12 tips for project managers
Project success means completing all project deliverables on time, within budget, and to a level of quality that is acceptable to sponsors and stakeholders. InterComm gives project managers some tips on managing these three dimensions.
1. Planning is everything
Detailed, systematic, team-involved plans are the only foundation for project success. And when real-world events conspire to change the plan, project managers must make a new one to reflect the changes. So planning and re-planning is a way of life.
2. Project managers must feel, and transmit to their team, a sense of urgency.
Projects are finite endeavors. Since most team members have lots of other priorities, it's up to the project manager to keep their attention on project deliverables and deadlines. Regular status checks, meetings, and reminders are essential.
3. Deliverables must be visualized and communicated in vivid detail.
From the beginning, the project manager and project team must create a tangible picture of the finished deliverables in the minds of everyone involved so that all effort is focused in the same direction. Avoid vague descriptions : document it out, picture it, prototype it, and make sure everyone agrees to it.
4. Deliverables must be allowed to evolve
It simply costs too much and risks too much time spent in rework to jump in with both feet and begin building all project deliverables. Build a little at a time, obtain incremental reviews and approvals, and maintain a controlled evolution.
5. Projects require clear approvals and sign-off by sponsors.
Clear approval points, accompanied by formal sign-off by sponsors, are critical. Anyone who has the power to reject or to demand revision of deliverables after they are complete must be required to examine and approve them as they are being built.
6. Successful projects are built on appropriate, practical business needs.
When a project results in deliverables that are designed to meet a real “bottom line” business need, there is a greater likelihood of project success. So managers should insist that there is a documented business case for the project before they agree to consume organizational resources in completing it.
7. Project managers must fight for time to do things right.
Projects must have available enough time to "do it right the first time." And project managers must fight for this time by demonstrating to sponsors and top managers why it's necessary and how time spent will result in quality deliverables.
8. Project manager responsibility must be matched by equivalent authority.
It's not enough to be held responsible for project outcomes; project managers must ask for and obtain enough authority to execute their responsibilities. Specifically, to acquire and coordinate resources, receive management cooperation, and make appropriate, binding decisions which have an impact on the project.
9. Project sponsors and managers must be active participants, not passive customers.
This project sponsor has the responsibility to be an active participant in defining deliverables, to complete reviews of interim deliverables in a timely fashion and to help expedite the project manager's access to management, users and essential documentation.
10. Projects must be sold, and resold.
Project manager must function as salesperson to maintain the commitment of stakeholders and sponsors. Project managers will need to periodically remind people about the business need that is being met and that their contributions are essential for success.
11. Project managers should acquire the best people they can and then protect them from being distracted by politics and admin.
By acquiring the most experienced, most skilled people the project manager can often compensate for too little time or money. Project managers must be advocates for their valuable team members, protecting them from outside interruptions and helping them acquire the tools and working conditions to apply their talents.
12. Top management must actively set priorities.
Ultimately, there comes a time when resources are stretched to their limits and there are simply too many projects to be completed successfully. There must be some forum for all the top project managers to review priorities and monitor resource workloads. In this way top management provides the leadership necessary to prevent multi-project traffic jams.