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A Reminder of the Pseudo-Science of #NoEstimates

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Fri, 12/02/2016 - 02:09

When you hear...

#NoEstimates is a hashtag for the topic of exploring alternatives for making decisions in software development. That is, ways to make decisions with "No Estimates"

Think about the conjecture. How would you assess a decision in the presence of uncertainty without making an estimate of the outcome of that decision. Since there is not deterministic data available about the future, even though you may have deterministic data from the past. This would mean the future is like the past, there is no uncertainty about the future - either reducible (epistemic) or irreducible (aleatory). No conditions that were in place from the past will be changing in the future. Nothing is going to emerge that you have not accounted for. Nothing is going to change in any attribute, process, or people doing the work..

Such a process defies the principles of microeconomics of decision making. Defies the principles of managerial finance in the presence of uncertainty. Defies the principles of closed loop control systems in the presence of stochastic non-stationary systems. 

It simply defies the principles of logic

Pseudo–science and the art of software methods from Glen Alleman
Categories: Blogs

Using Flow Metrics to Deliver Faster

LeanKit Blog - Thu, 12/01/2016 - 15:01

The best way to optimize the delivery of value to your customers is to optimize flow. Dan Vacanti explains what you need to begin using flow metrics.

The post Using Flow Metrics to Deliver Faster appeared first on Blog | LeanKit.

Categories: Companies

Asana is now a recommended app for Google’s G Suite

Asana Blog - Wed, 11/30/2016 - 19:00
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Millions of teams collaborate at work every day using Google’s technologies, relying on popular business services like Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, and Google Calendar for file sharing and creation, messaging, and communication. Many of those same teams improve clarity and accountability when they prioritize, manage, and track their work in Asana, integrated with Google’s applications.

So we’re excited to announce that Asana is now a recommended app for G Suite, a set of intelligent apps designed with real-time collaboration and machine intelligence to bring people together and help them work smarter. Together, Asana and Google are changing the way teams work and empowering businesses around the world to achieve great results.

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The collaboration tools your team needs

We believe that in order to effectively collaborate and get great results, customers are seeking a set of solutions that work together seamlessly to drive team productivity.

Messaging and chat tools (like Gmail or Google Hangouts) help you connect and communicate with teammates no matter where they are located. Document creation and file storage tools (like Google Docs and Google Drive) let teams create, share, and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and other file types. These tools are critical for productive collaboration in today’s workplace, and G Suite provides solutions that are loved by businesses worldwide.

Asana complements these tools by answering crucial questions for teams: What are all the steps between here and accomplishing our goal? Who is responsible for each of those steps? When will they be done? By answering these questions, Asana brings increased clarity of plan, responsibility, and status to those same customers.

With Asana, everyone will know who is doing what, by when. And you can easily attach your files from Google Drive, sync your due dates to Google Calendar, and send work into Asana from Gmail. When you combine the trusted G Suite apps with Asana’s features for collaboratively tracking your team’s work, businesses like yours have the tools you need to get things done.

Using Asana side-by-side with G Suite has transformed the way we work. The combination lets us work more collaboratively and efficiently together. With Asana, we've been able to bring accountability and transparency to important processes like new-hire on-boarding and campaigns. We save so much time not wondering who is doing what by when. Kyle Coleman, Director of Sales Development at Looker How Asana and Google work together

Asana customers can continue to expect a seamless integration between Asana and Google. Here are some of the many ways we work together:

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Attach files from Google Drive

Add files directly to your tasks in Asana from Google Drive. Asana automatically updates to the latest version of the file for assignees and followers to review.

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Dashboard reporting in Google Sheets

Build custom reports in Google Sheets using your Asana project data to get insights on progress across your projects.

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Create tasks from Gmail

Turn emails from Gmail into tasks in Asana. Make your email inbox actionable, and track the action items to completion in Asana.

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Sync to Google Calendar

See due dates from your My Tasks list or any project on your Google Calendar. Changes are synced automatically, so deadlines are always up to date.

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Native Android app

Work on the go with Asana’s native Android app (compatible with Android for Work). Asana has home screen widgets and offers complete offline access.

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Google Chrome extension

Quickly add tasks to Asana from any web page in Chrome. Add the current URL as a task so you can read articles later or share them with teammates.

You can also set up SSO through Google to enjoy the ease and security of signing into Asana with your Google credentials, and use Google Forms to collect data inside Asana too. In other words, there are lots of ways to use Google and Asana together, to do great work with your team.

With Asana and G Suite our team has become more efficient. We can make sure we’re not duplicating efforts and that we're always working on the right things. Asana and G Suite make it so much easier to be collaborative and build a sense of trust and empowerment within our team. Kelly Payne, Customer Programs Manager at Looker To the future

This relationship only represents the beginning of the many ways that Google and Asana can help teams collaborate. We will continue to work with the G Suite team to deepen integrations between our tools to keep you and your team organized and productive.

As an increasing number of teams turn to work tracking software, we are thankful to have allies like Google helping us make it even easier for teams to do great things together. Explore our G Suite integrations (and more), and let us know what you think in the comments!

Categories: Companies

How to Decide if a SaaS Provider Is Right for You in Less Than 60 Minutes

The LiquidPlanner Blog - Wed, 11/30/2016 - 17:59
evaluating SaaS products

As a salesperson in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) space, I get to speak to executives who are shopping for new work management tools every day. They’re looking for ways to innovate and speed up their teams—it’s a theme of our times. I constantly hear the phrase “time is money” and in today’s fast changing business world, it’s never been so true.

evaluating SaaS products

Put the phrase, “time is money” into the context of picking and evaluating a software service provider, and the search can be an expensive endeavor.  The time it takes to make a decision—which often delays the needed process change—can rival the cost of the program itself!

What makes the decision of purchasing a software solution so challenging?

Two words: Information overload.

The Decision Process Problem

There are seemingly hundreds of pieces of information available when making a decision on a SaaS provider today. If you include additional decision-makers besides yourself, and have everyone try the solution before purchase, you end up with the recipe for a six-month decision that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. What’s worse is when, after all of this, your organization selects a platform that proves to be a poor match for your needs.

