Keeping Your Project Schedule Intact by Digging Deeper First
Sure, you always create a product schedule before getting to work, but chances are you aren’t digging deep enough…and if you don’t dig deep enough, chances are your project will run long and expensive. Both of these outcomes are the typical mark of a project manager who doesn’t have the experience to get things done right or on time.
If you don’t want this to be you, here are a few tips to start incorporating into your time management techniques:
The Basic Project Schedule You May Already Be Using
You probably already have a basic management plan, a roadmap of sorts for managing projects, that you’ve put together at the beginning of each project. This plan may include the goals and objectives, the individuals who are needed to be involved, a list of helpful resources, and your deadlines for each task.
In this roadmap, you may have a scheduled a meeting (or two) where you brainstorm ideas, draw up a list of tasks, and hand out assignments. You may even have follow-up meetings where details are ironed out and progress is reported.
This plan and these actions are a good start, but it is only the beginning of what you should be looking at ahead of making assignments and commencing work.
Possible Pitfalls in Managing a Project This Way
The problem with managing projects in this typical, predictable way is that you are shortchanging the planning process and setting your project up for unwise risks, scope creep, missed objectives, miscommunications, and budget overages.
You may be an organized person, but this doesn’t automatically translate into being a successful project manager. Yes, collecting information, drafting a schedule, and disseminating tasks to all of the involved parties is part of the job. It isn’t enough, however, demonstrated by high project failure rates.
Look Harder, Dig Deeper, & Strategize Further
When you have a better, more involved project plan to work from, your expectations of project results will be met with faster completion times, elevated profits, and higher quality work. But how do you get there?
Here are examples of additional, less typical questions that should be asked and answered before work begins:
- What specific features are the “bread and butter” of the project?
- What are the possible snags, funnel points, and sticky situations?
- Where should we be watching for scope creep?
- What points are we taking for granted and should we be?
- Do we have the right hardware, infrastructure, and network in place first?
- Who are the stakeholders being represented?
- Do we have all the proper approvals and signatures required?
Once you have a thorough understanding of the project’s needs, that’s when a detailed workplan can be created. Do this by defining in deeper detail any vague activities, settling on a rigorous communication schedule, and proactively managing issues, scope of the project, risk, and quality. Strategize how your team can work ahead on tasks, accelerate activities, and be proactive in hitting your budget.
Identifying risks before they take place can save at least some headaches and, at most, the entire project. Examples of risks to be aware of include not having the right expertise on, unfamiliarity with specific technology, and defective integration issues. Continually assess these and other potential risks throughout the project.
Know what the warning signs that the project is headed for trouble. These may include:
- Variances in schedule or budget, especially when they take place early on in the project’s timeline
- Activities that never seem to be completely finished and drag on with straggling tasks
- Team morale and motivation begins to decline
- Responses such as “everything’s fine”
- Quality seems to be deteriorating
- Steps are skipped, activities are downsized, and timelines are scrunched
A Better Project Schedule Brings Better Results in the End
What results can you expect from a well-run, well-received project? The answers of client approval, profit, and being granted future assignments are obvious. But the less obvious answers are no less valuable.
If, after a project is complete, every team member, your superior managers, and your client come away feeling engaged, valued, and like something good was accomplished, you know you managed a success and your title of project manager is well deserved.