Project managers need to be able to manage dependencies because otherwise project delivery is at risk. If you don’t know what items your project relies on from other projects or teams, you can’t plan and manage that work. It falls outside of your project, but not your sphere of influence and it’s important to control dependencies as far as you are able.
Of course, some dependencies also fall within your own project: these are the ones that other project managers are relying on. While your project might be able to succeed regardless of the situation with these tasks, the business as a whole requires you to work with other projects and take a holistic view of how all projects fit together.
The first step in being able to manage something is being able to identify it. A workshop is a good idea: invite other project managers from your programme or department and work together to see how your projects interact. Your programme manager, if you have one, will be in a perfect position to facilitate this discussion. However, many project divisions don’t have programmes structured like that, or you may believe that your project has dependencies on or with a project that falls outside of the programme. So ask around widely and involve the necessary parties.
You can discuss dependencies within your project at a scheduled team meeting. Get your team together and talk about how their tasks relate to one another. People should be clear about what role they have in ensuring tasks are delivered on time, especially when other people are waiting on them to complete their work. Read more »
When you are really busy, where should you focus your attention as a project manager? It’s unrealistic to think that you can achieve everything. If you are anything like me you’ll have a really long To Do list and no real chance of getting it all done by the end of the month, let alone the end of the day.
Prioritisation is the answer. It’s the only way that you’ll get what needs to happen done while not letting anyone down. When you have to decide between project activities, these are the essentials: communication, risk management, team management and scheduling. If I have to decide what to drop on any given day, it won’t be one of these.
Project management is probably around 80% communication. You communicate with your team, with stakeholders, with your project sponsor, with end users, with other departments and subject matter experts and professional groups outside of your company such as government and regulatory bodies. In fact, you never stop communicating: there is always someone who wants the latest status report or the chance to stop you in the corridor and ask for an ad hoc status update.
The best way to manage your communications is to have a clear plan (you can read 7 steps to a good communications plan here). The benefit of having a good communications plan for your project is that it automates some of the thinking, leaving you to get on with the doing. Spending time on your project comms plan upfront will save you lots of time later, so it’s certainly a task worth doing well. Read more »
Last week we looked at the personal qualities that help you manage project risk more effectively. This week I wanted to look at something similar: the skills you need to be able to tackle project issue management effectively.
You might think that they are the same but there are some key differences, namely that when you are talking about risk you are talking about things that have not yet happened. When you talk about and need to act on issues, they are very real and are affecting your project right now.
Let’s dive in to the 5 soft skills that I think are important for managing project issues.
This problem is a big deal for someone. They have raised it with you and, if it wasn’t flagged as a risk, it could well be the first time you are hearing about it. Don’t dismiss their problem. It might not seem important to you but this issue is having an effect on the way they work, so it’s important to take it seriously. Read more »
Managing risk is often considered a technical project management skill. There is a formal process to move a risk through from a concept or worry that someone has to a fully-analysed potential problem with an action plan, and then through to closure once the mitigation work has completed or the risk has passed.
However, there are some important personal qualities, or soft skills, that make some project managers better at managing risk than others. You can learn these – they aren’t innate so it’s perfectly possible to improve your risk management skills by practicing these soft skills and improving those too.
A project manager needs to be able to listen effectively when it comes to managing risk. Why? Because they need to understand the problem. If you don’t listen you’ll have no chance of following the arguments put forward by the project team member who identified the risk. You’ll also put your listening skills to the test when you are working together to come up with solutions – risk situations can be fast-paced as the environment changes and impacts the risk event, so you’ll need to keep listening to your experts to keep up.
Ask probing questions. Rephrase what you have heard and repeat it back to the person raising the point – this is a great way to clarify your own understanding. And if you are the kind of person whose mind wanders a bit during long technical debates then don’t be afraid to ask for an executive summary! Read more »
Value management is something that project managers should be aware of. In fact, the Association for Project Management in the UK has a specific interest group dedicated to value management. It’s a structured approach to defining what value means to a business and that’s essential to make sure that projects are aligned to strategy. A value management framework should give you the ability to define what your company needs, any problems and opportunities and then take these and review what the right solution should be.
Sounds difficult? The main problem with value management is that it’s subjective. And that applies whether you are dealing with what the company values as a whole (like “we value environmental credentials”) or at a project level (such as “As your sponsor I value quality over budget on this project”). Different people will have a different view of what is important. At corporate level you would expect there to be some kind of agreement and strategic take on what the company values – that’s essential as it can help prioritise projects (criteria around value should be part of the project selection process). But at project level when you are dealing with a number of different stakeholders it can be difficult to get agreement about what’s important. Read more »