Last week I wrote about the value of checklists and how repeated execution can better lead to predictive results. I wanted to share more about what I have in my everyday checklists for various parts of my project management routines and what makes them valuable to me.
I went over some key project initiation items in my checklist last week but what about after your project is off the ground?
When you’ve gotten your project charter signed and you’re working with your team on completing your deliverables, what are some of the key things you should be doing and looking out for as a project manager?
More meetings right? I can hear the virtual groan from here and I share your pain. Meetings aren’t something that most look forward to but as a project manager it’s vital that you’re getting direct input from your team on a regular basis. Personally I like to conduct daily standup meetings (even in non-Agile projects) to get a quick synopsis from everyone on what they’re working on and what roadblocks they are facing. Typically these standup meetings can replace the more elongated weekly status meeting where discussions can sometimes go more into the weeds than needed. And status meetings are not just for your team – you need to have regular facetime with your project sponsorship (or steering committee, depending on the organization). Your sponsors will want to know (or they should want to know if they’re doing their jobs right) how your project is going, what progress you’re making and most importantly, where is your project going to land. Often I use these meetings to escalate roadblocks that require executive intervention to help move things along for the team. The more open you are with communications, the less trouble you will have getting help when (not if) things get rocky on your project.
Groan. Yes these can be one of the most necessarily monotonous work products that you have to deliver as a project manager – and yes, you have to keep doing them until your project is complete. While you as a project manager may not find them valuable because you are simply putting into words what you’ve already diligently expressed to your project sponsor during your status meeting, these status reports are often a great tool for broadcasting to a greater stakeholder base on where your project is at and what you’re focused on.
By constantly looking out for the icebergs that will sink your project, you are conducting ongoing risk assessments. Each risk should be formally documented with a response (mitigate, accept, transfer) and how much of an impact it could have on your project and the probability of that impact materializing.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but your project is going to have issues. The best project managers in the world can’t completely avoid project issues but they make sure that issues are dealt with promptly and properly so as not to affect their projects. This is probably about 80% of the project manager’s workload during the execution phase of a project. Informed decision making is your best weapon when fighting issues on a project. And it may not even be a decision that thwarts the issue – it may be the decision to escalate or to delegate the issue. As a project manager, being a good decision maker is not the #1 skill you need but it is certainly in the top five.
I hope this has given you some insight to some of the day-to-day items that a project manager needs to look after when a project is in the cycles of execution. Decision making and attentiveness to communications are both paramount during this phase of a project.