Assigning resources to projects that haven’t yet received formal approval is a somewhat controversial (or at the very least murky) topic in many organizations. Who pays for work done prior to approval? What’s the fate of assigned PMs if the project doesn’t get approved? How can your team dedicate time to a tentative project when they’re already swamped? We’ve put together a few tips to help you successfully navigate early-stage projects.
Protect your internal staff. Of primary concern among project professionals is what will happen to them if their project isn’t approved. Will they be reassigned or perhaps even terminated? A PM must be committed to their projects, and that’s tough to do before your project is committed to you. Consider leveraging a Project Team consultancy if concerns exist about the fate of internal staff.
Know who’s footing the bill. Funding for early-stage tasks (environmental reviews, feasibility studies) has to come from somewhere, but don’t expect your requestor(s) to automatically open their departmental coffers. Others might assume the Project Team itself has a budget for these types of activities, so discuss up front who will pay until the project is awarded its own budget. If you do have a line item for these tasks, be sure you monitor it closely—too many groups engaged in proverbial project tire-kicking can eat up your budget fast.
Monitor your Project Team’s workload. Organizations often correlate the size of a Project Team to the number of active projects on the books, but that rarely takes into account projects in the unapproved stage. Your team can quickly get bogged down with early-stage projects if you don’t keep a close eye on the overall workload. Using external consultants is often a good solution, as is carefully weighting pre-approved projects when it comes to determining staffing levels and requesting new hires.