Managing project, in my opinion, is one of those things where its complexity rises as more details are unearthed. On paper, everything may look good but ask any one with experience in managing project, and they’ll tell you that in a project, everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Hence, planning for a project is one thing, but shepherd the project into completion is a totally different ball game.
So, here are 3 things that I feel helps me a lot when managing a project. Moreover, it helps the project itself to be in a better shape.
- List the output, not only the task
- Know how to escalate
- Communicate transparently
Let’s take a look one by one
List the output, not only the task
Project management is first and foremost, an output-first activity. We’re managing a project, because we want the team to perform several tasks in order to achieve a desired output within an agreed time and the allowed resource. However, having said that, it seems easier to manage a project by listing down just the tasks need to be done by the team members. This seems okay, but in order to provide better visibility of the overall project, I’m advising to start writing list of desired outputs as well. There’s a harm in writing just tasks: it can be completed, but the overall contribution to the project output, may not be visible.
So, instead of writing:
Contact 3 different merchandise vendors
You can write
Receive 3 offerings from 3 different merchandise vendors
This way, it’s clear of what’s the output from said task. Because there’s a chance that contacting 3 different vendors may not contribute anything to the desired goal.
Know how to escalate
Now we’re getting to the human factor of managing a project. A project usually have stakeholders who can influence its direction, though they may not directly involved in carrying out the tasks. A Project Manager is frequently assigned as individual contributors, meaning he/she doesn’t have the structural power to direct the project PICs. Thus, escalating the state of the project to these stakeholders can greatly change how it sails, even when you, as a project manager, finds some form of blockers.
So how do you escalate? First thing first is definitely to map out who are the stakeholders and what are their respective interests in this project, what values are they looking for once this project is completed. This way, you know what to discuss with each stakeholders. You can gather this early on but you can always gather more information as time and project goes by.
Second, and this is continuing from the previous point, is that when escalating, make sure that you can be clear on what’s the output at harm if a certain task completion is being delayed (or even failed) at a certain period of time.
For example, you can say
If we failed to get offerings from 3 different vendors for comparison within the next 2 week, we can’t comply with the procurement rule and that will harm the project life.
Though you, the project manager can always say that to the project PICs, and it’ll have effect, that PICs may also have other work that clashes with this project’s task. Thus, escalating clearly on what’s at harm with the stakeholders will help both the PICs and their managers to properly adjust their priority.
The last thing that I want to touch on, is how to communicate, and this applies generally. It’s easy to sugar coat on the project state when communicating to stakeholders and PICs to say what they want to hear and keeping things in harmony. However, a project is not always in a happy state and a project manager has to transparently communicate the actual condition of the project to all related parties, so that proper actions can take place. It’s hard to procure a medicine if a patient doesn’t admit being sick.
Project is a complex thing that involves contributions from various sides. As project managers, our main responsibility is how to each can work accordingly so that the project can be completed accordingly. But don’t let that be burden to our shoulders. There’s always risks within a project. As long as we can clearly map out the project state and the involved responsibilities within, we can discuss what’s the best way to manage the risk as the project goes by. In the end, project manager is not the superhero that makes project completion a reality. It’s a team effort.