The Project Manager’s role is not an easy one. With so many moving parts and multiple people invested in project success it is critical that Project Managers stay one step ahead of the game. The ability to keep scope, people and schedules on track can make or break a project. The following six steps can help make a project successful:
Select the Right Person for the Job
Typically, when a project is kicking off the goal is to find the right resources for the tasks at hand. Equally important is finding the right Project Manager. One who has enough experience and training to successfully manage the project and not just the person who happens to be available in the moment. The right Project Manager is the one whose skill set matches the project requirements.
Get Team Buy-in
The first step to getting team buy-in is to start at the beginning. Often project’s scope, estimates, costs and schedules are not set by the Project Manager or the Project Team. Business cases or proposals are often determined by a different group. Involving the project execution team in building the project plan and schedule is a fundamental way to ensure team buy-in. Important areas to agree on include:
- What is the scope of the project and who is responsible for each piece of scope?
- What skills are required for all of the project work and are they available as needed?
- How will you determine when each package of work is complete?
- When is the project successfully completed and when have you met your technical or functional goals?
- What are the risks that may be encountered on the project and how will your team deal with them as they arise.
This is a subset of items that the full Project Team should agree on before a project begins.
Ensure That You Have Executive Buy-in
Team buy-in isn’t enough to make a project successful. All the team players in the world won’t help you if the Executive sponsoring the project isn’t wholeheartedly invested. A specific person at the top of the organization needs to take ownership and show support of the project. This is critical to making sure that the team sees the value to the organization and the project needs to move forward and be successful.
Projects often need someone to knock down resistance, to secure scarce resources or to manage scope issues with internal or external clients. Having a sponsor that can deal with these issues is key to project success.
Reduce Work in Progress
For internal projects, and often for external projects, there are too many demands for resources. Too many projects in production at one time will strain the organization causing all projects to suffer. Many people think that if they are already doing something for one project, it’s easy to do it for a few at a time. Extensive multi-tasking has been shown to actually slow people down, so let your Project Managers and team members focus on a small number of tasks and projects at one time. This will allow them to be more efficient, produce better quality work and prevent delays that could affect the entire organization.
Schedule Regular Meetings and Actually Hold Them
Many effective Project Teams hold short daily meetings. It’s not enough to send occasional emails or wait to communicate when there’s an issue. Communication is critical to project success and maintaining the flow of a project. Find a time that is good for all team members. Schedule a daily stand-up meeting or a weekly update meeting and insist that everyone attend either in person or virtually. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page, not assuming that an important piece of information has flowed to everyone, and help catch issues before they become large problems.
Clearly Define Project Scope
Before any other work is started on the project spend time defining the scope. If a different team defined the project then be sure to re-examine the scope and include specific tasks, critical deadlines and the end goal. This allows the Project Manager to fight against scope creep or unrealistic deadlines, which are is definitely project killers. Clearly defined scope helps keep everyone on track and heading for the same schedule and end goal.
Scope, Schedule and Budget are well known touchstones for keeping a project on track. These extra steps will make the Project Manager’s job easier in the long run and help him to manage all pieces of the project through to a successful, on-time, on-budget project completion.