Key technology and key features to be included.
          5. Crucial product factors such as safety, reliability, ergonomics, etc.
          6. A list of risks, assumptions, critical issues, and obstacles.
          7. Relevant financial numbers such as sales units, price, cost, delivery day, market window, late cost per week, etc.
h. Have the entire team and upper management sign the Project Vision, for commitment and accountability, and then resist changing it.

Watch for the second installment of the Best Practices this week. ©2007 Project Acceleration, ©2007 Global Brain


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