If you want to narrow the field of products to consider and make sure they’re the best fit for your team, it’s important to ask the right questions. Nobody knows more than you what you need to accomplish from your software investment, so take the lead. Ask the questions that relate to the value and results you’re looking for. To help you out, here are three basic questions you should ask every SaaS provider while you’re considering and trialing the product.

1. What are the problems your organization solves?

This question is a fast way for you to assess fit—to see if the product’s value proposition matches your own. Take their prioritized list of problems they solve and compare it to your own list. Do their values around problem-solving match yours? You don’t need a 100 percent identical match, but there should be some crossover, especially around top values.

For example: If you are trying, above everything else, to solve a resource management issue, but the company you’re considering is all about enhanced productivity and there’s nothing about allocating and tracking resources in their product, you can probably end the conversation. On the other hand, if you find out the company is invested in solving the issue around resource management, keep talking.

Start with this question, because nothing else matters if you can’t match at a values level.

2. Who are your most successful customers and buyers?

Nothing is better than knowing whether companies like your own are having success using a tool you’re considering. Even more, when people in similar positions as yours are raving about the product—that helps too.

When you ask this question, dig deep. Ask about industry breakdown, the titles of people making the purchases. Is this a group that fits your profile too? If so, that’s a good sign of product fit.

A reputable company will have case studies to support these claims, so go to their website to read the stories; or ask a sales rep to send you customer stories from organizations that are similar to yours.

Go one step further and ask for a comprehensive ROI report—this will help you secure budget when you make your purchasing proposal.

3. What kind of support and onboarding do you offer?

Remember: The company you choose is more than just a product—ultimately you want to purchase from a company that will partner with you and invest in your ongoing success using their product. Any respectable SaaS provider with a complex product will have some sort of support to get you started, if they don’t, it’s time to move on.  Some companies go out of their way to include this in the cost, while others charge for it.

The onboarding process is especially important to ask about. See what they offer and how long they partner with you to get the whole team up and running with confidence and ease. This is the make-or-break part of introducing a new tool. If people aren’t transitioned on to a new platform properly, the new software you spent so much time vetting might go unused. This happens more than you might imaging—a huge waste of resources.

Other questions to ask:

  • Is the knowledge base easy to find?
  • What is the SLA (service level agreement)?
  • What is your customer satisfaction around support?

If you’re on the search for a new SaaS tool, you can save yourself time, money and a huge headache by asking important questions around the value of the product:

  • Does it solve your problems?
  • Will the company be there for you when you roll it out for your team?
  • Do you trust the company?
  • Can you afford it?

If the answer to these questions are all yes, take the plunge—and thank me later!

How do you know when it’s time to consider a new tool or process for your business? In the case of project management, here’s a way to find out!  Take our Project Management Health Check, a 9-question multiple-choice assessment of your project management process.  

Take the assessment!

The post How to Decide if a SaaS Provider Is Right for You in Less Than 60 Minutes appeared first on LiquidPlanner.

Categories: Companies

11 Must-Have Gadgets for Project Managers

11 Must Have Gadgets for Project Managers

This article contains affiliate links.

I confess to being a bit of a gadget geek. I love my new Tether Tools kit for my iPad, and I’m no stranger to browsing the latest apps. It does take me a long time to make a decision on which one to get, though.

Here’s my pick of the gadgets every project manager should own. These would make great additions to your holiday gift list for when relatives ask you what you’d like to receive. Or, buy them for the project managers that you know!

1. Foot Warmer

As some of you know (and if you were on my last  webinar you saw me in it), I work in a converted shed in the garden. At this time of year it’s cold.

This foot warmer (£26.99) is perfect for those freezing winter days to help keep you warm when it seems like the person with control of the thermostat prefers to keep the office in artic temperatures. Or if you work remotely from an ice box, like me. This foot warmer also has a massage feature.

2. Wireless Headset

This wireless headset (£77.18) is a must have especially if you like to walk and talk at the same time. With a six hour rechargeable battery and a 12 meter range you are no longer tethered to your desk for meeting and Skype calls. They are super comfortable (my team has tried and tested them) and fold up for storage or to take with you on the go.

The Secret Santa Helpline: 11 Gifts for Managers

3. Shiatsu Massage Cushion

Take a break during the work day with this Shiatsu massage chair cushion (£140.33). Strap it to your office chair and let the 14 different massage settings help take away the stresses of your latest project, at least for a little while. It shuts off automatically after 15 minutes making it perfect for a break.

Or you could get a voucher for your local salon (I have a standing appointment every 8 weeks).

4. Desk Lamp

Correct lighting can help reduce eyestrain during the most intense projects. I have overhead lighting in my office but also a lamp because this old shed doesn’t have too much natural daylight.

This desk lamp (£19.99) is a nice modern design with five different color modes to choose from. It is also dimmable so you can find the perfect setting for whatever you are working on. Plus it has a USB port to plug in your phone or other device.

5. Desk Fan

In the summer a fan is essential where I work! On those days that you need to cool down you will love having this personal desk fan. (£7.99). It plugs right into a USB port so no need to hunt down a free wall plug. It is also quiet so it won’t bother any of your coworkers, or create too much background noise for your conference calls.

6. Portable Scanner

For those moments when you need to copy a page of notes, photos, diagrams or charts this portable scanner (£119.99) is perfect. It runs on batteries and doesn’t need to be attached to a computer to work. It stores the scans on an SD card making it easy to upload to your computer.

7. Bluetooth Keypad

Do you have a keyboard that doesn’t include a numerical keypad? My take-along iPad keyboard doesn’t. Make your life easier entering numbers with a Bluetooth keypad (£23.99). Pop it into your bag to take it with you. This one works with iOS devices.

8. Laptop Cooling Stand

I had no idea these existed! This is genius. There is nothing worse than getting into a groove of work on your laptop and having it shut down because it is overheated. With one of these cooling stands (£19.99) you will be able to raise your laptop to allow proper airflow as well as a better ergonomic position. At only 141 grams (5 ounces) it will not weigh down your bag.

9. Charging Station

Your phone, your tablet, your personal device, your work device all add up to much clutter on your desk. A desktop charging station (£25.99) can be a great way to organize it all plus keep everything charged too. You can charge up to four devices at once.

