Project success is never a guarantee. We all know this is just plain fact. You can do your best, have everything go smoothly, and follow best practices – whatever those might be for you and your organization – and still come up short in the end. And if you’re looking for information and advice about project management here, then you already know it’s a bit hit or miss in terms of success.
There is just no guarantee.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could guarantee success on our projects just by being good at what we do? A good plumber or electrician can pretty much know they’ll eventually achieve success on every project just because they’re very experienced. Some jobs may take more time, but they’ll get it done right eventually because they know their job and they know what works and what doesn’t.
As project managers, we’re not so lucky. We are one piece of a million-piece puzzle. There are probably about 150 factors that we could probably list right now that we know as having a hand in the successful or unsuccessful outcome of a project. And there’s probably a few hundred more that we can’t even fathom and that can depend heavily on the customer and the specific project that have some determination in the overall success of the engagement. How can we possibly manage all of these factors? Unfortunately, the answer is, we can’t fully manage them…we can only do our best using sound practices, manage issues as they come up and rely on others to do their jobs properly.
What we can control.
Here’s what we can do as project managers to help ensure project success on the engagements we manage:
- Practice good customer management and communication.
- Deliver on your promises.
These can be project status reports, status calls, project schedule updates, and the like.
- Track risks and issues.
These are known potential derailing factors to your project, so manage them very carefully. Since they’ve already been identified, you have no excuses if they arise and devour your project without evasive action by you, or on your team’s part.
- Follow a PM methodology or hybrid methodology that your organization and your customer understands and accepts.
If it is sound and followable, then it should help your project run more smoothly. If it’s difficult to follow and manage, then you’ll be fighting a losing battle from day one.
- Manage your resources as carefully as you manage the issues and risks.
Resources are the components executing the work on YOUR project. Keep them happy and engaged… and replace them if they are a drain to the project or the team. You should have that power… if not, speak to your executive management immediately and get that power.
Summary / Call for Input
As I said, there are probably 150 factors we could brainstorm and write down that you can be aware of and try to manage and control as you attempt to keep your projects on track. And there are literally hundreds of other, unseen factors that are out there and probably depend on the customer, the project, and the technology… among other things.
The best we can do is practice good, sound, fundamental project management skills, manage our customer and team well, do what we say we will do, and hope for the best. In the long run, you’ll be happy with your performance and hopefully, others will see through the issues and recognize a good project management effort for what it was.
Readers – What can project managers do to help guarantee success or rather make it more likely? Please share and discuss.