Project Management

Project plan must outline risks also to cross all milestones

Project managers need some specialized tools and techniques to run projects efficiently. But not many companies apprise their managers about these specific tools before they entrust project responsibilities to them. If you have been given projects to manage without adequate training in the intricacies of project management, you already know how challenging it is to keep the projects on track.

The triple constraints of quality, time and budget constantly pose a threat to the smooth completion of the projects. In a tough economy, the going gets even tougher.

The biggest challenge is to get things done quickly, cheaply and with fewer resources than before. One way to manage projects better is to attain project management certification. The certification helps you to master a whole lot of techniques necessary to manage the projects efficiently from start to finish. But the next best thing you can do in the meantime is to seek the help of experienced project managers and follow their expert guidance.

Often, their vast experience boils down to simple advice comprising of tried and tested methods that help you achieve great benefits. Here is some specialist yet easy to follow advice on how to plan, organize and control scarce resources in the most effective manner to attain project objectives on time.
Get off to a good start: At the outset, it is important to define the scope of the project. Bring all the project stakeholders together to arrive at a consensus as to what the project aims to achieve. When you are clear about what needs to be achieved proceed to define how to achieve it.

As part of this exercise, prepare a project road map that identifies activities necessary to accomplish the project goals. Then, determine time lines and budget requirements for all the planned activities. Planning ahead helps you to establish the right processes and controls from the beginning itself. But developing a plan alone is not enough. You must continuously monitor changes happening in the external and internal environment and make appropriate revisions to the plan. To prevent the project from going off track, identify potential risk factors early on. Be ready with alternate plans to tackle foreseen and unforeseen contingencies.

Good reporting systems: Define the roles and responsibilities of all the team members with utmost clarity. Set up feedback loops and follow up procedures to get a grip on what’s happening in the project. Design suitable formats for preparation of reports and dashboards to help every one locate essential data as and when required.

To keep up with a tight schedule and budget, maintain good communication flow across all the team members and stakeholders.

Cultivate relationships: Leading a project often includes dealing with supervisors and employees of other departments. Good relationships alone can help you to get things done through people on whom you have no formal authority. Therefore make it a point to cultivate relationships early on with people who matter to have a smooth sail.

Solving problems: When you encounter unexpected problems don’t base your actions on anxiety, anger or frustration.

It will only make matters worse. Instead, calm down and make an objective analysis of the situation. Put things in perspective and then decide what action needs to be taken and when. If you cannot find a solution, collaborate with others. Identify people who are most responsible and knowledgeable in this regard. Bring them together and make efforts to use their talents in the best possible way to come out of the crisis.

After every crisis solved or milestone reached document the lessons learned. This helps you to understand what processes are working and what are not.

It also helps you to identify what the team is doing well and where it needs to improve. This information helps you to take corrective measures when there is still time.

As a project manager your ultimate goal is to avoid schedule and cost slippages and also deliver a quality product to the stakeholders. Continuous planning alone can help you achieve all these objectives simultaneously.

Published on The


Vinay Guntaka

Unrealistic commitments impact project progress 

When a company announces a new project or plan, the reaction of employees is varied.
While some react with enthusiasm, others are cynical and decide that the project is a failure. Surveys have found out that eight out of ten employees believe a new project is bound to fail.
This is not to suggest that majority of employees wish for thecompany’s failure, rather it is the way projects are executed, the management operates and past experience that makes them so cynical.Some of the factors that make employees believe this way include:

Planning stage mistakes: Managers make errors in the planning stage by setting impossible deadlines, tight budgets without taking the ground realities into consideration.
When planning the project execution, they fail to pay attention to the facts. This affects the success of the project but what risks employees is being forced to make unrealistic commitments, which impacts their involvement in the project and influences the outcome.

When a project is not progressing at the pace it should, managers usually ask the team to work overtime. As a result employees are stressed out and lose their enthusiasm. Instead, the manager should make efforts to set realistic deadlines, plan for contingencies and take into account the risk factors, help required from other teams and such factors before setting the deadline.

Absence of leader: When managers are absent specially when employees need their guidance and support for executing the project, it discourages employees from giving their best.
The leader is not available for clearing doubts and giving clarifications or to accept accountability for mistakes. This kills the enthusiasm of employees.

Wrong influence: When leaders use their influence and power and use the expertise and resources for the project to meet their own interests, then the project fails. These leaders avoid formal procedures like planning and prioritizing, which creates mistrust,erodes confidence of team members and they start feeling that the project is just a waste of efforts.

A project can be derailed if the participants fail to honestly assess the risks and more importantly report them. An instance of this is employees failing to admit that they need more time to meet deadlines. Rather they wait for another employee to make this admission and consequently benefit from the extra time.

Limitations are not communicated to the leader and setbacks are suppressed with the result that when the deadline arrives, the leader can offer no explanation on why the project is not completed.

If the project seems to require more hands and if the manager wants to borrow members from other teams, modify the project goals or it exceeds the budget, then something is seriously wrong with the project plan and it may need a rethink. This can be avoided if the project is planned in detail, estimates are done efficiently and the change factors are accommodated.

Team members: Projects are bound to fail when team members fail to attend meetings, cannot meet deadlines or are incompetent to meet its goals. The manager must either remove them or try to coach them or replace them to deal with the problem. 

Encouraging employees to speak up about the problems they are facing and urging open communication can solve most of these issues in project management. 

The manager on his part must build enthusiasm for the project in the team members. 

He should ensure that everybody understands what the project aims to achieve and the benefits they will gain from working on it. This will act as a motivation and also remove any skepticism in the team.

If the project leader is aware of the problems he may run into, he can be better prepared to handle them. In short, following the basic rules of project management, a proactive approach and being in touch with the ground reality can ensure success. 

And when more projects are successful, employees become less cynical when new projects are announced and are ready to give their best to them.

Published on The Hindu

Vinay Guntaka



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