Manual The Project Managers Book of Checklists: How to complete a project successfully, smoothly and on time

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Then, to make sure the project is progressing as expected and meeting goals that may have changed along the way, Scrum requires a reassessment—and potential project changes—at the end of each sprint. The Product Owner, who should be deeply familiar with all aspects of development, makes sure that everything aligns with business goals and customer needs with a mile-high view of the overall project. The Scrum Master is the team cheerleader—a liaison between the PO and the rest of the team—who makes sure the team is on track in each individual sprint.

The Team then is the people working in each sprint, dividing the tasks and making sure everything is shipped. Where other project management systems might look like they simplify your projects and make them seem more manageable, Scrum can at first glance look overwhelming. You'll need to delegate responsibilities and plan extra meetings—but that overhead can help ensure your projects are successful and stay on track. It's a structured way to make sure everything gets done. Scrum is designed for projects that need parts of the project shipped quickly, while still making it easy to respond to change during the development process.

With so many meetings and ways to delegate tasks, it's also great to use when parts of the team may not be as familiar with a product's context i.

You'll always have someone looking out for the project as a whole, so if each person on the team doesn't understand the entire project, that's OK. Netflix is a great example of Scrum's ability to help you ship fast.

The 50 Golden Rules of Project Management

It updates its website every two weeks, and Scrum was a good match because it stresses the user experience, eliminates what doesn't work, and leaves a small window of time to get things done. For each site iteration, the designers would test new features, forget the ones that didn't work out and move on to new functionalities. Most of the benefits the Netflix team saw with Scrum was the ability to "fail fast.


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Like Netflix, you may experience downfalls of Scrum, such as upset designers who saw their beloved work chucked after testing showed it didn't work—especially when the testing comes so quickly and some may feel that the new ideas would work with more time. You might also have trouble adjusting if your team is accustomed to long release cycles—or, depending on your work, you might find shipping so often isn't necessary. Scrum's meetings and management overhead can also be overkill for some projects, turning into something where you're more focused on planning sprints than you are on actually getting work accomplished during them.

Agile project management dictates that you break your work up into smaller, shippable portions, but it doesn't say much about how to manage each of those portions of your project. Scrum tries to fix that with managers and meetings; Lean, on the other hand, adds workflow processes to Agile so you can ensure every part of your project is shipped with the same quality. With Lean project management, you'll still break up your project into smaller pieces of work that can be completed individually. You'll also define a workflow for each task, something that's reminiscent of the Apollo project and its five box system.

Perhaps you'll have a planning, design, production, testing, and shipping phase—or any other workflow of phases that you need for your task.

Cooking a meal might need a preparation and cooking step, while a writing workflow might need an editing and fact-checking step. Lean's stages and their flexibility make it a great system for making sure each part of your project is done well. It doesn't have Scrum's strict deadlines, or force you to work on one thing at a time as TPM does—in fact, you could have various tasks in various phases of your Lean workflow at the same time. What it does do is let you build a system tailored to your team.

Just like Agile, Lean is more of a concept than a set-in-stone project management system. You can use the Lean ideas, and build the system you need for your projects. If you liked the idea of Agile, but wanted a way to make sure each part of your work is consistently finished with the same level of quality and oversight, Lean gives you the extra tools you need to make that happen. It's still flexible—you can define the stages of your project portions as you want—but there's enough structure to make your projects a bit more guided. Every part of your project doesn't necessarily need the same level of oversight or the same steps for completion, but lean treats everything the same.

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That can be one major downfall in using it to manage projects with diverse parts that all need completed. Lean also doesn't have any process to make sure the final project is completed, making it easy as it is with Lean to let your projects drag on forever. It's again something communication can clear up, but it is worth keeping in mind. Lean sounds a bit abstract on its own, but combine it with Kanban and it's easy to build your own Lean project management system.

Conceived by Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno and implemented in , Kanban is set up much like a factory floor, where a part might start out as a piece of metal and then, one step at a time, is turned into a finished part through a series of steps. In the same way when using Kanban, you'll do some work towards a project, then ship that item on down the line to the next station where something else is done.

Kanban also pulls inspiration from the grocery store model: for maximum efficiency, carry just enough on your shelves to meet customers demand.

Project manager reminder / to-do list spreadsheet in Excel - Freeware

So, in Kanban, instead of plowing ahead on shipping a complete project, you can leave tasks at various stages until they're needed—whether that's half-made, low-demand parts in a factory, un-edited blog posts in your queue without a publish date, or anything else that's waiting for a need in your workflow.

It's a lot more laid back than Scrum—there's no set time for sprints, no assigned roles outside of the product owner, and a zen-like focus on only the task at hand. You could have meetings about your overall projects, or not: it's up to your team's needs. All you have to do is define the stages of your workflow, then setup a way to move each task from one stage to the other. In a factory, you might have different boxes or shelves for each stage: raw materials in the first, half-made parts in the second, and completed parts in the third.

