I wish I had a dime for every time that I have been handed a project with a deadline of yesterday. You've been there too? Well, let's talk about some practical steps that we can take to quickly start a project.
Jumpstarting a new project requires time and focus. Clear your calendar as much as possible. Secure a project administrator to help you with your administrative tasks. Delegate activities on existing projects. I also work during hours where I know that I will be least distracted, for example, early hours of the morning.
What Happens When You Get Behind
“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
9 Ways to Jumpstart a Project
- 1Complete 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.
- 2Complete 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 an input into the project charter.
- 3Identify top risks early. As you perform the stakeholder analysis and define the project charter, identify and capture the most significant risks. Work with your team members to start developing ways to manage these risks.
- 4Build 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.
- 5Define 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 of success.
- 6Improve your estimates. 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.
- 7Start your projects with appropriate project controls. Baseline your project plans including your schedule, budget, and scope. 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.
- 8Set 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.
- 9Set 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.
Your turn. Put yourself in the best position possible—invest heavily in the early part of your projects. Use this checklist to jumpstart your projects. Taking these steps will help ensure that you are ahead at the 15% completion point. Your best days are ahead.
Question: What would you add as the 10th way to jumpstart a new project?
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