BIG PROJECTS: HOW TO AVOID BECOMING OVERWHELMED

If your PMO isn’t accustomed to handling large projects—or if you manage them routinely but are now facing one of truly epic proportions—it can be easy to find yourself overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. Simply figuring out where to start might feel like more than you can handle. Unfortunately, the longer the project management team focuses their energy on trying to get things organized, the further behind your project is likely to fall.

Many large projects are highly visible within the organization. Some also hold “can’t fail” status, as their sheer scope and financial impact have the potential to spell success or ruin for the company as a whole. For teams staring one of these giant projects in the face, there are some simple but powerful tips that can help set things on the right track. By incorporating these strategies into your methodology, you’ll be able to bring large, complicated projects under control without disappearing under a mound of tasks and milestones.

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Look at the details. While the saying You can’t see the forest for the trees is usually valid, it may not be the best approach with very large projects. The reason? All those individual tasks are still where progress really happens. But rather than getting crushed under the weight of the number of tasks your team is facing, success comes from organizing them and prioritizing them. Put your efforts into that part of the process and the PMO will have built the foundation to tackle even the largest and most complex projects.

Create bite-sized chunks. As your team wraps its arms around the big picture, they should also be winnowing activities down into sections that can be more easily monitored and managed at the sub-team or even the individual level. The resulting chunks are often assigned based on areas of responsibility, but are sometimes divvied up to coincide with resource availability, such as when a particular PMP® closes out their activities on a concurrent project.

Understand the dependencies. Identifying and managing the connections and dependencies between activities becomes especially crucial when overseeing a large-scale project. The domino effect of missed milestones can spell all-out failure when a significant number of downstream activities are in play. Any potential delays or impacts should be closely monitored, and each PMP® must have a way to update the rest of the team if anything under their charge changes.

Be realistic. Whether it’s timeframes, resource needs, or expertise gaps, PMOs only set themselves up for failure when they don’t accept the reality of what they can bring to bear on a large or complex project. Carefully examine which resources are available and how they can be allocated to best effect. Any areas or resources that may be lacking should be identified early in the process, so their impacts on the rest of the project’s lifecycle can be accounted for and effectively managed.

Find the right kind of help. There are times when even very capable PMOs need some assistance, and large projects are a perfect example of this. If your team has most of the pieces in place but could use help pulling everything together, look for a project management consultancy with expertise managing complex projects. They’ll be able to apply their proven methodologies to any issues your team has already identified in the new project you’re undertaking, and will also have the background needed to proactively spot potential problems that may not have crossed the radar yet. With the right expertise on board, an outside consultancy can also help return a troubled project, no matter how large, to a successful track.