In my first post, I said I’d return to share the variety of applications that customers have found for MindManager in their everyday work. For the first three interviews, I asked three different project managers about “alignment” …. What does it mean to them? What role does it play in their projects? And if MindManager has a positive effect on it?
Today, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to John Rogers, PMP, Senior Consultant and Business Architect with Prismatic Consulting Services.
John Rogers has been involved in the information technology profession for over 45 years and managing projects for 40 years. Over the years, John has been active in the development and implementation of many design, delivery, and re-engineering methodologies. Since 1988 he has been involved in instructing in project management for private corporations, technical institutes and university extension programs. Through his extensive work with teams, he has amassed a storehouse of visual tools that support the planning, collaboration and evolution of solutions delivered by teams. He recently launched the Map4Results blog to share the visual methods and framework he has developed and tested with clients.
Q: Within the context of a project, what does alignment mean to you – and why is it important?
Rogers: Alignment is key to creating a clarity of purpose for everyone on the project. It’s also important to matching expectations with assignments and to help team members understand their roles and responsibilities. Why is it important? It helps the project team to establish and maintain focus, which translates into effective operations and interactions. It also helps keep the team focused on the project’s deliverables.
Alignment is needed throughout the project lifecycle. Teams may lose their way part way during the project. Maintaining clarity throughout it helps everyone keep their eye on the ball.
Q: According to research Corel recently conducted, roughly half of all failed projects die because of a lack of team alignment. What has your experience been?
Rogers: When most people think of alignment, they only focus on the core project team. But it also extends to the guidance committee and between the project team and the client organization. Sometimes political or power agendas within the guidance team and organization can get in the way of successful project implementation.
Extending alignment to these governance groups helps leadership to see what’s in it for them and how the project will benefit the whole organization. With a broader view of benefits, they will be more likely to support the project and less likely to obstruct it during development and implementation.
Q: What problems can lack of alignment cause during the implementation stage of the project?
Rogers: At the beginning of the project, alignment must be extended to the client manager and supervisory levels within the organization. If the project leadership hasn’t taken the time to do that, the implementation can be significantly challenged or its benefits will not be realized – because the line management and supervisors will not support the new implementation and will potentially continue to use their old processes.
Q: How, specifically, does MindManager help you to achieve better team alignment during the projects you’ve been responsible for?
Rogers: It helps in several ways:
For example, it enables the team to discuss, consider and reach consensus on process definitions. It also enables them to present the solution in a single map that can be easily and clearly understood by everyone on the team.
When I consult with project teams, MindManager gives me a platform for conducting facilitated “talk throughs” with members to resolve misunderstandings at the beginning of the project and reach a full consensus amongst all. By talk throughs, I mean open discussion about the project approach, design and/or definitions. In order for a project to be successful, you can’t impose processes on them. They need to have a hand in helping to design them. The mind map serves as a framework for discussion as well as place to take notes as we resolve these issues, one at a time.
Finally, MindManager helps team members to see how their part of the project fits into the overall scope of it, as well as visualize flows and plans.
Q: Does engaging team members in project design increase their buy-in?
Rogers: Yes, not only buy-in but also engagement in delivery of the project. It also helps team members understand the interdependence of their roles and responsibilities. That’s something that’s much harder to visualize in a 50-page project charter document but a single map can tell the whole story. Further, with this concise view, the team starts to realize it is not about the activity of generating big reports but about producing results which provide real value.
Q: What advice do you have for project managers who are challenged with getting their teams aligned to support a project?
Rogers: First, encourage an open conversation among all members of the project team. Facilitation is a key capability of a project manager. Next, use a diagram or map to communicate the outcomes needed by the business which is of course the reason the project exists in the first place. Then connect the required outcomes with the project outputs then to the activities required to produce the outputs along with the needed inputs. In other words, start with the end in mind and walk them back to the present, ensuring there is complete understanding of the connections. This helps team members to understand not only the “what” of the project but also the “how” and most importantly the “why” – its purpose.
Q: Is there anything else we should know about MindManager and project team alignment?
Rogers: Yes. Remember, it’s the dialogue between team members, leadership and business during the project brainstorming and design where the real value lies. Participants reach a common language and understanding of the project and move toward a shared vision. MindManager is truly the perfect tool to capture this shared understanding as it unfolds.
It’s also an excellent “canvas” where you can capture team concepts, plan work, monitor development and track implementation. In addition, you can capture all the content that’s needed for the various stakeholders to show project progress in a clear and concise fashion. Finally, you can use it to generate reports, including exporting project status to Word documents for those stakeholders who aren’t comfortable viewing a visual summary of it.
Want to learn more project management tricks?
Watch our webinar Don’t Fear the Breakdown: Empowering Your Projects (and Sanity) with a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). You’ll learn the fundamentals of a WBS, the remarkable effect it can have on a project’s success, how to move from the WBS to planning and execution, and the best tools for creating a WBS quickly and easily.
About the author: Julie Harrison joined Corel this past July as Senior Manager, MindManager Global Marketing. In her role, she’ll be focusing on content and campaigns for regions worldwide, since MindManager is currently in use by millions of people in thousands of global companies. She can be reached at julie [dot] harrison [at] corel [dot] com.