You want to minimalize the effort you put in project management and increase clarity? Here are 5 concepts from the SCRUM world that will change the game for you whatever project management approach you use.
SCRUM is not for everyone, that is granted. And I talked about the 10 good reasons why SCRUM fails if you do not get it right (see my previous blog post). Nonetheless, there are concepts within AGILE and SCRUM everybody should apply to project management because they change the game. Et voilà:
1st Concept: Definition of Done
You define with your team, when a task is done. I mean really done. No need to touch this any more. Now, how do you do this?
Basically, what you do is that you sit with your team and define for each task exactly how the result must look like and who checks this.
An everyday example to illustrate this: Let’s say, you tell your son to mow the lawn. In the evening you come back and find your lawn mown but the grass has not been swept up and the edges have not been done either. How come? Well probably you did not agree on the definition of done with your son. This could have included mowing the edges, sweeping up the grass and taking it to the trash.
In business, the important thing is to define that the task is done in a way the next person who needs to use the outcome can directly use it. If you forget this it leads to additional work at the next step, because the task has not been finished and the output is not usable as such. And by the way you also avoid the opposite, which is overdoing. Someone spends hours formatting a report, when it is just copied into a new document and must be reformatted anyway.
Get the definition of done right is a huge time saver and stress killer, believe me!
2nd Concept: Define the task duration with your team
In SCRUM it is the team who defines the duration of each task in the so-called ‘planning poker’.
If you want your team members to feel involved and to take responsibility for the successful on-time delivery of the outcome you should involve them when it comes to estimating how long a task will take.
Now, even if there are only the 2 of you, you can still use planning poker. It is an interesting concept and I will probably do a blog article on the subject soon. So, if you are interested don’t forget to get on my mailing list, so that I can send it to your mailbox.
3rd Concept: Fit the task length to your time box
What does that mean? A task takes as long as it takes! Isn’t it? Yes and No. Let me explain.
The concept of time boxing comes from the organisation of the work in Sprints like in SCRUM. A sprint usually takes 2 to 4 weeks.
In traditional project management a time box could be for example the time between 2 team meetings, or if you have weekly team meetings make it a 2-week time box. The rule is, that every task which is started in one box needs to be done (see concept 1) latest in the next time box.
This is important for 2 reasons: First, to avoid having tasks drag on eternally and to not know where you really stand. And second, to keep things easy and avoid procrastination. Procrastination often comes from not knowing how to start a long, tedious and complex task.
What do you do if a task is longer than your time box? Very easy! You divide it into smaller, more digestible pieces. This makes each task look more manageable and the process more transparent. And you can react much faster if there is a problem with one of the tasks and you need to adapt.
I think you get the point.
4th Concept: Daily stand-up meeting
What, have a meeting every morning? Yes, and it’s a good idea. BUT not a standard meeting where you sit around a table, have coffee and cookies. No, a so-called stand-up meeting with your team. You time it to maximum 15 minutes and the objective is that everybody answers 3 questions:
- What did I work on yesterday?
- What will I work on today?
- Do I need support, is there something that is hindering me from doing what I need to do?
And only these 3, not more!
Doing stand-up meetings saves you time because you can react immediately when a team member falls off track, loses sight for what is important or gets stuck with a problem they cannot solve. If you don’t do this daily, you might lose some weeks before you become aware of the problem.
BUT please make it all about helping your team members getting blocks out of their way and not about controlling them if you want to reap the benefits.
The big advantage of establishing such meeting from the beginning and not only when something goes terribly wrong is that you gain clarity and save time from the beginning.
5th Concept: Do monthly retrospectives
A retrospective is a meeting that allows your team to communicate what went wrong AND what was great since the last retrospective and more importantly work on strategies to become better.
It is a kind of formalised continuous improvement process applied to the way project management works in your company. It allows you and your team to raise your game and that is what we all strive for, isn’t it?
Now some words on how to manage this process.
- If you want your team members to be open and to tell you what works and what doesn’t, then never ever criticise them for speaking openly or talk them down. Appreciate what they tell you because it takes courage to stand one’s ground in front of the project manager.
- Share what you have to say, but never attack any of your team members personally. When you put something up in the group make it a “WE” thing. If you need to criticise one team member in person, then do it face to face and not in front of the group.
- Move quickly from the “that is not working” and “this is shitty” mode into concrete suggestions for improvement. It is important that your team does not get trapped in whining mode. Your key phrase is “How can we do it better?”
- Don’t let this be just talking but move your butt afterwards and change things for the better.
- Finish on some items that did work, so that everybody leaves the meeting with a positive mood.
Now it’s your turn!
Did you already use one or more of the concepts I mentioned? I am curious to know which ones. Thank you to put this in the comments.
And by the way, if you have a question, then you can simply ask me for free. Try me!
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