Project Management: When Time Really is Money

Project time management is an important component in every project. From scheduling sought-after craft labor resources to meeting key task deadlines, PMs must remain focused on time throughout the effort. But some projects are more time-sensitive than others. If your team is working on initiatives that require tight time-frames or have fixed completion dates, keep these helpful strategies in mind.

Understand the impact potential delays could have on the project’s value.

Perhaps the first issue PMs should tackle is identifying the project’s results that are most important to the business from a strategic standpoint. What represents the critical path? From there, it’s important to work through how a late delivery of these results may affect the company. If the launch of a new product represents the project’s critical path, what would revenue losses or the erosion of market share look like? Determining this high-level view will likely require partnering with the organization’s leadership team to ensure that assumptions are replaced with facts.

Be clear on targets.

While PMs will have good insight into the project’s priorities, it’s also vital that information be shared with stakeholders, too. If the project team’s members aren’t sure which of their tasks are on the critical path and which are secondary or tertiary, they may not make the best decisions when resources are lean or time is tight. On the other hand, if every team member knows what’s at stake and how their efforts support those top-level goals, they’ll be better equipment to efficiently sequence their efforts and meet their deadlines. The use of a single, integrated plan becomes imperative in keeping stakeholders moving toward the targets and completion dates.

Make accountability a priority.

If the project is going to move forward according to the plan—and if that plan has little or no flex—then everyone involved in coordinating and executing tasks needs to know what they’re accountable for completing and when. It’s a waste of time to deal with finger pointing or to put resources into tracking down progress reports that never seem to arrive. Instead, PMs will want to focus on driving accountability at the individual level to ensure that each person on the team has clear direction and is working in concert with the approved plan.

Communication becomes the linchpin.

A single issue can quickly snowball into a project-wide showstopper if it isn’t addressed quickly. To combat this phenomenon—and to keep activities on track in spite of the challenges that arise in every project—team members need to be in near-constant contact with each other. PMs also need to be an integral part of that communication loop, to prevent problems from becoming mired in internal conflict or from simply slipping through the cracks. To streamline communications further, consider dedicating team members to handle specific issues, such as questions coming in from the project’s sponsors or requests for budget updates and approvals.

Develop a workable plan.

If the project’s schedule shows activities completing within the target time-frame, but the activity sequence isn’t feasible in the real world, then the team won’t actually accomplish everything that’s expected of them, and their tasks are sure to run past the planned completion deadline. One function of creating a plan that’s realistic and workable is a solid approach to risk management and assessment. Once potential liabilities have been identified, contingency planning can be conducted around them. This gives the team a way to avoid delays that may occur, and to instead have an alternate strategy ready to deploy. The end result is a plan the project team can stick to, and a plan the leadership team can count on.

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