I ran across the list below – which is actually a subset of the original list – while reviewing the book “The Fundamentals of Project Management” by James P. Lewis. This book was published in 1995 so thoughts and processes have changed a little. I’ve selected what I believe are the most relevant items from Mr. Lewis’ original list for inclusion in this article. I’ve made some changes and additions as well.
It is one thing to know how to manage projects effectively. It is another to get people actually to manage them that way. Running by the seat of the pants seems a lot easier than doing all that planning, scheduling, and monitoring. Even when people invest three or four days in project management seminars, you find that they soon forget what they have been taught and go back to the old ways.
I have struggled with this problem for over fifteen years, and I finally have some answers. Here are suggestions on how to make the principles of project management work in your company.
- Get top management involved in the process and the projects. They should be asking questions about how projects are doing. In other words, show an interest in the subject.
- Build into performance appraisals items that evaluate a project manager’s use of the tools of effective project management. Reward people for practicing the methods. But be careful. Be sure upper management is not keeping managers from practicing good methodology.
- It helps to have the entire team trained in project management basics.
- Senior management needs to understand the company’s PM process and methodology to effectively set their expectations. One of the ten most common causes of project failures is unrealistic expectations on the part of senior managers.
- Practice a lot of MBWA (management by walking around – or at least very frequent communication) as the project progresses, but do it to be helpful, not in the blame-and-punishment mode. Give people strokes for letting you know about problems early, rather than after they have turned into disasters. Don’t be too quick to help, though. Give people time to solve the problems themselves. Just ask them to keep you informed, and tell them to let you know if they need help. Be a resource, not a policeman.
- Do audits to learn, and try to improve whenever possible. Verify that processes are being followed, status reports are being produced, customers are getting the info they are supposed to get, and project plans are being updated regularly. Make sure the processes that are in place are being followed.
- If you find you have a problem individual on your team, deal with that person as soon as possible. Don’t ignore the problem, as it can wreck your entire team.
- Be very pro-active, not reactive. Take the lead. Break roadblocks for your team members. Go to bat for them.
- Have team members make presentations to senior management on their part of the job or periodic presentations on their key projects. Give them credit for their contributions. Build ownership.
- If you are running a project to which people are temporarily assigned while still reporting to their own bosses (matrix organization), keep their managers informed about what they are doing. Try to build good relations with those managers. You may need their support to get the job done.
- You may find that you have to co-locate the people doing activities on the project’s critical path so that you don’t have them constantly pulled off to do other jobs. This method is being used more and more by major corporations for highly critical projects.
- It is also possible to appoint a project administrator to either do the project support or delegate it and to sit in on project review meetings and hold the team’s hands to walk members through planning, audits, and so forth. Naturally, you need to be running quite a few projects (at least ten to twenty) to justify creating this position, so this depends on the size of your organization.
- Benchmark other companies to find out what they do with project management.
- Have individuals take responsibility for championing various parts of the project management process. One person, for example, the earned-value champion, might go around the company trying to get everyone to use the method. Another might take responsibility for dealing with WBS notation, and so on.
- Look at managing projects as a challenge – keep it exciting. Stick to a process, but change things as needed to accommodate the project and the customer.