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Six Rules of Successful Project Management

Volume upon volumes have been (and continue to be) written about Project Management.  So it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees when trying to follow methodologies that can be hundreds of pages long.  To get a better grasp on what is really important, we’ve assembled a short list of six areas that every PM should be mindful of.

PROJECT PHASE: PRE-PROJECT

#1: Develop a Solid Project Charter.

The Charter must explicitly define the project objective/success criteria, scope, priorities, assumptions, stakeholders (direct and extended), and roles/time commitments.  Enhance the charter as the project progresses.

#2 Obtain Management Commitment (and true user involvement).

If a senior member of user management (someone who has the power to assign budget, obtain resources, and change process) isn’t willing to act as sponsor and participate, the chances of failure dramatically increase.  If senior management is really involved, then the user involvement generally takes care of itself.

PROJECT PHASE: PLANNING THE WORK

#3 Build a Complete Project Plan.

It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many projects begin without much of a plan.  The reality is that every project (including Agile-based projects) needs one.  Tasks should be no longer than two weeks (can be Sprints).  Every task must have a deliverable and resources should not be budgeted for more than about 80% utilization.

#4 Use Tools.

There are five tools that every project must have: a plan, issues/risks tracking device, status/task monitoring, a way to communicate, and a place to store documents.  Nothing fancier than Excel and Email can often meet the need, but web-based wikis as well as SharePoint are becoming ubiquitous and provide a great platform of handling all of these.  THE trick is to follow-through and use the tools consistently.

PROJECT PHASE: MANAGING THE WORK

#5 Maintain Status.

Agile or WaterFall, it’s critical that the PM set clear expectations for how and when status is obtained.  If at all possible, the Project Manager should meet/talk with all major task owners one-on-one at least once a week (with Agile, this should never be an issue).  If team members don’t see or hear from the PM, they will assume that project progress isn’t really important.

#6 Document and Communicate.

The status of a project must be documented and communicated broadly every week.  Issues and Risks must be identified. Issues must be tracked to closure (always have an owner and a due date).  DO NOT mark a task complete unless it is really complete (have a agreed definition of what “done” means).  The best way to handle this is to have Team members self report.

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