Picture this: Your project deadline is coming up and you call the key specialist who is required to complete the report, just to be informed that the report will not be available on time because additional analysis is required. This is the first time you as the project manager become aware of this.
Would you believe me if I tell you that this could have been avoided already during the initial project development phase?
Here are some tips to help you navigate around common project pitfalls by focusing the project development effort.
Become a specialist on the project
As the project manager, you do not strictly have to have project content experience. This is not true! The more insight you have into the content of the project, the better questions you can ask to assist in fully developing the project scope, its organisation and its schedule. Before you tackle a project, do your homework. Picking the brains of a few old hands is invaluable. Anticipate any potential problem, risk, curveball or worse, before committing.
Allow enough time
Failure to allow enough time for the development phase of the project can lead to missed requirements, inadequate analysis, poor quality, rushed deliverables, incomplete documentation and insufficient time for deliverable approval for closeout. The need to allow for sufficient time for planning of the project is well proven and yet still frequently neglected due to the urgency (or perceived urgency) of projects.
Get the best people on the job
No project exists in isolation; some major risks and opportunities arise from those interfaces with other work. One of the most common reasons for project delays is resources having multiple and conflicting priorities and activities. Work with a team that knows how the project relates to its environment, is able to plan activities and commit to project deadlines and deliverables as required.
This is the first prize. However, you will agree with me that this often only happens in a perfect world. To mitigate this, source the best people for the job within the existing limitations and then continue to set the scene, get the buy-in, craft the plan and communicate frequently to keep the team involved, motivated and on track.
Set the scene and get the buy-in
The cliché to get everyone on the same page, however boring, will have a huge influence on project success or failure. Although it might not go as far as sabotage, lack of buy-in or obligation to the project can do it great harm. It is the project manager’s responsibility to develop the cohesion and ensure the team will be prepared to go the whole mile for the project.
Craft the plan
You can't know how to reach your destination without a roadmap. In your project, your roadmap is your project plan. You can also not reach your destination without buy-in into the plan. Since days, weeks or even months can be lost on the project, it is very useful to develop the plan in conjunction with the team to avoid veering off course.
Communicate, communicate and communicate some more
The perfect tool for communicating and coordinating with others in a team environment has yet to be developed. However, I can vouch that, when reflecting on a completed project, one always feels that more communication could have avoided misunderstandings, assumptions, delays, confusion and mistakes. Rather communicate too often than too little. Use electronic and social media tools to optimise the communication while still sneaking in some face-to-face interaction where possible.
With these tips in mind, happy project developing.