Wouldn't it be nice if we could break project management (PM) down to simple basics? Some key practices to follow that would simplify our lives as project managers and make repeatable successes a more likely concept going forward? Oh wait! I know the answer to this one. We can.
It's called project management best practices.
Now, I believe that best practices are a bit different from project manager to project manager, and they are going to differ from organization to organization and possibly even from customer to customer. And, project customer preferences often end up affecting how a project manager goes about managing and reporting on projects. But PM best practices, in their simplest form should be able to at least include these basic features:
- Regular project status reporting. In it's simplest form, project management should be about accurately and regularly reporting project status. Ideally, that's in a common format that is used weekly throughout the project engagement, provides the proper information that all key stakeholders need to know and—to make it easier on the project manager—in one complete and informative format that meets everyone's basic information needs...because no one likes to cook three different meals to satisfy everyone's picky appetite. Instead, it’s better to cook a larger meal with dishes that will satisfy all.
- Project schedule review and revision. Consistent and regular review and revision of the project schedule is a must. Especially in preparation for your weekly customer meetings with your project team and customer. You're going to be engaging each of those parties more often than that, but a formal weekly meeting to review project status, go through the project status report in detail, and review the project schedule (at least at a high level) is a very good PM practice. That way, everyone involved from stakeholder to team member can stay on the same page and keep the project on track.
- Weekly customer engagement through status reporting and meetings. As mentioned, weekly meetings to review project status are a must. Even if there isn't much to cover in any given week, still meet to ensure that some small issue doesn't fall through the cracks. When issues are missed or overlooked, they can grow and become show stoppers that halt a promising project in its tracks. Keep the meetings regular and the status reports accurate and regularly distributed in order to keep your busy project customer fully engaged throughout the project. It's in your best interest to keep them “on it” and available to you for information and decision-making.
Summary / call for input
Day in and day out there are just certain things that need to consistently happen to keep projects healthy and moving forward. It isn't rocket science, but project management is difficult. It's tough, it's challenging, it's stressful, it's nerve-racking, it's neck-on-the-line-at-break-neck-speed sometimes. But common sense—logic—and routine can be applied to maintain order. In fact, those two things should be the foundation. And when it comes to PM, that means providing a level of transparency to everyone involved in the project.
The three items above are just a few of the common-sense best practices that you can put into place. If you do, you'll have a better shot at staying ahead of the game, which is often harder than you might think unless you’re a seasoned veteran of the project management life (in which case, you know exactly what I’m talking about).
How about you? What’s on your list for getting down to the basics? Do you agree with these above? What would you change or add and why?