Estimating, Planning and People with Dr. Sidjae Price

"Getting to know your team members on a personal level and connecting that to the type of task that they're suited to can definitely help."

Creating estimates and plans can be tough, especially if you don’t have the time to do them well. But, if you’re working on a team, you should leverage them. In this episode of Time Limit, Brett interviews best selling author, international speaker and CEO of Priceless Planning, Dr. Sidjae Price, about ways to get to well-rounded estimates and plans with teams. But it’s more than that. In fact, this conversation covers:

  • Dealing with generational gaps while managing projects
  • Taking human factors and cultural norms into consideration when estimating and planning
  • Tips on creating a solid planning process
  • Handling change

Resources mentioned in this episode:

About our guest


Dr. Sidjae Price
CEO, Priceless Planning and Founder, Speak Loud Inc

Dr. Sidjae Price is a best-selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. She helps modern entrepreneurs go from chaos to clarity by creating easy-to-follow, actionable steps to clean up the “behind the scenes” messes of business and life, resulting in thriving businesses and more family and personal time.

Dr. Price is the CEO of Priceless Planning, a boutique business consulting agency, and Founder of Speak Loud Inc., a youth-based nonprofit organization. Before creating Priceless Planning, Dr. Price worked for government agencies and a private university where she facilitated policy creation and implementation, employee training and program development. Before creating Speak Loud Inc., Dr. Price aided and led a mission trip to Cuba, and has also volunteered with other organizations and schools throughout the United States and the Caribbean.

Dr. Price is a qualitative researcher who is passionate about organizational conflict. Her research has explored the management of organizational conflict regarding leadership and change management for generation X and Millennial entrepreneurs.

Website: sidjaeprice.com
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/sidjaeprice
Twitter: @SidjaeP

Episode Transcript


Brett Harned:       Hello and welcome back to Time Limit, the TeamGantt podcast that's all about being productive with the time that you've got. Today I'm happy to welcome Dr. Sidjae Price to the show. Dr. Price is the CEO of Priceless planning, a boutique business consulting agency, and she's the founder of Speak Loud Inc, which is a youth-based nonprofit organization. I was happy to sit down with her to hear her thoughts on estimating and planning and how to engage your team around those activities. Give it a listen. Dr. Price, thank you so much for joining me on Time Limit today. It's great to have you here.

Sidjae Price:       I am happy to be here.

Brett Harned:       Awesome. I want to jump right in and start talking about your consulting business, Priceless Planning. I absolutely love that name. It's just so perfect and so fitting. On your site you say that you found many modern entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders were operating their business in chaos and without implementing effective systems, strategies and structures to grow and sustain their business. That really hit home for me. I think in my experience I've absolutely seen a lot of that, and I'm just curious, in your world, and working with those clients, do you have any thoughts on why that happens?

Sidjae Price:       I definitely believe that that happens because organizational leaders, company leaders, founders, they just want to start and make a profit. So in the midst of all the hurry to see a profit, they often neglect to remember the small details of a business, which are the systems, strategies and structure. And while those are small details, it is definitely still important, as just like a game of Jenga, let's say. One slight tumble and the whole thing can come coming down. And this is why you often see big companies commonly in the media with lawsuits within their first few years, and having to do a company restructure and retraining and all that stuff, is because when they just started they were so concerned about profit and forgot to look at the small stuff such as the strategies, structure and systems.

Brett Harned:       Yeah, absolutely. I think, too, one of my kind of thoughts on that is that folks aren't necessarily trained in project management as business owners. Like, let's say I want to start my own design agency. I'm probably trained as a designer and I'm great at that, but I'm not trained in how to run a business or even how to run projects. Have you seen kind of any trends in terms of education for business owners or even folks who are getting into project management?

