As a Process Improvement Specialist continuously project managing new initiatives, I've observed that coaching skills that form a winning hockey team aren’t so very different from those needed to create a functional project organization. In fact delivering on-time, to budget and quality thresholds can be assured simply by following 12 practical “goal-scoring” tips.
Set stakeholder expectations using
Gain project buy-in by getting a senior, respected member of the line organization – ideally the sponsor - to formally introduce the brief at the kick-off meeting(s)
- You’ll be amazed how effective this is - as soon as the sponsor starts the introduction, everyone ‘zones in’
- It also frames the initiative and provides the big picture context
“No matter how long it takes”: invest the time necessary to achieve a uniform level of shared understanding across all levels
- Terribly time consuming and worth every minute invested. With several generations now working within an organization, understanding early on who the ‘supporters’, ‘champions’ and ‘detractors’ will pay huge dividends
Engage Subject Matter Experts early and obtain their commitment to participate, ”get your star players off the bench”
- From my own experience this approach could potentially save a company tens of thousands of dollars since rework is minimized and in some cases even eliminated
Create a living project plan with gateways and milestones, for monitoring purposes draw in specialist resources that conduct peer reviews, brainstorms, audits and inspections
Use a project activity/resource tracker to set clear task boundaries that detect “red flags”, avoid bottlenecks, “scope creep”, role confusion and reactive or negative “revert-to-type” behaviours that could delay the project
- Depending on the size of the project, this can be as simple as a Microsoft
Excelspreadsheet based matrix, using traffic lighting. Other common tools are of course Microsoft Project
- I recommend designing your activity tracker in a way that allows easy formatting and grouping of tasks by status (e.g. completed, in progress, not yet started), without the loss of any history
Form a right-sized project steering board of suitable representatives with appropriate decision-making authority
- Quality decisions are key to the success of any initiative. Be clear on each member’s role and how they contribute to the decision making process
- An ineffective steering committee will cause delays on reach critical decisions which will be detrimental to the project
Press ownership by formalizing roles and responsibilities, communication/escalation paths and processes that properly orientate and motivate members on the project team.
In my experience the reason for projects failing is not always due to a lack of time, money or equipment and is often linked to:
- Role confusion, i.e. unclear boundaries (particularly in instances where project team members also have ‘line role’ responsibilities)
- Also imbalance in the distribution of work, leading to certain individuals carrying more than their fair share of the load, causing de-motivation and resentment within the team
- An unwillingness amongst team members to share knowledge
Take control of status update meetings (and the follow-up actions between them!) using risk registers and issues list to drive the agenda and minutes
Encourage senior executives to role model appropriate required behaviours to team members
- I cannot stress enough the importance of minuting the meetings. Since everybody leaves the meeting to get back to several other commitments, the minutes are an incredibly valuable way of serving as a re-cap / memory jogger as well as capturing action items
- When there have been disputes about what was agreed or said at a previous meeting, I have used the minutes as an impartial and objective log. They provide a trail for ongoing project dialogue, long after the original meeting took place
Video conference to encourage face-to-face interactions particularly at close-out meetings
Anticipate delivery issues and delays by identifying possible accelerators and preparing pre-defined plans for mitigating actions such as counter-measures and contingencies.
A version of this article was previously published by Toronto Manager .
Photo Courtesy: Shutterstock