10. Meteor Microphone

I have a Meteor microphone which I use for recording videos but also for professional quality sound for Skype calls with my project team.  This is one of the best out there and I can personally vouch for the quality. Plus it looks awesome and makes me feel like a modern-day 1950’s starlet.

11. Artificial Aquarium

My office is devoid of all living things if you discount the spiders. Bring a little life into your office with this whimsical artificial aquarium (£46.99). It brings all of the benefits without any of the work of live fish. Sounds just about my level of commitment! You just need to add water!

11 Must Have Gadgets for Project Managers

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Categories: Blogs

10 Reasons Why Construction Schedules Fail

10 Reasons the Best CPM Construction Schedules Fail, & How to Maintain Project IntegrityThis post was originally published on the RepOne blog.CPM Schedules invariably become erroneous, despite best practices, when the rest of the team isn’t pulling their own weight. The integrity of the schedule may have nothing to do with why it became useless or meaningless, or as I like to say, a recorder more than a predictor of the critical path and progress. If the project is large and has multiple prime contractors, its schedule is all the more susceptible to deprecation. "A CPM
Categories: Blogs

Pushing vs. Pulling Work in Your Agile Project

If you’re thinking about agile or trying to use it, you probably started with iterations in some form. You tried (and might be still trying) to estimate what you can fit into an iteration. That’s called “pushing” work, where you commit to some number of items of work in advance.

And, if you have to service interruptions, such as support on previous projects, or support the production server, or help another project, you might find that you can’t “push” very well.  You have trouble predicting what you can do every two weeks. While the iteration duration is predictable, what you predict for the content of your iterations is not predictable.  And, if you try to have longer iterations, they are even less predictable.

On the other hand, you might try “pull” agile, where you set up a kanban board, visualize your flow of value, and see where you have capacity in your team and where you don’t. Flow doesn’t have the built-in notion of project/work cadence. On the other hand, it’s great for visualizing all the work and seeing where you have bottlenecks.

Push and PullHere’s the problem: there is No One Right Way to manage the flow of work through your team. Every team is different.

Iterations provide a cadence for replanning, demos, and retrospectives. That cadence, that project rhythm, helps to set everyone’s expectations about what a team can deliver and when.

Kanban provides the team a perspective on where the work is, and if the team measures it, the delays between stages of work. Kanban helps a team see its bottlenecks.

Here are some options you might consider:

  • Add a kanban board that visualizes your workflow before you change anything. Gather some data about what’s happening. Are your stories quite large, so you have more pressure for more deliverables? Do you have more interruptions than you have project work?
  • Reduce the iteration duration. Interruptions are a sign that you might need to change priorities. Some teams discover they can move to one-week iterations and manage the support needs.
  • Ask questions such as these for incoming non-project work: “When do you need this done? Is it more or less important or valuable than the project work?”
  • Make sure you are a cross-functional team. Teams can commit to finishing work in iterations. A group of people who are not interdependent have trouble committing to iterations.

Teams who use only iterations may not know the workflow they really have, or if they have more project or support/interrupting work. Adding an urgent queue might help everyone see the work. And, more explicit columns for analysis, dev & unit test, testing, waiting (as possibilities) in addition to the urgent queue might help the team see where they spend time.

Some teams try to work in two-week (or longer) iterations, but the organization needs more frequent change. Kanban might help visualize this, and allow the team to change what they commit to.

Some POs don’t realize they need to ask questions about value for all the work coming into a team. If the work bypasses a PO, that’s a problem. If the PO does not rank the work, that’s a problem. And, if the team can’t finish anything in a one-week iteration, that’s a sign of interdependencies or stories that are too large for a team. (There might be other problems. Those are the symptoms I see most often.

You can add a kanban board inside your iteration approach to agile. You might consider moving to flow entirely with specific dates for project cadence. For example, you might say, “We do demos every month on the 5th and the 19th of the month.” That would provide a cadence for your project.

You have choices about pushing work or pulling work (or both) for your project. Consider which will provide you most value.

P.S. If you or your PO has trouble making smaller stories, consider my workshop, Practical Product Ownership.

Categories: Blogs

What I’ve Been Writing Lately

You might have noticed I have not written as much in this blog for the past couple of months as I normally do. That’s because I’ve been involved in another writing project that’s taken a ton of my time.

I’m part of the writing team for the Agile Practice Guide. The Guide is a joint venture between the Agile Alliance and the PMI. See Bridging Mindsets: Creating the Agile Practice Guide.

We work in timeboxes, iterating and incrementing over the topics in the guide. We sometimes pair-write, although we more often write and review each other’s work as a pair.

If you would like to review the guide as a subject matter expert, send me an email. You’ll have about a month to review the guide, starting in approximately January 2017. I am not sure of the dates yet, because I am not sure if we will finish all our writing when we originally thought. Yes, our project has risks!

Categories: Blogs

Back to Basic: User Stories and Acceptance Criteria

Every new user story presented to the team for development, must be accompanied with a set of user acceptance criteria which can drive development and testing. ——————– Acceptance criteria is a great tool to ensure that the product being developed is actually what the Product Owner wants. Every user story is accompanied by a set of […]
Categories: Blogs

Advice for Project Managers: Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Setting Goals

The LiquidPlanner Blog - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 17:02
advice for project managers

Advice for project managers 

Are you grappling with a stubborn project management work issue? Ask Elizabeth! Email your question to: marketingteam@liquidplanner.com. Anonymity included.

 

Dear Elizabeth: My company’s management team is talking a lot about the incoming Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. I’m hearing a lot about how we’re going to have to increase productivity and flexibility in our processes. As a product team manager this sounds exciting but I’m not sure what to do to prepare. Advice? –Lagging Behind

Dear Lagging: Industry 4.0 is all about the Internet of Things and bringing computers and automation together in an entirely new way. It’s pretty cool, and it’s great that you are thinking about it now.

Being more flexible and increasing productivity is something that managers through the ages have aspired to. The reason we have robots on manufacturing lines is because someone wanted better productivity than what could be achieved with human workers. So in many respects, the ideas are things that you’ve been subconsciously aware of for some time.

