Staying Focused on the Project Goals – Part 1

Posted by Brad Egeland

At the beginning of the project everything is fresh, exciting, and new.  The customer is happy and enthusiastic.  The budget is on track.  The schedule is not behind.  And your team is focused on kicking off the project with you and getting the engagement underway.

As the project manager, you’ll probably never have a time during the rest of the engagement where everyone is as focused on the project and what needs to be accomplished as they all are right at the time of project kickoff.  The problem is – the project kicks off, work begins and your core project staff of three or four key personnel also likely have three or four other projects that each of them are working on.  You only have them part time.  And now it becomes a fight to keep them focused, on task, and working hard on your project.

So how do you do that?  How do you keep them focused on your project as their primary priority?  And what about down times?  Those will happen.  In no particular order, I’ve personally found that following these practical steps or seems to work pretty well at keeping my project at the forefront of what my project team members are focused on:

#1 – Full engage the whole team in the requirements process. Depending on the project and the availability of your project personnel, getting everyone on board at the outset of the project may not be possible and is likely not very economical.  They’re working on other projects and you don’t want them billing to your project before you really need them – otherwise it will blow the project budget out of the water.

However, getting the key personnel on board early to help define requirements and drill down into the requirements details is key to getting the project off on the right foot.  It is also important for those resources as that is when they can engage the customer as you all work cohesively to truly define the goals of the project.  Engage them early and they’ll be entrenched in the project and their understanding of the project needs and goals will be extremely high.

#2 – Always keep the team informed of project and schedule status. This one falls completely on the shoulders of the project manager.  The project manager must stay on schedule with regular project status reports, project status meetings, internal team meetings, and up-to-date project schedules with a nice collaboration tool for your team to use to view the schedule like Seavus’ Project Viewer.  If you want your team members to remain engaged and focused on their tasks then you need to keep those assignments in front of them.

Your project resources are busy individuals and the project manager who keeps them the most up-to-date and is in their face the most with information will be the one they give the most attention to.  Trust me, it really does work that way.  If they know you’re on top of everything, then they are far less likely to let things slide.  If you let things slide, then they will too because they have other busy tasks to focus on.  Make sure they know it’s important to you and it will also be important to them.

In Part 2 of this two-part series, we’ll examine two more actions to take to keep you and your project team fully engaged and focused on your project.

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