Sidjae Price:       I don't see much training as far as in project management, but I do know that there are great softwares out there in which individuals can use, and what I always recommend is if you're good at business, then get someone to help do the project management, or vice versa. It's kind of like how within a company, you know you need an attorney, you know you need an accountant, so because you're not good at everything, it's definitely best to get the help or get the education. But I know a biggest trend that I would say that's there around project management has been the increase in YouTube tutorials. That's something that I've definitely seen a lot of and I find them to be very useful and I've shared even some of those with individuals or clients to help them as well, as far as engaging education on project management.

Brett Harned:       Awesome. I hope that you've seen the ones that we've been doing here at TeamGantt. It's called The Art and Science of Leading Projects. It's a 14-class video course about project management, so I'm really excited about that. Anyway, one of the topics in that is around estimating projects, which I want to kind of dig in a little bit more with you, but what for you, like with the clients that you're working with, even in the work that you're doing, what do you see as maybe the single most challenging part of estimating projects?

Sidjae Price:       I would say the challenging part in estimating projects would definitely be the timeline. It's difficult because things happens, and with that the timelines can change. And so I find it to be important to avoid these challenges, to give yourself some wiggle room in planning a project. What I like to do is, let's say that I know a project is due by Friday, I normally plan for the project timeline to be completed at least one week before. Especially if I know that we are in ... I'm based in Florida, so in Florida, we have hurricane seasons, or we know like it's our rainy season so we're always having power outages, or you look into stuff like that and then you base your project timelines kind of around not just in-house, events but also weather events that can also happen. So I like to just say be realistic as much as possible in planning for the projects, and that can help with some of the challenges.

Brett Harned:       Right. So basically when you're estimating for a project, think about the amount of time it's going to take you to get that kind of task done-

Sidjae Price:       Absolutely.

Brett Harned:       ... but also account for all of the things that could happen around that task.

Sidjae Price:       Absolutely.

Brett Harned:       Yeah, I think that absolutely makes sense. Can you talk a little bit about maybe the types of issues you've seen business people run up against when it comes to estimating projects?

Sidjae Price:       I have seen the issues that most business people run up against would be the issues with the team members, and it's kind of because we are in this multigenerational workforce where we have Gen Xes, Millennials, and a few Baby Boomers still in there, and so in doing that, you find that everyone kind of likes doing things differently in how they get their projects completed, so that is the biggest thing. So the main thing is that you'll sometimes find that project managers are assigning individuals tasks that they don't necessarily like, and when you do things like that, you are leaving your team members not connected to the project, and so they don't feel excited to do the work, to complete the work that's needed for the projects. Ideally, this is going to cause them to slow down the time in getting the deliverables of the projects to you because they're not connected to the project. So in summary, assign your team members of your projects a task that they like.

Brett Harned:       That they like or they're they're suited to, if their specialty in different areas.

Sidjae Price:       Exactly. Yeah.

Brett Harned:       Yeah. I think when you're in a group of people, whether they're multi-generational or not, figuring out what they're really good at, like let's say I've got a team of seven designers and they all could do pretty much all of the tasks in the plan, I like the idea of sitting down and talking to them and figuring out where their interests lie, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are. Are there any questions that you might ask people to kind of get down the right path to find out more about them? Because I think it's a really personal thing.

Sidjae Price:       Yes. It is a personal thing, because I'm sure I like what you said about having that conversation, because it's good to know what's going on in even the person's life, because clearly if you have, let's say, a woman and she's pregnant, you know if she's going to be due any day, then clearly perhaps not give her the most important role, because anything can happen. Or if you have someone that's going through a rough time in life, then maybe give them something else, you know? So getting to know your team members on a personal level and connecting that to the type of task that they're suitable of completing can definitely help.

Brett Harned:       I love that.

Sidjae Price:       Yeah.

Brett Harned:       I didn't mean to cut you off, but I totally agree. I think as with kind of any other practice within running projects or running a business, I think your biggest risk is the people, right? The people can take everything down. If you're not giving people the right tasks or asking them the right questions or even talking to them about what they need to do, things are going to go off the rails a little bit.

