Every organization, from the solo practitioner to the multi-billion-dollar, publicly traded company has projects. It might be installing new enterprise software, building a branch office, or introducing a new manufacturing process. And, if you have projects, you need a solid project framework.
In this week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, I’m going to give you factors for successful project management then introduce a simple project management framework. If you don’t have an existing project management tool, I encourage you to use your thirty-minute exercise to customize this framework for your organization, then try it out on your next project.
Successful project management is about the stewardship of four resources – time, materials, money and people. Materials can take the form of a new software package or a pile of lumber, but most always represents an input that must be transformed during the project. People can take the form of employees, contractors or vendors who must be aligned, informed, and coordinated during the project. But only one of the resources is the most important – time – because you can’t make any more of it. There’s always a chance to earn more money, procure more materials and engage more people, but you can’t manufacture any more time. Consequently, time is the primary driver in project management. The crux of good project management is coordinating transformation activities (typically people + materials + time), so they happen on schedule, with sufficient quality, on budget, and in the right order. A critical piece of project management is understanding predecessor and successor activities. Predecessor activities are those that must either be started or, in some cases, completed before the next activity begins. Successor activities are those that are dependent on a predecessor activity. There are a host of software tools that can help you plot all transformation activities related to a project in a visual format and be a repository for all project related materials (documents, drawings, checklists, contacts, communication). The level of complexity and cost varies from tool to tool. No matter which one you choose, it can help you keep all the balls in the air. Here’s a list curated by The Digital Project manager. https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/best-project-management-software/
Let’s jump in to this week’s exercise.
Here’s a simple project worksheet I’ve developed. Before you begin a project, I recommend you engage in, at least, this level of justification for the project
Project Title ___________________________________________________
Project Sponsor ________________________________________________
Project Team __________________________________________________
Project Cost: One Time _______________ Ongoing _______________
Maintenance of Current Operations _____ Cost Saving _____
Increased Revenue _____ Compliance _____
Improved Customer Experience _____ Improved Employee Experience _____
If Increased Revenue or Cost Saving, what is the amount? _______________
How does this project support the mission of the organization?
Briefly describe the project
What activities are required before the project begins (research, permits, etc)
- People (employees, vendors, contractors) _____________________________________________________
- Money (costs and payment schedule) _____________________________________________________
- Materials (materials to be transformed and materials needed for transformation activities) _____________________________________________________
- Start date _______________
- Target completion date _______________
- Milestone events and dates _____________________________________________________
- Predecessor Tasks and Successor Tasks (a successor task can also be a predecessor task for another activity) ___________________________________________________
- Possible impediments __________________________________________
- Training ___________________________________________________
- What does successful completion look like? ____________________________
- How will progress be reported? ____________________________________
- To whom will progress be reported? _________________________________
- Attach financial justification (Payback, net present value, internal rate of return)
Project Manager ____________________________________________________
During your exercise, review the available project management tools. Many include free trial periods, so for the first project scheduled after this One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge exercise, chose one or two that seem like a good fit for your organization and set up your project in both of those tools. Review the initial results with your project team and choose one and use it for the project.
Each project should have a project manager. This person’s job is to be cheerleader, communicator, coordinator, butt-kicker and problem solver. They should have a deep interest in the project itself and be able to articulate why it is important to the company. They should have not just the responsibility for the project, but also the authority to run the project team, manage project transformation activities, and spend from the project budget without being second-guessed.
The project manager should have a solid communication plan so that everyone on the team is always in sync and everyone else in the organization is up-to-date on the project’s progress. Project status should be communicated to the team at least weekly and to the rest of the organization at least monthly.
The project manager’s job is to drive the project to completion. When problems come, as they surely will, it is the project manager’s job to make course corrections, marshal the resources of the team to resolve the problems and refocus the team on project completion – all the time, keeping the balls of time, materials, money and people in the air.
After the end of every project, there should be a project post-mortem where the project itself is evaluated, the project methodology is evaluated, and the project leader and team are evaluated. The goal of this post-mortem is not to assign blame for anything that might have gone wrong, but to refine the methodology and improve the team for the next project.
If you begin to build a project management framework using these initial guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to effectively managing projects in your organization.