One hallmark of nearly every project team is constant activity. Everyone is engaged and occupied with their tasks. They’re adjusting their workloads to ensure nothing falls behind and they maintain proactive communications across the various cross-functional sub-teams to move the project forward. But while these day-to-day efforts are an important component in success, PMs must be careful that they don’t confuse effort with the real bread and butter of project management: results.
Project Management Blog
The on-deck project. It’s there, waiting in the wings, ready to go as soon as your team wraps up its current efforts. You and your stakeholders are probably excited to get going on it. It may be a garden-variety project, or it could be a one-time, strategically important initiative that will catapult the company forward. Either way, if its start date hinges on completing other tasks, it’s in a precarious position, because if something—anything—goes wrong with your present schedule, that on-deck project will almost surely be bumped.
When multiple sub-teams and cross-functional groups are working on the same project, there is a risk of disparate project plans popping up. These are typically fractured and incomplete, and they create all sorts of trouble for PMs and the organization’s leadership. One key to project success is avoiding this proliferation of different plans and schedules, particularly when executing large, complex, or high-visibility initiatives that are strategically important to the company.
One common problem organizations encounter is the existence of multiple concurrent plans for a single project. Between the various cross-functional groups, from accounting to engineering to HR, you may discover there are too many schedules in use. With all these timetables floating around, how can you trust any of the resulting progress estimates? The true status of each activity soon becomes a big question mark. Sound familiar? It’s the “many truths” problem and it could doom your project to failure.
Every PM strives to provide the executive team with useful data. Unfortunately, it isn’t always clear what kind of information an organization’s leadership group wants. Some executives have expressed an interest in being involved at each stage of a project’s lifecycle, while others prefer to be updated on the highlights and leave the details to someone else.
It isn’t uncommon to encounter challenges during a project. Teams may lose a key member, putting additional work on everyone else, or a critical material might suddenly become unavailable. These problems are relatively routine and most PMs have the experience and resources to deal with the issues without derailing their project’s progress.
Many projects involve sensitive information. Sometimes organizations are changing how they will compete in the marketplace—a project to retool a manufacturing line, for example. If that data was leaked externally before the project was complete, it could compromise the company’s position. Other initiatives involve staffing changes, such as when operations are relocated from one facility to another. Projects that impact employees often contain data that should be shielded from internal disclosure until the appropriate time.
Unfortunately, the need to protect sensitive information can sometimes hinder a project’s forward momentum. For executives and project managers trying to navigate these waters, knowing what to do when the need to maintain confidentiality threatens a project’s progress is crucial if they want to drive their initiatives to a successful completion.
Identify who already has access to sensitive data. One sure way to derail forward movement on an important project is to curtail information sharing unnecessarily. Because some people, either internal or external, probably already possess a subset of the confidential data your team is using, you can avoid some of the most common problems by knowing who has approval to access sensitive information. That knowledge will enable you to keep communications flowing without risking an unauthorized disclosure.