For other projects, you might have a card—whether a note in a program, or a physical piece of paper on a board—where you list info about a task, and you'll move that card to different lists as the task progresses. Your Kanban system can be as flexible as you want—it's really just a way to visualize the Agile idea—but there's four pillars of the Kanban philosophy that can help make sure your projects get shipped. These include:.

Like Scrum, Kanban fits best with a highly cohesive team that knows what it takes to keep the flow going—but unlike Scrum, it's designed for teams that are self-motivated and don't need as much management or deadlines. It's great for those who lean toward seeing the entire project at a glance. While the two-week Scrum rule is absent and subprojects can take however long they've been given, you should still have an overall focus on efficiency—which should help save resources. If you're careful to follow Kanban rules and only assign as much work as a team can handle, projects are less likely to go past deadline and team members are less likely to juggle other distractions.

And because the product owner can change tasks that aren't currently being worked on along the way, it allows for flexibility without frustration. If only one of your team members has a certain in-demand skill, the individual can hold up everything. Kanban is ideal for teams that have members with overlapping skills, so that everyone can pitch in and help move the backlog list to zero.

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It's also best for places where time on the overall project isn't quite as crucial; if you must ship by certain deadlines, TPM or Scrum give you the time management structure you need. Motorola wasn't about to let the auto industry take all the credit for project management innovation, so decades after Toyota's introduction of Kanban, the mobile phone company's engineer Bill Smith created Six Sigma in It's a more structured version of Lean than Kanban, one that sets specific stages and adds in more planning to save resources, ship quality products, and eliminate bugs and problems along the way.

The ultimate end goal is to make customers happy with a quality product, which is done through continuous improvement heavily reliant on data analysis. You ship parts of your project along the way, while at the same time address product pitfalls that come up—something very similar to the Apollo project's workflow. It's much like a Kanban approach, only this time with set stages for the project that make you plan, define goals, and test for quality at each stage. You'll likely end up with more meetings than Kanban calls for, but you'll also have a far more structured way to approach each task.

And just like Kanban, you can customize the phases for what your project needs—you'll just need to keep the measure and control steps in place if you want to learn from past projects and continually improve your processes. Six Sigma runs a tight ship, which can help you continually improve your processes and ship better results. By defining the goals and then reviewing them later, you'll have objective data to measure project success with—something that's far better than just going on intuition.

While gathering and learning from data can take up a significant amount of time, you'll be able to learn from what you've done and improve your work in the future—and that's where time and quality savings should come in. There are plenty of scenarios in which the job is never really done—that's where Six Sigma shines.

It helps you ship your tasks, learn from them, and improve the next time around. Project manager seem to have similar gripes about Six Sigma: cost savings are the goal but not guaranteed since customer satisfaction will take precedence. If you're continually adjusting your goals with each task in the project, it's easy to let things spiral out of control even while you're trying to ship your best possible work. Then, Six Sigma's underlying motto that good is never good enough can be frustrating for some, who may feel like the ghost of continuous improvement never brings them the satisfaction of finalizing a job well done.

Some project may only be done once, and the focus on metrics and incremental improvements may seem unnecessary there. NASA wasn't the only government organization working to improve project management. The framework is more focused on the ends rather than the means; what's expected of the end product will determine the scope and shape the planning.

PRINCE2 has a more clearly defined personnel structure than most project management systems, one that works for larger projects that governments and other large organizations must undertake. That may be a bit much for some projects, so you can still customize the stages for your needs, while still keeping the same general idea of PRINCE2's structure, planning, and reporting back to upper management. PRINCE2 works best when the stakes are high and there needs to be several pairs of authoritative eyes on the project every step of the way. If you're big on feedback and guaranteeing nothing will go wrong, this might work well for you.

It's been successfully used by VocaLink to streamline real-time money transfers between banks in Australia and the UK, something where there is zero tolerance for flaws and where communication is essential. If used in the wrong environment, there's lots of opportunity for bottlenecks and politics. Because of the extensive reviews and sign-offs, you might end up wrestling for control or find that work is delayed because someone hasn't signed off yet. And strictly defined roles can stave off a sense of true collaboration. Every project and team are unique, and so the project management systems that work best for each team are different.

There are teams around the world that use each of these systems in wide ranges of industries—you'll surely find software developers using TPM, governments using Scrum, and grocery stores using Six Sigma if you look hard enough.

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More often, you'll find teams using their own take on project management, using the best parts of different systems to fit their needs. Here are three stories where project management saved the day—stories that might help you figure out which system would work best in your team. Back in , the Vienna-based startup Tupalo , a social network that lets users review restaurants and places of interest, was experiencing rapid growth. Dealing with a never-ending mountain of requests from both users and employees, the developers were faced with more tasks than they could process.