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Making Project Management Easy as 1-2-3

Once you’ve mastered these steps, you’ll be gliding effortlessly through your next project.

Project management (PM). To many, just hearing those words conjures up a myriad of negative emotions —uncertainty, anxiety, and concern, to name a few. When some people think of PM, they often think of very expensive software systems and large project implementations that last years, leading to countless capital costs yet yielding marginal and unquantifiable savings. This is the wrong approach to PM. PM is not frightening, but trying to function on a day-to-day basis without it is. PM is concerned with all kinds of things that make jobs easier — stress reduction,gaining control, providing tools for their organization and saving money.

It’s that simple. Understanding PM and knowing how to create an effective PM process can improve productivity as well as your bottom line.

Defining Project Management
Of the projects you are currently involved with:
1.  Can everyone on the project teamaccess a common, regularly updated, project schedule that identifies independent tasks for each individual on the project?
2.  Does everyone know where to locate all project forms and documents, including the project scope and objective? 
3. Is the correct version of a document always used by project stakeholders? 
4. Is scope creep always handled in a standard, manageable manner in which budget, resources, and schedule concerns are addressed? 
5.  Are project issues captured for everyone to view? 
6.  Does management always have buy-in to new projects?

If you answered no, then there is a very simple solution — provide a standardized controllable approach to solving these issues. This can be done with Project Management.

The Project Management Institute defines PM as, “the application of knowledge, skills,tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations from a project.” There are four main application areas in that definition— knowledge, skills, tools and techniques. To simplify, “knowledge and skills” are elements of experience that someone who has experiencein projects possess. ‘Tools and techniques’are application areas that a PM methodology will provide. Tools and techniques are part of the process that can be tailored to meet your organization’s needs.

When Good Projects Go Bad
Why do good projects to bad? Reasons include:
1.  Unclear scope or direction 
2.  Unclear requirements 
3.  Lack of resources 
4.  Undefined project end date 
5.  Lack of clear deliverables 
6.  Not having timeframesfor tasks 
7.  Not knowing who ison the project 
8.  Poor communication 
9.  Lack of planning 
10. Not knowing where to go toaccess project information 
11. Changing requirements or scope 
12. Cost and schedule overruns 
13. Lack of buy-in and accountability
All of these problems have one thing in common — lack of PM. How does an organization go about putting together an effective PM methodology? Use this Top 10 list as a guide.

The Top 10 Tips for Instituting Effective Project Management 
1. With new projects, capture the known project objectives, scope, deliverables, stakeholders, project manager, assumptions,risks, budget constraints and senior management personnel responsible for approving the project.   Sound like a lot? But if management orthe project manager doesn’t know the answer to Step 1, then how will project team members? Often times, team members havea different opinion of the scope and head in a different direction. Avoid this pitfall.
2. Determine who you need on your team  to plan and execute the scope outlined in  Step 1.
The level of experience is often critical to  project success. The leadership and technical  expertise varies from project to project.  The team responsible for planning the project  must have some ownership and accountability  in the project in order for the planning  process to be successful.
3. How are project stakeholders going to  communicate with each other?    Who needs what information, when,  how and at what frequency? This applies  to all people affected by the project. This is  one of the most important overlooked elements  to the planning process and  includes steps such as when and where  the project team will meet, what technology  will be used to send information, and  how will people be notified.
4. Where and with what  structure will project information  be stored?    This step is critical, especially  for larger projects that touch many  stakeholders. For example, a project  team could specify a common  drive or web site location where all project  forms and documentation will be stored  along with a folder structure to allow team  members to quickly and efficiently locate  project information. It’s also important to  have a PM methodology to locate documents  across projects.  
5. Develop your schedule.    Start by creating a Work Breakdown  Structure (WBS) to capture the tasks  required to support and relate project deliverables.  After the WBS, capture the task  relationships — what needs to happen first.  Estimate the time duration and assign a  responsible person to complete each task  with a discrete output.  
6. Determine your project budget.    Use the WBS and the project schedule to  determine when spending will occur. Set a  tolerance band on expenses to flag variances  and create actions to address the variance.  
7. Record project issues and risks.    Issues and risk will arise throughout the  entire project life cycle. Assign individuals to  issues with a discrete output, meaning that  issues need to be written to identify if the  associated task(s) are completed.  
8. Capture and document project  approval steps.    Add approval steps throughout the process to  ensure management support and to capture  team member buy-in to the planning process.  Capture the approval steps in the project schedule  (Step 5 above) to communicate major milestones  and reviews. Documented approval  steps should include not only the approval to  plan the project but also during technical review  points throughout the execution of the project.  
9. Identify steps needed during the project  execution phase.    This is a critical step because it measures  how accurate the planning was for a given  project. This information can be used to  increase the accuracy of the next similar project.  Various Earned Value methods will provide  an estimate of how the project is performing  relative to cost and schedule. 
10. Institute a continuous improvement  process to capture lessons learned.    It is obvious to each of us that documenting  lessons learned after and during a project  is beneficial. The problem is that many  organizations do not capture them and, if  they do, they take place in the form of a meeting  or discussion around the coffee machine.  All potential lessons can be forwarded to the  respective process owners, and a proactive  approach can be utilized to institute change  before the next project begins.

Taking Baby Steps
You’re probably thinking that while PM  sounds great — theoretically — that practical  implementation is a whole other ballgame.  And you’re right — to an extent.

Some companies roll out very comprehensive  PM methodologies within divisions and  across organizations. They work to create a  project and provide reference material that  will address almost every situation. Manuals  are often thick and training classes, if they  exist, can be weeks long. While this may not  always be the wrong approach, it is if an  organization didn’t have many tools in place  to begin with. Introducing new protocol has to  be manageable and in small enough steps to  encourage acceptance. PM is a living  methodology that should be periodically  updated to meet the needs of the users.

Therefore, manageable steps are needed  to have sustained, proficient success. This is  affectionately known as taking “baby steps.”  Throwing too much at an organization will  result in poor acceptance. 

The Bottom Line
So what’s the bottom line? It’s simply this:  you don’t need to have a large investment to  institute an effective PM methodology at your  organization. By following the Top 10 tips for effective project management and using very  simple tools, that are already present at your  company, you can often create an efficient  system to manage your product development  and service projects. It doesn’t have to be difficult,  but if you still have questions, it is often  beneficial to utilize the support of experts in  this area to kick-start your internal efforts and  create a systemic approach that can be  quickly implemented.

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Wed. February 8th, 2023

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