Imagine that you are at the 15% completion point of your project, a project that is essential to your organization’s strategic vision. Your project is significantly behind schedule and over-budget. You are not likely to dig yourself out of this hole.
“No project recovers from a variance at the 15% completion point. If you underestimated in the near, you are generally off on the long term too.” –Gregory M. Horine
You had the best intentions to start strong. However, you had two other large, complex projects in flight, one project that was in deep trouble.
What’s a project manager to do? How can we jump-start our projects while maintaining focus on other projects? I don’t have any simple cookie-cutter solutions. Every situation is different. But allow me to share a few tips to start quickly and give energy to new projects.
Jump-starting a new project requires time and focus. Develop your weekly schedule to take into account your existing projects and your new projects. Delegate activities where possible on existing projects. Secure a project administrator if possible to help you with administrative tasks.
Here is a list of 9 ways to quicken your project.
- Complete a stakeholder analysis. As early as possible, start identifying stakeholders. Interview the high-power, high-influence stakeholders to gain an understanding of their interests and concerns.
- Complete a project charter. A great tool for collaboration and getting everyone on the same page is the project charter. Determine if it’s possible to engage top executive stakeholders in the charter process. Use the stakeholder analysis as input into the project charter.
- Identify top risks early. As you perform the stakeholder analysis and define the project charter, identify and capture the most significant uncertainties that may help or harm your efforts.
- Build key relationships. Do whatever it takes to connect with your sponsor. Ask if you can have coffee together from time to time or go to lunch together. Next, be intentional about forming relationships with your project team. Create some informal time with team members. How? Bring in pizza for lunch or baked cookies for a team break. Don’t forget the virtual team members. Stay connected via instant messaging and periodic phone calls.
- Define the project scope. Reduce the chance of overlooking deliverables by completing a work breakdown structure (WBS) with the project team. Focus on eliciting, analyzing, documenting, and verifying requirements; a skilled business analyst can greatly improve your chance for success.
- Estimate activities accurately. One of the top reasons that project managers rarely recover from low-performing projects at the 15% completion point is due to poor estimates. Learn how to improve project estimates. Be sure to include budget reserves and schedule reserves.
- Start your projects with tight project controls. Baseline your project plans including your schedule and budget. Project managers should meet with their project teams regularly to check status. Measure and report the variance from the baseline. When baseline changes are required, use project change control. If you want greater insights and control, try earned value management.
- Set up project folders. Define the organization for your project files. Where will you store your documents? Who will have access to the documents? What is the most logical organization of the project folders? You might have folders such as Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. If you are leading a software project, your folders might include Requirements, Design, Coding, Testing, and Implementation.
- Set up the email distribution lists. Determine the organization of your project team. I normally have a core project team of no more than eight people that are responsible for the day-to-day planning and execution. I also have a supplemental project team that includes stakeholders that we will engage at different points in the project and who need to be informed of the project’s status. I create an email distribution list for each team.
Put yourself in the best position – invest heavily in the early part of your projects. Use this checklist to jump-start your projects. Imagine being ahead at the 15% completion point rather than struggling through the remainder of the project. Your best days are ahead.
Question: What would you add as the 10th way to jump-start a new project?