Updated: May 16, 2021
Project Management is extremely important measure which gets significant attention in successful organizations. Successful project management is desired outcome by many but conquered by some. Every Project manager has their own style of project execution which is fine but it is extremely important to understand the basics.
What is Project Management?
A Project is temporary in nature because no two projects are same. It is new challenge every time and different than other organizational functions like finance and HR which have monotonous working (most of the time). Every project have specific requirement which is scope we agree to deliver and by doing this we achieve organizational or business goals.
Managing constraints throughout project lifecycle to achieve defined objective within specified budget, time and quality standards is what is expected from a Project Manager. They also have to lead a team to achieve this objective and this is why project managers should have good management skills in addition to technical skills.
Many project management methods have evolved over the time. Depending upon nature of industry, sector or work people have named these methods differently. By large, phased project management method is most commonly used. There are different phases defined in this method which are called process groups.
5 project management process groups are
Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor & Control and Close
General Project Lifecycle & Documentation: General project lifecycle starts with initiation and ends with closing. While Initiation and Closing are fixed steps, Planning, Execution and Monitor & Control phases can have many loops to keep the project on track.
Documentation attached to every process group is extremely important and it helps to measure, control and take corrective actions during project execution and to address contingencies. Chances of failure are drastically reduced when proper documentation is maintained in a project.
In the next section all above process groups are detailed and four focus points are defined for each process group, which makes it easy to understand and remember.
Initiation is the first step of Project Management and it starts after project is officially assigned to an organization. At this juncture Project Manager should start gathering pre-information, understand the end goal of the project, prepare initial documentation and arrange the infrastructure required to execute the project.
Gather Information: Project Manager should collect information from higher stakeholders. It should be understood that what commitments and agreements sales team or organization has made to the customer. Also legal contracts, purchase order, terms & conditions and timeline should be taken into account at this stage. IT & Engineering services project teams should also gather past reference data wherever possible this will give better understanding of customer expectations.
Understand Scope: Understand the goal of the project and what deliverables should team be working towards to deliver the project. Input data should be verified, customer standards should be checked and understood. It will be good idea to create a deliverables list at this stage.
Documentation Templates: Every organization have their own documentation templates, it is important that these templates are readily available at this stage and sufficient for project execution. RASIC chart, input data checklist, input-output data tracker (data management tracker), and deliverables list are some important documents. There may be more depending upon industry or nature of work.
Project Infrastructure: Systems, software, hardware and contractor information should be available with Project Manager. Required software with correct versions should be known and arranged with IT team. PM should make sure that complete infrastructure is available and well in place before project is kicked off with the team.
This is most crucial stage of the project. A well planned project is half job done towards a successful completion. A project plan containing budget, schedule and scope definition should be created. This should also chart the resources required for the project. Quality standards should be demarcated and formal approval to kick-off the project should be reserved from all stakeholders.
Project Plan: To manage the constraints of a project it is important to have a project plan. Elements of a good project plan are budget, schedule and timeline. Project managers are expected to keep the project within the approved budget. To do so it is imperative for project managers to baseline the project against which they should measure and track the project. Develop internal timeline with respect to customer timeline, this is also called scheduling the project.
Based on available budget and schedule resources are planned against various phases. Having a resource distribution chart throughout the project timeline will make it easier to control the variables of the project. Avoid flat distribution, instead having uneven distribution by adding or reducing resources depending of criticality is a better way to make it more realistic.
Quality Standards: To avoid any chaos at later stage it is important to chart and publish required quality standards. These should be clearly explained to the team during kick-off meeting or before starting the execution phase. Publishing quality checklists will be beneficial to avoid rework and mistakes. Having regular stand up meetings is another way to make sure that everyone in team understands quality standards. Communication Matrix is published at this stage to correctly define hierarchy of the project and to cater communication problems which teams often face during various project stages. Structure of various project meetings can be defined within communication matrix to state correct participants for meetings. By defining meeting structure lot of project time can be saved which otherwise would be wasted if all team members will attend all meetings.
Get Approvals: Once all parts of planning are covered formal approval should be taken from all stakeholders and an official kick-off meeting should be called for. A kick-off checklist is prepared and discussed during kick-off meeting. This list should comprise all Initiation and planning documents listed, so that all points are ticked to make sure proper planning has been done and completed.
Other important documents to have in place are List of Open Points (LOP) and Minutes of meeting (MoM). These documents should be used for weekly tracking and reporting meetings.
