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Dos and Don'ts Of Project Management

  1. As Complex As You Make It

Planning and delivering a project can be a fairly complex process. Its complexity can be attribute to: changing project dynamics- scope, cost, resource requirement; the time & efforts required to tie a project team together to execute deliverables, making everyone understand what he/she is expected to deliver and what is the schedule of delivery, generally projects have interdependency of project activities, collecting feedback or trace progress of the project, also during lifecycle of a project, it observes unplanned issues & risks being surfaced.

Despite of set of these processes mentioned above makes project management to appear complex; it is your approach that will make it simple. Try following things.

  • Set a clear objective for stakholders, especially for your team
  • Communicate regularly with all stakeholders especially your team
  • Get regular feedback from customers as well as project team
  1. Project manager is responsible

Well, it is not entirely true, since its a collective effort, entire team has to work together to make it happe. Undeniably you will have to accept the fact that: from organizations’ point of view, it is the role – 'Project Manager' that has been identified to own project & deliver it withstanding risks on time, within budget. The overall owner of the processes mentioned above, either there is a person designated as project manager or one who assumes that role. You as a project manager own the ultimate responsibility to ensure that project is successfully delivered. In short, to carry out project management activities, organization & customer need project manager.

Overall responsibilities

  1. Prepare a project plan
  2. Schedule tasks & milestones with respect to agreed timeline
  3. Identify, secure & assign appropriate resources
  4. Tracking project progress – Tracking milestone achieved , manage issues & risks
  5. Update stakeholders about project status & deliverables

In today's collaborative environment, it is apparent for project managers to engage his/her entire team with project management and collaboration tools & techniques to streamline project activities & get things done.

  1. Reinforce & Regain Focus

Unable to get enough fund/ resources?

If you struggle to get enough funds, resources for your project; you need to understand organization's priority towards project. If you believe that organization need to focus on deliverables of your project; it requires your organization to re-look at prioritization of project portfolio.

Are you loosing track?

Despite of the fact, we have tools and techniques to streamline project progress; we see projects getting delayed/ de-scoped or abandoned. Not every organizations have portfolio management role which will take care of assessment & prioritization of projects: planning & execution activities. In such situation, project teams may find themselves getting dragged because of changing project requirements, changing environment & project management team without clear focus.

Avoid The Trap:

At times, projects need higher management (as appropriate) buy in & strong support to deliver it successfully. And to gain buy in for a given project, one needs to build a business case, justifying cost-benefit analysis by delivering project – highlighting kind of support required: be it in terms of customer engagement, resources with specific skill sets, space, equipment, project duration, etc.

This exercise, will help you & your organization to focus on right set of projects & right kind of support for project(s).

  1. Specific & Quantifiable Project Objectives

Surely, any project has certain objectives which are expected to be aligned with goals of an organization. When project objectives are being set, it is important to set specific & quantifiable costs & benefits expected from delivery of a project. E.g. gain 250K revenue for a given product category which otherwise – is a loss of sale by making products available to store. Thus, these tangible & quantifiable benefits act as ultimate reference that everyone involved in the project would focus on.

  1. Project Plan - Clear & Detailed

First & foremost – Project Planning: it is the most critical factor. The project plan which is carved well saves a lot of time, cost later. As they say –devil is in the details. So it is critical to the project to carve out the as much as details as possible. Also the detailing done in project plan, builds up the confidence of project planner & the team responsible for execution.

Your project plan should have:

  1. Mutually agreed & Clearly defined:

    1. Distinct Milestones, set of deliverables
    2. Timelines to achieve milestones & provide deliverables
    3. Detailed resources roles & responsibilities – skillset /& grades of material required
    4. Estimates of project cost with reasonable accuracy based on above parameters
    5. Contingency plan with - optimum estimate
  2. Establishing a clear mechanism to highlight & manage project issues & risks – (i.e. clear SLA)
  3. To set clear focus for every team member about project activities & processes they need to follow
  4. As team members work on project related activities, you can compare progress of project with the planned schedule & you should become alert of losing track – which has time & money implication.
  1. Don’t let it leak – Project Scope has to be sacrosanct

Quite often we see, project scope being altered during the course of project execution. It is the same principle that needs to be followed while preparing project scope: A fix in time, saves nine. Quite often it has been observed that project scope is broadened; more often than not, such project creep implies that the project scope was prepared & published pre-maturely.

Alright, it (the mistake?) has happened. What should you do next? Should you agree for any further changes (& compromise on project cost, timeline) or refuse (& risk customer engagement)? I think this really needs careful considerations.

Your customer may not appreciate your reluctances (toward accepting any new/major changes) but generally accepting small scope change & delivering those does not get accounted. I have seen this happening; at the time of project sign off & also in future, customers may not consider, the extra miles you have run. You need to note that even though, you run the extra miles, at the end of it, your & organization’s credibility of delivering project on time & within budget can be at risk.

Essentially your customers also know well that project scope was mutually agreed. Hence delivering project as defined on schedule within cost may be of his interest too & may accept to contingent plan to include ‘changed project scope’ in some alternate form/way. You have to get customers’ & higher management buy in to say NO, if ‘accepting scope change’ is going to hurt project’s objective & organization’s goal in foreseeable & reasonable future timeframe.

Having mentioned this, it is in best mutual interest that you have a factual discussion with customer. Be transparent & understand each other’s concerns. Mutually Re-prioritize project deliverables, work out contingency plan& agree on time & cost estimates.

  1. Build Inspired Team – It can save you greatly

The sense of ownership & in turn involvement makes your team to stretch their limits. Yes, we ourselves have done it & seen examples around. The sense of belonging & ownership instils a healthy & highly productive environment – benefits of which you should maximize to get things done quicker & of high quality.

It is not really rocket science to build such team, rather an art: Especially if we have gone through it, we can relate to it quickly. The least you have to do is:

  • Be transparent
  • Communication (Be regular & have clarity)
  • Listen to their ideas (You never know, they may have better way of doing it. So support them)
  • Let them be creative, give them space (generally, it helps you to get returns)
  • Get them involved (again, listen to them, get their inputs, make them integral part of process)
  1. Issue Management:

Practically, every project deliverable has numerous issues surfacing in its lifecycle. Your organization needs an effective process & efficient mechanism to manage issues. You need to realize issues as they surface, recognize their severity, assign priority as appropriate to the project delivery schedule, assign resources to work on these.

At times, issues being submitted may appear to be teaser to progress of your project. But it is your issue management practice which will make it routine job. It is needless to say that you need to make provision for risk management while planning & scheduling your project.

  1. Risk Planning & Mitigation:

As it is said earlier, Devil lies in the details. At least you would know there is a devil & you can plan accordingly. So it is in your best interest to document potential risks right from the beginning of the project, assess & prepare through appropriate response plan to tackle those risks.

You would agree that this exercise really prepares you for the battle: means – as unplanned/ unknown risks appear during execution of a project, you would know what approach/methodology to employ in assessing risks and strategy to mitigate risk (re-scheduling tasks, assigning resources, update project deliverables, estimates)

10. Identify & agree for point of closure of a project

As PMBoK™ says, project is a temporary endeavour. If project deliverables are met as per scope, your project resources needs to be returned to the resource pool (or for other project), else project is considered as open and then it has project continuation cost associated with it.

Again, it is in best mutual interest to discuss about which all project deliverables are according to project plan & figure out which project deliverables were not agreed project scope. Through this discussion you need to agree for future work as a new project or addendum to existing project (agreement on former option will close existing project & later +option will keep the project status open).

Concluding Remark:

Be transparent. Communicate clearly & regularly with everyone involved in the project.

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