So far we’ve covered four of my five topics on smart project management…the idea of working smarter – but not necessarily harder – on the projects we manage. In parts 1 through 4, we’ve covered:
- Make the customer work for you
- Let the team manage the budget
- Scale the deliverables
- Manage the meetings
In this final Part 5, we’ll consider the idea of learning along the way on our projects as a way to improve our overall project delivery while it can still make a difference on the current project.
No one does everything perfect on a project – no amount of project management experience is going to allow you deliver a completely trouble-free end solution. There are going to be bumps in the road and there are going to be mistakes made. By the project team, by the customer team, and yes – even by the project manager (*collective gasp*). Everyone should – but few project managers actually do – conduct end of project sessions known as ‘lessons learned’ sessions. These are designed to do exactly what they say…help everyone on both teams share the good and the bad of the project. The idea, of course, is that we take this information away and use it on future projects and share it with our PM colleagues back at the office. That way, going forward we know what made our projects go well and what caused problem. Thus, we can repeat – even improve on – the good and figure out how to eliminate and never repeat the bad. Great concept…but….
Learning throughout the engagement
I propose a different approach. Why not learn throughout the current project? Why wait till this project is over and can’t be aided by this new found knowledge? And why chance that we won’t even be able to keep our teams and customers engaged long enough post-project to conduct such a session? Why not engage them while they are still under our control…DURING the project?
The pros of this are:
- We learn what our customer sees as the good and the bad while the project is happening
- We can use this information to ‘right the ship’ if necessary
- We can improve our customer’s satisfaction level by reacting to the information in mid-project
- We can still take all of this information with us on future projects
- We can find this information out while we still have access to everyone on both teams before we lose them to other projects when the engagement is over
The cons are:
- There simply are no cons with this approach
How do we go about doing this? It’s actually simple. When drafting the project schedule, include a one or two-hour conference call or meeting at the key milestone points or key phases of the project. If there is a milestone or a phase is ending, conduct a short lessons learned session. If a major deliverable is being handed over, conduct a short lessons learned session. By the end of the project you should have most of the kinks worked out and your chances of having a satisfied project client are much higher.
The bottom line is our customer wants us to succeed and we want the end solution as well as our performance to serve the customer well. Learning what went poorly on the project – gaining that perspective from the customer – at the END of the engagement is nice, but it won’t help us today…only tomorrow. Meet with the customer and team regularly a few times throughout the project to discuss these things and learn lessons that will help you perform better on THIS engagement and any other projects you’re leading TODAY….and that info will still help you tomorrow as well.