Running a project

Projects don’t run themselves. I know I have tried that. Early in my career before I understood project management and before I had heard of the term, I worked with a few developers to try to complete projects. There was three of us and we made a lot of assumptions of what we needed to do and what the others were doing. Many things were done twice and others not at all. We plainly needed coordination amongst the tasks.

Executing the project

In his book called, Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management, author Scott Berkun explains priorities make things happen. “Much of my Time as PM was spent making ordered lists. An ordered list is just a column of things, put in order of importance. I’m convinced that despite all the knowledge I was expected to have, in total, all I really did was make ordered lists.”

So essentially we can give our team the list and it will happen, right? Maybe not, we need to get their input on the priority and tasks involved. When we have or priorities set we can know what we need to execute on and if we need the important two letter word, NO. No keeps us from getting distracted when we look at our priorities and see if the suggestion fits.

Team dynamics

Working with many different teams over fifteen years in technology I have seen the good and bad of team dynamics. People of all different styles thrown together to complete a project is kind of like a laboratory. Many teams are managed poorly or not managed at all. This can lead to a lot of friction between the teammates.

There can be lots of disagreement and conflict in a team. If the conflict is healthy and respectful that can be part of great team. When the conflicts become personal and stop or slow any progress we see this really affect the team. A few years ago I worked on a team with two people who constantly tried to prove the other wrong. That really poisoned the team and stopped a lot of progress.

When you manage a team you need to be fully aware of the team dynamics. Stay on top of who works well together and who have problems collaborating. Protect the balance of a good team. One wrong person added to a productive team can spell disaster.

Evaluating progress

As our project progresses it is important to keep tabs on its advancement. We never want to be surprised, that is why we want constantly should be talking to all of the team members. Not everyone talks in the normal meetings and it is good to engage people in different settings.

Using a project plan is helpful to see if you are making headway. There is also a myriad of metrics to use to gauge progression. There is schedule variance, resource utilization, and customer satisfaction to name a few. Be careful not to focus on metrics exclusively as they can be misinterpreted and misused.

Reporting progress

Successful project managers find many ways to communicate project progress to their stakeholders. Key people are the sponsor, users, team members, and budget holder. Keep them all in the loop of achievements and setbacks. Make sure to be brief in updates you share. Everyone is busy with many things and they don’t want to dig through your exhaustive report.

Another key thing is to know your audience. Think about what key bits of information they will want to hear. As for your application users, they will want to know when upgrades are coming or new features they should learn will be in place. The budget holder will want to know how you are doing in regards to the approved budget.

Effective communication

Anytime two or more people begin working on a project there is potential for communication issues. Managing a project has many challenges and communication can be a major one. The more people you have working on a project the more communication points you have.

Leading teams for five years I have learned a few things about keeping the team in the loop. The first one is to strive for over-communication. Tell people what is going on and what the goals are a few times. Chances are they won’t hear it the first time. And maybe the third or fourth it will sink in. The second important factor to effective communication is to ensure two-way communication. Give everyone ample time to ask questions and digest the message.


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2 Responses to Running a project

  1. Emily August 15, 2016 at 11:19 am #

    Hi Tom,

    I’m Emily, I work with Glenn C. Stewart and his ministry LifeEquip, Inc. Thank you for this great post, your points about communication are so true and valuable. I look forward to reading more of your posts and hope you’ll check out Glenn C. Stewart’s blog here:

    Thank you again!

    • August 15, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

      Thanks for reading and commenting Emily!

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