Has your project team found its members frantically trying to pull together loose ends and searching for wayward information as a project winds down? Even when milestone tasks have been completed per the plan, PMP®s could discover that vital activities still stand in the way of reaching the project’s goals and satisfying its stakeholders.
The end-of-project rush sometimes leads to increased expenditures—rush shipping or labor charges, for example—or corners being cut as the team tries to stay on schedule. The good news is that it doesn’t need to be like this. If you’ve encountered the last-minute frenzy on past projects, there are strategies your team can adopt to be better prepared and ensure that progress stays on track.
Treat documentation as an all-the-time activity. Gathering important paperwork appears on many end-of-project task lists. Teams may need to save benchmarking data to review later or archive documentation for legal or regulatory reasons. To avoid last-minute problems, ensure that all required records are gathered while the project is underway, rather than scrambling at the end to compile (or create) them. Assign record-keeping tasks to the appropriate individuals and earmark specific types of information, such as presentations or e-mails, that everyone should be storing as part of the normal records retention program. Also, determine who will be responsible for managing documentation during the post-project review process. Those individuals can then keep an eye out for missing paperwork during the project’s active phase.
Prepare far in advance for punch list items. Too often, punch list activities stand in the way of finishing out critical-level project tasks or giving customers the good experience they expect. The release of software might be delayed or the activation of new equipment hindered if something as simple as a misplaced occupancy permit or the lack of a signature on a release document aren’t properly managed. Allocate sufficient resources to punch list activities by making them a normal part of the early planning process. As potential punch list issues arise, be sure they’re communicated to all affected team members and include them in the standard project control channels. Maintaining good visibility on these items throughout the project’s lifecycle is crucial to avoiding a late-stage panic.
Allocate staffing with the last-minute scramble in mind. In project offices where PMP®s commonly work on multiple projects simultaneously, the team could be left with lean personnel resources during the project wrap-up phase. This is because earlier-stage activities are often considered more labor intensive and higher on the priority spectrum. But when PMP®s shift their focus away from a project too early, it sets the stage for panic at the last minute. Instead, continue to allocate sufficient resources to projects that are winding down to ensure they don’t become firefighting efforts, which have the potential to impact other projects to a much more significant degree.
Include contingency timeframes for activities that are likely to show up as punch list items. Project teams already know the importance of planning some wiggle room around critical-path activities. The same strategy can also be applied to any task that is either scheduled for the end of the project or has appeared as a punch list activity in similar projects. This approach to contingency planning will keep efforts on track, with progress for each punch list task also being monitored using the team’s normal project control methodology. It’s a departure from conventional thinking, which focuses on high-priority activities or tasks requiring a lot of resources, but it’s a wise strategy to help ensure that punch list items are properly monitored and executed before the panic phase sets in.