Sidjae Price:       Absolutely. That's definitely true. And that's why it's so important, like the team is what you need to complete the project, because yeah, you can plan it out all you want, but you need someone to help you execute it.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Sidjae Price:       And so they are a valuable assets and getting your projects completed.

Brett Harned:       For sure. So I want to talk a little bit about planning, because I think when we're talking about estimating, it's a little bit about planning too. But obviously at TeamGantt, we're big believers in creating detailed plans because that's what our product does. But I'm curious, when you think about planning, what's your expectation of what you'll find in a plan? Like is there a certain format of a plan that you prefer? Are there details that you want to see right away? I'm curious to know what your expectations are.

Sidjae Price:       My expectations when it come to a plan is to see the entire vision mapped out on either paper or digital format. We're now in digital era, so either one that your company uses. I'm digital, so I like to see the plan, the entire vision for whatever it is mapped out on the project board, and from that, once you see the vision, I like to see the details of everything. So that's what I think about planning. Literally, it's like you're going to cook and you need a recipe. You need to know all the ingredients, you need to know what to put in first, so every single thing is what I expect to see in the planning phase. So the budgets, the timelines, the roles and assignments, the project goals, everything. And when it comes to format that I prefer, I would definitely say that I would rather digital. It's kind of biased because I'm a millennial, so I would rather digital. However, I've worked in environments where they're not so digital, and it could be because of cultural norms or generation, so everything differs. But I prefer digital, but I'm flexible.

Brett Harned:       Cool. Well, I'm not a millennial, but I also prefer digital. I just think it's easier to update. It's easier to share, communicate. But you know, back to your previous point, there could be people on your team who are not used to digital formats, and you might have to teach them how to kind of get up to speed or how to use digital tools in some cases. I'm not sure if you've ever come up against that kind of challenge, but I have, and it can be difficult, but I think it's just a matter of having patience and knowing that not everyone communicates or likes to be communicated to in the same way, so sometimes you just have to kind of tweak your approach to make sure that your message is landing and that everyone is kind of informed and on the same page on your project.

Sidjae Price:       Absolutely. And that also brings up another valuable point, of being aware of different human factors and the cultural norms of individuals and the culture. I've done projects in Trinidad and Jamaica or even Botswana, and it's different than doing a project in the US. So just being more aware of that it's not typical to probably go into another country and expect them to be doing everything like how we do it, via our phones and the apps and all these things. So knowing that, okay, perhaps you're going to have to print out an entire binder of paper.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Sidjae Price:       You know?

Brett Harned:       Right.

Sidjae Price:       So just definitely being aware of those cultural norms or personality traits or things like that, it's definitely going to be important as well in project planning.

Brett Harned:       I think that's so important, because I think again, people can make or break your project, and if you're not accounting for those things, then things are going to start to fall apart very quickly. Do you have any recommendations in terms of, let's say I am starting a project in Botswana, I don't really have too much experience with the team, what is the best and fastest way for me to kind of get in there, understand the team, but also set the right expectations for how we need to work together and deliver together?

Sidjae Price:       One of the things that I've worked with, I worked with Neil Katz and Associates before on a few projects, and one of the things that he always stresses is getting to know the culture and the people before you rush into the planning. So not to just go in there with your book and ready to work, but get to know the people and how they work, and how their companies is structured, or roadblocks that may occurred or have occurred with let's say other past projects that they've done maybe just similar scopes. Doing that research. So that's definitely what I would say on how to begin. And then from there, once you have placed yourself into that group, from there then you can project plan, whether it be digital or on traditional pen, paper type situation.

Brett Harned:       Got it. Cool. I guess on that note, is there a process for creating a plan that you might recommend?

