According to the Project Management Institute, less than two thirds of projects meet their intended goals. The other one third are projects that end up with a drastically different scope than they began with, sometimes with different deliverables, or even get canceled outright.
The project managers of these projects are not doing any favors for their careers.
I can’t guarantee you project success, but here are four things that will make it pretty hard to go wrong if you are careful to maintain each one of them.
- Make project management a part of the project.
- Manage project scope.
- Leave enough time for planning.
Make Project Management a Part of the Project
At the engineering consulting firm where I used to work we would sometimes put a line item for project management in the proposal, which usually contained a certain number of hours for the office manager. Unfortunately it was used more as a gravy train for the office managers to be chargeable than seriously spending time managing projects.
The project manager should create a project management plan which is regularly reviewed and revised to suit the circumstances. They should also carefully track project costs, as well as quality and timeliness of deliverables. Most importantly, the project manager needs time to step in when problems are encountered or anticipated.
These activities require the time and energy of the project manager, and they are essential to a successful project. Do not treat it any other way.
Manage Project Scope
From my experience, scope is the main reason projects encounter problems. In my industry, scope change requests during projects are so common they are often budgeted for in advance, via a lump sum anticipated overrun. When I look at the substance of most of them, it becomes clear to me that they result from bad project management and should be rejected, even though they normally aren’t.
Obviously, when a project is conceived the client imagines a certain scope of work and the project manager imagines a scope. Are they always the same? I would argue they are rarely the same. Maybe the core work is the same, for example, drilling a well, or designing an interchange. But it’s always the smaller, secondary stuff that trips up a project, like obtaining the regulatory permits, or providing the first initial site maintenance. In a typical project, these “small” items are actually large enough to cause considerable grief.
The client thinks in terms of an all encompassing project scope, and the project manager thinks in terms of minimums, especially if competing for the job.
Scope changes should be avoided, although some project managers trumpet their ability to get one approved thereby making the company money. Do your career a favor and limit scope changes to items that could genuinely not be anticipated at the project outset.
As the project manager, you must provide, in writing, a detailed project scope before any project is initiated. The more detailed, the better. There is no way around this, and there is no way for me to sugar coat it. Both sides must accept a written project scope statement before a project is initiated.
Leave Enough Time for Planning
The Project Management Institute states that planning should average around 30% of a project. In most projects I’ve seen, it averages around 5% and management complains that it’s too expensive.
I don’t think you can afford not to spend time on planning. Again, when I look at the nature of most of the scope change requests in my industry, planning would have eliminated most of them.
Hold People Accountable
I believe it’s human nature to avoid accountability, and if not unchecked this will develop into a cancer that will destroy your projects.
By their very nature, projects require deliverables involving the critical variables of timeliness, quality, and cost. If project members are not held accountable for the smaller parts, the bigger whole has very little chance of succeeding.
It is extremely important for the demonstration of accountability to come from the top. If the project manager doesn’t hold himself accountable, neither will anyone else. A demonstration of accountability, or non-accountability, will percolate through the corporate culture of the project team with mind boggling speed.
Do you have anything to add? Let us all know in the comments below.