Focus has been helping organizations and individuals run projects more effectively for over 10 years. We never cease to be amazed at the basic mistakes made by organizations and project managers which cause waste on an enormous scale.
High profile public sector projects such as the BBC Digital Media Initiative (£98m declared write-off) attract much attention. However there are vast numbers of smaller projects, in both public and private sector, where there is excessive cost and lost opportunity.
Sometimes it seems as if there is a malevolent hand seeking to ensure a project fails. If you see one or more of these characteristics you had better act quickly.
A Creative Business Case
- However tenuous it may be, make sure that there is token linkage to broader strategic goals
- Be as optimistic as you possibly can when describing potential benefits
- Assume the absolute lowest cost solution and shortest timescale will prevail
- Anticipate the savings that might be made if things go well
Manage Your Senior Team
- Distract your senior managers and “stakeholders” as little as possible
- Don’t let them feel as if they “own” the project
- As managers come and go, use this opportunity to further diminish their involvement
Avoid Defining “Products” and “Benefits” too Precisely
- You know that exact requirements may change so leave yourself some flexibility
- Ramp up the benefits arising 12 months or more after project completion (you will probably have moved on by then)
Break the Project into the Minimum Number of Phases
- Lots of small implementation steps cause fragmentation of the project
- There will be too many review meetings and unhelpful sniping if certain phases do not go well
Learn to Create and Modify Gantt Charts
- Top down project scheduling overcomes the natural inclination of the project team to build in their own contingency time
- Use Excel to produce attractive charts which provide a high level over-view schedule to impress managers and colleagues
- Maintain an “Excuses Log” to ensure that you always have a ready explanation for any unexpected delays.
Once Started, Don’t Confuse the Project Team
- Keep a relentless focus on scope and timescale
- Don’t cause distraction by re-visiting the Business Case
- It’s not your problem if the world around you changes as the project progresses
Don’t Worry About Things that may Never Happen
- You will be stressed enough without going looking for problems
- You and the team will soon sort through any issues which arise
Need to Know Basis
- Non-essential communication with the project team and stakeholders will simply waste time – both yours and theirs
- Treat each functional area separately (eg sales, IT, operations, accounts). Keep each of them focused on their own area of expertise.
Appoint Allies to the Project Team
- There will be battles along the way so it’s more important to have loyal friends around you than so called experts
- Attitude is more important than skill-sets
- Pick versatile players who are not hung up about strictly defined roles
Celebrate Success – Hide Failures
- Nobody likes to dwell on bad news
- Make sure that any successes are shouted from the roof top; any negatives need to be carefully swept under the carpet