The prospect of a fresh, new year offers the perfect opportunity for PMs to take stock of the strengths and weaknesses within their teams. If you’re serious about driving tangible improvement in the months ahead, kick off the year by asking these key project management questions.
1 – Does our project team have the right experience and expertise?
You don’t need every skill in-house, but it’s important to identify where gaps may exist in your team’s knowledge base. For example, look back at where niche expertise has been difficult to schedule in past projects. How can you solve that issue proactively? You may consider putting a contractor on retainer, pursuing a key job candidate, or reserving time on a consultant’s calendar now so you aren’t scrambling later.
2 – Where can our vendors help us more?
Most project teams rely on outside partners to augment their internal resources, but are you taking full advantage of these established relationships? Before the next project launches, see if your current vendors have expertise in areas that you haven’t tapped into yet. Ask them for ideas on executing projects more efficiently. Inquire about potential cost saving opportunities or where lead times can be shortened. You may discover a deep well of additional support to help boost performance on this year’s efforts.
3 – Which stakeholders need to be more engaged?
End users are commonly overlooked when it comes to project engagement efforts, but there may be other stakeholders who also deserve a closer look. Consider where you can improve your team’s outreach plans and where tentative supporters just need a little nudge to turn them into enthusiastic champions.
4 – What was the project team’s biggest struggle last year?
Team’s often develop workarounds to a problem without addressing the underlying issues, so step back and honestly assess that one big problem that’s holding your team back. Are your senior members notably bad at communication? Has scope creep caused everyone to simply give up on keeping technology projects on schedule? Hash it out now so your team can finally overcome the challenge that caused them the most headaches last year.
5 – What’s on the schedule this year that scares us?
Find out what your team is worried about in the coming year—bigger projects, tighter timelines, the sheer volume of work—so you can address problems before they interfere with your group’s success. Consider new training opportunities to prepare people for more complex responsibilities, or perhaps start working with your human resources representative now so that personnel needs don’t fall through the cracks as the next large project ramps up.
6 – Which project metrics do we need to improve?
A review of your project portfolio will help you determine where the team’s performance wasn’t as good as it could have been. Whether your task duration estimates were overly optimistic or your contingency plans didn’t cover everything they should have, let the team know what they should work on this year and schedule some follow-up meetings to be sure your improvement efforts are on track.
7 – What are the opportunities we should focus on this year?
Is there a project on the horizon that will call for a competency your team hasn’t needed in the past? Will an upcoming expansion mean that your projects are about to get a whole lot bigger? Ask your team what they’re excited about and then capitalize on it. If you develop a strategy to take advantage of the opportunities the next year holds, you’ll give morale a boost and build a better, more skilled team at the same time.
PMAlliance offers project management consulting, training and portfolio management services.