There are many tips and techniques to help you with personal time management. However, the one that seems to be universally recommended is the to-do list. It is hard to take control of your day if you don’t have a plan for what you want to do. These to-do lists can be completed daily, weekly, monthly or longer.

For now, let’s focus on the daily to-do list. Here are five tips to help you manage this list.

1. Consolidate on only one list

If you have lists on your desk, in your car, or on post-it notes, merge them all into one list. Then group the items in your list and put them in a logical order. As soon as you’ve done this, you’ll immediately feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulders, because one list seems easier to manage than multiple.

2. Be aware of the target dates

Just because an item is on your daily to-do list, it does not mean the work can be done in one day. It is okay to partially complete an item and then check it off for that day. For example, it might be that an activity is worked on over five days and completed at the end of the week.

You may identify a to-do action that does not need to be started today. Great, you can add it to your to-do list a few days from now. It is okay to have to-do lists for the coming days as well.

3. Set priorities

You don’t want to complete 19 out of 20 to-dos, when the 20th is the one that is really most important. Be sure to identify the most important work for the day. You can do this by listing the to-dos in priority order, or perhaps placing numbers on the high priority work. For me, I simply place an “*” next to the to-dos that are the most important.

4. Be aware of dependencies

Sometimes you get fired up to start a to-do action and then you realize something else needed to be completed first. The work on your to-do list should not be so complicated. Be sure to think about the work and recognize any to-dos that need to be done first.

5. Manage your list

As you complete your work each day, check off the work as it is completed. This gives you the sense of accomplishment. If you do not finish all of the to-dos, carry the remainder over until the next day. Tomorrow, start the process over again.

There are many other elements of time management – personal organization, eliminating time wasters, removing clutter, etc. The daily to-do list is perhaps the key. Use it and use it wisely.

Could your organization use coaching on how to get more work done in a day? Contact us today to discuss how to identify and remove time wasters to allow you more time to get your work done.

Have you ever been on a project team that had everything going right?  The team members all got along; they all had the right skills; they had the right processes; everyone worked hard and pulled together to get the project done.

Those are just some of the characteristics of a high-performing team.  High-performing teams can sometimes form by themselves, perhaps even in spite of a manager that gets in the way.  It is also possible that a manager can facilitate a team through a process that leads them to become high performing. The following actions can help the team’s growth.

  • Set common objectives.  Teams will have a hard time performing at a high level unless they are all striving toward a common set of objectives.  Even if members of your team do different jobs, a set of objectives can usually be written that will encompass all of them.
  • Establish good internal work processes. You cannot build consistently good products, or deliver good services, with poor work processes.  The high-performing team has a set of internal processes that guide how members act and react in particular circumstances.
  • Instill good work ethic. High-performing teams find the challenges associated with their work and work hard to complete their assignments within expectations.  Members get more work done in a typical day than their counterparts.
  • Keep everyone focused.  Team members understand the work they have on their plate today, as well as what the remainder of their work is.  They don’t get sidetracked by rumors or politics.
  • Maintain a high level of motivation. The high-performance team relies on both self-motivation as well as a reinforced motivation through the entire team.
  • Keep organized. Team members know where to find the things they need to do their job, and they know where to put things when they are done.
  • Strive toward a balanced set of key skills.  A high-performance team has the skills needed to complete the work on its plate. People understand their strengths and weaknesses, but they also are willing to work outside their comfort area when needed.
  • Foster mutual respect. Team members have mutual respect for each other and trust that the others are working as hard as they are.

In the right circumstances, a manager can take the lead to move a team toward high-performance status.  It takes time. If it were easy, every team would be high performing, instead of the one or two that you may have worked on in your entire career.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you strengthen your project, portfolio and PMO processes.

