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Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

When you facilitate workshops (or teach, or train, or preach, or….), you have to pull illustrations from wherever you can.

Even a toddler’s bedroom. Let me explain.

People marvel when my wife or I explain how we enforced bedtimes (and wake-up times) with our kids when they were young.

When I explain the simple technique, and the principle behind it (The External Authority), any parents in my Project and Vendor Management workshop start scribbling notes furiously. It may be the most high-impact takeaway in the course!

Here’s what we did – we used THE CLOCK as the authority. When THE CLOCK says it’s 8:00 pm, then it’s bedtime. It’s objective and non-personal, and you can’t argue with Mom and Dad, because the external authority has decreed what the reality must be.

Even better – they weren’t allowed to leave their bedrooms in the morning until THE CLOCK said 7 am.

7-00-clip-art

In this way, we remove any nagging negotiation between parent and child by pointing to something “above” all of us, something that carried with it a sense of inevitability and external authority. How can you argue with the march of time??

(Have young children at home? I know you’re scribbling notes right now!!)

OK – so, what does this have to do with project and vendor management, or any other facet of corporate life?

A great deal.

When projects begin to go off the rails due to miscommunication or scope creep, it’s generally because there hasn’t been a carefully defined and articulated project plan. An agreed-upon project definition, with an agreed-upon process, a defined timeline and budget, and an agreed-upon scope of work.

That project plan is THE CLOCK.

The last thing you want to get into as a project manager is a schoolyard brawl with internal stakeholders or external vendors over what has happened to a going-south-project. The project manager(s) often end up getting the blame in these scenarios. This is prevented is by creating a detailed project plan that everyone consciously agrees to up-front. The plan, and its scope, becomes the external authority, reigning in unauthorized changes and enforcing a level of project discipline on all contributing stakeholders.

Now, it’s not you against them. It’s you and them being accountable to The Plan. Which can only be changed by high-level stakeholders (ultimately) responsible for budget and timing.

You can see how the appeal to an external authority is used all the time in corporate life. Sometimes, with very good effect; other times, as an excuse and evasion of responsibility.

For example – what sounds better: “I’m firing you because I just don’t like you,” or, “According to our manual of company behavior, we’re going to have to let you go because you violated Rule #37b on April 12th.” One of these is strictly personal and can lead to a lawsuit; the other has a whiff of objective inevitability.

Or this: “I tried to herd all the cats, but somehow the project ended up 20% over budget and 3 weeks late,” vs. “The VP of Sales signed off on a change to the original scope in order to include 2 extra videos on August 3rd, which impacted the budget by 20% and pushed back our final deliverable by three weeks.”

Are you involved in managing projects or vendors? Your best friend is detailed definition and up-front agreement. You always want to the clock on your side!

Also on the Impactiviti blog: Tossing Trainers into the Deep End of the Pool 

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Stephen Covey was right. When it comes to strategy, sales, life, just about everything – we must define our destination if we intend to get there!

Project Management? Absolutely so. How can you succeed if you don’t have a clearly-defined outcome? One of the very first steps in successful project management is clear definition….what’s the Point B?

PointBPrinciple

In my Best Practices in Project and Vendor Management workshop (geared very specifically toward Life Sciences trainers), this is one of the very first points we emphasize. Project Management is a pro-active process of moving an initiative forward to a clearly-defined goal.

  • You need to be pro-active
  • You need to have a clear goal (business outcome)
  • You need an effective process to get there

This is one of the main differences between successful, and ineffective, project management.

Let’s talk about bringing these best practices to your training department (now available either on-demand/on-line, or as a live facilitated workshop!)

Reach out to Steve Woodruff, President, Impactiviti: AskSteve@impactiviti.com

Also on the Impactiviti blog: 5 Compelling Reasons to Provide Project Management Training

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If you could invest $10 to gain $100 (or to keep from losing $100), would you do it?

I would.

Especially if that same investment could keep my team from embarrassing failures and losses. That’s why we invest in training trainers in Project and Vendor Management Best Practices.

Putting training managers in charge of outsourced training development projects is risky business. Here are some of the common (& very expensive) failures that regularly arise:

  • Poorly-defined specifications that lead to scope changes (always more $$!)
  • Miscommunications with internal stakeholders and external vendors leading to missed deadlines
  • Choosing the wrong supplier for the project and ending up with a costly, sub-standard deliverable
  • Time and money lost trying to get an out-of-control project on track due to lack of clear process

benjaminsI worked on the vendor side for 10 years and saw first-hand how costly it can be to have people running projects who have never been trained in the basic principles of project and vendor management.