“A well planned project is
half job done towards a successful completion”
In this phase plan is explained to all the stakeholders making sure that everyone is on the same page. Identified trainings should be arranged. Work is allocated to team and machines are booked for defined task as per the project timeline. Regular customer interactions should occur during this phase which gives a chance to build customer confidence that their work is in right hands.
Information Distribution: All the information available and planned is discussed with all stake holders. It starts with a project kick-off where all higher stakeholders and execution team are invited. Any gap in understanding between Project manager and higher stakeholders is bridged here. It is important to publish and share Project organization structure and communication matrix at this point.
Work Allocation: Work is delegated team and individual targets are defined for the team. Set the correct expectation to team, make sure they understand the assignment clearly.
Gaps can be covered by regular check-ins while monitoring. Always remember clarity of communication is the key.
Team Development: It is ensured that team is capable and trained to do the tasks assigned to them. Assigning stretched targets to team is a good way to know their potential and presenting opportunity for their career development. When team is pushed to do more their real potential will emerge. At the same time, members should have feeling of a bond within the team. If rightly encouraged team will be self-motivated to perform tasks assigned. A good Project manager is always sensitive towards his team.
There will be pressure many times during project execution but make sure there is no stress in the team. Pressure is okay, stress is bad.
Customer Confidence: Execution plan is bought off with the customer and tweaked if required depending upon priority from the customer. Milestones and timeline are defined and agreed. It is imperative to understand what customer want. Sometimes you have to show possibilities to the customer to bring out his expectations. Always try to add value to your customer and seek clarity.
“Execution is ensuring correct Implementation of Plan”
MONITOR & CONTROL
Monitor & Control is making sure that execution is aligned to plan. This is process of continuous checking of implementation and measuring it against planned stages. Corrective and preventive actions are taken for any gaps or differences found with respect to plan. Many times plan needs to be improvised to tackle new challenges which arise during execution.
Daily-Check In: Daily check-ins are done to know and understand where we are and to make sure that team adheres to defined processes. It also helps to assess the competence of team continuously and gives an opportunity to provide feedback right on spot and consistently. By daily check-ins quality can be monitored regularly and improved where required.
Measure Progress: To know the health of the project progress should be measured regularly against defined schedule & budget. It is a good practice to do this activity once a week, but can also be defined between longer durations depending on the length and nature of the project. A list of open points should be created and monitored in every meeting to mark the progress till a particular topic is closed. If major differences, gaps or issues are found it should be escalated to higher stakeholders immediately.
Improvise Plan: Any issues found during progress check should be attended immediately and corrective action should be taken. This might call for changing the plan to address the issues. This keeps happening all the time in projects, no project runs smoothly. An RCA & CAPA if needed should be done and results should be shared with team and also with the customer if it concerns them. This will give customer confidence that you are serious about solving issues and keeping project on track.
Control Change: As said earlier no project runs smooth by itself. Having problems and changes in projects is common. One should take these problems as challenges of the project and thrive to solve them, this is good project management. To control the change, control the environment of the project e.g. any change in timeline, scope, delay in the data or information from customer, force majeure, team change, and team conflicts should be addressed with utmost priority. This can be done through regular daily check-ins, meetings and discussions. Maintaining a change management tracker is very good practice and will help to address any change in scope, time and budget.
“Change is normal, how fast & effectively
problems are solved will make difference”
The final step of project management process and equally important as previous processes is closing the project rightly. During this phase formal acceptance is acquired from all stake holders and all contracts, documents are formally closed. Post implementation checks are done to understand what was done right and what went wrong. Best efforts should be recognized and appropriated as well as feedback should be provided to bad performers too, so that they can improve for future projects.
Formal Acceptance: Formal information is sent to all stakeholders to customer, vendor and to internal team and closure acceptance is acquired from all. Having a closure meeting with the customer is an idea worth pursuing. Customer satisfaction score and feedback should be attained, it would help to have good relation with customer for future endeavors and also for performance improvement.
Documents Closure: All contracts, purchase orders and invoices are closed. A project closure checklist should be created which lists all closing points and documents to be closed. Lessons learned is prepared and discussed within teams. This should record all teachings from project.
Performance Reviews: Post project implementation reviews are essential to make project management strong. Whether it project performance overall or individual team performances both should be reviewed and feedback should be provided to individuals and teams. This is good to have practice in any organization, it helps in making strong teams.
Rewards & Recognition: Once reviews are completed and performance is evaluated it should provide results of project and individual performances. Recognize best, ok and bad performers. Reward and provide feedback accordingly. Warnings should be given to bad performers. Also do not forget to get teams feedback, it should always be both ways.
“Few words of appreciation to
Customer will help build long relationship”