Project Management that Succeeds

Project Management that Succeeds

Many people complain that meetings are unproductive — the lack of agendas, off-topic discussions, the length of them — but just as big a problem is the lack of action and accountability in the project that comes after the meeting. We often find this “evil twin” to bad meetings when clients tell us that projects get completed very late, or not at all. The cure is to follow a rigorous approach to project management that keeps plans on track and makes meetings more productive.

A project leader should always start with the end in mind by asking himself and key stakeholders “What does success look like?” working backward from a well-defined and successful outcome, plan the steps involved at a very detailed level. Identify the “who”, “what”, “where” and “when” of each step. Its very important — and we see this breakdown often — that accountabilities (the “who”) are known and each person knows the importance of owning their step(s) in the plan. Each step, therefore, should have an accountable person, a due date and potential obstacles (discussed below).

It’s here that personal management becomes key to project success. When each team member knows what they are being asked to take on they can assess how much they can do relative to other job responsibilities. In order to be a successful cog in the project wheel, ask yourself:

  • “How will the project affect my job responsibilities?”
  • “Do I need to ask my boss for help with prioritization?”
  • “Do I need to be temporarily relieved of other responsibilities?”

The personal management “checklist” is expanded for the project leader. For her it should include, in addition to the questions above, several rules for managing projects and project teams. The project manager:

  • never does all the work
  • coordinates the resources
  • knows what to expect from the resources
  • keeps everyone abreast of progress and next steps
  • knows where each process stands

A major obstacle to project management success is…obstacles — at least those that are unanticipated or unplanned for. Identifying potential obstacles is important at the project level. The team should identify these for each step and the “overcome” or “detour” options that may exist. Then, when a real obstacle comes along you can deal with it by applying the assessment process (1.b.) outlined in the previous article. That is, ask:

  1. What are those things out of your control (i.e. something happening in the industry, an illness among a team member, etc.)
  2. What are those things you can’t control, but can influence?
  3. What are those things you can fully control?

While the “out of your control” obstacles may unavoidably delay your project, categories 2 and 3 can be planned around. Treat the resolution of obstacles that fall into these categories as “mini projects” with their own steps, accountabilities and due dates.

Finally, be deliberate in building your project team. Everyone in your firm has their own unique behavior style, and a successful team will have a mix of styles and assign them to tasks that align with their dominant style. Tasks that take leadership, persuasion, planning and data gathering/analysis will be best done by those with styles that easily lend to these.  Click here for more on how behavior style impacts the success of teams.

Add these tips to your arsenal of project management skills and see a lot more things getting done in 2010.