We can luck into project success or we can get there through sound project management practices and organizational leadership. Luck will leave you were you started – eventually failing on more projects than you succeed…and you’re back wondering how to get over hump on the road to frequent project success.
So, we need to focus on sound project management practices and organizational leadership. A good start in getting there is it adhere to these three principles…
Identify templates that will help you manage projects
I’ve been part of organizations that allowed project managers to use whatever tools necessary to manage their projects. While that may work for a while, the problems it can cause as a roadblock to collaboration and shared project experiences and knowledge far outweigh the bit of good it may provide in cost savings and flexibility. A solid PM organization builds its reputation on repeatable practices and the use of templates. Project schedule shells and planning document layouts that can be utilized as a starting point on all projects by every project manager in the organization provide a sound basis for the types of project management successes that can be repeated on project after project.
Incorporate processes and practices that help you learn
As a PM organization, we need to learn from our project successes and failures. People like to focus on learning from failures, but you can also learn a lot from the successes you experience. Why did this work? Why did that not work? And the information you can cull from your project team and your project customer can be invaluable. Lessons learned sessions – both at the end of the engagement and, if time allows, those tucked into the middle of projects or after every major phase can help project managers and teams – and customers – understand right now what will help their project and what may be hurting it. It’s all about taking the time…making the time…to improve or build upon the PM practices in the organization so that you can experience project successes on a more regular basis.
Keep the communication effective
When we get busy on projects the easy thing to do is cancel meetings and power through the issues. What we can sometimes lose in the process is valuable input from team members and the sense of consistency and flow that our customers are expecting from our experienced PM leadership and skilled project team members. Project customers want issues resolved – that will never change – but they also need the touch points that they expect. Not getting those often leads to reduced satisfaction and confidence in the project team’s ability to deliver – even if that’s not the case. The project wouldn’t exist with the customer and their funding of it so keep the regular meeting schedules – even if they are shortened during some intense issue management periods. Deliver the project status reports and revised project schedules. All those inputs to effective and efficient project communication must continue to happen to ensure that the customer remains happy and that the project team remains informed and focused on the right tasks. As the PM, never assume this will just happen. Communication is your #1 responsibility…don’t let that get away from you.
There isn’t really any one thing or a series of things we can do to guarantee project success. But what we can do, as project professionals, is focus on best practices and sound project management principles on each and every project – making project success more likely than not and removing dumb luck from the equation. An organization that has taken the time to incorporate repeatable PM processes and has tasked their PM and project staffs to use these on every project they manage will see an increase in repeat customers, referenceable customers, and satisfied customers.