Have you encountered a project that didn’t turn out the way stakeholders thought it would? Or maybe you discovered that different groups—project team members, leadership staff, sponsors, and end users—each expected different things. Why does this happen? And what can you and your team do to avoid it?
Project managers can usually spot scope creep once it appears, but by that point the damage has already begun and it’s a challenge to get things back in line. Sometimes the hardest part of fixing a problem is knowing why it happened in the first place. That’s the case with teams that find themselves hindered by a scope that has grown out of control.
Project managers sometimes discover there are multiple versions of the truth existing within their team. One sub-group thinks it’s on track—in reality, they’re working from a schedule that’s out of date. Another department is late on several key activities, but they haven’t updated the master plan so no one else is aware of the delays that will soon affect their own scheduling. Or an outside vendor has almost completed a custom piece of equipment. Unfortunately, they don’t realize the specifications have since changed.
Finding a neutral party in a project can be extraordinarily difficult. Every project stakeholder has their own list of wants, needs, and worries. The team is focused on getting everything done on time, end users want to know they haven’t been forgotten, department managers are concerned about meeting productivity goals and avoiding work disruptions, and the leadership group is keen to leverage the project’s end results to move their own strategic plans forward. Complicating matters is that these many voices don’t just represent their own competing priorities—any time stakeholders feel they have something to lose or gain, they may not put the project’s (and the organization’s) best interests first.
Face it, there’s always the possibility that your project will encounter a problem. A key vendor may be late in delivering a key piece of equipment, or your craft labor supplier may get tied up on another job, setting your activity timeline back unexpectedly. Achieving success in spite of the challenges isn’t so much about what sort of difficulties your team encounters—it’s about how you deal with those problems. Your response will either enable you to overcome the situation and continue driving the project to a timely completion, or it will cause you to fall behind, cut back on quality, or increase expenditures as you scramble to stay on track.
The majority of today’s projects include some sort of technology component. A system may be needed to support new functions the organization will soon add, or it might be necessary to migrate from an outdated platform to one with more robust functionality as operations grow and the company’s needs expand.
A strong project management methodology needs to encompass more than developing a timeline and scheduling individual tasks. The effort must also include a risk management function with an eye toward where and how potential issues might impact the project.
Your team may occasionally execute projects that will have unwelcome effects on an organization’s workforce. Most impacts are intended to be positive, such as workflow and machinery updates that improve safety for staff. But in other cases, employees may learn their jobs are scheduled for relocation or that their positions are being eliminated entirely.
Time 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 timeframes or have fixed completion dates, keep these helpful strategies.
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.