Which do you prefer? Starting a project fresh and new that is all yours from beginning to end , or do you prefer to be the project manager who jumps in to save the day and takes over someone else’s work, sorting through the details to do your best to turn utter defeat into improbable success? While both are rewarding – and the latter may actually make you a hero depending on the project and value involved – I myself prefer the former. This way you can start fresh, owning the project from the get-go, engaging the customer, setting expectations, and gathering the team together to start off on a (hopefully) successful project.
When we start a new project, everything is fresh and new; there are no budget issues, no project timeline issues, in fact, no issues at all. And you aren’t jumping into quicksand or lava, but instead you’re standing on firm and steady ground. At least for that moment or two at the start…before anyone has any complaints.
Everyone starts optimistic on the project. There are no issues or roadblocks, no customer complaints, and the relationship with the customer is never strained at this point. So, how can we keep everything cohesive and everyone fresh and focused intensely on project success?
The reality is that we really can’t. We’re all getting our project resources from a matrix organisation and therefore, everyone has not only your project priorities, but priorities of their own from other projects and from their management. Customer issues will arise, because requirements are never perfect and nearly every project has change orders (all should, but not all are caught or enforced as a lot of “free” work gets done or promised to the customer).
Keep everyone focused
As the project manager, it is our goal – and actually one of our key responsibilities – to keep the project team members focused on the prize. That prize, of course, is the end goal of a successful, on time and on budget solution for the customer. How do we do that? To really be successful, we need to hold our focus on the following:
- Aligning our tasks with the goals and mission of the project;
- Assigning resources with relevant and meaningful tasks;
- Keeping resources interested and challenged (this is often a tough one);
- Keeping everyone well-informed with status information (weekly status reports, status meetings, ad hoc communications and so on);
- Keeping track of the budget; and
- Keeping the project schedule revised, accurate and in front of everyone.
The well-informed team will retain more focus on your project and the tasks you’ve assigned to them. Allow them no room for excuses – avoid the grey areas of “who is responsible for what”. Keep the customer on their toes and aware of what is expected of them, and keep them up-to-date so that they have no surprises. Fewer customer surprises mean fewer customer complaints and less chance of having an unsatisfied customer.
It would be nice if we could keep everything fresh on the project, from beginning to end. That euphoric enthusiasm we have as the project manager, the team, the customer, even the executives…and it would be nice if it could go on forever. But it can’t. The key is to keep the team – the ones doing the work – as fresh, focused, and cohesive as possible and that is a tough task. Sticking to the list above and any other tricks you can think of along the way (whatever works!) is the best you can do.
What works for you? What are your top five or top 10 pointers for keeping everyone focused and on target?