Project Framework Continued…Execution Phase

Hello Again!  While I diverted the last week to share a great blog from PapercutPM, I will return to my series on the Project Management Framework (PMF).  For the veteran PMs out there, I know you have your own approach on this and I would love to hear from you.  As for the ‘accidental’ or newbie PMs out there, I hope you are getting a good understanding of the various phases and components of Project Management.  This week I will cover the Execution Phase and what I feel are some of the key aspects at this stage of your project.  As usual, I have included a video to get you in the mood for our topic.  So take a few minutes (1:20 to be exact) to watch it and then we’ll get started below… (Bonusa song for you to listen to as you think about procrastination and execution)

Organizations spend an enormous amount of time & money on their market analysis, R&D, etc to establish their strategy (at least they should) and the Project Manager spends an enormous time locking down the requirements, understanding the stakeholders, and developing a project plan.  The vision is set, the team is in agreement with the action plans, there is a kick-off to generate interest and then out of the gate like a heard of turtles!  What happened?

Project Managers time is usually front loaded, scales down, and then picks up again towards the end of the project.  During execution, we should be able to track progress, monitor risks, provide executive updates, and so on.  Even more importantly, this is a time we should be able to develop team members, further the relationships, continue to champion/socialize the project throughout the organization, and be the leader of the project team.  Unfortunately, we are often caught with creating various charts that prove little value and putting out fires from the unknown factors.  I have posted about the importance of a solid Project Charter and provided some of the key elements (scale as needed) and I have also posted on the important of Risk Management and Team Building in the Planning Phase, but that can all be thrown away if you do not effectively manage, support, monitor, and communicate with the project team(internally) and about the project status (externally).  Below are some of the key points I feel are needed to capitalize on the efforts during the Initiation and Planning phases of the project…

Motivation – The video & ‘bonus song’ (hope you enjoyed them) were based on the issue of procrastination.  In today’s overburdened workforce, people are just trying to make it through today.  They consistently are making trade-offs with the personal and professional schedules.  You have to be an engaged leader.  During your project one and ones, make sure you asking the team members about their pushes and pulls…how is the project prioritized in their workload…can you help with anything…how is work effected their life…and again, can you help support them in anyway.  Being engaged, letting your team know you are there for them and recognize their challenges will go a long way to getting your project moved up on their priority list.  Bas De Baar also has a great post on 25 sure-fire ways to motivate your teams – check it out here

Communicate – Internal to the project team, you need to communicate quickly and effectively with your team.  This may be one of the quickest ways to lose credibility with your team and their focus.  If they feel as though they are in the dark or the last to know everything, they will begin to shut down and progress will slow.  As for external communication (clients, executives, sponsor, etc), you should have a project status template that you use for their update.  Do not wing it!  By providing a consistent status update, your external audience will know what to expect and grow a trust in your thoroughness and consistency.  This trust will keep them off your back and prevent them from creating busy work (additional reports/data) for you.  Some key elements of your status report should include are:

  1. Project Schedule…is the project on track and what are the recent wins and next week/month tasks
  2. Project Funding…is the spending on track?
  3. Project Risks…Are any potential risks close to happening or have had happened?  If so, has the Risk Plan been enacted?
  4. Change Requests…Have any new changes been requested? Have past approvals been implemented?

If you have a solid plan and did your work up front, then I am a firm believer that your people will produce if you keep them motivated and make them feel a part of the process.  Maybe it is the John Maxwell theory of great leaders have influence, but in my experience this is what works.  Your team will respect you, trust you, and WANT to do their best.  Your stakeholders will also trust you, which frees your time to motivate and communicate with your team.

I hope you have been able to get something out of the posts here at Kelly’s Contemplation…at minimum enjoyed some of the videos and found some great resources via the links provided.  I encourage you to join the conversation…share your experiences on a topic or suggest a topic you would like me to post on.  Until next time…have a great day!

There are some tremendous links below for Project Communications and Templates for status reports, I hope you enjoy them:

  1. Performance Reporting at PM HUT
  2. Delivery Methods – How to Deliver Project Status at Project Smart
  3. Status Report Template at State of Texas Dept of Information resources
  4. At-a-Glance Weekly Project Status Report at GanttHead.com
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2 thoughts on “Project Framework Continued…Execution Phase

  1. Michael:

    Thank you for taking the time to read the posts and participate in the conversation. Risk management is a crucial step and one that either missed altogether or reduced to a simply list of possible situations that could cause a problem. A briefly mention Risk Management in the Planning Post that can be found here…http://bit.ly/bF8qZI

    Here are some key steps… (‘scores’ can be found at the link above)
    1) Make it a priority to develop a risk plan
    2) Leverage your team…get their individual input to create a list of potential issues. Consolidate that list and have a team effort to review the list and provide feedback
    3) For each Risk Item, give it a ‘score’ of the likelihood that Risk event would actually take place
    4) Give each item an impact ‘score’…if this does happen, how bad might the fall-out be
    5) Add the two scores and then divide that by 2. That gives you a priority Score
    6) Time is a precious commodity, so now you know which risk items to address first (it would be nice to get them all)
    7) For each risk you want to identify a few things
    7a) What can be done, proactively, to reduce the likelihood of the event happening
    7b) If the event is realized, who owns driving the risk response
    7c) If the event is realized, what is are the steps to resolve/change/mitigate
    8) Document the plan, make it available to the team, and communicate it out
    9) Review the plan as the project moves along…things change and so will your risks.
    10) It would be great to identify a ‘warning’ threshold in Step 7. Something that gets folks on alert that the event may be realized and everyone is aware that the response plan could be activated soon.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Mr. Kelly,

    I’ve really enjoyed your last few articles (not to say the others weren’t good). But I noticed a very small but significant point you made about Risk plans. In many endeavors, projects, etc. that I’ve been involved with Risk plans seem to be heavily overlooked. What are your comments, best practices, thoughts on this?

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