How to conduct brainstorming?

The moment one is a manager it becomes mandatory to collaborate with others and play on the strengths of others. Brainstorming is a great tool which will help to collaborate intellectually. It is possible to brainstorm even remotely using collaboration tools like skype, teams, zoom, gtalk, gotomeeting, gtalk etc as long as we follow the ground rules of brainstorming.

The objective of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible from the participants of the brainstorming session. The following points will help you to conduct brainstorming sessions effectively. Once again I will use the PDCA framework to explain this.

before doing it. Usually there will be a moderator for brainstorming who ensures that the basic brainstorming gudelines are followed.

Plan brainstorming

  • Identify the topic for brainstorming.
  • Choose the venue with sufficient space and a big enough white board to capture details.
  • Send invitations along with the topic, start time and end time.
  • Identify the moderator

Do brainstorming

  • The moderator must explain the ground rules of brainstorming to the participants first.
  • All participants must get equal opportunity to contribute
  • When someone is expressing their ideas, no one is allowed to validate them.
  • Participants can build on others ideas.
  • All ideas are captured by the moderator or anyone designated by the moderator.

Check the data captured

  • Group the ideas based on their complementary nature.
  • Eliminate redundant ones

Act

  • Prioritise
  • Take action

Effective bench marking steps

When I was working for a product company well known for it’s product quality and testing practices, another product company wanted to benchmark their testing practices with our company. That was my first tryst with Benchmarking.

Do you want to learn and improve fast? It could be your product, project, process or even you as a professional. The best approach would be to bench mark with a better product, project, process or professional with an intent to learn and improve faster. This is a smarter approach than trying to re-invent the wheel by yourself, which is both expensive and time consuming.

Project benchmarking is a process which helps to compare the estimated cost, scope, schedule and project cashflows with past similar projects. It is also possible to benchmark a project against industry standards and frameworks. For example, one can always benchmark a project’s plan with its compliance against leading project management frameworks like PMBOK by the Project Management Institute (USA), Total Cost Management Framework (TCM) by AACE, Projects in Controlled Environment (PRINCE2) by AXELOS, Standards from Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) etc.

The output of bench marking will provide the gaps which needs special focus. Bench marking is commonly used in Public projects as the government has access to large amounts of data of similar project.

How to perform effective bench marking?

1. Plan Bench marking

  • Define the purpose and scope of the bench marking exercise
  • Form the team
  • Identify the source and target to bench mark
  • Define the benchmark study report template
  • Define the time line

2. Do Bench marking

  • Collect data
  • Validate data
  • Develop bench mark report

3. Check the bench mark report

  • Validate the accuracy benchmark report

4. Act on the bench mark report finding

  • Identify the corrective actions
  • Form the corrective action teams
  • Plan the corrective action projects
  • Execute the corrective action projects
  • Evaluate the results
  • Institutionalize

Impact of Enterprise Environmental Factors on Projects

Will you start a new project in a country which is badly affected by a pandemic?. Will you not check for the medical facilities available before investing?.

These days large project endeavors looks similar to enterprises and PM plays the CEO role within projects. Large projects are getting more and more complex and project failures will eat into the profitability of the enterprise, if not wiping out the enterprise. Understanding the project enterprise’s environmental factors upfront will help to factor them into Project plans.

Here are some examples;

  • Labour laws
  • Bank interest rates
  • National holidays
  • Manpower costs
  • Political stability
  • Climatic conditions
  • Probability for extreme climatic conditions
  • Local culture
  • Government rules
  • Transport facilities
  • Geographical conditions
  • Trade unions
  • Manpower availability
  • Corruption levels
  • Historical data
  • Legal systems
  • Health care systems
  • Health and safety norms
  • Payment terms
  • Payroll norms
  • Taxation etc

These are just examples. A good understanding of the Enterprise Environmental Factors (EEF) will help to estimate, plan, execute, monitor, control and close projects successfully. EEF impacts almost every aspect of the project. An advance knowledge of EEF will help the project stakeholders steer the project successfully.

Direct and manage project work

Reference PMBOK V6 page 90

Key concepts / documents

  • Change log
  • Lessons learned register
  • Milestone list
  • Project communications
  • Project schedule
  • Requirements traceability matrix
  • Risk register
  • Risk report
  • Approved change requests
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Project management information system (PMIS)
  • Deliverables
  • Work performance data
  • Issue log
  • Change requests
  • Project management plan updates
  • Activity list
  • Assumptions log
  • Lessons learned register
  • Requirements documentation
  • Stakeholder register
  • Organizational process assets updates