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As often as possible, I talk to organizations about how to adopt a disciplined project management approach. The people I am talking with have typically come to me, wanting to do better. Too often, they believe that whatever new software they select will suddenly solve all of their problems.

Frequently, the people I am working with don’t really understand what it means to incorporate a more disciplined project management approach into their organizations.

Change management is unnecessarily hard when a prospect believes that it can:

  • Have each project manager create his/her own excel spreadsheets, list the activities, and mark them done – with each person setting up the columns as they prefer, and expecting the CTO to create a dashboard from the data. (Yes, I’ve actually heard that.)
  • Use Basecamp, Asana, Slack, or a host of others – and then, communicate about projects and get things done. That’s a better choice than the previous option but many teams still miss the boat. And, some don’t even realize that they have missed the boat until it’s too late.

So, what can teams do if they want to incorporate a more disciplined project management approach into their work? Here are five tips:

1.  Start smart.

Most project management software begins with the task of listing out the activities. But the real challenge begins long before that. Pull your team together and write down the answers to some tough questions:

  • What are you really trying to accomplish and why?
  • What’s most important? Scope, cost, schedule, risks, or quality – pick one, or maybe two. But you can’t have it all.
  • What’s your budget?
  • What do success and failure look like?
  • What are your constraints and assumptions?
  • What are you going to actually do (project scope) and just as importantly, what are you NOT going to do (scope exclusions)?

2.  Look at your projects visually.

Use some kind of graphic tool or post-it notes on a wall to organize your project activities into categories that make sense. Think through all of the major activities that will be needed to accomplish the project vision. DON’T try to list every task right now. Stay at 10,000 feet.

3.  Hold frequent standing meetings.

Once you start executing your projects, I recommend standing meetings because they increase accountability, develop a culture where problems are identified before they mushroom, and improve the speed with which people work. During these short, frequently held meetings, participants answer three questions: (a) what have you accomplished since the last meeting?; (b) what are you going to work on next?; and (c) do you have problems that are preventing progress? Standing meetings are not status updates, knowledge discussions, or problem resolution forums. The purpose is to keep the project ball rolling, preferably downhill.

Standing meetings help keep your project balls rolling, preferably downhill. Click To Tweet

4.  Use time blocking rather than detailed scheduling.

To achieve maximum execution flexibility, use time blocking to designate the activities that the team can realistically achieve in one time block and work relentlessly on that group of activities. Finish as many as you can, and then bite off another chunk for the next time block. You will be surprised at how much your team can accomplish.

5.  Engage your client through checkpoint meetings.

A project team meeting held every few weeks is an opportunity to review the project schedule, risks, money, and lessons learned. Through periodic retrospectives the team does well to look backwards in order to move forward effectively. Including clients keeps them informed and may reveal changes in the client’s mindset. When planning these meetings, it may be helpful to think about what value the client has received from the project during the last two – three weeks of execution and review that with the client. Be clear about where you are on money, identify new risks and document any lessons that have been learned since the last meeting.

Engage your client frequently to review money, progress, risks, lessons learned, and value. Click To Tweet

Smart Projex can help you or your organization launch a more disciplined approach to project management. Give us a call.

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