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So, They Made You Project Manager? 5 Things You Must Do Before You Start Your Initiative.

So, They Made You Project Manager? 5 Things You Must Do Before You Start Your Initiative.

 

The pitfalls of project management are rarely foreseeable to the novice. Most project managers gain their knowledge through experience and have the battle scars to prove it. Nothing knocks you down faster than putting your blood, sweat, and tears into a seemingly awesome initiative, only to discover upon rolling it out that it wasn't as well received as you assumed it would be.

The completion of a successful initiative takes considerable amounts of preparation. Follow these 5 tips for successful project management pre-planning to start your initiative off the right way!

1. Establish a Project Code

Providing your project with a “code name” will help to remove ambiguous language and establishes a baseline for effective communication. Often times, project nicknames will naturally evolve among project members, which may cause confusion and uncertainty regarding the project being referenced. Project codes ensure everyone is discussing the same project.

Things to consider:

Do not spend more than 3 minutes deciding on a name for your project. Pick a name out of a hat or use the name of your favorite tv show. The name itself doesn't matter, having one to reference is what's important.

2. Establish Purpose

What is the purpose of this project? What are we trying to achieve?

Never assume understanding. Different perceptions, experiences, and organizational roles will lead project members to their own unique understanding of purpose.

Discuss project goals and objectives with the group until each member is comfortable articulating the project's purpose. Consistency in message conveys strong leadership and evokes trust from your boss. More importantly, it will help keep your team from losing sight of the "big picture".

Document the project's purpose using a minimum/maximum strategy outline:

Minimum Strategy: At worst, we need to accomplish this.

Maximum Strategy: At best, we need to accomplish this.

Things to consider:

Don't be afraid to establish a minimum strategy for your initiative. Things happen. Initiatives fail to live up to ideals all the time. Setting a minimum strategy allows you to cut your loses instead of walking away empty handed.

"No plan ever survives contact with the enemy." - Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf

3. Identify the Unintended

What problem does this project solve? What new problems will it create?

All solutions create new problems. It is the truthiest type of truth out there (True story). Failure to account for these unintended problems early in the planning process will cause greater complications down the road.

Establish a quick cost/benefit analysis for the solution in question. Do the benefits clearly outweigh the negatives? (According to whom?) Or will it cause more harm than good?

Identify any departments in your organization that are likely to be negatively affected by the solution. Does the solution cause an unfair distribution of sacrifice to a particular department? What, if anything, can be done to minimize this effect? Keep an open and honest line of communication with alldepartments and actively seek solutions before the problems occur.

Things to consider:

The subjective nature of this type of cost/benefit analysis can often make for an unpleasant process. It is important that you remain focused on the initiative's purpose and approach possible solutions objectively. Defending a solution which clearly causes more problems than it is worth is the easiest way to lose credibility.

4. Identify Project Barriers

What are the factors holding you back from achieving your project's goals? What can you do to overcome these barriers?

Project barriers can be anything from financial limitations to silly office politics. Some can be solved with a quick phone call while others have the potential to cause serious project delays.

To avoid future project complications, actively expose any and all possible factors that could delay progress.

Create an action plan for overcoming each identified barrier. Provide reasonable timelines for completion and clearly communicate the need for any resources above what you've already been provided.

Things to consider:

No one person can foresee all things all the time. Spend significant time seeking input from other departments. The more removed from the initiative, the more valuable the perspective.

5. Identify Interdependencies

Who do I rely on for completing my project tasks? Who relies on me?

Projects are often delayed for days, even weeks, because someone is waiting for someone else to complete some task and no one bothered mentioning it.

"I'm waiting on (insert name) to finish (insert task)".

Sound familiar? Nothing slows down progress like a realized opportunity for passing the buck.

To avoid such shenanigans, outline the small tasks that make up your project. Identify pivotal benchmarks that have the potential for delaying progress and clearly communicate the importance of a timely completion to those that have been assigned to the task.

Things to consider:

Ploting out interdependencies can quickly become confusing and impossible to follow. If you know your way around a computer, I would suggest using project software designed for creating interdependency charts. Microsoft's Project is reasonably priced and fairly easy to learn. If you know how to use a spreadsheet, Project’s interface will greatly reduce your learning curve.

 

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