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How to EARN Success in Your Next Project
By Dave Paradi

It seems at times that the success of a project seems to be an act of fate or luck. Some projects succeed, while others fail, and it is not apparent why. Success in projects is no different from success in other areas of life – it is not luck or fate, you have to earn success. If you recall some of the significant accomplishments in your life, such as being selected for the football team or the student government in high school, receiving a diploma or degree at university or college or getting a promotion at work, most people would say that they are proud of the fact that they earned the success. Each letter in the word EARN can be used to illustrate a key step in earning success in projects.

E – Ensure that you know what the project is to accomplish and why it is being done.

Many projects fail because the objectives of the project were not clear. If the people working on the project do not understand what they are to deliver, it is unlikely that they will deliver what the customer wants. Projects also fail when commitment of the project team fades because they don’t know why this project is important. After selecting the project team, the next critical step is to develop the Project Scope Statement. This documents the project team’s understanding of: why the project is important, exactly what is to be delivered, what assumptions are being made, what risks need to be managed, what constraints and dependencies exist and who the stakeholders are in the project. The Project Scope Statement helps to guide the efforts of the project team throughout the project.

A – Assemble a project plan.

Once the project team agrees on what they are doing and why, the next step is to put together a detailed plan of the work that needs to be done. Too many times project work starts before any planning has been done. This can result in wasted effort when things need to be done again. The planning process starts with generating a list of all the tasks that need to be done in order to reach the stated objectives of the project. These tasks are organized into a sequence and estimates of duration of each task are added. The appropriate resource is assigned to each task and a cost estimate attached. This complete project plan acts as a map for all work in the project.

R – Recognize that change and risk are inevitable, so plan to manage them.

Project failure is often blamed on all the changes that were made to the project scope. It is often said that the project would have been successful if only all these changes hadn’t happened. It is not a matter of “if” change will happen to the project; it is only a matter of “when” changes will occur. To control the requested changes, we need to use change management. The change management process identifies the change, analyzes possible responses & impacts on the project, recommends a solution and gains approval of the solution from the project sponsor. Managing risks throughout the project reduces the probability or impact of a risk negatively affecting the project. This risk management process identifies the possible risks, assesses the risks and develops responses to the risk including preventative measures and contingency plans.

N – Notice when your progress is off track and correct it.

Without regular monitoring of project progress, the project can get off track to such an extent that recovery is not possible. In order to measure progress, it is first important to establish a baseline in the project plan against which progress can be measured. At regular intervals, the project team needs to measure their progress against the progress that was expected under the plan. If deviations from plan are identified, corrective action needs to be taken by reorganizing some future tasks, adding resources or changing the deliverables.

David Paradi, senior associate of Business Improvement Architects, is an experienced facilitator and Project Leader. He specializes in the areas of Project Management, Leadership, and Strategic Planning. He has developed and facilitated workshops in a variety of industries and has led sessions ranging from project team kick-off meeting to a strategic planning off-site for senior management. David uses a process-oriented structured approach that is customized to help each client. For more information about this article, please contact bia(TM) at info@bia.ca.

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