Projects are high risk, high return ventures. They can revolutionize the way organizations operate and project success often leads to praise and promotion. But failure can be expensive and embarrassing. Below are 10 essential tips for your project survival.
Tip 1: Control uncertainty. What we do not know is far greater than what we can anticipate. Be mindful that your project team may encounter something at any time that can put the project at risk. Expect the unexpected. Use controlling processes to manage issues and project changes and seek to be resilient, rather than flustered, to what life throws at you.
Tip 2: Refine estimates. Project leadership recognizes that estimates made during the first half of the project are inherently imprecise and will need to be refined as the project progresses. If necessary, establish confidence intervals for your task estimates and use “value of perfect information” analyses to establish the project schedule and manage uncertainty.
Tip 3: Frequent “Keep-Kill” reviews. The project emphasizes the importance and cost of upstream work by holding frequent “Keep-Kill” reviews. At each 10% interval of the project timeline or 25% interval, review project status with the sponsor and management authority and make a “Keep-Kill” decision. Identify failing projects early and take action to rescue or terminate the project.
Tip 4: Project Risk Management. The project practices active risk management. Continually assess and plan for technical risks, resource risks, budget risks, and business risks. Spot and resolve problems early and escalate issues when and where required.
Tip 5: Project Risk Officer. The project practices risk management and has an appointed project risk officer. The project has a top ten risks list with a risk plan and with mitigation strategies for each listed risk and risk event. A risk event database is maintained by the project office for review and use by the project organization.
Tip 6: Visibility. The project plans emphasize visibility. The project team, upper management, and the customer keep tabs on major milestones and deliverables. Dashboards and project summary reports are used and maintained to provide visibility into the project status.
Tip 7: Change Management. The project practices change management. Change requests are documented, proposed, and evaluated by the concerned parties prior to being resolved. The project manager should organize and evaluate changes in batches when possible so that the project is not distracted by a constant barrage of change requests.
Tip 8: Project Archives. The project practices post closing process archiving of the project artifacts. Past project archives can be useful for historical information and review. Project artifacts can be reviewed as part of project audit and performance scorecarding to assess whether or not estimated benefits of the product of the project were realized. Project artifacts can also be reviewed for potential reuse in support of new project efforts of similar scope.
Tip 9: Find a mentor. No employee wants to go to their manager for every problem or difficultly that they encounter. For one, there may be the perception that you don’t know how to do your job. And for another, your manager might not be able better at the task at hand than you are, though they will likely not know it and never admit it. Seek to establish a professional relationship with a seasoned expert in project manager. Ask if they would consider being a mentor to you from time to time. In addition to developing project management skills and a project management survival lifeline, you might even develop a significant and lasting friendship.
Tip 10: Are you really a project manager? Be open to the possibility that project management may not be the job or career for you. Many valued contributors arrived at project management by accident. Not everyone has the right mindset for project management, nor enjoys it. If a different job, career, or line of work is more enjoyable and fulfills your professional aspirations, then talk with your manager about making a change. Sometimes the best way to survive at something is to get out of it.