8 Essential Rules to Effectively Manage Projects

8 Essential Rules to Effectively Manage Projects

Project management is certainly not a new phenomenon; our ancestors have been doing it since ages, though it used to be informal project management (without calling it so). It is in the last century that project management became formal with standards and compliance laid out by regulatory bodies and not-for profit professional organizations like Project Management Institute (PMI). Despite these standards, overall project success rates across the globe don’t make any hunky dory numbers.

Increasing demands from stakeholders for transparency and accountability of successful project delivery has forced organizations, project management professionals to focus on proven and repeatable processes. Of course there is no magical wand to turn every project successful

8 Rules to Effectively Manage ProjectsSo here are eight golden rules to effectively manage projects. We have to go to “back-to-basics“ to thoroughly understand and utilize simple rules of project management.

1. Clear understanding of the goals and objectives of projects, in turn organization and that of customers:

Right from the beginning and at every phase of project management, make it clear to yourself and all other stakeholders – why are you doing this project? What are the objectives and goals of this project? You will know what level of buy-in you currently have from senior/executive management and what level of buy-in you will require. You and your entire team also needs to have clarity in terms of: what business value are you going to deliver?

Setup a workshop and invite required stakeholders to participate so that everyone understands business goals and these stakeholders can impart their expertise in achieving the objectives in the best possible way. Use the outcome of these meeting as project initiation draft or even to create high level work breakdown structure (WBS).

Clarity in terms of Project Scope:

This rule is about crucial element of a project i.e. project scope/ creation of project initiation document (PID).When PID or equivalent project scope document is created and communicated, ensure that all key stakeholders understand that the project scope is now sacrosanct and no further deviations will be entertained.The project scope has to lay down the work and deliverable considering practical constraints of Time, Quality and Cost (TQC). Each element of this triangle has implied cost associated with it. A change in one parameter can cause changes in the project scope and in turn changes in other elements of the TQR triangle.

8 Essential Rules to Effectively Manage Projects

The PID document should clearly specify what all project deliverable are ‘In Scope’ and ‘Not In Scope’

Project Planning –

Based on an agreed project scope document, project manager needs to perform minute level of project planning. This phase of project management is important as it decides cost, duration, resource requirements for a project. Experienced project managers know it well that any subsequent change in project plan (or any rework) can cost a lot to the company. Hence if you are unaware of certain project areas, it is strongly advisable to involve subject matter experts (SME) of that area. You need to ensure that these SMEs will participate in the project planning meetings. The output of project planning phase should be delivered as important reference documents such as WBS, Gantt chart, Resource Plan capacity/load, Quality Metrics, etc.

Pre-mortem analysis –

I like the way Guy Kawasaki puts it: “Pre-mortem” analysis. Before you commence project execution, start proactively considering how a project may fail, which factors can lead to failure of a project and how you can limit/avoid such instances and ensure that corrective actions are in place. The pre-mortem analysis can include risk management, thorough detailing of a project plan taking into account reasonable and potential setbacks to projects and also set reasonable buffer in the project schedule. Of course, despite meticulous planning, there will be ad hoc change requests, or even worse during project execution, things may go wrong however this exercise will certainly equip your team to handle surprises in a better manner.

Project Governance –

As a project is kicked off, for effective project management, it is equally important to have project governance in place. Controlling a scope creep beside agreed PID/scope, any change in project plan/ WBS should be reviewed with due process and should be communicated to project’s key stakeholders. It also involves tracking project progress, monitoring issues and risks reported in project. You need to check project progress against the plan, project goals and take necessary actions to streamline it. Use of technology and project management software /tools can make it easier and quicker for stakeholders to assess latest state of project progress and to stay on top of their activities.

Frequent and clear communication –

If it is a ‘Not-a-Pleasant’ surprise, everyone hates it; yes, it is true that no one likes last minute surprises. Hence be it senior management, customers, partners, team members and auditors, you should keep them informed as appropriate. Frequent and clear communication helps everyone to have real understanding of the progress of a project – in terms of the deliverable, timeline, cost, ROI, etc. It prepares stakeholders to have better visibility into a project and it becomes easier for them to accept realities before it gets too late to manage.

Give them responsibility as well as authority

– As a senior management representative you understand how important it is for you to deliver projects successfully and earn customer’s appreciation. As you impart maximum responsibility to project managers, you should also provide them required and judicious authority. At the same time, as a project manager you should be transparent about progress of a project, important changes to project deliverable or its timeline. It is true that project outcome is a responsibility of the entire team, senior management has to play important role of supporting project managers thus expect project managers to be transparent and accountable for end result. Conducting regular review meetings will certainly be helpful and effective in assessing state of project and knowing what kind of support project team would require.

Evaluation Metrics and Project Closure –

Asa part of project monitoring and governance exercise, project manager along with senior managers should be evaluating health of a project and its alignment with organization’s goals. To ensure successful delivery of a project, there has to be evaluation metrics in place, right from the beginning and it should be referred regularly. There can be multiple evaluation metrics – internal (team, management, internal auditors), external (customers, external auditors).

The elements of evaluation metrics can be milestones achieved, issues/incidents reported, support tickets resolved, cost efficiency achieved, ROI, users on-boarded, etc. depending on type of project, expectations of customers and company management.

Before you call a given project as completed (successfully or otherwise), invite all stakeholders for a review meeting (set this meeting, well in advance). For this meeting enlist & present project objectives delivered – complying required cost-budget, quality and timeline. Also enlist ‘Yet-To-Finish’ activities and applicable responsibilities. Once you Identify learning, recognize efforts and contributions of stakeholders, you can handover the project to customer.

Additional readings about project management, leadership

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