I would start by looking at the flows of work in your area and around your product. Approaches like Six Sigma and Lean can help here: Ultimately you are trying to find duplicated effort and waste in the process so that you can strip it out. I’ve always thought that was a good starting point but it doesn’t go far enough. Sometimes you’ll need to totally re-engineer a process to make it incrementally more productive and your team might already have some ideas about how to do that. Why not ask them?

Aside from that, think about the tools you use and how they are going to support you. Software like LiquidPlanner allows you to stay flexible and shift between priorities, so make sure that you have the underpinning infrastructure and systems to meet the demand for flexibility when it comes.

Dear Elizabeth: It’s that time of year again—reviewing the year gone by and preparing for 2017 goals and commitments. I could use some new ideas to get myself and my team excited about reviewing what they’ve accomplished and using that to set up some goals they’re excited about. Any tips? – Goal Tender

Dear Goal Tender: First, congratulations on caring enough about your team that you want them to be excited about the coming year and what they’ve achieved. Far too many people in your situation see end-of-year reviews as a bureaucratic process to get through before they leave for the holidays. So, kudos to you!

I find that team members have short memories and will often only bring to the table things that they have achieved in the last few months. You could give them a template that says things like:

  • In March I achieved . . .
  • In April I delighted this customer . . .

And so on. Ask them to go through their project plans, notebooks and emails to find the examples if they don’t immediately spring to mind. There are a ton of achievements stored in their project management software so they will be able to find something, I promise.

As for 2017, you could think forward and ask them to imagine what their 2017 end of year review would look like. What do they hope they have achieved? What projects would they like to have worked on, or what skills would they have developed? This can help build a sense of interest in the coming year.

Finally, use the end of year conversations with your team to share with them as much as you can about the wider business plans. People are inspired when they know they are part of a company that is going somewhere. Talk about the plans you have for new clients and new projects and business developments. Show them what they could be part of over the next 12 months.

Have a question for Elizabeth? Email:  MarketingTeam@liquidplanner.com with the subject “Advice Column.”

Wait, there’s more! If you want some insightful and practical solutions to common project management problems, download the eBook, “How to Solve the Top 9 Project Management Challenges.”

How to Solve the Top 9 Project Management Challenges

The post Advice for Project Managers: Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Setting Goals appeared first on LiquidPlanner.

Categories: Companies

9 Project Communications You Should Have Sent This Year

9 Communications You Should Have Sent This Year

There’s a free comms template at the bottom of this post – scroll down!

I remember that a few weeks after I started back at work after maternity leave, one of my long-time stakeholders sent a message to someone pretty high up in the business saying ‘project communication was so much better when Elizabeth was around’. It’s nice to hear people say I was doing something right, although it was a bit of a shame that she hadn’t realised I was already back at my desk. I guess I didn’t do much communicating during those first few weeks.

Good communication on projects is so important, and I hear this from you guys all the time. There’s a feeling that it’s not possible to do all the communications that you’d like, and I get that.

So let’s prioritise. At this time of year it’s a good opportunity to reflect as we establish areas for improvement in the coming 12 months. If you only have a limited amount of effort and energy to spend on communicating about your project, what should you focus on?

Here are the 9 most important messages for project managers to share. Did you send any of these to your team during 2016? You should have done.

1. We have uncovered an issue but…

When something goes wrong you should ‘fess up as soon as possible. However, senior stakeholders like it when you can tell them what you are doing about the problem.

If you faced a problem this year you should have presented the issue along with your solution or recommendation.

2. We’re on track for…

You should have kept stakeholders informed at all stages along the way. Letting them know that things are on track helps them feel confident that the work is progressing as planned.

This is different to the ‘reporting by exception’ model. In my experience, that only works for a short time. When people stop hearing positive noises after any length of time they attend to assume the worst, even if you’ve told them that you will report by exception.

3. I’m sorry…

How many times did you apologise this year? Lots, I hope. (OK, not that many.) You can cut through a lot of conflict and office politics with a well-placed, sincere apology.

9 Messages to send to your team

4. The current status is…

I hope you used regular project status reports this year. You should have used them as a tool to communicate status on your project, at least once a month, at least to the project sponsor. Preferably more.

Need some help improving your project reports for 2017? Take my online project reporting course and get people to actually do something as a result of reading your status updates.

5. I saw this and thought of you…

Make connections. As a project manager you are well placed to see what is going on in various areas of the business. Link people together, make introductions, pass on information that you think others would find useful.

If you didn’t do it this year, read these 6 reasons why networking is important and see if I can change your mind for next year.

6. Thank you for…

For coming to my meeting, for giving up your resources to help with testing, for passing me that great contact, for being such a great project team member.

There are dozens of reasons why you should have said thank you to the people you worked with this year. I hope you took every opportunity!

7. That didn’t meet my expectations of…

Sometimes we have to communicate the bad news, and if you don’t speak up you won’t ever seem improvements. When a team member doesn’t perform as expected, talk to them about it (and not via email). It’s not personal. You had expectations, they didn’t meet them. Discuss how you can both get a better result next time.

You should have done this with suppliers as well. Don’t put up with bad service because you are too worried to say something. I’ve been guilty of this in the past and it doesn’t end well.

8. I need…

Did you get the resources you needed to complete your project tasks successfully? No? Did you ask for them?

Don’t expect your project sponsor to be a mind-reader. If you want more people, more money or more time, ask for it. You might not get it but at least you have tried!

9. If…then…

You would have made a lot of decisions this year. Did you always take the time to explain why you put forward that particular recommendation? You should have explained the consequences of your decisions in business terms, so that stakeholders and project team members understand why you’ve opted for that route forward.

Get a headstart planning your communications for next year’s projects with my free communications calendar template. It will work for any year! Enter your email below to download it now (Excel spreadsheet). 9 Communications You Should Have Sent This Year

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Categories: Blogs

Estimates, Forecasts, Projections

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 15:33

There is the misuse of the terms of statistics and probability in many domains. Politics being one. The #Noestimates advocates are another of the most prolific abusers of these terms. Here are the mathematical definitions. not the Wikipedia definition, not the self-made definitions used to support their conjectures.

