I'm not one for multi-tasking. I don't think men are really good at it – it's how our brains work. So, if you happen to be overseeing say, 5-6 projects at a time, then spend 60 minutes each day on each project. Certainly, if you have a project that really requires it, spend more time. Maybe one is running full steam ahead and two are not seeing much action at the moment. Spend two hours on the one that needs it and 30 minutes each on the two that are not requiring much attention right now. But, I think you get the picture – basically an hour per project per day should be the goal. Every project needs some daily attention. And what do we do during that 60 minutes of project-specific project management each day? Focus on these general areas and you'll be covered every day and every week on every project on anything and everything major AND you'll be initiating the communication to ensure that the little things do not fall through the cracks...
(Note: keep in mind that this is a general list of tasks that need addressed at least weekly, but not all need to be addressed daily. Make sure you hit all of these at some time during the week when you're spending your 60 minutes managing each project)...
Status reporting. Every week we need to spend time preparing a formal status report that – along with the revised project schedule – drives a weekly formal status call with the project customer. This activity, done weekly, shouldn't take too long – especially if you're spending focused time every day managing each of your assigned projects. From my experience though, on the larger, more complex projects this will likely take most of one day's 60 minute allotment.
Project schedule revisions. Using information gathered from your project team via email, phone calls and/or a weekly internal project team gathering, you will need to use a good portion of one day's 60 minute allotment on a detailed revision of the project schedule...including task progresses, resource assignments, new dates, and any additional work that needs to be added to the project.
Email/phone calls and face-to-face discussions with the customer and project team. Regular connection – whether there is much to say or not – is great for keeping project team members and the customer engaged and on task. Included in this is weekly meetings that every project of any real size should be having. You can see where your 60 minutes can really start to get consumed through just keeping in contact with everyone. Communication is Job One for the project manager. Period. Nothing is more important to project success.
Resource forecasting. Every week time must be spent analyzing your current resource needs on each project and ensuring the availability of your resources today, tomorrow and for the remainder of the project. You do not want surprises. Do this regularly and you won't be surprised.
Budget forecasting and analysis. Just like resources need to be examined regularly – at least weekly – the budget health needs the same scrutiny. A budget will almost never get out of hand if you're on top of it regularly with close observation, frequent revision, and regular forecasting and re-forecasting. Flags can go up almost before there is a problem – while corrective action can still be effective.
Summary / call for input
We often spend most of our days reactively putting out fires on our projects. What if we just stayed ahead of the game as much as possible with good project management focused on each project every day? What if we didn't let any project go unmanaged for more than 24 hours. I'm not saying we do, but often we are reacting rather than being proactive.
What would go on your weekly/daily list of project management activities to stay on top of for each of your project engagements? Do you think the 60 minute daily project management scenario works? Please share your thoughts...