Monday, February 27, 2012

My Travel Pet Peeves!

When you travel as much as I do, you begin to see patterns and things that begin to rub you the wrong way.  Here are a few things that absolutely drive me crazy when I travel (in no particular order).

1)      Using your cell phone on speaker phone mode in the gate area.  Why do you people do that?  Do you think we care about the conversation?  I recently joined into one.  A lady was talking about how bad her man was treating her to a girlfriend.  It would be one thing if this was being done in a corner somewhere.  Instead, I was sitting in a chair in the gate and she sat down right next to me to have this conversation.  I assumed she wanted me to join in.  When I started answering questions, she gave me the dirtiest look.  I said, "Oh, I thought you wanted my help since you sat down next to me and are on speaker phone.  If this was private, I would have thought you wouldn't be broadcasting it to everyone in the gate."  She was not amused.  Some people can be oblivious to the world around them.

2)      Calling someone as soon as we land and speaking so loud that everyone on the plane can hear you.  I understand the need to call people and communicate from the plane.  However, be mindful of those around you.  On a recent flight, a lady called a shipper of goods to inquire where they were in the delivery process.  Evidently, they had tried to deliver and couldn't.  She began to scream at the top of her lungs how that driver will turn around and go back or she would have his job.  The tirade was nasty and loud.  A gentleman in the very front of the plane finally turned around and yelled, "Shut up, nobody cares!"  She then started telling the whole plane the situation…..and again…..nobody really cared.  She then yelled something that leads me to #3.

3)      Nobody cares who you are.  At least once every trip, I hear somebody exclaim, "Do you know who I am?"  There are many important people in the world.  However, when there is an inconvenience, there is always the person that thinks they are more important than everybody else.  One exchange recently was pretty funny to watch.  The plane was delayed by weather.  The gate agent was trying to handle everybody's connections and accommodate the entire plane.  A guy marches to the front of the line and steps in front of an older lady.  He then demands to know the reason for the delay.  The gate agent said the weather was unsafe to fly through.  He demanded answers as to when he would fly.  She was very polite to suggest that if he returned to his spot in line, she will deal with him when it is his turn.   He responded, "Do you know who I am?  I HAVE to be in Detroit tonight.  I have a very important business deal that must be done tomorrow."  The gate agent again requested that he return to his spot in line.  When the guy yelled that he would have the gate agent's job, another passenger stepped in.  "Nobody cares who you are.  Get in back of the line."  He then turned around and announced he was the Senior Vice President of some small company nobody had heard of.  The whole line just started cracking up.  It was pretty funny.  When a flight is delayed, everybody has a reason to be on that plane; else, they wouldn't have bought the ticket!  The "I am more important than everyone else" game is ridiculous.

4)      I demand to speak to the President of the airline!  When a flight is canceled or delayed, it is a pain.  It unfortunately isn't a rare occurrence.  I have been bumped, had flights cancel, had flights delay five hours and then cancel, and completely missed them.  Revenue for airlines is all based on people sitting on seats on an airplane.  Because people miss, cancel, and move flights, the airlines will overbook.  On some occasions, everybody will actually show up resulting in an oversold situation.  This is normally resolved by seeking volunteers to move their flights.  In rare occasions, a passenger is bumped.  It is a term and condition on every airline's ticket.  It can be frustrating when it happens, but it does.  When weather has occurred or someone has been involuntarily bumped, the outrage ensues.  I was on a plane recently from Birmingham to Atlanta.  The flight is normally between 25-35 minutes in length and is always scheduled for an hour.  Atlanta being one of the busiest airports in the world, the Birmingham flight is frequently placed on a ground hold due to incoming traffic in Atlanta.  Even with the delay, we are generally to our gate +/- 20 minutes.  One day during this delay, a guy announced he had enough.  He called customer service and demanded to speak to the President.  I have heard this many times.  Someone screaming, "Then get me to someone who can make a decision.  I want to speak to the CEO.  Get me the number!"  First, they will never give you that number.  Second, why are you more important that everyone else?

5)      Bringing food on the plane.  This one is probably more controversial.  I understand not having time to eat or being hungry.  However, the plane is so cramped and everyone is on top of each other that whatever you do bring on the plane, everyone can smell.  There is nothing like having the person in front of you eating Chinese food while the person next to you is eating Mexican food.  The blend of aromas is joyous.

