Making Changes as Smooth as Possible

making-changes-as-smooth-as-possible

Ideally, project development would be a straightforward process; all necessary features of the final product would be determined at the outset, and appropriate materials and personnel would be assigned to complete the project within the allotted time. While this is the goal at the outset of any project, in reality circumstances alter, last-minute ideas are introduced, and changes are made. As a project manager, one of your responsibilities is to evaluate and implement these changes such that the project isn’t thrown into chaos by an unending flood of shifting expectations. Here are some tips for incorporating changes into a project more smoothly.

  1. Be involved – early and often. If possible, get involved during the earliest stages of the project development process, when the requirements and expectations of the project are first laid down. You will have the best opportunity to understand the original intent and scope of the project, which should guide the vision of everyone working on it. In addition, seeing the earliest planning stages will show you how thoroughly the details of the project were planned, which might offer hints about how many changes and additions you can expect as the project progresses. If you weren’t present from the word “go,” include a project scope analysis as part of your regular project meetings.
  2. Implement a change approval process. Changes, even seemingly minor ones, shouldn’t be incorporated into the project automatically. Inform project stakeholders that they must submit a change request, and that these requests should include the following:
  • Who is making the request,
  • the details of the requested change, and
  • the priority level of the proposed change.

Once a change request has been submitted, evaluate it in terms of the impact it will have on the project as a whole. Be as thorough in this analysis as possible, paying particular attention to whether the proposed change will require more time and/or resources to implement without deterioration of the final product quality.

  1. Keep a change log. Note down every change request, its submitter, the date, the details of the request, its effects on the project scope, resources, and deadline, and whether it was approved or denied.
  2. Use online communication and collaboration tools. These tools give you access to the work your team has already completed, which is useful to review during change impact analyses to see how proposed changes will affect the work being done. Online communication tools enable important information and feedback to be conveyed quickly between you and the project team without wasting work hours in meetings. Using these tools helps you keep open your lines of communication with stakeholders, project sponsors, and the project team, minimizing incorrect assumptions about changes.
  3. Engage with stakeholders. When a client, sponsor, or other stakeholder feels that their concerns and ideas are going unheard, they may attempt to take those suggestions straight to your project team, circumventing the change review process. If you reject a change request, explain to the requester why this decision was made, as this helps them understand the issues at work and reduces the possibility of resentment. If you approve a change, make clear any increased resource or time requirements the new change demands.
  4. Keep the project’s scope in view. A proposed change might seem like a brilliant idea, but if it falls outside the scope of the project, approving it could send your project team down a rabbit hole of distraction and pile on a great deal more work to complete the suddenly-much-larger project by the deadline. Proposed feature changes that alter the scope of a project should receive much greater scrutiny than those that don’t.

How to Communicate Successfully

how-to-communicate-successfully

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project managers use communication to lead and to motivate their team, to delegate responsibility to all involved in the project, and to report back to project sponsors and all stakeholders. Communication is the majority of a project manager’s job, so every project manager must learn how to communicate successfully.

Develop your communication plan

Just like every other aspect of your project, you must make a communication plan. However, it cannot be a one-size-fits-all. Communication plans must be adapted to each of your different stakeholders because they encompass different: audiences, communication formats and timing, and impacts on the project. Each of these factors must be considered in your plan.

Therefore, creating a plan for stakeholders could include a number of tools. The first is a grid that groups stakeholders across a number of characteristics like format, their ranking vis-a-vis other stakeholders, or their level of involvement in the project.  Once you put all of your stakeholders into a grid, you could then develop a specific communications plan for each group based on the degree of management each requires.

A second tool is to create a chart entitled RACI which means Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. Set up a table that lists out every task to be done and each of the stakeholders. Assign each task and action to a stakeholder communicate the chart so that every task is covered.

Once you have your plan, you need to give some thought to the different types of communications you will need. It is useful to think about the three main stakeholder groups as communication streams.

There are two streams of communication that project managers have to master: one to senior management, a second to their team, and a third to project sponsors. Each stream requires different tasks, tools and skills to make a project run smoothly.

Communicating to senior management

The first is the communication stream to senior management. This is a crucial area of communication because it will help to solidify their support for the project and therefore enforce the changes that the project will make, shoring up the probability of success.

All communications with senior management will surround the project ideas and o remind them of the importance of the project and progress being made. Expect to send them many status reports, particularly as the project outlines shift and change.

Communicating to and with your team

The second is the stream of communication with your team, which can begin even before the full team is in place. By staring early, you will ensure that all team members are on your list and they can help to participate in building the initial communications plan. It is that communications plan which will be used as the basis for project communications, and will evolve as the project moves forward.

Regular communication will include updates on the project as well as the information necessary for them to meet their goals. You will to assign work, along with clear and precise expectations of when each task is to be completed. As well, your team needs feedback on how they are doing, the team and project as whole, and for motivation. Without simple and clear instructions, the project can quickly go off track.

Studies show that one out of every five projects fails because of ineffective communications. By applying these effective communication skills, you can avoid becoming a statistic, too.

5 Common Project Management Mistakes

5-common-project-management-mistakes

When you learn that a project you managed failed, it’s hard to imagine a worse bit of information to receive at a department meeting. But rather than worry that you aren’t cut out for the job, take action and rethink your processes. Here are 5 common project manager mistakes. Do they sound familiar?

Mistake #1: Not enough authority

Senior management are the people who ensure that your project can become the engine for change. If they are not completely on board, your project will have a difficult time succeeding. However, they might also leave you in limbo when you are given responsibility for a project but not the full authority. Without authority, your project could fail.

Since the project must still be managed, you need to enhance your referent power, which is your savvy leadership style, or your expert power, which is your knowledge and capabilities, as well as your powers of persuasion to manage the job. When you master your skills, you can manage projects even when you think that you have insufficient formal power.

Mistake #2: Careless planning

When you sat down to plan the project, was the entire team included in determining how the project would meet its outcomes?

Avoid this mistake by getting your team involved early so they, too, are invested in the process and the outcome. Communicate clearly what roles will be assigned to each team member, and then create a schedule, outline additional resources, and a communication plan. If your team is confident in the plan, you will be more likely to successfully meet deadlines and complete the project.

Mistake #3: Mis-managing expectations

No matter what the project is, unattainable expectations can arise. As the project manager, you must manage expectations so that everyone is working toward the same outcome.

This is easily accomplished by breaking down your project into manageable pieces. You have to establish reasonable deliverables over the entire life span of the project so you can demonstrate what work is being done, the stage in the project’s lifetime, and ultimately, that the project is moving along toward completion.

Mistake #4: Micromanaging your team

If the project is to be finished, and finished on time, then everyone involved needs to know clearly what their role is and what is expected. Micromanaging can destroy the team moral and the project’s success. Micromanagement is actually mismanagement in action.

Delegate the responsibilities to your team, who are experts in their field. Your job is to show them the direction for the project, make sure the work gets done and cheerlead. A group that is micromanaged is less efficient and effective and can help to derail your project.

Mistake #5: Ending too early

You think that the project is done, or you are simply done with the project and you pass it on, or simply fail to clean up the loose ends. Completing the project must include every last detail.

Ask for input from the project’s sponsor and all stakeholders to make up a checklist on what small tasks must be finished before they believe the project is done.

When you get to the end of your project, and you have managed your authority, planned carefully including expectations, did not micromanage, and ensured that all involved agreed the project is finished, take some time to congratulate your team. After all, they were key players in your success.