In my many years of practicing project management, from implementing ERP software systems at Fortune 500 companies, Public Sector and Higher Ed organizations, to setting up and directing two Project Management Offices, I observed one common project management challenge in a sea of differences. What was the common challenge?
Too many priorities, too little time!!
Understanding what is important to the company or organization has a strong influence on how we should prioritize, especially the projects being undertaken. Projects are very seldom completed in a silo, and are typically cross functional in nature. Projects are also strategic business investments undertaken to increase profitability, through better cash flow management, product enhancement, marketing initiative, or operational cost reductions. Since we are not capable to do ‘everything’, we need to choose what is most important right now, what is the current priority.
Project Management Priorities
Once the business has provided guidance on the organization’s priorities, the project manager can begin his project management processes. In my experience, the top three priorities for a project manager are: 1. Define the project, 2. Plan the project, and, 3. Execute the project.
Define the Project
First things first. Build the project charter. The project charter is basically a condensed overview of the project. It provides a preliminary outline of the project’s scope and objectives, identifies the project’s stakeholders, and defines their roles and responsibilities. The project charter helps to ensure that all the project stakeholders are on the same page and minimizes the emergence and impact of miscommunication, role confusion, and conflicting stakeholders interests. Further details for the project will be developed during project planning.
Plan the Project
This step is very important and a priority if you want to create a good foundation for your project. I would recommend this be a project team function to expedite the completion of the project plan and get input and approval for the objectives and scope of the project. It will minimize scope creep as the project is executed.
The project plan should include the project objective statement, flexibility matrix, success criteria, project deliverables (scope), resource requirements, assumption, constraints, risks and issues, estimated project schedule, and estimated project budget. Without this information, or an incomplete project plan, the likelihood that the project will be delivered successfully is severely impacted. Take the time to plan and you will have a roadmap by which you can execute the project.
Execute the Project
Plan the work, and work the plan. Now is the time to get the deliverables completed and accepted by the stakeholders, but you look at the pages and pages of tasks listed on your MS project plan and your eyes begin to cross. A little secret to take away the anxiety, focus 70-80% on the critical items, the critical path or critical resource(s), instead of every task. This simple concentration keeps the attention on those areas that have the most impact to the success of the project.
Also, keep a step ahead. Look at the next critical step to ensure the resources are available and dependencies have been resolved so you can smoothly transition when it is time for that task to be executed. And make sure that you have all communication channels working. Communicating with your team can uncover issues, undocumented risks or roadblocks that may impact the project. You will then have the information to communicate to the stakeholders for informational purposes or for resolution to roadblocks, or items of concern. Communicate early and often to keep the project moving forward to completion.
Projects come in all shapes and sizes. They can have a profound effect on your organization. Once the organization has chosen their priorities and what projects they will undertake to achieve those business goals, it is the project manager’s turn to implement their top project management priorities and deliver business value.
© 2011 Gwen Miller. All Rights Reserved