You’ve planned your project, established clear roles and responsibilities and get stuck-in with energy and enthusiasm. Pretty soon, things become hectic, you are working on several projects, time pressures build up, people are not sticking to their deadlines, and your dream project becomes a nightmare. When your projects become chaotic and you have 101 other things to do, remember these 5 top tips to keep your project on track and your head above water.
Your project action list, resulting from your initial project planning, is never static. New ideas emerge, issues crop up, people leave… change on the project is inevitable. Whether you are using an advanced project scheduling tool or post-it notes and serviettes, write down everything that needs to be done throughout the project. As soon as you become aware of an issue, write down the action to solve the issue. If it’s documented, it’s visible and your head will be less fuzzy with everything floating around in it !
Most projects rely on the contribution of several people. If you have requested project inputs from others, assume that they are also extremely busy and that your project may not be on their list of priorities. I like to use the “half-time check-in rule”: if I have requested a document in two weeks’ time, I will check in at “half-time”, i.e. one week before the due date, with the person. This does two things for me (i) it puts my project task back on their priority list; and (ii) if they feel they are unable to meet my deadline due to other priorities, I have an early warning and can manage other project dependencies accordingly.
Create a “no surprises” culture on the project. At your project kick-off meeting, impress on project participants that any issues and concerns need to be kept visible so that you can deal with them. When issues do arise, ensure that the right people are kept in the know so that informed decisions can be made early on about the way forward.
Project success is due to the contribution of all project participants. Most people will not only be working on your project – they may be contributing to other project s and have other work responsibilities and grander priorities. Whilst it’s great to “high-five” each other at the end of the project, remember to appreciate people’s contribution throughout the project. This forges stronger working relationships, mutual respect and a greater desire to contribute to project success.
Whatever you do, don’t panic when things go wrong. If several risks and issues are escalating, take time to pause the project for half a day. Meet with the core team and take stock of where you are and what is achievable given the constraints. Re-group, re-plan, re-energise and carry on!
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