Estimates

  • An Estimate is a value inferred for a population of values based on data collected from a sample of data from that population. The estimate can also be produced parametrically or through a simulation (Monte Carlo is common, but Method of Moments is another we use). 
    • Estimates can be about the past, present, or future.
    • We can estimate the number of clams in the Pleistocene era that are in the shale formations near our house.
    • We can estimate the number of people sitting in Folsom Field for lat night's game against Utah. The Buff's won and are now the PAC-12 South Champs.
    • We can estimate the total cost, total duration, and the probability that all the Features will be delivered on the program we are working for the US Government. Or ANY software project for that matter.
  • Estimates have precision and accuracy.
    • These values are estimates as well.
    • The estimated completion cost for this program is $357,000,000 with an accuracy of $200,000 and a precision of $300,000.
    • Another way to speak about the estimated cost is This program will cost $357,000,000 or less with 80% confidence.
  • An estimate is a statistic about a whole population of possible values from a previous reference period or a model that can generate possible values given the conditions of the model. 

An estimate is the calculated approximation of a result

Forecasts

  • Forecasts speculate future values for a population of possible values with a certain level of confidence, based on the current and past values as an expectation (prediction) of what will happen:
    • This is the basis of weather forecasting.
    • If you listen carefully to the weather forecast it says there is a 30% chance of snow next week over the forecast area.
    • We live at the mouth of a canyon at 5,095' and of there is a 30% chance of snow in Boulder (8 miles south), there is a much lower chance in our neighborhood.
    • Business forecasts, weather forecasts, traffic forecasts are typical. These forecasts usually come from models of the process being forecast. NOAA and NCAR are in our town, so lots of forecasting going on. Weather as well as climate.
    • Not so typical to Forecast the cost of a project or forecast the delivery date. Those are estimated values.
    • For example a financial statement presents, to the best of the responsible party's knowledge and belief, an entity's expected financial position, results of operations, and cash flows. [2]
  • In a forecast, the assumptions represent expectations of actual future events.
    • Sales forecasts
    • Revenue growth
    • Weather forecasts
    • Forecasts of cattle prices in the spring

A forecast is a prediction of some out come in the future. Forecasts are based on estimating the processes that produce the forecast. The underlying statistcal models (circulation, thermal models) of weather forecasting are estimates of the compressable fluid flow of gases and moisture in the atmsophere (way over simplified).

Projections/Prediction

  • Projections indicate what future values  may exist for a population of values if the assumed patterns of change were to occur. Projections are not a prediction that the population will change in that manner.
    • Projected revenue for GE aircraft engine sales in 2017 was an article in this week's Aviation Week & Space Technology
    • A projection simply indicates a future value for the population if the set of underlying assumptions occurs.

A prediction says something about the future.

Project cost, schedule, and technical performance Estimates

All projects contain uncertainty. Uncertainty comes in two forms - aleatory (irreducible) and epistemic (reducible). If we're going to make decisions in the presence of these uncertainties, we need to estimate what their values are, what the range of values are, what the stability of the underlying processes that generate these values are, how these values interact with all the elements of the project and what the impact of these ranges of value will do to the probability of success of our project.

Project decision in the presence of unceratinty cannot be made without estimates. Anyomne claiming othewise does not understand statsiics and probability of orucomes on projects

As well anyone claims estimates are a waste, not needed, misused by management, of any other dysfunction, is doing them wrong. So as we said at Rocky Flats - Don't Do Stupid Things On Purpose. Which means when you do hear those phrases, you'll know they are Doing Stupid Things on Purpose.

And when yo hear, we don't need estimates we need budget, remember:

In a world of limited funds, as a project manager, Product Owner, or even sole contributor, you’re constantly deciding how to get the most return for your investment. The more accurate your estimate of project cost is, the better able you will be to manage your project’s budget.

Another example of not understanding the probability and statistics of projects and the businesses that fund them is, there are two estimates needed for all projects that operate in the presence of uncertainty:

  • Estimate at Completion (EAC)
    • EAC is the expected cost of the project when it is complete.
    • This can be calculated bottom-up from the past performance and future projections of performance for the projects work - which in the future will be an estimate.
  • Estimate to Complete
    • ETC is the expected cost to complete the project.
  • The ETC used to calculate the EAC
    • EAC = Actual Costs to Date (AC) + Estimated Cost to Complete (ETC).
    • EAC = Actual performance to date / Some Index of Performance.

This last formula is universal and can be used no matter the software development method.

  • Agile has such a formula - it's called the Burn Down Chart. We're burning down story points at some rate. If we continue at this rate, we will be done by this estimated date
  • Same for traditional projects. We're spending at a current rate - the run rate - if we keep spending at this rate, the project will cost that much
  • Earned Value Management provides the same EAC and can also provide an Estimated Completion Date (ECD)
  • Earned Schedule provide a better ECD

 Wrapup

Nothing in progression can rest on its orginal plan - Thomas Monson [5]

All project work is driven by uncertainty. Uncertainty is modeled by random variables. These variables can represent aleatory uncertainty or epistemic uncertainty. This uncertainty creates risk and as stated here often

Risk Management is How Adults Mange Projects - Time Lister

So if you hear the conjecture that decisioins can be made in the presence of uncertainty without estimates, you'll now know that is a complete load a crap, run away.

If this topic interests you here's a Bibliography of materials for estimating and lots of other topics in agile software development that is updated all the time. Please read and use these when you hear unsubstantiated claims around estimating in the presnece of uncertainty. Making estimates is our business and this resoruce has served us well over the decades.

Other Resources

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics
  2. Financial Forecasts and Projections, AT §301.06, AICPA, 2015
  3. Earned Value Management in EIA-748-C
  4. Earned Schedule uses the same values as Earned Value, to produce an estimated complete date, www.earnedschedule.com I started using ES at Rocky Flats to explain to the steel workers that their productivity as measured in Budgeted Cost for Work Complete (BCWP or EV) means they are late. ES told them how late and provides the date of the projected completion of the planned work
  5. Project Management Analytics: A Data-Driven Approach to Making Rational and Effective Project Decisions, Harjit Singh, Pearson FT Press; 1st Edition, November 12, 2015.