6)      Not sharing the space.  I am a big dude.  I take up quite a bit of space, especially on little planes.  I tend to book window seats and try to sit an angle so that it is comfortable for the person sitting next to me.  However, I get angry when they are all in my space.  Not a care in the world.  Reading the newspaper and the paper being in my face.  Using the armrest in between us to store your drink because you have used your entire tray.  Be mindful of space!

In the end, travel can be stressful.  Even when it is as routine as it is for someone like me; it can still be a challenge.  I have several tips that I have developed over the years…..but that will be a subject of another post.  What are some of your pet peeves?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Complete a Project Audit

The great and oft-quoted philosopher Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." A great project manager may tell you, "The unexamined project is not worth doing." In order for a project team to assess, refine and improve its process, that process must be comprehensively and critically evaluated. Toward that end, the project audit is an invaluable tool.

Project audits are conducted to discover and then examine any issues or challenges that arise as a team works to complete its assigned task. The practical application of this fact-finding is of course to learn from experience with the goal of improving future projects. But it isn't always about finding out what went wrong. Audits can also identify and celebrate innovations and process successes, ensuring that what went right is fleshed out and built upon so that it can go even more right the next time around.

When to conduct an audit: Project audits may be done during a project or at its completion. When conducted while a project is still in progress, an audit provides on-the-ground assessment that informs the project sponsor, project manager and team of what is going well and what needs to be changed in order for the project to be completed successfully, on-time and within budget. If an audit is undertaken at the completion of the project, it becomes more of a post-mortem examination performed to define success for upcoming projects and ensure it is achieved. Regardless of an audit's timing, the process is basically the same.

Who should conduct the audit: Ideally, project audits should be conducted by an outside party bringing impartiality and a fresh perspective, but whether you choose to outsource the audit or not, confidentiality is essential for data gathering. When project team members and other stakeholders are interviewed about their experiences, they should feel comfortable speaking frankly and not fear retribution for voicing any frustrations with the process. An audit is only as comprehensive as the information on which it is based.

A project audit is comprised of three phases:

  1. Research Preparation (includes defining success and developing questionnaire)

  2. Deep-Dive Research

  3. Reporting Findings

Research Preparation, the first phase, actually consists of about three major tasks. First, the auditor must speak with both the project sponsor and the project manager individually to determine each person's success criteria. What do they think the successfully completed project will look like? And what should the successful audit accomplish and uncover? Being clear about client expectations is of utmost importance.

After these high-level interviews, two questionnaires must be developed. The first will be distributed to each person on the project team and any key stakeholders in advance of one-on-one interviews. Ideally, this questionnaire will get the audit's interview subjects thinking (and organizing their thoughts) about the project's successes, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities.

The second questionnaire is for use during the project team interviews and should consist of open-ended questions that work to flesh out the issues the first questionnaire brought to light. Good interviews aren't just SWOT analyses; they focus on process: How did the team work together? Were meetings run efficiently? How were risks mitigated? Did information flow effectively?

Deep-Dive Research: Now that you have developed your tools, it's time to put them to use collecting data. Project auditors will need to conduct individual interviews with the project sponsor, project manager, project team members and key stakeholders, which may include vendors, suppliers, contractors and even customer representation.

In addition to your interviews, an exhaustive review of all documentation pertaining to the project is the audit's other major source of data. This document review should include basic policy items like team structure, project scope and plan, and business requirements. But it will also require delving into daily, ongoing project documentation like meeting minutes, spreadsheets, milestone reports, action items and change logs.

Be sure to speak with both internal and external stakeholders to determine what their expectations were and whether they have been met. Were the Project Quality Management and Product Quality Management plans followed and achieved? Each person you interview and document you study provides an important piece of the overall puzzle.

Reporting Your Findings is the final phase of the audit. Compile all data collected from questionnaires, interviews and project documentation. Identify and explicate the project's successes, failures, concerns and challenges. The crucial conclusion of this in-depth report should be a list of lessons learned and how to implement them going forward.

The comprehensive report should of course be delivered with a companion presentation that highlights key findings in an easily-digestible, attention-grabbing format that energizes the entire project team for the work that lies ahead – a more cohesive effort that results in greater success on future projects.

Conclusion: The project audit is certainly a beneficial, and even cathartic, exercise for all project team members. It provides a mountain of data and insight into an organization's processes and politics. However, every phase of the audit must be focused on, and work in service to, improving the next project. The project audit is a very forward-facing tool. It is only worth the resources expended when the lessons it uncovers are applied to future projects. Only then can your project audit truly be considered a success.

This article was provided by Joe Schembri with Villanova University's project management courses. Professionals interested in earning their PMP certification can take courses to prepare themselves 100% online.