I was once told by a project lead that there is no point in planning as ‘plans always change’.
You won’t get a prize for guessing that project failed. As a Project Manager, I set up projects to succeed.
This is a brave activity. It means investing in the front end of the project and seeing little ‘progress’ for a while. However, it puts your projects on the right footing. Setting up a project well is not rocket science, just a few five simple actions can make the difference between success and a waste of time, money and credibility.
- Understand what you want and agree with stakeholders – this might sound beyond obvious but most projects fail because requirements are not understood or fail to meet the needs or constraints of affected parties
- Set up governance – regular milestones reviewed by all stakeholders keep the project on track and give you a ready-made set of supporters when things change
- Understand what you need to do, how long it will take and what it will cost – a really good, full business case helps reduce change later in the project
- Communicate – two-way communications smooth the change curve and bring intelligence into the project
- Manage risk – it is never too soon to manage risk. Never.
A good project manager recruits and listens to their team; together they carry out and document these activities – we call this set of activities the concept phase.
- Next, the team start to define the project – you can call this detailed planning. This is where you get the Gantt chart and so many, much more useful things, like workscopes, risk management (though I hit this hard in the concept phase) and agreed handoffs (I am open to starting delivery activities in the definition phase, some things – like eliciting requirements are necessary regardless).
- Then we get on with the job of delivering. For the project manager, this can mean anything and everything from supporting the team, updating stakeholders, clearing the path of obstacles and hazards and reporting.
- Finally, we close out the project. This is our legacy. We make sure the customer is happy and hand over to a Business As Usual team, we collate, assess and report lessons learnt and we make sure our data is properly archived so that others can pick up and use our work if necessary (for instance, having the workscope and the actual times/ costs makes estimating the next project a lot easier).
As a Project Manager, I work with the project team to understand how we can succeed. I listen to and challenge team members to plan the best outcome for everyone in the organisation. I anticipate risks and issues and make sure we know how to tackle them. I ‘monitor and control’ progress – or as I prefer it support the team and report their progress. I plan for benefits delivery, be that closing down a server or growing turnover.
As an interim, I quickly get to understand an organisation, its goals, capabilities and constraints. I work well amalgamating the big picture and essential detail. Strategic thinking ensures my activities meet business goals. Managing the details safeguards the solution by reducing risk during implementation and addressing the needs of all stakeholders.
Regardless of the size of the project these steps help you Plan to Succeed, sometimes they take a few minutes, sometimes they take longer and require more formality – I can help with any scale of activity.
These blog posts explore some of my thoughts about project management – hopefully they resonate with you.