 

Related articles Why Guessing is not Estimating and Estimating is not Guessing Critical Success Factors of IT Forecasting Eyes Wide Shut - A View of No Estimates IT Risk Management Architecture -Center ERP Systems in the Manufacturing Domain
Categories: Blogs

Quote of the Day

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Sat, 11/26/2016 - 22:35

When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knpowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind. -- Lord Kelvin Popular Lectures and Addresses, 1889.

Without numbers, without some means of assessing the situation, the outcomes, the impacts, any conjecture is of little use. 

Categories: Blogs

Project Workbook + Budget Templates [Black Friday Flash Sale]

Lots of people have been asking me for a budget template, and I’ve finally got one ready for you! It’s tried and tested. This is a special offer for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (even though Thanksgiving isn’t really a thing over here).

In this template pack you get a complete project workbook compromising:

  • action log
  • change log
  • decision log
  • dependencies log
  • issues log
  • risk log
  • contact list
  • milestone tracker.

I’ve never offered a spreadsheet this comprehensive before. It’s really everything you need to track and monitor your project except the budget side of things, so I’ve thrown in a budget template with a bonus invoice/purchase order tracker worksheet as well.

Helpful templates

Thank you Elizabeth for the very helpful templates you are sharing !

Laura /* apply custom color class */ var $shortcode = jQuery( '#thrlider-58423ab3f3562' ), $parent = $shortcode.parent(); if ( ! $shortcode.attr( 'tvo_colors_applied' ) ) { $shortcode.attr( 'tvo_colors_applied', true ); var new_class = 'tve_teal'; if ( $shortcode.attr( 'class' ) ) { $shortcode.attr( 'class', $shortcode.attr( 'class' ).replace( /tve_(\w+)/i, new_class ) ); } else if ( $parent.attr( 'class' ) ) { $parent.attr( 'class', $parent.attr( 'class' ).replace( /tve_(\w+)/i, new_class ) ); } /* apply custom color for testimonial elements */ var tve_custom_colors = {".tvo-apply-background":"95183685"}; for ( var selector in tve_custom_colors ) { $parent.closest( '.thrv_tvo_display_testimonials' ).find( selector ).attr( 'data-tve-custom-colour', tve_custom_colors[selector] ); } }

Sound good? It’s yours for $5. Click the ‘Buy this button’ below to purchase securely via Gumroad or click here to go to the Gumroad website. (Gumroad is a bit like PayPal, except it handles EU VAT perfectly). Any problems, just get in touch and I’ll sort it straight out for you.

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Categories: Blogs

An NPS Survey on Business Analysts performance

Better Projects - Craig Brown - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 01:09
The ask: Share out and complete this survey - https://goo.gl/forms/VX1TyY09WEKVX6H13
How do you measure the performance of a business analyst?A key idea in my thinking is that a business analyst contributes as part of a broader team. The implication of this is that an important part of measuring performance is getting feedback from the people you work with; your customers, suppliers, partners and team mates.
I ran survey based on this idea last year. The results I present below are from 108 responses.  Using Net Promoter Score as a framework for assessing this survey the business analysts in scope of this survey have an NPS of -6. Room for improvement!Business Analsyt Survey NPS = -6Our survey gave us the following responses to help derive the NPS score.
Promoters 27% Detractors 33% NPS score -6


I’ll write about the comments behind the scores after I have run a second one. I’ll probably publish in January at www.BetterProjects.net.
I’d appreciate you sharing this with your business community and your fellow business analysts to see what comes up. Will we beat -6 this year?

Here is the survey; https://goo.gl/forms/VX1TyY09WEKVX6H13
Categories: Blogs

My Favourite Quotes on Construction & Building

quotes on construction & buildingThroughout history, builders have always been revered for their ability to mold the natural elements into something new, perhaps something  never seen before. Building is therefore a creative act on a momentous scale.For those lucky enough to be involved in Construction & Building, it's an incredible joy to be involved in bringing forth from mere drawings and ideas a structure that will stand for many lifetimes.With this in mind, here are some of my favourite quotes on Construction & Building. I hope they inspire you to see the role of builder as much more than just
Categories: Blogs

Iterations and Increments

general-agile-picture-copyright-1024x645Agile is iterative and incremental development and frequent delivery with cultural change for transparency.

What do the words iterative and incremental mean?

Iterative means we take a one-piece-at-a-time for creating an entire feature. Iterative approaches manage the technical risk. We learn about the risk as we iterate through the entire feature set.

Incremental means we deliver those pieces of value. Incremental approaches manage the schedule risk, because we deliver finished work.

Agile works because we manage both technical and schedule risk. We iterate over a feature set, delivering chunks of value. (One reason to deliver value often is so we can change what the team does next.)

Here’s a way to think about this if I use a feature set called “secure login.” Now, no one wants to log in. But, people want to have security for payment. So secure login might be a way to get to secure payment. The theme, or what I have been calling a feature set, is “Secure login.” A feature set is several related features that deliver a theme.

If you want to iterate on the feature set, you might deliver these valuable increments (I first wrote about this in How to Use Continuous Planning):

  1. Already existing user can log in.
  2. Users can change their password.
  3. Add new user as a user.
  4. Add new user as admin.
  5. Prevent unwanted users from logging in: bots, certain IP addresses, or a physical location. (This is three separate stories.)

If you implement the first story, you can use a flat file. You can still use a flat file for the second story. Once you start to add more than 10 users, you might want to move to some sort of database. That would be a story. It’s not “Create a database.” The story is “Explore options for how to add 10, 100, 1000, 10000 users to our site so we can see what the performance and reliability implications are.”

Notice the explore as part of the story. That would lead to a spike to generate options that the team can discuss with the PO. Some options have performance implications.

Every time the team iterates over the feature set, they deliver an increment. Since many teams use timeboxes, they use “iterations” as the timebox. (If you use Scrum, you use sprints.) Notice the term “iterate over the feature set.”

In incremental life cycles, such as staged delivery, the team would finish all the features in the one feature set. Incremental life cycles did not necessarily use timeboxes to timebox the incremental development. In iterative life cycles, such as spiral or RUP, the team would develop prototypes of features, or even partially finish features, but the final integration and test occurs after all the iterative development was done.