Sidjae Price:       My process, favorite process, whether it's digital or paper is literally creating ... Let's say you have a big project and you would need to take that project and break it down into blocks. So let's say you divide that into four blocks, and then from each block you create a mini plan. What I find is that when you do it that way, you don't kind of have everything all jumbled up, and then it also allows for you to easily determine what team member is going to be assigned to what block. So if you have a marketing block or a financial block or whatever it is, you'll know, "Okay, my marketing people is going to be on this section. My designers are going to be on this section. My tech people are going to be on this section." And that way you manage it per section, and it also eliminates the chaos from them having to see things that they don't necessarily need to see or getting unnecessary notifications about anything.

Brett Harned:       I like it. Again, you're bringing it back to the people, and I totally appreciate this, because this is how I think and this is how I teach project management. It really does come back to catering your plans, your estimates, and your communications to the people who are going to be working on the project. So thank you for that. I appreciate that, because I don't think enough people actually recognize the fact that project management really is about having really good soft skills and relating to the people who are working with you.

Sidjae Price:       Absolutely. It definitely is. Without them we can't complete the projects.

Brett Harned:       Yeah, right? On planning, we all know that plans can change, and in some cases they can change daily, weekly, however often. Do you have any recommendations for how to handle that change?

Sidjae Price:       Be open and be understanding, because there's some things that we cannot avoid, and then yes, there's some things that's avoidable. And for the ones that we can't avoid, just be open, be flexible, and then keep clear line of communications with whomever it may be that you have to deliver this project to to let them know. And I think keeping that clear line of communication throughout the project process will also help, god forbid, that something happens, that it makes it more easier for them to understand, if something is to happen and the project gets delayed or anything like that.

Brett Harned:       Absolutely. All right. Last question. I want to talk about how to handle estimation and planning when you're specifically strapped for time, and that's really kind of the focus of Time Limit. It's kind of why we named the show Time Limit. People are working with limited time and limited resources, and sometimes way too much work to do. So I'm wondering if you have any recommendations for people who are under pressure to create estimates and plans with a limited amount of time and resources?

Sidjae Price:       Absolutely. It would definitely be the to-do list. Definitely that to-do list and just mapping out one to 10, hypothetically, of what needs to be done. That's how you're going to do the planning part, and then the estimation. If you, let's say, have a week to complete something, then you may have to change your personal calendar around to get that necessary time so you can estimate the correct timing and budgets and everything like that. So I would say definitely if you're strapped for time, definitely do a timeless project management and also clear your calendar, as far as in the execution part of the project.

Brett Harned:       Got it. Okay. That's so helpful. Is there anything else you want to add, or resources or things you want to pass on to our listeners?

Sidjae Price:       My thing that I would definitely like to add is you have to plan. My company's name, Priceless Planning, so that is our specialty. Definitely plan almost every part of your business, whether you're a small company or a big company, whether you're tech, whether you're not tech, food industry, doesn't matter. You need to project plan, because almost certain you're going to have multiple projects across the board within your company.

Brett Harned:       Awesome. I completely agree with you. Dr. Price, it's been awesome. Thank you so much for joining me on Time Limit. I hope we get to talk soon. If not soon, I will see you at the Digital PM Summit October 20 to 22 in Orlando, where you're going to be presenting.

Sidjae Price:       Absolutely.

Brett Harned:       Awesome. See you then.

Sidjae Price:       Alrighty.

Brett Harned:       Thanks.

Sidjae Price:       Bye.

Brett Harned:       All right. There you have it. Your team are your most valuable assets and you need to engage them to make the most accurate and realistic estimates and plans. I couldn't agree with that advice any more. I have to say, Dr. Price is a really interesting person who does really great work, and did I mention that she's a bestselling author and an international speaker? Check out the show notes to learn more about her work, and before you go, I have to ask you one favor. If you're enjoying the podcast, please share it with your friends and write a positive review where you get your podcasts. Every single comment helps. Thanks so much, and I'll see you on the next episode.

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