So far I have been talking about project management theory and planning. However, it doesn’t really matter how good plan you have unless you implement them effectively. If you want to run your project properly then there are various things on which you need to focus simultaneously. Some of the examples are:
- Building Project Team – remember there is a difference between group and team. To start with you will have a group and soon you will have to convert that into a team where everyone can relate their success with the success of the project!
- Track Project Progress – to make sure that you have project under control and appropriate expectation is set across the stakeholders. While tracking progress, you must be formal, be specific and pay attention to the language. Make sure that you don’t negotiate on milestones date.
- Negotiating for Resources – You need suitable resources (with appropriate skill set) with appropriate availability commitment for the committed duration.
- Managing Activities – As long as activities are getting completed on time – project management is the easiest task. Otherwise, become creative and make sure that you are back on track :-). Specially, keep check on unplanned tasks, assumptions, questions, doubts, should and requests. Often they are killer of your planned activities.
- Managing Risks – Make sure that you have appropriate mitigation plan and every moment you are looking for reducing or eliminating the risk.
- Managing Scope Changes – You can have change request process, which will take care of budget and schedule part. At least you can negotiate for more resources, in case effort increases. The situation becomes tricky where there is conflict on agreement that scope has changed or quantity of changes. Also, be aware of scope creeps, where you or your team members start accommodating so called trivial tasks, which was not included in initial scope.
- Managing Quality – Ensure that quality plan is executed and quality gates are respected.
- Managing Client Expectations – Ensure that the client is on the same page with you and you have given enough attention for the agreed scope.
- Managing Budget – you must have a way to track budgeted cost and actual cost for tasks done and estimated cost for completing the pending tasks.
- Reflection on the Project – Are we going in the right direction? Where we should have been?
If you look at the above list (which is not even complete), you will realize that for some of them you can have plan and things may work as per the plan. However most of the other items will require day-to-day soft skills to be able to achieve success or failure. Also, note that planning is something which asks you to be systematic and kind of sequential. However most of the things during the project execution require you to be alert about them all the time. Bottom line is – planning keeps you on track, however, you will have to use your creativity and soft skills to be able to achieve things more effectively.
The question is – what do you do with your creativity and soft skill?
The simplest answer is build an environment which encourages people to execute the project goals most effectively.
One of the first thing we have talked about while creating an environment is Project Goal. A project goal is is a common goal for the project team and it must follow the SMART rule. You need your team to accept this. For doing that you must make sure that
- everyone understands the goal and its background
- you are able to sell these goals to your team members
- team accepts this goal and if anyone has any objection he / she discuss that with you offline
- you identify any potential problem and make team understand that this is what client wants
- you identify any discontent within the team and talk to the individual owner separately
Once you have team, which understand the goals and accepts them as their goal, it is important to convert that acceptance into commitment. Note that acceptance itself brings in integrity and often this will be sufficient while doing minor things. However, when it comes to doing some serious project work, it is mandatory to get commitment from the team – which will ensure that they take it to a personal level and it becomes so important that it has priority over everything else. Building an environment of commitment requires you to follow below simple principles:
- Lead by example
- Set specific expectation with the team members – specifically when it comes to their assignments and delivery dates
- Make leadership fluid and let it flow to those who deserve it
- Be available to your team – talking, listening, and involving yourself in a positive way
- Provide appropriate feedback and make your team feel successful
- Emphasis must be on team work where people are always willing to take up more work from his team members
- Serve your team and let them remain focused on their main task
- Defend your team until you have investigated and you have enough data to conclude that your team member is on wrong side
- Praise in Public
- Correct in Private and be very specific with exact data, its impact and way to correct that behavior / issue. Also, remember that none is irreplaceable.
- Remove obstacles if any and find such obstacles proactively
- Facilitate communication to enhance togetherness
- Thank people liberally
Above environment will often ensure that your team members are getting recognized, they feel a sense of control and receive appreciation for their quality delivery. The key to this environment is – be honest and maintain your integrity. Mean what you say and be good. Building an environment of commitment is not a simple project level responsibility. It is something which eventually becomes organization culture. Hence, you must keep looking for continuous improvement in this and make sure that overall company values are aligned with your approach to achieve this goal.