I have also served as a vendor/client consultant for almost 11 additional years, and I cringe to remember all the budget dollars I’ve seen floating out the windows of client training departments. One bad decision in just one year’s time can lead to losses of 20K, 50K, even 100K or more.

You’ve seen this happen before, right? Maybe multiple times.

What’s the solution?

Impactiviti offers industry-specific training for Vendor/Project Management. This targeted program (delivered either on-demand or live) is built specifically for Life Sciences training departments, and has been embraced by many top companies over the past 6 years.

We address all the money-saving best practices that lead to successful engagements with vendors. Here’s on overview of what we cover:

pm-outline

It’s time to put an end to lost training budget dollars and preventable mistakes that lead to project failures. Contact Steve Woodruff at Impactiviti (973-947-7429) to discuss the best investment for your training department.

ALSO: Five Compelling Reasons to Provide Project Management Training

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Have you ever built something that didn’t come out quite as expected?? :>)

Of course you have. Join the club.

In a recent post about successful project management, I explained the fact that we need to carefully define all aspects of the project, because we each have different meanings of words floating around in our heads (I call this the “mental metadata” issue).

Your idea of a “module” may be quite different from mine – your mental hashtags may not match mine at all, though we are using the same word. Misunderstandings like this derail many a project.

Closely related to reaching agreement on the meaning of words is this next step – being sure our expectations are aligned.

I wish I knew who to credit with this brilliant graphic, because I use it all the time in my Vendor/Project Management workshop, and it never fails to elicit a knowing chuckle:

how-the-pm

Learning how to properly describe and scope out a project is one of the key ingredients to success. The trainer/project manager needs to pro-actively work with internal stakeholders and external vendors to make sure that there is a clear roadmap, with a well-described deliverable at the end – BEFORE any work begins!

In fact, I challenge project managers to drive agreement by distilling the essence of the project – its key expectations, including business outcomes – down to a simple, one-sentence summary:

one-sentence

Contact us here at Impactiviti to discuss how we can help your department move toward best practices in project and vendor management (AskSteve@Impactiviti.com; 973-947-7429).

See also: 5 Compelling Reasons to provide Project Management Training

 

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Quick – what’s a workshop? What words would you use to express your meaning?

If I ask 5 of you that question, I’ll end up with five different answers. Why?

5-workshop

Because we all have varied definitions, experiences, and expectations built up around the common words we use.

“Workshop” can mean one thing to you, and something quite different to me. And unless we define what we actually mean, what we’ll have is a “failure to communicate.”

ch-luke

Technically, this is what I call the “mental metadata” problem. Metadata can be defined as “information about information” – the words and imagery we attach, to give meaning.

The easiest way to think about metadata is how we use hashtags on-line. If I take a picture of a beautiful waterfall in Tennessee and hashtag it #FallCreekFalls – I’m attaching information (in this case, name/location).

We attach labels in order to define and explain things – it’s human nature. But here’s something else about human nature – we assume that others are thinking the way we are!

The danger is when we assume that when multiple people use the same terms, we actually mean the same thing. Many a “workshop” project has started without a clear definition of what was actually expected – in clarifying detail. This is what leads to misunderstanding and scope creep.

Lack of definition dooms many a project (and leads to serious loss of $$). Your department has experienced this, right? It’s a common pitfall when new trainers are drawn from the field sales force, and they have no on-boarding training in how to manage projects and vendors.

Project definition is one of the key issues we address in the Project/Vendor Management workshop that I provide to my Life Sciences Commercial Training clients. There are 6 vital elements to project definition that will determine whether a project stays on track – or goes off the rails.

proj-definition

One way to help ensure project success is to be sure that your sales managers understand all that goes into project definition, and that they are pro-actively equipped to map out ahead of time exactly what is being developed. That is one of the main emphases of the workshop.

Contact us here at Impactiviti to discuss how we can help your department move toward best practices in project and vendor management (AskSteve@Impactiviti.com; 973-947-7429).

See also: 5 Compelling Reasons to provide Project Management Training

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The Star Wars Rogue One movie comes out this week, so what better time to discuss moving over to the “Dark Side” than today?

(for those not yet in the know, sometimes training professionals within life sciences companies take on new career roles with vendor-providers. This is, tongue-in-cheek, referred to as moving to the Dark Side!)

darkside

In the Life Sciences industry, there’s a close collaboration between people in Training and Development departments, and their outside vendors. In fact, many people cross over from one side to another at points in their career – some for a season, and others permanently.

