Thursday, March 15, 2007

March 15, 2007 – Wowing Management

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I heard an interesting quote the other day: “Desire without dedication is fantasy.” It was said in the context of maintaining a solid marriage, but it struck me that it was such a universal truth. If an athlete desires to be a professional but lacks the dedication to practice he is just dreaming. A farmer that wishes to have a good crop doesn’t lay around all spring thinking about it. It seems obvious in those contexts, yet it seems to fall apart in the world of management.

Many times management recognizes the need for establishing guidelines and following best practices but lacks the will to follow through with it. They get a glimpse of what consistent processes can do for them but can’t or won’t enforce them long enough to see the benefit. Granted, if it were easy everyone would do it.

I always enjoy starting in an environment where there is a lack of project management processes. It is fun to wow people with the simple things when they haven’t seen much real project management. Here are a few simple actions you can take as a professional project manager to impress your management.

Meeting Minutes. One of the simplest steps to project success is issuing minutes from meetings. It is also one of the things many project managers drop first. Minutes refresh attendee’s memories, inform those that weren’t there and give everyone a chance to confirm agreement with what happened. Good: Include a list of invitees and mark off those that show up. Better: Keep the minutes short. Give decisions, not discussions. Best: Publish them within 24 hours. Great: Use the minutes template as the agenda and send a draft version with the invitation.

Project Tracking. Use your project schedule don’t just look at it. Set it up with realistic estimates and time lines and keep it updated throughout the project. Good: Track the actual time expended (Actuals) and reforecast with the Estimates to Complete (ETCs). Better: Identify and manage the critical path. Best: Baseline to your budget and track and use Earned Value to manage the project.

Status Reporting. One of the basic communication elements, the status report is a clear, concise summary of what happened in the last week. Good: Add a section describing what to expect this week. Better: Include Risks and Issues. Best: Give the high-level project schedule indicating if you are on schedule/budget. Great: Use Earned Value statistics to show trending.

Status Meetings. Don’t just send the status report. Schedule a weekly meeting to review the status of the project with the Sponsor. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out event. Good: Pick out the highlights from the report that will keep her informed of the project. Better: Discuss risks and issues and explain how management can help mitigate and resolve them. Best: If you don’t have an answer to a question, admit it, get the answer and get back to her.

If you can do these four things consistently you will not only wow everyone, you will deliver your project successfully and without any surprises.

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