What happens when your project sponsor wants a different outcome for the project than your other management team and stakeholders want? The answer is that each party tries to influence the project to get what they want. This is one way you get into project politics. The result is that the team is constantly pushed in different directions, trying to keep everyone happy, but not really doing what they were originally asked to do. The project team becomes stressed, confused, de-motivated and inefficient. It’s your job as a Project Manager to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Having a well defied set of project management processes will help you manage politics. People will know they can’t go around the processes to get done what they want. However, project politics can’t be solved by processes alone. You need to first work on the people element.

Step 1: Build relationships

It is easier to resort to office politics if you do not have personal relationships with the major stakeholders. It is possible that you have a relationship with some or all of them to start. It is also possible that you don’t know any of the major stakeholders very well.

When a project starts, you can reduce the politics by building relationships with the major stakeholders. Building relationships makes it easier to work in a friendly and transparent manner. This starts off with stakeholder identification and stakeholder management, but goes beyond. Stakeholder engagement is about building relationships. These relationships will help when there is conflict and can keep you from getting into the dark side of project politics.

Build close relationships by meeting each stakeholder regularly to find out what they need from the project and why they need it. By listening to their needs, you’re securing their buy-in and you may be able to save unnecessary conflict in the future.

Step 2: Create a Project Board or Steering Committee of key stakeholders

One way to get competing stakeholders on the same page is to create a Project Board or Steering Committee. This allows the key stakeholders to agree to the same project scope and objectives. The Project Board should include your sponsor, major customers and other people that may influence the project. The purpose of the board is to set direction, resolve issues, control the scope and make sure that specific targets are set and achieved.

By forming a Project Board, you create a space where the senior stakeholders can thrash out the politics themselves and come to a consensus. You then have one common group to manage. If you include all of the “influencers” within the Board, you can task them with giving you a single, consistent vision. That way, there is no confusion as to what must be done to deliver the project and people are not pulled in different directions all of the time.

Step 3: Manage Change

A big risk to a project is that the goal posts move, causing continuous change to the project scope. This is a breeding ground for project politics, because every stakeholder will have their own wants and needs to be met—and they may not all be consistent with one another.

You need to manage change carefully by putting in place a formal process for managing it. Your change process should involve documenting each Change Request, why it’s needed and the impact to the project in implementing it. The Change Request should then be presented to the Project Board for review and approval. You need to make sure that when it’s approved the board also approve the extra time, money and people needed to implement it.


Building relationships, creating a Project Board and proactively managing change  will help you cut through politics to ensure your project success.

Do you need help assessing a project to see where it has gone wrong and what is required to save it? Contact us today to discuss how we can help your organization choose the right projects.

Some projects have a large budget and require rigorous management and tracking. Other projects don’t have a budget component at all. When you do have project finances to manage, think about these simple steps.

  1. Estimate expenses

The first step towards managing your project finances is to estimate the costs. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. You need to forecast the total amount of people, equipment, materials and other expenses needed to deliver the project. You then need to estimate the costs of these resources and when in the project plan, these expenses will take place.

  1. Set the budget

Estimating the costs is not the same as setting your budget. The budget shows how the money is allocated according to your company’s financial rules. The budget shows the expense accounts, allocates capital versus expense dollars, shows when funds are allocated to your project, etc. Ultimately you need to manage project costs according to the budget.

  1. Determine if you can get contingency funding

Project estimates are rarely 100% accurate. A contingency represents the estimating uncertainly. Even if you think your estimate is 90% accurate, this means you have a 10% uncertainty. A contingency budget represents this estimating contingency. For example, if you estimated your project to be 100,000 with a 90% confidence, you could also ask for a 10,000 contingency budget to represent the uncertainty. This 10,000 is not used for risks or scope change requests. It can be tapped if it turns out you underestimated work on your project. Not all organizations allow contingency budgets. If you do not have this budget flexibility you can add the uncertainly factor back into your baseline estimate.

  1. Track weekly

The next step after setting your budget is to start tracking your spending on the project. You need to track every expense. This could be a manual process but is usually handled by your accounting system. Ask your team to complete expense forms and submit them to you for approval when they spend money on behalf of the project.  You need to pre-approved any large expenses before they are incurred so you can more easily control expenditures on the project.

