PMP, Prince, PMBoK, Templates, deadlines, communications, charter, review books, meetings and what not! Project management is a heavy duty exercise that takes up so much involvement from a person yet most of the time it is a thankless work [from my personal experience]. And that is because excellence in this field is considered as expected. Hence the chances of you failing or letting someone down are very high.
In this post, let me share with you some of the tips and tricks to make project management easier for you based on my 11 years of experience in this field. I have been burnt many times and hurt quite a few times. And excelled multiple times.
The basic problem with Project Managers
The basic problem with project managers is they are a pain in the neck [for the lack of better term] for their team. They nag their team members and leads constantly about cost, schedule and most often ask them to work overtime or on the weekend.
Aren’t these the reasons why we used to hate our project managers when were engineers?
And trust me, these are the reasons your team does not like you now.
After being on both sides of the fence in my career, I can now totally understand the pain and pressure project managers go through.
We are also human beings and we do not want to harass our team by constantly asking them to provide tracking data, validation arguments, and checking costs. But due to our circumstances, we have no option.
So why do we do this? Because we don’t have any better way to do it.
But not anymore. Let me tell you some of the tips that will help you.
Steps of IPECC
In order to help align your thoughts with the management tips and tricks, let me go in order of the IPECC [Initiation, Planning, Execution, Control and Closure] areas.
How to save time and escape problems in Project Initiation?
Many would think that project initiation stage is very simple and small to bother anyone. You are right.
But the real danger of this stage occurs during the control stage wherein you try to control escalating costs, off-track schedule and suddenly you get to know that people who made the charge have moved on and are unanswerable, or you do not have the same amount of control you thought you would have.
Has this happened to you? If yes, then read on.
If this has never happened to you, then keep the notes handy with you as you could be next!
Trust me! No one gets spared!
Tip # 1: Take control of the project, officially.
After you have been assigned a particular project, take it in writing from the project sponsors. The written confirmation should have the following things clearly mentioned in it:
- The duration of your engagement in the project
- The clause of renewal
- The success criteria of the project
- What you are authorized to do
- The things you are not authorized to do
And that written confirmation should be signed by the project sponsors with the dates.
This confirmation need not be in a single document; although it is preferable.
Tip # 2: Know the people who can influence your project
Officially this is known as stakeholder register. But I am not talking about that one. I am talking about something more sinister, a hidden plot to derail you that is unfolding while you are focusing on your project.
I am kidding!
But I mean business when I say that you should know of all the forces that can influence your project either personally or professionally. They could be your friends, foes, colleagues or family.
Always keep a map ready in your mind that tells you who can add up to your strengths and who might be the cause of your downfall.
This will also help you distinguish between a well-meant scolding and a misleading appreciation.
Tip # 3: Plan in chunks, the smaller the better
If you straight away create a plan that covers all aspects, all scenarios from start to finish, then it will definitely please your seniors. But it will harm your team as the plans would become outdated soon.
If you choose to go just in time approach for planning, then you might be the cause of bottleneck for your team.
So here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare a broad outline of all the things you need to cover
- Along with the detailed plan of the very next stage your team needs to do
- Run these 2 items with your seniors to get their buy-in, in writing of course.
Then share these plans with your team ensuring that your leads are completely on-board with your plans.
This way your planning will always be one step ahead of the team’s progress and not be outdated at the same time.
Tip # 4: Involve your team in planning
I would like to say, teams that plan together sail together.
Else you run the burden of multiple project meetings, getting sign-offs and commitment issues from the team.
By including the team in your planning, you achieve following things:
- Complete and real picture of ground reality that allows your plan to be as close to reality as possible
- You get to know bad apples and good apples in the team first hand by means of their interaction during the planning
- You gain firsthand knowledge of dynamics within the team
- The Team buys into the plan because they have helped create it
This way you will be saving a lot of time from recurring meetings, review, pushing people to get things done and conflict management.
Tip # 5: Get in external reviewers early in the game
By getting external reviewers early in the game, you safeguard yours and the team’s interests in multiple ways. Let me elaborate:
- The viewpoints of external reviewer will allow you to dispassionately review the project and deliverables and thus create a higher quality of products.
- The team is fully aware that no amount of politicking or gaining favors with management will allow them to escape from an independent external review and thus, self-quality control.
- In tough times, when your decisions and approach of the team will be questioned by stakeholders, these records of external validations will help you present your case on a strong foot.
- The External review will help you forecast trends and upcoming challenges early in the game.
- If we do not opt to do this earlier than in times of escalations, the external agencies are looped anyways by the investigating committees and at that time, you have no say in the matter and you cannot stop the vested interests from bringing external auditors of their choice.
So take a bold step and involve external reviewers early in the game and document every review with findings, actions taken by the concerned people.
These are just 5 tips to handle initiation and planning aspects of project management in a smarter manner that helps your cause and reduces the number of brickbats that you get from teams.
Stay tuned for more such tips and tricks in the upcoming posts on “beginner’s guide to project management”.