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 October 22, 1999

Choose course of action before team project starts

Question: My boss has assigned to me the position of project leader for a new team that is being developed. I have never run a project before. I am looking for ideas on how to develop an action plan. I really need some good information so I can easily break down all tasks into small steps.

Answer: I have found it best to do your homework up front before getting too deep into a new project. Doing analysis up front will help the whole team and stakeholders buy into your project. Take your time, and make sure you are working with good information. Also, take careful consideration when choosing your course of action so that the direction you are headed will

lead to success. In short, you first must analyze and clarify before acting. The following is the punch list that I like to follow:

1. Define the company’s overall objectives for the team. Make sure the objectives are attainable. One major reason teams fail is due to the arbitrary objectives placed on the team. These objectives are almost always are unattainable.

2. Determine what sub-projects should be studied.

3. Decide how the corporate values, purpose and mission relate to your project. Then make sure you incorporate these into your plan.

4. Identify all individuals who have a stake in the project, both inside

and outside of the company.

5. Collect data from all the individuals identified in #4.

6. Define problems that might be stumbling blocks to the project. Then

create strategies to overcome or avoid the identified problems.

7. Construct a system representation of the project with the associated

problems using graphics (e.g., flowcharts, maps, decision trees, etc.).

8. Specify predictions about outcomes. At the same time, you should

identify and specify tools and plans to achieve successful outcomes.

9. Verify and test the correctness of your plan with the stakeholders.

10. Work backwards to develop your detailed action plan.

Q: I believe my company is broke. My management team is trying to motivate our employees to carry out companywide objectives. The employees seem to be just waiting for us to give up. I forget who is working for whom here. I would like to fire everyone and just start over. I feel that in today’s job market the employees are becoming more in charge. This is

very frustrating for me.

A: If your right hand does not know what your left is doing, it will only be time before you and all your employees will be looking for a new job. A company running in chaos will soon fly apart like an engine without oil. It sounds like some basic organizational functions of your company need improvement. When I go into a company, I look for key performance areas

that need improvement. All of the following should be fully adopted from the top to bottom of a company:

* Policies are in place on all important matters;

* Policies are well communicated to all who need to live by them;

* Polices are implemented properly throughout the company;

* Authority is clearly defined in every department of the company;

* Organizational relationships, structures and functions are clearly

defined throughout the company;

* Supervisory and reporting relationships are clear to all employees;

* Strategic directions are known throughout the company;

* Each organizational department is solely responsible for its defined goals;

* Flow of work is efficient and appropriate at every level;

* Decisions are made at the right level to insure willingness of

employees, and attain or maintain high morale;

* All relationships are honest and supportive.

A company’s culture can take as few as six months to change and as long as tens of years, depending on the size of company. Do not try to turn your company around overnight. Work with key employees to resolve the company’s problem(s) and bring in an outside consultant to handle the issues you feel would cause too much internal strife if you were to deal with it.

Sometimes certain changes or decisions are accepted more willingly if they come from an outside third-party consultant rather than from within the hierarchy of the company.

Q: We have been informally benchmarking our company against others in our industry. I would like to know what I should really be doing when I benchmark other companies.

A: A “benchmark” is simply a reference point that is used as a standard of comparison for actual performance. Benchmarks serve not only as a standard of comparison but as a means of self-evaluation. Competitive benchmarking involves the following steps:

* Determining the characteristics to be benchmark;

* Determining which organizations will serve as benchmarks;

* Collecting data;

* Determining best in class;

* Analyzing your company’s status vs. best in class;

* Setting goals and integrating them into overall business planning;

* Developing strategies and action plans including milestones;

* Tracking progress against milestones

Greeley resident Russell Disberger is a founding member of Tekquity Ventures LLC, a Louisville-based specialty venture capital firm investing in technology development and licensing. He can be reached at (970) 7009, (303) 926-3990 or via e-mail at disberger@home.com.

Question: My boss has assigned to me the position of project leader for a new team that is being developed. I have never run a project before. I am looking for ideas on how to develop an action plan. I really need some good information so I can easily break down all tasks into small steps.

Answer: I have found it best to do your homework up front before getting too deep into a new project. Doing analysis up front will help the whole team and stakeholders buy into your project. Take your time, and make…

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