In agile, we iterate over a feature set, delivering incremental value. If you don’t finish your stories, you’re in an iterative life cycle. If you don’t limit the features you finish and finish “all” of them, you are in an incremental life cycle.

There is No One Right Way to select a life cycle for your project. If you want to use agile, you iterate over a feature set in a short time, delivering chunks of value.

If you are having trouble slicing your stories so you can create feature sets, see my Product Owner Workshop (starting in January). Super early bird expires this coming Friday.

Categories: Blogs

The Causes of Conflict On Project Teams

Causes of Conflict on Project Teams

Projects can be a hotbed of conflict. From the difficult stakeholder who wants to undermine the project’s success to a disagreement about a feature of a deliverable, project work lends itself to workplace conflict situations.

And project managers contribute hugely to that because we go out and look for it. We challenge leaders, we talk about risk and what might go wrong and we call people out on poor performance through project monitoring and control.

You could say we go looking for trouble.

Let’s look at where you get conflict during the project life cycle and who is involved. I’ve also given you some examples of what drives those difficult situations. Then you can be better prepared for the challenges when they come (because they will!).

Concept Phase

First up, the Concept or Initiation Phase. This is at the start of the project while you are working out exactly what is going to happen. There’s a risk of conflict between:

  • The sponsor and users
    About requirements or cost
    Around agreeing the problem and the solution
  • The sponsor and the project manager
    Around the requirements and how to get there
  • The sponsor and portfolio management
    About business case approval.

In all of these examples you are going to be able to think up your own situations where conflict might arise based on what you see on your own projects. These are just ideas from my own experience.

Definition Phase

In this phase the project is being fully scoped and planned. There’s a chance that you’ll see conflict between:

  • The project manager and team leaders
    Due to a difference of opinion about planning
    Around roles and responsibilities
    Around assigning risk ownership to people who don’t believe they are accountable for it
  • The project manager and sponsor
    Because once the detailed planning is done there may be a need to review scope.
  • The project manager and suppliers
    Around commercial agreements.
Development Phase

Genius banner adThis is where the bulk of the work is done and it’s here that you’ll see the most possibility for conflict. Watch out for sparks between:

  • The project manager and sponsor
    Due to changes to scope and at any key decision making point, for example, risk response plans
  • The project manager and team
    Around resource or task allocation
  • The project manager and team leaders
    Around resource or task allocation
  • The project manager and functional managers
    Around resource or task allocation (see a pattern?)
  • The project manager and users
    As a result of quality control and checking.

In this phase you really want to deal with conflict quickly because your project schedule can start to unravel if you let it go on for too long.

Handover and Close Phase

You’ve made it to the end of the project and now you’re handing over to business as usual teams and closing the project down. What could go wrong here? You’re at risk of conflict between:

  • The project manager and the users or sponsor
    At the point of handover of deliverables
  • The project manager and the operational team
    As they might not want to receive the handover or take responsibility.

Tidy up any last conflict situations before you walk away from a project. You don’t want to leave anyone with a sense that something is unfinished and it will be better for you too, knowing that you’ve done the best job you can to sort out the loose ends.

What Causes Conflict on Project Teams

So why do you get all this conflict on project teams? I have mentioned some causes of conflict above, but in 2012 I did some research into this at an event. It wasn’t incredibly scientific, but I asked the people who came to my presentation what caused conflict on their project teams.

The answers, as you would expect, were a mixed bag but a couple of points stood out clearly.

Most conflict has its roots in the relationships between team members. The team accounts for over a quarter of all conflict causes. Some of the examples people gave included:

  • Lack of clarity about roles
  • Personality clashes
  • Ego
  • Lack of respect
  • Blame

Take those out, and you’ve hugely reduced the likelihood of conflict on your project team.

Project Management Conflict Causes in Project Management

Lack of strategic direction and leadership was another biggie, with 14% reporting that was a cause of conflict on their projects. Miscommunication and misunderstandings in the team came in at 12%, followed by budget issues and responses to change both taking 9% of the responses.

The ‘Other’ segment represents nearly 30% of responses and here there were a multitude of themes including:

  • Aggressive timescales
  • Lack of benefits
  • Lack of knowledge
  • No project management method or structure to underpin success
  • Confused requirements
  • The customer’s expectations.
Managing Conflict on Project Teams

What can you do about conflict on project teams? Whole books have been written about the subject (this one is my favourite).

Here are 5 ways to manage team conflicts and get everybody back to work. What causes conflict on your projects and who is involved? Let us know in the comments below.

I’d like to thank the team at Genius Project for sponsoring this article. Genius Project is a fully-featured project management software tool that includes everything you need to support defining, developing and delivering your work successfully with collaboration features to engage your team at every step of the way.

Project management conflicts

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Categories: Blogs

How to Run a More Effective Project Meeting

I read an article a while back regarding the topic of meetings. According to a study, the typical American professional attends over 60 meetings per month, approximately 50% of meeting time is wasted and – my favorite – 39% of people doze off during the meeting!

The reason I’m writing this article today is simple – yesterday, once again, someone had to apologize to me for being late for our meeting because their “previous meeting went way over.” As a consultant, I am frequently on the outside of organizations looking in so I don’t always know what’s happening. But having had short-term contracts recently, that experience only confirms what I already believed to be the case:

Many people don’t have the slightest idea how to run a project meeting. Instead of a well-focused get-together where status is discussed, action items are assigned and risks reviewed, too often they are poorly run. Those in charge of the meeting routinely start them late, allow everyone to stare at their laptops or phones while they talk and worst of all, almost helplessly allow someone to hijack the meeting.

End result? Not only does the session run late but its objectives aren’t even met. And then you are left wondering why no one wants to come to your meetings.

