Running a project dependency workshop

5 steps for running a dependency workshop

The last post covered 5 activities that are needed for a dependency management process.  This included the important step of validating dependencies as, without confirming between the “giver” and the “receiver”, there is a high chance the dependency will not be honoured.

There are different ways of validating dependencies.  This post will focus on the dependency workshop sometimes known as “dependency clearing house”.

Purpose

The purpose of the “clearing house” is simple.  It is to openly validate all known dependencies between the relevant parties (givers and receivers).  Doing this in a workshop format allows for the process to be accelerated and, interested parties to contribute to the discussion.  The result is dependencies that have been well defined and agreed.

1. Capture and tidy known dependencies

Before you can validate dependencies using a workshop (or any method), you do need to complete the up front work, the preparation.  Most importantly the capture of known dependencies, ideally in a common format.

Th PMO can add considerable value by driving this process.  Contacting all stakeholders and requesting inputs.  Making sure submission deadlines are met.  Reviewing and validating the quality of inputs.

The goal is a list of the known dependencies that have been cleansed and clearly articulate the requirement.  It must include who is expected to deliver the dependency – the “giver”.

2. Define attendees and set-up meeting

In parallel to step 1, the dependency workshop should be set-up.  This involves identifying who needs to attend to ensure full representation.  Care should be taken on ensuring that the person attending has the knowledge and authority to agree dependencies.  It is not very productive if the person attending has to take a large amount of items away as actions.

Based on who should attend, a suitable room should be booked (including required facilities – wipe board, flip chart, projector, etc).  The invites should be sent out early to ensure the required person can attend.  The invite should include an agenda and proposed approach.

Where possible send the cleansed list of dependencies.  If this is not possible, send out the invite and advise that the dependencies will be issued separately.  Where this is the case, make sure the list is sent out in plenty of time ahead of the workshop (at least 48 hours) to give the attendees time to discus with their teams to collect feedback.  DO NOT send out 20 minutes before the meeting as this will greatly reduce what can be achieved in the session.

3. Dependency workshop

The workshop should be run to the agreed agenda and start with introductions (why people are in the room) and the approach.

Each area should then talk through where they have dependencies on others.  They should clearly articulate the need and the impact if the dependency is not delivered.  This will then allow the attendees to discus and ask questions, even challenge the need of the dependency and / or due date.

The facilitator should be mindful not to let discussions take too much time so as to ensure all dependencies can be covered.  The facilitator should draw each discussion to a close with the following outcome:

  • Dependency agreed (deliverable and date)
  • Dependency removed (i.e. all parties agree no longer required)
  • Dependency not agreed (i.e. still required but agreement can not be reached)

Where dependencies can not be agreed, the facilitator must ensure that there is a clear owner to resolve outside of the session.  The action should have a target date for resolution.

4. Update dependencies, publish and validate

At the end of the workshop, the PMO can capture the refreshed data.  This should then be shared with all attendees for review and sign-off.  Again set a date for sign-off.

Similarly, the PMO should follow up on the non agreed items to make sure they are progressed.  When they are complete, they should be updated in the dependency register and circulated.

5. Repeat process

Like with so many things in project management, these are not one off events.  To truly give the best chance of delivery, dependencies should be reviewed on a regular basis.  It may not be necessary to run full workshops on a regular basis.  However, the agreed list of dependencies should be maintained and, where necessary targeted sessions with subsets to ensure all is aligned.

In summary

  • Dependency workshops are effective to quickly validate dependencies
  • Preparation is critical – quality of dependencies / workshop logistics
  • Meeting must include people with knowledge and authority
  • All dependencies should result in agreed, removed, not agreed with further work
  • Data should be updated and distributed
  • Repeat the process

Following these steps will help improve the management of project dependencies with the PMO playing a valuable role.

Project Dependency Presentation