Organization isn't about perfection. it's about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money, and improving your overall quality of life. - Christina Scalise
In the spirit of lessons learned, the start of a new year is a good time to think about what project management processes and tools you have in place for each of your projects, and whether you need to start, stop, continue, and/or tweak them to ensure that 2016 is as efficient and effective as it can be.
If your projects are already in motion, think about doing a quick pulse check with your team to see what’s working and what’s not. (That is, simply ask them!) You can start your first meetings of the year with the below questions, or perhaps you already gathered feedback during a recent 2015 "year in review" lessons learned session. If you are starting a new project, map out the details for each of the below items, and bring them to your sponsor and your team to gain feedback and agreement.
Which project management processes and tools do I mean? Below are a few key ones that come to mind, and some questions to ask for each one.
- Meeting cadences – How and when do you meet with your team? Do you meet with them individually and then also together as a group? When do you meet with your sponsors and other stakeholders? What is the objective of each meeting, and are they all needed?
- Agendas – How do you determine what to discuss during meetings? Are you solely responsible for creating the meeting agenda, or do you offer the team the opportunity to add agenda items? If the latter, how do you gather their input? In what format do you send the agendas? Do you cancel meetings, as needed, when there is nothing to discuss?
- Follow-up and sharing information – How do you follow up and sharing information with your team after meetings, informal discussions, and decisions? If via email, are they clear, succinct, relevant, and timely? If via a shared teamsite, is it organized in a way that is easy for people to find things?
- Project plan and status updates – Is the project plan up-to-date? How do you obtain updates to the project plan? Does your plan include enough detail to allow you to identify risks, interdependencies, key milestones, and potential roadblocks? How do you share the project plan at a glance? Do you have a project dashboard, and if so, does it include the right information to be useful and not just an exercise?
- Communication – Does the team communicate openly with each other during and in between meetings? Do they work through you to get things done? Are you clogging the teams’ inboxes with emails that may not apply to them? How does the team bring information to sponsors and other stakeholders?
- Making your life easier – This category is just for you! Considering all of the above items, do you have the appropriate templates, calendar reminders, sample emails, and the like to make your project management responsibilities as easy as possible? More on this topic later, but I use a lot of different Outlook features to keep me on track.
There really are no right answers to these questions. Every project is different, and needs change constantly. Your role as a project manager is to put efficient and effective processes and tools into place that will help your team succeed, and know enough to adjust them when the team's needs change.
Once you complete your pulse check and determine how to proceed in the new year, connect with your project sponsors and team members to communicate any changes, confirm understanding, and gain their commitment to the new way of doing things. And let them know that you will do a similar kind of pulse check in a few months to see how everything is working. Continuous improvement, my friend!
So get with your team and ask them these simple questions. Even a few small changes can give people renewed energy and stop them from getting bored with the same old thing. And the more engaged they are, the better your project outcomes will be!