April 2008: Full Contact Project Management

Words: Dan KamysApril 2008

Spring Training Fundamentals

'Pitch' a winning RFI for your team.

Gary MicheloniBy "Coach" Gary Micheloni

Holy mackerel! Is spring training here already No more football or basketball? Oh, man! But baseball is here now, just in the nick of time. You may not need to worry about being a QB for a while, but leadership is always in season. And, baseball is the perfect sport to show how this happens.

Ever been to a spring training game for a Major League Baseball team? What a great experience: You sit close, and all the seats seem terrific. You can see the faces on the players. Heck, you can hear them talking with each other. You're close enough that you can almost read the dial on the radar gun, and that's what I want to discuss with you.

Coach Gary says:

"Don't overlook the obvious! Not every tool looks like a hammer."

The radar gun: It's all about control and tracking.

Why do coaches and trainers use radar guns? They use them to monitor pitchers' performances. And the radar gun tells which pitch speeds the batters seem to handle well, or not so well.

So, have you figured out the connection to good, full-contact project management yet? I'm hoping it'll be obvious to you, because being a good PM is all about being in control, and having a pretty good idea about what might be happening next. Predictions and tracking are key. That's precisely where the RFI (Request for Information) comes in. It's a great tracking tool and can be used to predict performance. Let's talk about those things.

Coach Gary says:

"Some parts of the RFI are more important to us than others."

Turns out, an RFI is really the best tool in the box for tracking things. Why? A key to creating a winning RFI is putting a deadline on it. We let our clients know when we need the answer. If we need it today, then the fact that the job specs might give the client two or three weeks to answer an RFI is of no concern to us. We remember that, almost always, it is our client who has the bigger concern with meeting the schedule. So, it is up to us to advise him of any urgency, and it is up to him to answer us in a timely manner so we can stay on his schedule.

Every RFI absolutely has to have the following: the date written and date required; the number of the RFI; description of the problem; and a reminder that the issue has potential time and money implications. These things are part of the default mode of the winning RFI. If you don't have these things on the form your client wants you to use, use your own form. If you're not sure what one should look like, go to Coach's Web site (www.FullContactBlog.com), and look for some help there about RFIs.

Coach Gary says:

"Make sure you know how to use the tool. That includes knowing how to keep track of it!"

Proper use of the RFI puts you more in control of changes to your project. You are now the one who can call some of the shots. You've put out a notification and attached conditions to it. And, most of the time, your client will honor your request.

Your RFI will indicate the speed of an issue: Is it 100+ mph, or is it a slow change-up that you see coming your way? Let your client know. And, let your client know through the log you keep about your RFIs how well he is doing at answering you according to your needs.

RFIs work well for us, so get skilled at using them. As a professional PM and a leader on your projects, you are expected to be a pretty good craftsman when it comes to using some of these tools.

Coach Gary says:

"Is this a great tool, or what?"

Your goal should be to go beyond being just a craftsman. Become an artist. Know your tools. Become skilled at using them. Predict how your client will react when he sees you using your tools. And, start predicting how the excellent use of these tools will add to the bottom line numbers for your project.

Lots of clients will be getting their turns at bat against you during your career. Learn to chart; learn to predict; learn to get better; practice to become great. Becoming great isn't easy. But you can do this, and you should accept nothing less from yourself.

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author and consultant. Got a question? Go to the Blog and ask him, or email coachgary@fullcontactPM.com. Copyright 2008 Gary Micheloni

Coach Gary's Corner:

What about 2008? Ready to at learn a new tool? Determined to get better? Maybe become a better "pitcher" of RFIs? Then get Coach's free report on Winning RFIs. Learn how to throw the ball! Go to the Web site, and participate there with Coach, www.FullContactBlog.com. Check out the free audio updates and other info that will help your projects. Also, you can get Coach Gary's book, "Get Paid for a Change!"
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