Moving Toward Success

Despite positive changes in the art and science of project management and the use of new methodologies, projects still suffer from failure, under-delivery, or cancellation. How can an organization achieve predictable results for its projects in a flexible way, and do this without burdening the project team with bureaucratic methodology? How can “just enough” project management become part of the organization’s way of operating?

There are basic things that have to be done for every project. Since a project is defined as having a beginning and a definite end, the first thing a project manager has to do is get the project off to the right start. This is typically called “initiation” and is the formal approval and authorization to do the project work. Initiation must include two critical components for a project’s success:

1) there is a clear vision and understanding of the goal of the project, and

2) there is an executive sponsor who completely supports the vision and goal.

Next the project work has to be planned. Planning is more than using a scheduling tool such as MS Project or one of the agile methodology tools and techniques. Planning involves coming to grips with all the known information about this project and similar past projects. It also includes understanding any future plans or trends that might be associated with this project. It requires understanding what has to be done, in what order, by whom, and how long it will take to do the work. Planning involves thinking about potential risks and how these will be managed. It involves communicating the plan to all involved in the project, and setting clear guidelines for how the project will be delivered.

Planning requires that a third critical component be in place for the project’s success:

3) well defined processes for managing and doing the work of the project. The processes have to be just enough to support the team in delivering a quality product. Agile methodologies spell these processes out, and clarity is needed for any methodology employed.

The work of a project (often called “execution”) has to be controlled, that is, monitored and managed to ensure that the plans are met, issues are resolved, risks are mitigated, and scope and changes are managed. During the execution and control of the project’s work, the fourth critical component of project success is most apparent:

4) During the execution and control of the project’s work, the fourth critical component of project success is most apparent: care and feeding of the project team, including the customer. The only way work will get done is through people. It is vital that people are treated well so that they deliver the required results and that poor performance is not tolerated.

Finally, the project work ends, there is a successful end product delivered to a happy customer. The project will now be formally closed, just as it was formally opened. One more step is required – capturing lessons learned on the project. The whole project team (or representative members) will have input to lessons learned – what worked, and what needs to be improved for the next project. The cycle begins again for the next project, with a foundation of experience from the one that just completed.

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In the course of many years consulting to corporations, the ConX team has worked in banking, real estate and mortgage lending, aerospace, telecommunications, and publishing.   They are experienced trainers and presenters who have led many sessions to impart skills to project managers, project teams, and consultants.