Project Management

8 Ways to Make Your PM Life Easier

Nathan Gilmore
September 12, 2012
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This is guest post from author Brad Egeland.

Managing projects is difficult enough. Projects generally fail to one degree or another at a greater than 50% rate and the project manager—and team—are constantly under pressure from all sides to perform and deliver. The customer wants satisfaction and functionality. The executive team wants the project profit margin realized or exceeded. And the PMO director wants to see full utilization from his project managers and from the delivery team on each project. Lots of responsibilities for the PM to ‘please’ others are always going on with not a lot of recognition and a constant threat of failure—many times due to things way beyond the control of the project manager and team.

So, if we can make our lives easier as we try to maintain a handle on these projects we manage, let’s do so. What can we do to streamline our project management? What can we do to keep our teams fully engaged on OUR project as they are being pulled many different ways by other project responsibilities and assignments from their own department supervisors? And what about the customer – how can we keep them engaged and focused and get them to fulfill their responsibilities on the project as well?

I’ve come up with a list of my top 8 ways we as project managers can make our PM lives easier—and hopefully the lives our or project team members and maybe even our project clients.

#1 Formally kick off the project.

Gather as much info from the account manager as possible, draft a schedule that shows key milestone dates, put together a formal kickoff agenda and conduct a formal kickoff meeting with all key stakeholders on the project. The statement of work and your draft project schedule should drive this meeting. The key is to set expectations going forward on the project—it must be done right and this meeting is the time to do so.

#2 Meet at least weekly with your internal delivery team.

Whether you work next to your project team or they’re located 2000 miles away, meeting regularly—at least weekly—with your team to keep them engaged, get the latest progress updates from them and prepare yourself for the weekly customer status meeting. I recommended meeting with your team the day before your regular weekly status call with the project client.

#3 Monitor the budget weekly.

Watch the budget closely and forecast and re-forecast it weekly. If you’re watching the project budget all the time then it’s not likely to ever get more than 10% out of line—and it will be much easier to fix than a 50% overrun.

#4 Spend appropriate time on risk management.

Gather your team and customer together early on and identify the potential risks on the project—and then plan how to avoid or mitigate those risks. Doing this early during planning means you’ll be more prepared if any of these risks become a reality.

#5 Closely manage issues.

Manage ongoing issues as outstanding tasks on the project. Delegate and assign them—make the act of reviewing issue status part of the weekly status call. Unchecked issues can bring a project to a halt.

#6 Hold weekly status meetings with the project customer no matter what.

Sometimes there just isn’t much new info to cover in a status call with the customer. Resist the urge to cancel or postpone the meeting. Hold it anyway—keep the momentum going. You always want to avoid making the customer feel like they are out of touch with the project.

#7 Regularly send your project status info to your executive management.

Keep your executive management team informed of your project status. They may not read what you send, but at least you’ve sent it. And if you need them to knock down a roadblock for you on a project, it will be that much easier.

#8 Always assign tasks to the customer.

Keeping your busy customer engaged on the project can sometimes be a problem. Avoid that scenario by always finding tasks—no matter how small—to assign to them so they know you’re expecting updates from them during each status call.

This was a guest post by author Brad Egeland

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