When you’re thinking project management practices, what comes to mind? Are these things you do when the CEO is watching? Things you do if you’re part of a project management office (PMO)? Things you only do if you’re running a $1+ million engagement?
I hope not…but sadly it is an easy trap to fit in to. When you’re running a two-month, $10,000 project, you have to admit that it’s hard to get into the details of applying best practices to your project...especially if you have four or five other projects happening at the same time. Let’s say, you’re running a large JD Edwards ERP solution implementation with significant executive management buy-in and oversight at the same time you’re leading an effort to upgrade the website of an internal business unit in your organization. Which one gets the most attention? Which one might fall through the cracks? Yes, the popular thought would be to apply best practices to the large project and do as little as possible for the internal customer, right?
Well, in a true best practices organization it really can’t work that way…and it shouldn’t. Not if you’re really trying to build a consistent PM methodology and have repeatable practices and processes that lead to ongoing success. You can make those processes scalable – certainly. You don’t have to create a 30-page communication plan for a $10,000 project…2-3 pages will probably do it. But still do it. So, even for the small stuff, be sure to:
Kick the project off right. No matter how big or small the project, conduct a formal kickoff session, even if it’s a short one for those extremely small projects. Don’t blow this off – it’s a bad way to start any project off. Start off doing it right and be thorough about it – it sets a nice example for the project team because I’m sure you want them operating at the top of their game for every size project, right?
Conduct weekly status meetings. Always product a weekly status report and revised project schedule and always…always conduct a weekly status call or meeting with the customer. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a five-minute phone call some weeks, but be sure to do it. The minute you start letting yourself and others skip it or cancel it, is the minute the project may start to slip away. And I don’t care how small the project may be, the customer can still get frustrated.
Keep the customer engaged. Keep tasks assigned to the customer throughout the engagement even if it’s a small project and they seem like meaningless or ‘filler’ tasks. Keeping things assigned to them forces them to report on them and forces their attendance on a weekly status call. Trust me, this one is important.
Forecast and reforecast dollars and resources. Finally, don’t forget to review the resource usage and upcoming needs weekly as well as the budget actuals and forecast. And don't forget that performance appraisal best practices from Halogen may be part of the project process - be sure to also plan for those sometimes necessary and required performance appraisal efforts as well. And, of course, it’s easy to fix and get back on track if you stray a little as long as you’re watching it weekly. Don’t think that just because the budget is very small that it’s ok to just let it go. It’s not. If you can keep a project within budget by watching resource usage and dollars expended, then do so…it means the difference between project success and project failure.