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.
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.
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.
With numerous stakeholders to support and ambitious corporate goals to achieve, project teams sometimes fall into the trap of over-committing themselves as they try to make everyone happy. Some agree to aggressive schedules in hopes they can shave time off along the way. Others begin projects with a too-lean budget expecting they will somehow keep expenditures below normal levels. In each case, the team usually ends up looking bad in the end, as the project’s target completion date encounters delays and requests for additional funds pile up.
Conducting ongoing checks of a project’s health is something teams should do on a regular basis, but surprisingly few actually do. If your organization is one of those that doesn’t already carry out routine monitoring, it’s an important skill that’s worth the effort to develop. A well-informed assessment gives project managers the level of awareness they need to proactively spot potential problems, deploy solutions, and monitor the results to ensure their fix was effective in bringing the project’s progress back on track.
Scope creep is a problem that plagues projects across the spectrum. Small or large, simple or complex, a project’s success can be threatened by stakeholders eager to add just one more activity to the list. If the team doesn’t know how to keep those parameters in check—or if they don’t have the tools to know when the approved scope is in jeopardy—they’ll have difficulty resisting requests to take on more than the project’s budget and target timeline can support. Failure often follows, as the Project Team’s resources are expended early and the schedule falls apart.
Fortunately, there are some strategies organizations can implement to help maintain order and eliminate ballooning project boundaries. These approaches will also aid in avoiding the related schedule delays and cost overruns, not to mention the strain on team members’ workloads.
The need to develop new processes should be an expected part of any facility startup project. Depending on the type of site that’s being launched, the organization may not have established protocols that address any number of functions—inventory management or materials receiving, for example. Or it’s possible that formal processes do exist within the company, but that they aren’t comprehensive enough to encompass all the activities that will occur in the new facility.