Project Management – The Reality

Happy Monday!  I hope you are all ready to have an awesome week and get a lot done.  If not…go home! Kidding folks.  I have been teaching a Project Management class for the last 6 weeks and the audience isn’t necessarily Project Management ‘professionals’.  The majority of folks in my class do not have a title of PM at work or any other derivative you see in the corporate world…project coordinator, lead, analysts, etc.  Many are folks that have been placed in charge of a project at their job and then may never again have to do that kind of work.  As more and more people approach me, I find that this is much more the face of project management.  So this week, I am going to focus on the basics of project management and attempt to provide a not so ‘technical’, 10,000 foot view of what this PM thing is all about.

Before we get into, here is your video of the week. Not how I suggest ‘motivating’ your team members.

Ok, so your boss came to you and said I have a great opportunity for you John.  “I want you to take lead on rolling out that new xyz.  I need for you to get with Walter in HR and Amy in Operations to work it out.  We need to have this out by the end of the quarter.  Go get ’em Project Manager!”  You are thinking to yourself…what?  Project Manager?

Ok, in your stunned phase you probably missed the opportunity to talk with your supervisor about their expectations, what the goals & objectives were, etc.  Our society teaches us to get ‘er done…make it happen…seize opportunity.  So first up…setup a meeting with Walter & Amy.

  • First thing…engage. Send them an email to pre-wire why you are setting up the meeting.  “Mr.  Supervisor has asked me to work with the two of you on the upcoming XYZ roll-out.  I would like to take some time for introductions and identify some key action items and resources we may need to pull together going forward.”  Don’t get too worried with terms like requirements, deliverables, etc.  Also, don’t worry so much about saying Mr. Supervisor made you the PM and so on.  By driving the efforts, you are setting the tone of leadership.
  • Regroup with Mr. Supervisor.  After you have met with Amy and Walter to come to an understanding on what may need to be done and who may need to be involved, you want to summarize that for your Supervisor (sponsor) and get both agreement and support.
  • Establish the team.  Now that you have agreement on the goals, you can reach out to the identified resources with confidence and management support.  Send them an email letting them know they have been identified as a valuable resource in completing the XYZ roll-out and you look forward to working with them.  You can summarize the goals and inform them that you will be setting up a meeting to further dicsuss, make introductions, etc.  Go ahead and setup the weekly team meeting and call it Weekly Project Meeting | XYZ Roll-Out.
  • Plan & Organize.  Many folks have not worked on a project before and aren’t sure what to expect, who you are, or why they have been ‘identified’.  You want to make sure you are prepared for that very first meeting and subsequent ones.  The key to a good project manager is planning…knowing what is going with the project progress, sending a meeting agenda ahead of the meeting, and painting the picture of the pending 5-10 days (depending on length of project).  Another key is being organized.  You need to be on time to your meetings, understand deadlines, and study what is going on in each team member space.
  • Establish Project Documents & Schedule.  From what I have seen, most people do not have access to any project management software.  They are using Microsoft Office, a calendar, and some paper.  That is fine…
    • Create a Requirements Document in MS Word.  Write a summary of what the project is about.  “The XYZ roll-out is an update to the monthly reporting process that is currently run through system X.  Currently, the Operations Team needs to enter data manually from System 1 into System X and this project will integrate the systems and automate that process going forward.”  That’s it.  Then create a bullet style list of the key goals or things that must get done.  (i.e. – 1) Systems 1 and System X need to have data mapped. 2) Training manual for users, etc etc)…
    • Create a Schedule.  Use MS Word, a calendar, an MS Excel document.  Something that lets you write the goals with a start date, end date, and owner.  Get agreement from the team and then each week you pull that puppy out and go through the list…Jane, you said this would start this date and would end on that date.  How is that progress going?  Any issues with completing on time…do you foresee any issues?  Next week, can you bring the draft copy of the training in to this meeting? (trust but verify).  Can I help you with anything?
  • Communicate.  You need to send meeting minutes after every meeting.  You want to recap the progress, any decisions that were made, and list the upcoming steps on the calendar (5-10 days) and action items (i.e. – Jane will bring in draft training material next team meeting).
  • Report Up.  Make sure you get some time on Mr Supervisor calendar to review the progress of your meeting.   This is an opportunity to share concerns, maintain his support, and get some assistance if needed.
  • Verify and Close Out.  Once everyone has said they completed their work, call them out and ask them to show you.  You are going to put your name on this, so you better make sure they did what they said they would.  Send a consolidated email that states what each person was to complete (can be an attached document).  Ask them to review the documents and confirm that they agree with it.  Once everyone has ‘signed-off’, you can meet with Mr. Supervisor and say that we are all done. Everyone has confirmed their completion, here is the final report, and all the documents are stored in this network location.

That’s it!  The basic idea of PM work. Next Up…

  1. Think about how you could have done better…ask your team, Mr. Supervisor
  2. Document your process and try to turn your documents into Templates
  3. Develop some recommendations for the next project (Improved process, templates, etc)
  4. Share with Mr. Supervisor and ask to do it again
  5. Repeat

Here are some additional resources to help you out…

Hosting an effective Meeting – By Yours Truly
A Project Management Framework Overview – By Yours Truly (last one)
Only Connect – The Key To Good Project Management – By The PM Hut
So Your Project Tanked. Now What? – By Papercut PM
Why Ask Why? By The Critical Path


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