Are all projects basically the same? Do best practices translate from project to project and industry to industry? What’s your take? I’m going to discuss my take on this and then I’d like to hear from you on your thoughts.
Every project – in its details – is different, I know. Even two projects implementing the same technology – maybe even with the same PM and technical team involved – will be different to some degree. But my real question is this – are all projects basically and fundamentally the same? From a project manager standpoint, do we really run project A different than project B? Do we do the same things – just in different detail – on each project (or at least the things we know are helpful and successful and aren’t contributing to ongoing project failures once we learn our lessons)?
For me, the answer really isn’t clear-cut. I’m going to present what I think should happen on every project – no matter what type of project it is – and then I’d like to hear from you. Here’s what SHOULD be happening on all projects…
Gather initial project info. Get what you can from whoever initiated the project or closed the deal or whatever. An account manager, the project sponsor (or both), executive management, your PMO director…whoever might have meaningful information, requirements, estimates, mockups, etc. You need that critical information to start the real planning on the project and putting together a useful project schedule.
Get a team together. Now, if the project is small…like maybe a data transition and you have the knowledge and capability to do it all yourself, this may be a one-person team. Otherwise, you’ll need to gather resources based on the skill sets you need.
Hold a project kickoff. Sometimes this has to happen before you’ve assembled a team and sometimes after and sometimes it may just be you and the project sponsor. However, this meeting is critical to set proper expectations, finalize milestones, understand assumptions and plan for more planning and plan for the when and how the work will happen on the project.
Report status weekly and conduct status meetings every week. I don’t care how formal you make your status meeting – it can be a one-on-one call with the project sponsor that last for five minutes if that’s all it takes, but it must happen every week like clockwork. If communication falters, that’s when the project can start to come unglued and project customer satisfaction can begin to decline. Don’t skip the regular meetings and status reporting, even if there isn’t much to report. Of course, on larger projects this status meeting and reporting process will be more formal, but it still needs to happen…every week.
Communicate well and communicate often. Effective and efficient communication is job one for the project manager no matter how big or small or detailed the project is. It’s not just about the status meetings and status reporting either – it’s about all project details, task management issue management, risk management and anything relevant to the project that needs to be efficiently disseminated to the project team members…and customer…in a timely fashion. And that must start with the project manager.
Is every project created equal? No, probably not. Can any project manager manage any type of project? No, probably not. I think many can manage all types. But I’m doubtful that all project managers could manage any type of project – that just isn’t going to happen. But these best practices are likely to be successful on any given project.
Now it’s your turn…please share your thoughts and let’s discuss.