Timeliness. If there was one word to define project management with, that might be it. We have timelines, delivery deadlines, meetings, etc. Everything happens according to a schedule. There isn’t that much creative about it. There is, but it still involves a schedule and a timeline.
When we run into our CEO in the hallway – or get called into his office – about that big project and he wants to know something about it, it’s usually whether or not the project is on time so far. You better be able to say “Yes!” with a straight face. And if you haven’t had this happen to you yet with your CEO or some very high exec in your company, then maybe you haven’t managed a large enough or visible enough project yet. Don’t worry though, if you’re a successful project manager, you’ll get your chance eventually.
Back to timeliness. For me, staying on time comes down to focus on 3 key concepts. These are…
Paying great attention to detail on the project work. This is an easy one – at least it sounds easy. Put together a nice, tight project schedule that isn’t unrealistically easy to meet and not unrealistically hard to meet. Start with the Statement of Work, the draft information you received from Sales when the project was originally ‘sold’ to the customer (if that’s how your organization runs things), any assumptions made by Sales or the customer and include updates necessary from discussions that took place during the Kickoff sessions on the project. This is your opportunity to ‘fine tune’ the schedule and make it real, workable, and accurate.
Present the revised schedule to the customer and get their agreement or even signed approval, if necessary. Now this revised schedule will be what you manage go going forward. It will be the document that drives every weekly status meeting from here on out and what you check against when managing the resources, the tasks, the budget and when trying to incorporate any change requests by the customer or as necessitated by the ever-changing requirements for the project.
Above all else, keep it accurate and up-to-date. Critical milestones for the project are identified in the schedule and every milestone that slides or is missed is something that the customer will NEVER forget. Missed dates will work against you at every negotiating point in the project – especially when scope issues arise and you’re trying to convince the customer that they need to pay for these ‘out-of-scope’ issues.
Managing the project scope with a keen eye. That brings us to scope. I covered this already in Part 1 so I won’t go too far here. Suffice it to say that you and your delivery team members must always be watching scope. Scope creep is the number 1 cause of projects falling out of budget and failing to deliver on time. If you don’t note something is out of scope, then it’s in scope to the customer but it’s still working against you because it’s not in YOUR schedule and it’s not in YOUR budget. You’ll end up eating it and looking bad to the customer, your executive management, or both. Either way, you lose.
Keeping project resources informed and engaged. As the PM in charge, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that you must keep your skilled resources engaged and aware of where the project stands at any given time and what their current responsibilities are. If you assume they know just because they have a copy of your latest project schedule, then you’ll be finding yourself escorted out the door of your company by HR.
Make sure they’re attending the weekly status calls with the customer and that they are participating. Engage them in at least one weekly team call to check status. Make sure they’re copied on the latest resource forecast info so they know what’s expected of them now and two months from now.
Remember, these are busy, highly skilled resources who are already in demand on other projects. Yours is not likely their only assignment so keep your tasks in their head so they know what they should be working on. We all trip up and call our very own kids by the wrong names at times, how can we expect that these pros always have their 20 different tasks they are currently juggling straight and in-line with your expectations. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and the most communicative PM gets his or her delivery teams’ resources attention the most.
Do you agree with these tips? What would you add or change or delete? What has been working for you? Please share and discuss.