Clear Terms, Long Friendship!

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Clear Terms, Long Friendship!

Matteo Becchi, PMP Arlington, Virginia, USA

The title of this tip is from an old Italian saying, "Patti chiari, amicizia lunga", meaning "Clear Terms = Long Friendship".

I think this mantra applies to many aspects of project management discipline. On a broader, methodological level, this saying summarizes in my mind the idea behind scope statements, setting goals and deliverables, and creating project definition documents. Really, all project artifacts are geared towards stating up-front the terms and goals the project team setting out to accomplish.

Now take that concept to the 50,000 foot (or 15,000 meter) view, looking at the Initiation and Planning Phases of the Project Lifecycle, across the 9 knowledge areas of the PMBOK® Guide. From developing the Project Charter, Scope, WBS, Schedule, Cost Estimates, to Quality/HR/ Communication/ and Procurement Plans.

Each of these activities underline the heavy focus we dedicate to planning up-front and communicating the plan to all stakeholders to make sure everyone is on the same page. These are basically measures to ensure for smooth sailing down the journey that is the project lifecycle.

Second, on the tactical level, when running meetings make sure you build, or simply state, and set clear project meeting guidelines and expectations with your team, such as:

• There will be a specific agenda and required attendees prepared ahead of time. With the high salary rates of good software developers, you can quickly go over budget if you waste coding time in meetings.

• Agree each participant will prepare by gathering information, taking to outside experts, reading relevant publications or research, and consulting old notes or company records, as appropriate. A second meeting with expensive personnel because one teammate did not prepare is inexcusable.

• Arrive to meetings early if you need to plug in a laptop, set up projection equipment, or hook up audio devices for your part of the presentation. If not, come a few minutes early to find a chair, get coffee, and greet other team members.

• Set a "policy" of no communication devices during meetings (blackberry's, laptops and cell phones). If you’ve ever tried to speak while your technically adept software developers text or play games, you know that the programmers are tuning you out.

• Agree to respect each other on the project team members by refraining from running sidebar conversations, interrupting, or talking over someone who is speaking.

Third, create clear contracts with your customers, vendors, and sub-contractors. The Sales Division will focus only on the final product to be delivered and the final price your organization will receive. Be sure it also includes specifics of how changes will be requested, approved, and what the charge for them will be.

Try to set a process for how often and in what format the customer expects to be advised regarding your project. Will they be available for questions? Will they be willing to provide end-users to test software features as the development progresses?

Clear Terms equal Long Friendships – no matter where in the project environment you look.

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