I was asked to step into a project after the original Project Manager moved on. Sorry to say, I couldn’t make sense of the plan and each of the team confided concerns about the timing and when they would be getting the data they needed from each other. The project outcome was a multi-million-pound bid to a customer.
I took three separate approaches to defining the plan.
- The first was to make sure that each team member knew what they had to deliver and what it would take to win the business.
- The second was working with each team member to understand what they needed from each other and when.
- The third was understanding how the company would evaluate and approve the bid.
Each team member represented a different part of the business and all were senior staff or managers. They all had processes to follow and I didn’t need to plan how they got their data together.
With an understanding of our deliverables, but not how they were completed (for example, the financial business case used a Monte Carlo model and I needed to understand little more than that), I was able to develop a network diagram. This showed when each team member needed an input from another. I added in estimates of duration to build a schedule. At this point, I have to confess a little pragmatism. I opted out of Microsoft Project*. One of the PM specialists later mocked me (gently) for making a ‘cartoon’ schedule. But I stand by my decision. Not only could everyone understand it, but we could easily share it (no company I know buys Project licences for everyone and I don’t expect SMEs to learn how to read a complex schedule any more than they expect me to be able to do their jobs).
Within a week, I presented a new schedule to the leadership team and booked stage and governance reviews. With a clear schedule and little need to ‘monitor and control’ progress, I was able to switch my focus to the supply chain and the people assessing all the data (one for engineering resource and the other for the financial business case). We made improvements to the inputs to simplify the supply chain activities and ease the assessments. We also learnt lessons and improved the regular communications between the bidding team and the supply chain.
All-in-all the project was a success – until the customer changed their minds and postponed the bid, but that is a different story.
*I think MS Project is an amazing scheduling tool and use both the network diagram to build the logic of the project and the Gantt chart and resources features to build schedules – in complex projects.
Focus on business outcomes – my contribution to winning the business was ensuring a timely submission and to achieve that I had to understand and manage all the dependencies
Cross-functional/ matrix management – understand the needs and constraints of subject matter experts, negotiation, influencing
Scheduling – managing dependencies, developing timescales and communications
Team leadership – supporting colleagues, setting standards and expectations
Governance – stakeholder engagement, presentation, organisation
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Feature image by Ian Keefe