Meeting

Here’s what’s worked for me, both in running meetings and conducting a class. (Of which I’ve run hundreds and which require the exact same communication skills, only more so.) I welcome your thoughts:

  • Create an agenda and circulate it in advance. Bring copies as some will not have read it. Assign discussion times for each item.
  • Make sure the right people are invited. If it’s a key decision maker, I’ve often taken the extra step of checking with his or her administrative assistant to be sure they can attend.
  • Start and end on time. Personally I give people a few minutes up front. But that’s it. Then I move on.
  • Model the behavior you want. People will be used to the aforementioned bad meetings. This is your meeting so you get to run it as you see fit not because according to company culture, “it’s always like this.” Fighting company culture is hard. But as one client routinely advised me when I told her something was hard, “Do it anyway.”
  • Assign someone to take notes, someone else to be a timekeeper. (Personally I prefer to play both roles but regardless, it has to be done.)
  • Distribute well-written, clear meeting minutes with concise summaries. The minutes should include action items with due dates and responsible (doing it) and accountable (buck stops here) names.
  • Have a “parking lot” for off-line discussions. I am both technical person and a project manager. As such I know that when a technical issue is raised, by nature, techies will want to solve the problem in the meeting. Do not allow this. Put it on a parking lot (flip chart, white board) and schedule a separate meeting.
  • Have ground rules. No staring at cell phone, laptops closed. Sometimes an attendee will be in the middle of something crucial in another project and must stay on-line. Ask other attendees if that’s okay.
  • Use meeting technology wisely. If you have virtual attendees, make sure the technology works before the meeting. And don’t try to fix things in the meeting that don’t need fixing. I prefer to use a wireless mouse. In one meeting it malfunctioned so everybody wanted to spend ten minutes getting it to work. I said ‘No thank you’, abandoned it and went to the mouse pad.
  • Do not allow anyone to hijack the meeting. I’ve taught hundreds of classes and in many of them, somebody tries to veer us off course with an anecdote. I politely remind them that we need to get back on track. Invariably they are good about taking that admonition. And invariably my evaluations say Jim kept us on track. When someone is pontificating and other people give you “that look,” it is time to curtail it.
  • Review your risk register. This article’s ideas can apply to any meeting. But if it’s specifically a project meeting. leave a few minutes to review your risks. Not utilizing risk management is like driving from Boston to California without a jack and spare tire. Doable, but not advisable.
  • Don’t worry about being liked. That’s as true for running a meeting as it is for being a project manager. The need to be liked leads to your letting the meeting get hijacked. As one adviser – who is both a management consultant and a psychologist – told me long ago, “Stop looking for unconditional love.”

I get it. Everybody hates meetings. But they are necessary to running your project. You and your team may never love them but you should at least try to make them productive. People always ask me what makes a project late? Well, a lot of things but a series of badly managed meetings is often overlooked when it comes time to figure out just exactly where we went wrong.

The post How to Run a More Effective Project Meeting appeared first on .

Categories: Blogs

Asana tips: thank a teammate

Asana Blog - Mon, 11/21/2016 - 20:23
light-bulb_right

light-bulb_featureAsana helps you and your team track work, so you can collaborate more easily. And while that leads to some pretty amazing results, the people behind those results (aka your teammates) are just as important. When you build a stronger relationship with your team, those efforts tend to show in your work and make collaboration natural (and fun). That’s why Asana is full of simple ways to say thanks and show your coworkers some appreciation.

Heart it

One of the easiest ways to show some love in Asana is by, well, :heart:-ing things. Hearting tasks, comments, and status updates is a great way to say thanks, show support, give approval, or even let someone know you saw something in Asana. So much meaning in one click.

To heart a task, click on the heart icon at the top of the right pane; or if it’s a comment, just click the heart off to the right. If you really want to get the BPMs going, use the shortcut Tab + H. You don’t even have to leave your Inbox to do it.

hearting-stuff-gif

Examples:

  • A coworker finishes a review of your work and gives you helpful, constructive feedback.
  • Your teammate uploads a file you needed.
  • Someone contributes a suggestion you like.
Give props in a status update

Project status updates give everyone on your team an understanding of how things are progressing, so there’s clarity (and therefore less stress—something everyone can be grateful for). But you don’t just have to report strictly on the project. Status updates are a great time to call out the work of individuals who have helped move things forward and recognize what has been achieved since the last update.

But you don’t just have to report strictly on the project. Status updates are a great time to call out the work of individuals who have helped move things forward and recognize what has been achieved since the last update.

To make a status update, head to a project and click on the Progress tab in the header. Choose a color (red, yellow, or green) to represent how the project is going, then type out your message. To recognize individuals, use @mentioning by typing @ then the name of the teammate you want to thank. You can also use emoji :information_desk_person: to make it a little more personal and fun.

blog-image-status-update

Examples:

  • When work has progressed since the last update, thank the teammates responsible for keeping things moving forward.
  • Even if a project isn’t quite going according to schedule, you can recognize teammates that have helped troubleshoot or solved problems along the way.
Celebrate with a team conversation

One step up from project updates are conversations with your entire team. You can use team conversations to celebrate bigger news, congratulate everyone after finishing a team- or company-wide effort, or give kudos where you might not otherwise have a chance to. They can be especially great to keep remote workers (and teams) connected and vice versa.

Starting a team conversation is simple. Navigate to the team (from the sidebar or via search) and click on Conversations. Just like status updates, you can @mention teammates to tag them in your conversation.

Examples:

  • Start a team conversation when someone at work is celebrating an anniversary to say thanks for all they’ve done and reflect on memories along the way.
  • Use team conversations to plan a celebration after achieving a team-wide goal. Whether it’s donuts in the break room or an off-site camping trip, stopping to celebrate is a great way to say thanks.
  • Say thanks for a something a colleague did (even if it’s not necessarily work related), or tell a story about an experience you shared.

It’s easy to get caught up in work, but taking time to say thanks acknowledges the efforts of your teammates and helps them feel valued for their contributions. Whether it’s a simple heart to say thanks, or a full-on celebration party plan, Asana is made to help you collaborate and build a better relationship with your team.

It’s easy to get caught up in work, but taking time to say thanks acknowledges the efforts of your teammates and helps them feel valued for their contributions.

To see an example of gratitude in action, see how Betabrand gets it right. And to share even more love, send your coworkers a #thankateammate GIF!  And let us know how you show :heart: in the comments.

Categories: Companies