~ By Brad Egeland
It's nice to have a smooth, well-run project to manage, oversee the team, interact with the project manager and put on autopilot from time to time because everything is going so well. We all know that this type of scenario rarely happens. Especially on longer-term projects when too many other things are likely to get in the way. Actually, it is probably just as likely on shorter term projects because on those you are trying to cram a lot of detail and tasks into a tighter timeframe…lots of opportunity for things to go wrong.
What I want to discuss are a few things you can do that will keep the project from getting mundane. Going through the motions (even if the project is going very well) can be a bad thing as it can lull the project team, customer and others involved into a false sense of security. Plus, it can be easy to lose some interest - especially if you happen to be managing three or four other projects that are a bit more exciting.
So how can we change things around? How can we add some excitement to the project? How can we best keep our team members - and even our project client - on their toes, so that we stay focused on the project and efforts at hand and not just go through the motions until deployment time?
One way to keep your project team on their toes is to periodically assign one of them to lead the weekly customer status meeting. Arrange to be unavailable and let one of the team members take over on your behalf. You can either do it last-minute, so they are running it from your status report and prepared notes, or you can plan it ahead as a training exercise and have them prepare the status report. Only do the latter if they have time to do that type of preparation - because most project managers keep their team fairly busy with assigned project tasks. Their time may be already consumed with other tasks, and they may resent being overloaded with this new burden. Just having them lead the meeting at the last-minute probably is change enough to make it interesting.
Instead of just having weekly project meetings with the customer, have one or more individuals from your company's executive management team make themselves available for a formal presentation on the project. In fact, this is probably a good idea for the entire Project Management Office (PMO) to incorporate as part of their ongoing practice. It will help ensure the PMO's relevance and visibility while also keeping your leadership aware of where each current project stands. If you are a PMO director, this is a good move for your career and PM infrastructure.
Finally, ask your client to come on site for a project health check. Think mid-project kick-off meeting. This would be a good chance to reset the project, discuss expectations, go over some mid-project lessons learned, and just make sure everyone is still on the same page. You do that every week during the formal status meetings, but the reality is that, on most projects, you don't have very many face-to-face meetings with the actual project client. Use this time to have some serious discussions about how the project is going and identify any necessary scope changes.
It isn't always necessary to shake things up. Most of us remain pretty focused on the project's success throughout the engagement. It is what we are tasked to do. But these three concepts that I have presented above are good things to interject into your projects and PM infrastructures anyway to help train the project team members, to potentially, become future project managers, give them new experiences, and get your executive team involved and up to date. And it's a great opportunity for your project customer to get reacquainted with the team on a face-to-face basis.