Category Archives: U

U is for… Upscope

As an aternative to the Scoping Sword, there is another technique that can be used to protentially bring benefit to you as a Project Manager or your project, it’s called Upscoping.

Upscoping is a method whereby you actually expand the scope of your project to take in additional deliverables, functions, teams or even other projects.

While this may on the surface of it sound like a bad thing, it can often be made to work in your favour, not least by giving you negotiating room.

You can perhaps use it to get an increase in your budget and/or timescales to take account of your new responsibilities and scope.

You can also take advantage of some potential economies of scale, where you may already be delivering something similar, or on similar technologies. And sometimes you can use it as a means to get some key resources onto your project.

Finally, you may have the opportunity to take responsibility for things, external to your scope, that may already be giving you problems. Particularly useful with third party suppliers that may be impacting your project. If you can make yourself responsible for them, you can manage them directly and thus exert more control over your destiny.

However, with this technique you need to be a little careful. Always remember the wise words of the old shopkeeper, “With Mogwai comes much responsibility.”

If you make a land-grab, make sure you can deliver it.

U is for… Unavoidable

You may find yourself in the situation where something bad is going to happen and it appears to be unavoidable.

You need to do two things:

  1. Check that it is indeed unavoidable. Don’t take other people’s word for it, it’s your project; make sure there’s nothing you can do.
  2. Go through your available options. You do have options, you just need to decide which ones you want to consider and which to rule out.

Just because the dictionary definition of Unavoidable says, “Impossible to avoid or evade”, doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Given it’s going to happen, you should probably try to make the best of it.

So, can you perhaps;

  • Include some other bad news with this event, in a clever, 2-for-1 deal? No point in being hit twice when once will do now, is there?
  • Descope what you were originally trying to deliver to exclude some tricky stuff. And maybe pick those up as part of a new project/budget later.
  • Slip your project on the back of this bad news. It may have been close to slipping anyway, so grab yourself some leeway.
  • Get some more budget? You may have been short already and this issue will probably have wasted some of your budget.
  • Get some more (or better) people on your team. With better people you stand a better chance of delivering.

You’re looking for a way to turn a short-term negative into a mid- to long-term positive. Be creative!

In summary, batten down the hatches to ride out the storm and adopt a damage limitation strategy.

Finally, make sure you don’t get yourself into that position again.

U is for… Use your tools effectively

There are many tools out there to help you do your job effectively, just bear in mind that having all the tools in the world is no substitute for skill and ability; in that way that having a copy of MS Project (other planning tools are available) does not make you a Project Manager.

However, if you make yourself a master of the tools you need in your day to day tasks, it makes everything else that much easier and quicker. People pay more attention to the content of a well presented document, instead of mocking or getting confused by layout and mistakes. If you don’t have time to master a tool before you have to use it, get someone on your team that is already a master of it.

Here’s a few pointers (other products/pointers are available):
Word:
Learn how to use the formatting tools: paragraph marks, bullets/numbering, headers and footers, auto numbering and styleref.
Create templates for the stuff you use a lot.
Excel:
Learn how to use the formatting tools, borders, colours, conditional formatting, charts.
Use macros for anything that is repetitive.
Powerpoint:
Learn how to use the formatting tools, master slide layout, transitions.
Don’t overdo it, people tire VERY quickly of flashing lights and sounds.
Project:
Set your working day before you start putting in tasks (if you don’t – learn to live with it that way)
Don’t use hard dates other than fixed starts of major phases or hard milestones: use dependencies, including ss, sf, fs, ff and lead and lag times.
General:
Use the right tool for the job; don’t do presso’s in Word, don’t do your project plan in Excel