Project Manager Plus Some
By Elrich Linde
Times are changing fast and we have to make sure we keep up. With the backlash of economic crisis still lingering, I think many project managers find themselves in the situation of being Project Manager plus some…
What do I mean with Project Manager plus some? Well, unless you are working for a large corporate and are project manager on multiple projects, you have probably found that your role has increased over the last two years in a way you might not have planned. Chances are that you either were a fulltime project manager who were given additional roles and responsibilities outside that of project management, or you had project management added to your roles and responsibilities that you previously had. To make life more interesting it is often possible that these roles might clash in nature. For instance, you might be the project manager and lead consultant on a software implementation. Suddenly you are in a sticky situation… how do you stay objective as a project manager ensuring the delivery of the implementation when at the same time you might be the bottleneck delaying the project from the implementation side? Above all though the biggest problem you will struggle with, is finding time to do everything.
In my experience the areas below have been a great help:
If you have project management shoved onto you, it is likely that you will struggle to delegate. Yes, everyone in the team is working hard, but now more than ever team work is important. There are some interesting methodologies out there that will help you to delegate effectively. For me the key is to look at my team’s interest. If someone shows interest in project management or any areas of my responsibilities, I will responsibly delegate what I can of that area to them. I say responsibly, because for a while you will have to actively manage those tasks you have delegated. In the beginning it would end up being double the work for you, as you now have to manage that person doing the work, but after a while you will reap the benefits and you will be able to pass on work easily to that person.
You have spread out the workload among the team, now what? Historically the project plan is a version controlled Gantt chart saved on a central location and sent around via email. I find that works, probably for the first month. I prefer online collaboration tools like Basecamp or Creative Pro Office. Like all things online collaboration tools are not perfect, but are online which means at all times the latest of your project plan version is available to all. The biggest challenge you will have with online collaboration tools is resistance to change from your team. It is likely that you will have to keep on pushing them to use the tool, but I can assure you it will make your life easier when you have more than project management to worry about.
Tracking Detailed Task
Seriously, what does task 87% completed of a task lasting 15 days mean to anyone you are reporting to? Or for that matter to you if you are not working on that task yourself? Furthermore, how do you know that your team is actually making progress or are wasting time being stuck on a low priority task? I therefore push my team to take ownership of their tasks, but then get them to break every task down to as small chunks as are possible without getting petty. Again, you might have resistance, but soon they will start enjoying ticking off completed tasks. Now instead of having to decipher what 73% completed mean, it is clear to all at any time where you are in the project. I still use a Gantt sometimes for high-level purposes or illustrating the project flow, but for day to day management of a project I prefer seeing smaller tasks completed.
Faster and Better Reporting
Don’t waste time with lengthy progress reports. Most clients are only too glad if you keep your Status Reports short and to the point. You can always explain a bullet point when required, but you can never get back the time wasted on reports that are never read because they are too long. In my experience, by using a Collaboration tool and Tracking Detailed Tasks, a weekly status report will not take longer than 30 minutes, if that long. Following this process you will find it easier to prove that that the work has been completed should your client try to push back when they receive the invoice.
Looking at the areas covered you will find that by Delegating responsibly you will grow the individuals in your team and most likely help to improve the team spirit. Everyone wants to feel they are moving ahead in their personal development. By using an online Collaboration tool and enforcing Detailed Task Allocation you will always have an up-to-date view of the project at your fingertips which will lead to Faster Reporting as well as proving to the client that the work has been completed. The end result of going through this process is that you save valuable time that you can use where needed.
Elrich Linde is a PRINCE2 Certified Project Manager with nine years worth of consulting experience. Elrich has been working with 8th Man Consulting since 2007, managing and leading Hyperion|Oracle BPM implementations. Elrich has a passion for simplifying life. He believes that humans have a tendency to unnecessarily complicate things, often to their own detriment. Elrich uses this passion to streamline complex processes and systems. Elrich runs professional blog, Simplying Systems and Projects.