The Project Manager (and Project Team) Holiday Wish List

12 December

It is that time of year when our attention turns to thinking about the upcoming holiday – the decorations, the holiday celebrations, parties and food, the gifts for family, friends, business associates and our staffs. What to give though is always a difficult question. Many of us struggle to find that perfect gift, personalized and meaningful to deliver, that can bring joy the receiver and even make us feel good. It would be really easy if we could just go ask them, and in some cases they will come right out and tell you, but that somewhat spoils the surprise.

Many times they do “tell us” what they may want or even desire, giving clues about their needs and wants, things they would change if they could, what would help make their day a little easier or brighter, or even how they could be more effective in their day-to-day lives. For those of us who sometimes do not catch the subtlety around us or get those little hints regarding the best gifts to give – not to worry. I am here to help make it a little easier for you and your leadership teams (at least for getting your project manager and project teams) the perfect gift, or hopefully gifts, they will always enjoy. In working with our clients, and project teams, over the years we keep hearing and coming back to many of the same, needs, desires, and opportunities regardless of organization size, maturity or industry.

This is not an all-inclusive wish list, but if addressed (even over a period of time), will definitely be appreciated, by all concerned. Here are some thoughts to consider when “giving” for the upcoming holiday season (or better yet as an adopted practice going forward):

  • A solid business case – This does not need to be pages and pages of detail. It should pass the “red face” test – why are we doing this, what do we think we will need to do this work (people, money, time), does it help move our organization forward, does it support a need we have or our strategy? Why should I invest in this effort?
  • Prioritization – Compared to everything else going on, including day-to-day operations, how does this project stack up? Is this mission critical, or can it wait? Is it the “most important” project for your organization –If it is, treat it as such, and make sure others within the organization know that as well. If the priorities change, and they will over time, re-evaluate as necessary and update the work being done. Why this, why now?
  • Defined project scope, anticipated benefit and deliverables – what are we trying to accomplish, what will be the end result of our efforts, what will we gain from doing this project? What does success look like – is it clearly articulated by everyone associated with the effort. If not, work to refine it and get agreement.
  • An engaged project sponsor – Someone who is at the appropriate level within the organization to help move the project forward, and who has “skin in the game” to insure project outcomes. A person who can break through roadblocks when they arrive and make decisions when needed
  • Adequate time to plan and to execute the project – The key here is realism. Take the time to come up with a plan and track progress against it. Make sure the efforts match the expected outcomes, and the outcomes are realistic within the timeframes. Assertive timelines are fine, but if there is no way to reach the goal, no matter what resources are put against it, then it needs to be realigned. The other thing we often see is lack of planning time up front, but time for rework after the fact – very puzzling and often costly.
  • Dedicated project resources – this does not mean necessarily mean full time (unless that is warranted by the project), but it does mean allocated to the time required for the project activities assigned to the resource to be completed timely. Resources should not be pulled from the project for other reasons, or to work on that “hot item” that arose. If the project is important, as defined previously, you need people to get the work done. This work also includes developing and providing documentation to support what has been done, decisions asked for and reached, test case creation, etc.
  • Project health checks, authorization to move forward or stoppage criteria – projects have logical breaks, and allow opportunity for review prior to continuing. These should be leveraged, and factored into the project plan for follow-up and action. Actions here should be to evaluate progress to date, authorize, via client sign-off, moving forward, or if progress is not satisfactory, or if circumstances have changed, to defer or even stop the project.
  • An owner for benefits realization – Too often, executives, sponsors and key stakeholders are focused on getting the project done. They often forget the reasons they did the project initially and what benefit they hoped to achieve. There needs to be someone responsible for monitoring, tracking and reporting on the benefits being generated for an extended period of time. It is likely an operational type resource and they should be involved throughout the project to understand their role and how the project was implemented.
  • Project close out processes – Projects, successful or otherwise, need to be reviewed during and after project activities complete. Allow time for these processes to be accomplished, including a lessons learned, client satisfaction survey, project team performance evaluations, and updates to tools, templates and methodologies. This will make future projects better and allow mistakes made in the past to be avoided in the future
  • Celebration of Success! – Recognize a job well done, show your team their efforts are noticed and appreciated. How you choose to do this is up to you, but make sure to make the effort.

When thinking through each of these it may seem like there is significant effort required to make all of these happen, and to some degree that is true. But rather than thinking of the effort on your part, think of these as gifts that keep giving – by employing these techniques your project teams (and PMs) will be well positioned for greater success, personal growth and development, and be more productive overall. From the company perspective you also benefit, by increasing project throughput, enhancing timeliness in execution, and in gaining the ability to see faster returns on your investments, both in terms of people and capital. A true win-win in my book. Now doesn’t that sounds like the perfect gift, and if so the next year looks to be shaping up nicely… Happy holidays to all!

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