You also need to track your people costs. The total cost of the hours taken by those people can be tracked on the Project Dashboard, so you can see whether your people cost is under or over budget.

Make sure you always have enough funds available to cover your spending over the months ahead. Cash flow management is about managing the cash needed to deliver your project. Make sure your Sponsor has approved the next 1-2 months of work ahead of time, and that the funds needed to manage the project have been made available. Then track the spending of that funding every week.

  1. Manage expectations

When you start spending more than your budget, you have four options available to help you stay within budget.

  • Reduce costs. This means spending less to get the same job done.
  • Reduce scope. See if your Sponsor will agree to a reduced scope, so that you have less to produce for them.
  • Use your contingency if you have one
  • Re-forecast your expenses and present a new budget to your Sponsor for approval. This is the last choice and means you have to give up on hitting the prior budget baseline.

Managing costs on a project can be difficult. It is made more difficult if the project manager does not keep up on tracking and managing the budget. Use these four simple steps to stay in control.

Do you need help with project management budgeting skills? Contact us today to discuss how we can help your organization choose the right projects.

Over the past 15 years, Agile development models have moved from the underground to the mainstream. At the same time, the nature of Agile has also changed. The pure Agile model of 15 years ago has been refined, expanded and made friendlier to corporate America.

While it is true that many companies have successfully implemented a pure Agile model, it is more common that companies implement a hybrid. In other words, they take the basics of Agile and merge in some compromises to be able to exist within organization parameters. For example, does your Agile team create a status report? If so, you have made an Agile compromise. Does your Agile team have a project manager? If so, you have made a compromise.

Sign-up for this session to hear how many companies implement a hybrid Agile model – successfully combining Agile techniques while supporting traditional organization processes as well.

Date/time: Thu, Feb 26, 2015 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM CET
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There are many techniques and processes to help you be successful on a project. Some of them like better estimating and defining requirements are pretty standard and obvious. Here are some other ways to increase the likelihood of success on your project that are not so obvious.

  1. Understand the big picture and the details If the devil is in the details, there is nothing more devilish than the complex and intertwining dependencies of a project. You need to be aware of the details, even if you don’t react to each detail each time. At the same time, it’s just as important to see the big picture. Understanding the overall purpose and objectives of the project allows you to make decisions based on broader context. The big picture also allows you to see trends before problems emerge.
  2. Make decisions quickly Over analyzing and procrastination are a problem on many projects. Use the best information you have available to make decisions quickly. Even if it’s not the BEST decision, a GOOD decision suffices in nearly all cases.
  3. Communication heavily You can never have enough communication. If the worst thing is that somebody says they already know what you just told them, great. The discussion will be short. However, for every time you hear that, you will have five more instances where the person was not aware.
  4. Manage risks proactively This one might fall into the more obvious category. But it is surprising to me how many projects do not formally manage risks. Some projects identify risks but don’t put a plan in place to manage them. Risk management does not take so much time. All successful project managers do it.
  5. Manage expectations Many project managers communicate, but not effectively. The do not realize how to communicate what is happening now and the future looks like. If you have ever surprised a sponsor or customer, you probably were not managing expectations well.
  6. Make sure you get major documents approved Sometimes we are just too busy to get approvals for documents even if you know you need them. The result is often that there is a disagreement with the approver after the fact, causing rework and conflict.
  7. Involve stakeholders throughout the project We should all know it is important to understand project stakeholders. But often we focus on stakeholders at the beginning and the end of the projects. To be really successful you need to engage key stakeholders all the way through the project.
  8. Cultivate excellent relationships with the Project Sponsor Stakeholder management is important, but one stakeholder is more important then the rest – the sponsor. Go out of your way to develop a good relationship with the sponsor.

Use all the obvious techniques for project success, plus these eight that are a little less obvious. You will have a much better chance for success.

Do you need help with project management soft skills? Contact us today to discuss how we can help your organization choose the right projects.