Project Managers and Superheroes

Written by Tilana de Meillon on Tuesday, 11 June 2013. Posted in Articles, Engineering

Does your client expect you to be a superhero to deliver your project within an unrealistic time and budget, and with far too few resources? Don't worry - it's normal. The solution is to manage people's expectations by under promising and over delivering. Keep your team and stakeholders well informed, so that they know what you'll deliver, how and by when.

Some typical problems and tips are identified to deliver challenging projects with a smile, and gain a reputation for being Superman!

Lack of accountability

Frequently the project team, lead and sponsor are not held accountable for their results, or lack thereof. Determine and use accountability as part of the project risk profile. These identified accountability risks can then be managed in a more visible manner. Make problems and impacts visible where awareness can be created – steering committees, approval bodies, reporting, etc.

Unrealistic deadlines

If everything is due yesterday or project deadlines are practically unachievable, it could be due to insufficient planning or a variety of other reasons. Try to buy time if possible. If you can't, then re-plan your activities to understand the impact. Try and find more resources to deliver sooner or consider whether the same deliverables are possible with less tasks and effort. You can also identify non-critical deliverables and get approval from your sponsor to reduce them or deliver them later.

Insufficient resources

Insufficient resources to complete the project include lack of skills and conflicting priorities. Again: review your deliverables and ensure you focus on the critical ones first. Find people through part-time involvement, secondment or contracting. If you can't, then you need to work incredibly smart. Take time out each day to prioritize your tasks and ensure that everyone is spending their time wisely and delivering on their tasks step by step.

Scope changes and budget shortage

If objectives and scope are constantly changing, you need to nail it down. Start by identifying the tasks on the "critical path" and sticking to them, regardless of the change requests received. Identify your project priorities and get them approved by your sponsor. Make sure each priority is linked to a business objective, so that they are harder to change.

If your budget is unrealistic, negotiate with your sponsor to provide the additional funding required or to reduce deliverables and therefore costs. If cash flow is the problem, then plan carefully. Make optimal use of internal resources.

Other crucial tools to use to avoid falling into typical project pitfalls include developing accurate detailed and structured charters. Take-on assessments could be used to gauge project success during implementation and a project postmortem can be used after the fact to gather lessons learned and identify what did and didn’t work for us in future projects.

Lastly, document everything carefully. Communicate what is being requested, actions, challenges and risks related to changes, alternate plans, impacts to the project team and stakeholders and anything else that can trip up the project.

About the Author

Tilana de Meillon

Tilana de Meillon

Principle Consultant at EON Consulting