 Life is not the same on both sides of this fence. We discussed what it is like to launch a consultancy in an earlier post, but for this article, I’ve interviewed three industry professionals who have worked on both the client and the vendor side. Here is the question we’re working with: what are the main lessons learned about the nature of work once we leave the training department and join the “Dark Side”?

andreapagnozziAccording to Andrea Pagnozzi (who has done multiple stints in training within pharma and medical device companies, and also worked for a time with a training vendor), one of the biggest realizations was how many people, and moving parts, were involved in developing training on the vendor side. While clients within T&D departments only see a few faces (typically an account manager and a project manager), there is, in fact, a whole host of professionals involved in a tightly-choreographed dance behind the scenes. Most vendors don’t burden their clients with all those details, and rightly so; however, it is important to remember that every change or delay in a project has ripple effects in the workflow behind the scenes.

Having worked on the vendor side for many years, I know about this first hand. To help clients understand, I often show a picture of the inner workings of a clock – you know, the old-fashioned kind with lots of gears – to build awareness that there is just as much complexity and collaboration on a project on one side of the fence as there is on the other. That’s why a detailed project plan is so important – it keeps everyone on track so that the development process does not spin out of control.

davidboyleDavid Boyle, who has worn a variety of hats within large life sciences companies as well as with training vendors, stated that he has ended up learning far more about learning development from being on the vendor side. Those who cycle into training roles in pharma/biotech/med device organizations often only receive a bare minimum amount of training in project management and instructional design, and many times are not empowered to take a holistic view of existing training assets compared to the short-term necessities of the project at hand. As an outside supplier, David has found that he can often take a more strategic view of any given project and approach the needs more thoroughly. This underscores how important it can be to allow vendors to serve as strategic partners, and to bring their expertise and outside view to bear. This approach can end up saving enormous amounts of time and effort.

sueiannoneSue Iannone has occupied many leadership roles in major training organizations over the years, having worked on countless initiatives both small and large. Recently, Sue took on a leadership role with a vendor/partner, and her input to me revolved around how absolutely crucial it is (for both sides!) to arrive at a very clear project definition. Most of the time, we tend to have a basket of problems on our minds, which, when unloaded on a vendor, may lead to a lack of clarity. Sue suggests a strategic definition session when appropriate, perhaps including a whiteboard, to try to narrow down the scope of the project and arrive at the true strategic business imperatives. This approach helps clients to get exactly what they need.

Those who know me well know that I often promote the phrase, “You can’t read the label of the jar you’re in.” One of the most valuable roles a vendor can play is to bring outside perspective and holistic thinking. All of us get too involved in our own forest and trees, and working more closely with smart and collaborative vendors in the definition process will always lead to greater success.

One interesting point that those on the vendor/partner side bring up is that the opportunity set is different when working with provider companies. Vendors tend to be much leaner, and generally value creativity and initiative more than conformity and narrow focus. The pace is faster, the hats you wear are more varied, and the “cocoon” of infrastructure that one often enjoys on the inside of a client company just isn’t there. Moving in one direction or the other can be scary for some, but refreshing and empowering for others. In either case, it’s a great growing experience!

More in the Impactiviti Interview series:

Training Journey – From Major Pharma to Startup

Training for the New World of Specialty Pharma

Becoming a Consultant – Should You?

Two Keys to Successful Product Launches

Clinical Training Innovation at Depomed

Development of Field Leadership at Gilead Sciences – “Touchpoints”

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Certainly, there are interpersonal and relational aspects of a client/vendor relationship that are vital to long-term partnership success. After all, who wants to work with a jerk or an insenstive boor (on either side)? ;>}

But those skills are not enough to make projects go smoothly. One of the most important practices that any client can cultivate is a great process for spelling out project requirements.

Here is a very helpful article on the outsourcing process (including a good definition of the acronyms RFI/RFQ/RFP), reinforcing many of the skills and behaviors that I have seen work well over the years.

A pull quote:

The quality of proposals you receive will only be as good as the RFPs you send to them. If you do a poor job of articulating your needs, the supplier must speculate and make assumptions. Being vague communicates to the supplier that you are not sure of your own needs. Your objective is to get the supplier to put forth their best proposal.

Read the whole article. There is an art and science to drawing up good proposals, and projects often go off the rails not because the developer is “bad,” but because there simply weren’t enough details to get on the right track.

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