Last week, I wrote a blog on why we should stop complicating project management. While I hinted at some ways to streamline project management, the primary focus was on why we need to simplify project management.
In this blog, I’ll outline ten ways to streamline project management that won’t cost a bundle of cash.
Create a common project language.
I’ve written before on this here. Developing a common project management language would help reduce confusing conversations and allow more comparability in our project portfolios.
Stay focused on the project vision.
A clear and compelling vision can drive your project to success. Do you have a project vision that your team will be excited to embrace? If not, go back to the whiteboard and create one. Are you stuck with a boring project no one is excited about? Ask yourself why you’re doing it. If senior management has initiated a project no one else supports, it may be time to start asking what benefits management expects to see. Maybe once you better understand the benefits that will accrue from doing the project, you can create a compelling vision. Then, stay focused on it.
Understand your project activities.
Over and over again, I watch project teams begin executing a set of activities before they really understand what is needed. I see it happen in my own life too. On Thanksgiving, I used up all of my dried sage and thinking that my husband knew that, asked him to pick up more sage at the grocery store. He picked up fresh sage, the day after Thanksgiving.
Even when you think you understand the activity requirements, you probably don’t. Ask questions. Confirm expectations. Document what DONE looks like.
Delegate the details.
I remember a project some years back where someone on the project team asked if I had created a task list for all of the small tasks he was responsible for. He seemed genuinely shocked when I told him I was expecting him to do that. And that, as long as he finished each activity (work package) on time and within budget, I’d be happy. He was much more engaged when he was allowed to plan and manage how he would get the work done.
Use understandable visuals.
I’ve been in more project rooms where a Gantt chart was displayed that would take an expert a half-hour or more to digest. There was just so much material packed into that wall of information. And it changed frequently. Is that what we need? Or would we be better off with something much simpler and easier to understand?
Talk to people.
I’ve heard all of the complaints about meetings, and when it comes to meetings, less can be more. People get tired of spending days in meetings that go nowhere. But the other extreme is to think that online chatting and emailed reports are a substitute for human contact.
Understand the difference between critical deadlines and nice to have deadlines.
In the project management world, people like to talk about the critical path. I’ve seen teams spend an eternity on it. Why can’t we just clearly identify and document the critical deadlines and categorize them differently from those other deadlines that we are using to monitor the schedule?
Celebrate the wins.
This is not a new idea in my world, but we so often forget to do it. When I write about setting up a project, I recommend that you set up the project so that there can be a clear recognition of achievement after every activity (work package) is completed. There is also the idea of designating milestones, as points where a team can celebrate success. There may be times for smaller celebrations – where the project manager takes a team member to lunch – just to recognize some extra efforts. Do not underestimate the power of celebration for team motivation. And streamline your project by thinking ahead about how you can celebrate more successes.
Cut out the unnecessary.
Ask yourself what is necessary for managing your project. Is it necessary to have a list of every single task that needs to be done, with a deadline for each? If you can document the decisions, issues raised, risks discussed, budget concerns, etc. in a living project management document that is available to all, do you really need to produce minutes from every meeting? When you can’t reliably estimate the percent complete on a task, what benefit does earned value have?
Focus on the necessary.
Just because I recommend streamlining project management, doesn’t mean I don’t think that proper management is important. The software I built some years ago is the only software I know of that includes ways to monitor the vision, project scope (inclusions and exclusions), risks, issues, procurement contract requirements, quality, lessons learned, project profitability, schedule, and people, including volunteers and vendors.
There are many, many parts to project management. Perhaps we need a conversation on what we can get rid of and what we should be focusing on? If you are interested, leave a comment.