The Project Manager’s Guide to Getting it Done
We live in a time
when everything keeps getting faster. That means your projects need
to move too. Is your project cruising in the fast lane or stuck in
traffic? To keep a project moving fast, the project team, team
leader and project sponsor all have to remove or prevent obstacles
that may get in the way of the project’s success.
The first step is
to set up the project correctly so that it is built for speed and
efficacy. This means getting the team aligned on what is required to
do the project: setting up the project agreement and project plan
together, and then agreeing on the overall project priorities. Once
a project is in motion, there are many things that can slow it down.
Here are the most common project clogs to watch for:
the disease of “we can make it better.” There comes a time in
every project when it’s time to silence the engineer in your head
and finish the project. To make decisions about suggested feature
changes, we use what is called a change impact matrix. We also
freeze the design of the product or service, including the set of
features, at a specified time in the project. The earlier this is
done, the faster your project will move. Save your future feature
ideas as upgrade possibilities for later versions of the product or
Let’s face it,
things happen. Customers change their minds about what they thought
they wanted, market forces change, new threats and opportunities
arise that make the goals of the project obsolete, and new
priorities surface. All of these changes pull money and resources
away from a project.
When a project is
directed by the project agreement, project changes often mean a
re-launch of the project. In my experience, it’s better to spend
half a day relaunching the project based on the new project
agreement then to create a final deliverable that no one wants, or
to attempt to complete a project with inadequate resources and lack
of support from the project sponsor.
developing a new project plan from the new project agreement, you
may also be able to use the interim deliverables you’ve already
created for the new project, ultimately shortening the project cycle
time for the new project.
An inability to
work together towards a common goal comes from lack of commitment,
lack of interaction, and a lack of interest in constructively
resolving conflict. Many projects also lose and gain people during
the execution of the project. When this happens, it is important
that the team spend a half hour together developing their new team
guidelines and meeting protocols. With any new people joining the
team, it becomes a new team. Re-developing your guidelines and
protocols is done for the same reason it is done initially — to
facilitate working relationships, to create a way to positively
interact, and to prevent destructive conflict.
team members have to work on multiple projects or multiple tasks
within the same project, there is a tendency to multi-task. People
work quickly and efficiently when they work on one task to its
completion, and don’t juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. If
people are working on multiple projects, it’s best if they set aside
blocks of time to focus on one task at a time.
Sure, people are
capable of doing the occasional marathon week to complete a project.
If this becomes routine, however, they will find ways to get out of
work responsibilities during the workday. We all need to take care
of our basic living needs, such as dentist appointments, grocery
shopping, and so on. We also have a need for socialization,
connection with family, and time to relax and unwind.
If people are too
over-scheduled because of project work, they will create ways to
take care of their responsibilities while they are doing their
project work. The next thing that will happen is they will get
further behind, necessitating more over-scheduling. The best to
prevent way to prevent this from happening is letting the team
members create a schedule that they can do in a normal workweek. If
things get in a crunch, do not require people to work more than one
extended workweek at a time. This keeps the project moving along. If
extended hours do become necessary, it’s better if team members take
turns during the crunch.
It’s the job of the
project sponsor to knock down barriers so that the project team can
work fast and efficiently. If the team gets stuck “mucking through
the bureaucratic maze” to complete their interim deliverables, it
will slow down the project and cause frustration due to their wasted
time and effort. When the project sponsor identifies bureaucratic
time wasters and gets rid of them, the entire team will operate more
How long does it
take you to find the information you need to get your job done?
Office clutter, on your desk and on your computer, slows down
project work. It is also distracting and causes multi-tasking.
To keep your work
productive it is a good idea to have a “5 S” event with the team,
both at the beginning of the project and as part of the project
status reports. A “5 S” event is a technique adopted from the
Japanese quality movement and it has been used effectively around
the world to increase productivity. The “5 S” approach stands for:
Sort - Only
have items in your work area that you use on a daily basis.
Everything else gets put away in its place. Create filing
systems for quick retrieval — for both paper and electronic
Have a designated place for all moveable items, such as desktop
organizers. Everything is labeled in macro-work areas, and there
is a logical workf low for shared office machines, such as
copiers and printers.
Everything in the area looks like “new” condition and operates
perfectly. Recycle bins and waste baskets are emptied nightly.
This includes visual controls for common areas, such as how to
use the copier, and wall planning calendars.
Have a daily and weekly system to keep up with the improvements
that you have made.
All of these S’s
together lead to speed. Put your project pedal to the medal and make
your projects faster and more effective.
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