To deliver a project, you first have to understand what you are expected to delver and why it is needed. Many project managers jump straight into delivery without validating why the project is required and what value it will add. As a newcomer you may feel uncomfortable asking basic questions, but don’t let that hold you back. Ask: In which ways will this project help the company and the end-user in the short, medium and long term to be more effective, profitable and achieve strategic objectives? You might also ask yourself if you’d be comfortable investing your own money in it! When you understand the project’s business case and vision it will make it easier for you to inspire the team and help it deliver a great outcome.
2. Who can help us move the project forward?
As you and your team set out to add value and deliver what your clients really need, engage the end users, the executive sponsor and anyone else who can help you move the project forward. Meet with them on a one-on-one basis to establish their needs and requirements and what they would like to get from the project. Ask them: What will make you say in the future that this project was a success? How would you like me to communicate with you and keep you updated as the project progresses? How would you like me to escalate to you? The backing of senior decision-makers is essential, so engage them, listen to them, and treat them like valued customers. Draw on what you know about the business and make use of your people skills.
3. How can we create a collaborative milestone plan?
There is a widespread belief among project managers that they have to do the planning on their own behind their desk because they are ultimately responsible for it. Don’t make that mistake! Instead, create a milestone plan in collaboration with the team and use it as an engaging and motivational activity that unites the team around a common goal. The way to do it is to gather the core project team and to bring a pile of sticky notes, flip chart paper and marker pens. The fist step is then to brainstorm everything that needs to get done on the project – capturing one task per post-it note. When the team has finished the brainstorm, consolidate the sticky notes into 12-15 milestones. You then sequence the milestones on a timeline that flows from left to right where you consider the dependencies between each milestone. Finish off by assigning one owner to each milestone so that everyone is in agreement about who does what.
4. Which controls will we use to track the project?
In addition to the milestone plan, you will need a set of control documents to keep track of the work and communicate progress along the way. As a starting point you can make use of: A project charter or definition document, a risk and issues list, a requirements traceability matrix, a status report and a steering committee presentation. If you don’t have the templates at hand you can download them for free from my website – www.susannemadsen.com – by clicking on the resources tab. But remember that good project management should never be about filling in templates or following a defined process. It is, above all, about delivering value and benefit to your clients and about engaging the wider team to help you do so.
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