Being a project manager involves the wearing of many hats. At one time or another managing all the ‘moving parts’ makes you think you are on a roller coaster. Is there a silver bullet that can smooth out that roller coaster ride? Let’s explore what tools we have at our disposal to leverage for success.
In my experience, the one factor that can derail the success of a project is ill-defined scope. Think of scope as what we will be delivering to the customer at the end of the project. Is it a Mercedes with all the bells and whistles? Or a Ugo?
It is key that the project manager, project team, stakeholders, sponsor, etc. be crystal clear on what they expect to deliver/receive at the end of the project. As part of the planning process, preliminary scope definition provides the basis for what the project should produce. But at this point, the end result is just coming into focus.
As we continue to work our process, new and improved information is known. These successive iterations provide more details that are vital to successfully delivering the right product to the customer. Project Managers know this as progressive elaboration, a significant step in the planning process to more accurately document the deliverable (project scope).
As more details are known about what to deliver, the Project Manager updates the project plan reflecting the modified information. Once the baseline is acceptable to the sponsor, stakeholders, etc. (and signed off) the project team can begin to execute. Now the focus of the project team is shifting to how they will complete the tasks to build the deliverable.
As simple or as complex as the deliverable might be, the project manager now needs to be aware of not only what the project will deliver but how the deliverable will be created. As part of the process, the project manager will need to implement change control.
This will detail how changes to scope will be managed. Any approved changes to scope, can have a direct impact on the project schedule and/or cost. The project manager will need to make the necessary changes in the schedule and/or budget to offset the new information.
The what and the how of project management, is just like ying and yang in the universe. Keep the balance to keep on track. Managing a project can be daunting for some if the project planning process is not done correctly. Having a clear picture of what ‘done’ looks like, will, in most cases, allow for a smooth execution of the project.
So what is the point of all this? The project manager can be their own best friend or their own worst enemy. Keeping an eye on the prize, keep the team focused with the end in mind, will keep the project on the right track.
This requires a great deal of awareness to detail and a high degree of diligence. Prioritizing and focusing on the most critical activities will keep all the moving parts progressing to the end game. Experienced Project Managers know there is no one way to manage a project. Each project is unique and so is the application of project management processes.
The degree of rigor applied to achieve the desired project performance is different for a $10m project versus a $100k one. The project manager needs to know the difference and determine the processes necessary to successfully deliver the project.
So the Silver Bullet? That is all up to you, the Project Manager.
© 2011 Gwen Miller, PMP