First, make sure the reason your project is going slowly is not because there are actually major problems with it.
In a recent blog (6 Steps To Get Your Project Off To A Flying Start), I discussed the importance of having a health check MOT. Projects which seem to be healthy and working nicely when they are going quite slowly can unravel quickly as you try and accelerate the schedule because it shows up issues in the fundamental building blocks of the project. Therefore take a safety first approach and assess the projects health before making any steps to speed up the project.
Ask these five questions of your project to determine its health:
If these questions reveal any big shocks, it’s important to take time to identify the cause of those problems and resolve them appropriately before moving on.
Assuming there's no huge roadblocks revealed, let’s move on to how you can speed up your project safely.
You don't want to speed up recklessly then crash your project into the side of the road. Therefore you need to look at the risks ahead before you can assess how and where to speed up.
Here’s a step-by-step on how to assess your risk:
Once you’ve taken care of the risks and the road ahead for your project looks reasonably safe, it’s time to look at the areas in which you can increase the speed.
Governance typically takes at least one week in every monthly cycle. That's a lot of project management time and time spent by your project team preparing the reporting.
Here’s how to streamline your governance:
This has a number of benefits:
Before you look at changes you can make to the schedule, you need to remove any of the project management float and schedule contingency.
I don't mean the float that is naturally created in a schedule, but where you have rounded up and made assumptions about needing additional time for various things, go ahead and remove it.
To be clear, you’re not removing contingency from the schedule completely. You’re just taking it out so you can see what a pared down schedule looks like, make some changes and then put back in the contingency that’s needed.
Broadly, there are two ways of making schedules shorter:
As you’re looking at your schedule and making these changes, it's reasonable to ask yourself, ‘what do I need in order to make that true on the schedule?’
Usually it’s additional resources.
Identify what additional resources you need, how long you need them for and what they look like, e.g. specific people or capabilities.
This process will take you a number of iterations to get the schedule as short as it can be.
Now it’s time to think about adding in risk time. Think back to the work you did on risk in step 2. Once you understand your residual risk level, what the key risks are and what the potential schedule impact is of those key risks, make an assessment about which schedule risks you're adding back in so that they adjust your overall time. For example, if something's very likely to happen and it's going to have a big impact on schedule, it's reasonable to account for a proportion of that in the schedule.
Working in marathons typically looks like this: you work through a process of having a meeting, doing some activities, and then working together on a more informal basis over the course of a few days or a week before coming together for another meeting.
Working in sprints is asking the question: what can we co-create by putting everyone together for a week?
I’ve run projects where we’ve successfully completed design of an entire technical configuration just by getting the tech team together for a week. It was a long week and we had to co-locate people who were based around the world together, but we got through three months of work in just one week.
The key thing is getting everybody together and ensuring you have that dedicated resource, particularly from your stakeholders. Because when you're co-creating with users or stakeholders, you need them in the room for as long as you have all of your project team in the room.
A word of warning:
When you're reporting about the new timescale of your sped-up project, make it clear that they are conditional on:
With these elements in place, you’re ready to fly.
If you need help supercharging your project, in my Change Speedometer 1:1, I personally take you through the scary part of taking the brakes off and going faster safely. With my help, there’s nothing to fear and only time and money to save. Send me a DM to find out more.
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