Project managers aren’t perfect. If we were, we would never experience project failures. We all have areas where we could improve and they may help the project be more successful financially, or end on time, or bring the team closer together, or increase project customer satisfaction. The project management areas we could focus on are nearly endless. And probably costly and time consuming.
What I’ve done here is try to focus on five key areas that often cause project issues or failures that could have been preventable. Recognising these areas of focus for what they are and applying some logical oversight can help turn a project around or keep it from going sideways in the first place. As you read these, please be thinking about your own project management experiences and project struggles and suggest your own areas of focus as you consider commenting on this article…
Let’s consider my five…
Manage the budget more closely.
Going over budget is probably the most common form of project management failure and yet it may be the most preventative if we just dedicate enough time and energy to budget management. Often we are too busy on the daily tasks of the project to include the time needed to give budget oversight the priority it requires. But if we change that – if we start to put enough focus on the project budget to properly manage it in a proactive rather than a reactive manner – then we may see less and less of our projects go over budget. I’ve always said that a 10% budget overrun is fixable, while a project will likely never recover from a 50% overage. The prevention? Weekly updates and re-forecasting of the project financials. If our eyes are on it every few days, it will be nearly impossible to go over 10% off budget without us have a chance to take some corrective action.
Check the scope.
Keep an eye on the scope. Call the team together for an impromptu meeting to discuss the work that is being done right now by each of them on the project and discuss any conversations they have been having with the project customer. The real goal isn’t to catch someone doing something wrong…rather it is to ensure that everyone is focused on doing what is right and that is sticking to the actual requirements of the project. Customers can ask little things of your team – sometimes without you even knowing it and without any of the team members even realising that they may be doing work beyond the scope of the project. The customer may not even realise the work is out of scope. This is exactly why scope management is so important…it can get out of hand fast. And when it does…the project budget and timeline are what suffer the most.
Make sure you’re ready for UAT.
You’re the project manager leading the delivery team. You can’t perform user acceptance testing for the project client – that would be a conflict of interest. But you can help. Most project customers would be the first to admit that they aren’t very good or very experienced at testing. Building test cases and writing test scenarios is foreign to most of them. You can’t create those for them, but your project team can certainly help them build good test cases and write meaningful test scenarios based on the agreed upon project requirements. A good UAT leads to the roll-out of a successful solution that the client’s end users can actually use. And that’s what everyone wants.
Is your close our checklist ready?
Have you created a project closeout checklist? If not, then sit down today and create one. The end will get here soon enough…sooner than you think. Be ready. Do you have sign-offs / approvals for all deliverables? Have you completed all project management deliverables…is there anything that has been overlooked? Are all invoices up-to-date and paid? Are all change orders closed out? These are the types of things that need to be reviewed in advance of implementation so you have everything in order when you’re ready. You want to be ready to get that final, overall project sign-off when you hand the solution off to the customer and it starts with a good closeout checklist.
Is your client in a happy place?
Have you had a good one on one discussion with the project sponsor lately? If not, now is the time. Does the customer feel like you and your team are performing well on the project? What improvements would they suggest? What areas have caused them any concern? Don’t be defensive…if they have concerns we know those concerns may or may not be legitimate. But to the client they are. So address them and be ready to apologise and improve if that is the need. Be humble but be organised and prepared for such a discussion.
Summary / call for input
The bottom line: everything on the project could use more time dedicated to it and more oversight. But we don’t have the time or the financial resources to do that. So pick some key important areas where you can improve your project management style right now and do those. I’ve gone with these because they are often weak points in many projects so they are great candidates to focus on now to make an immediate impact on the project and your project management success.
How about our readers? Do you agree with this list? What would you add as your own areas of focus?