Project Management for Growing Businesses

This is a summary of a Twebinar held on Thursday, November 1 using my Twitter handle, @subomiplumptre and hashtag, #PMNG.

During the Twebinar, 3 Project Management (PM) issues were discussed: STRUCTURAL, PEOPLE and POLITICAL.

STRUCTURAL

The CEO of a growing business plays the dual role of PM and Executive. He is ultimately responsible for quality assurance and execution.

Define what success looks like BEFORE embarking on a project, so you can recognize when you get there. Review EVERY milestone against this picture.

Execution is everything! But strategy is the non-negotiable starting point. Where’s your strategy document?

Availability is key in PM. You must be accessible across several platforms: Email, phone, chat etc. Your clients should NEVER chase you with money.

Keep extensive project notes and contact details. NEVER leave a project’s history in the head of a team member.

Choose simple PM platforms or archive systems like Google Drive or Prowork.Me for ALL collaborative documents.

You don’t want to spend all your time searching for stuff. Use simple naming conventions for documents.

Set up simple GROUP communication tools e.g. Skype Groups, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp Groups, Email Lists etc.

It saves a lot of time when project team members’ contacts are appropriately grouped for streamlined communication.

Instead of detailed document format specifications, provide simple templates everyone can use.

Your project MUST have a calendar and task list with CLEAR responsibilities and job owners.

Follow up constantly with periodic check- ins. Reserve meetings for high level reviews or strategic decisions.

If deliverables aren’t explicitly spelled out AND agreed beforehand, your project will be afflicted by a creeping expansion of brief.

Measure everything!

Know when to bring in professionals for project scalability and sustainability. If you can’t afford to retain them, use short contracts at key junctures.

The quality of resources invested in a project is a pointer to its relative importance to your organisation. You can always tell which projects will fail.

Some projects sell themselves with just a brief. Abstract tech based projects usually require a demo.

NEVER give custom to an unstructured/immature/emotional company. If u must; pay a little more to install a PM who’ll GUARANTEE delivery.

Breaking up procurement may save money but for critical projects, seek end-to-end solutions & guarantees from companies with brand names to protect.

If you can’t handle a small project well, you’ll fail spectacularly as you scale up. Be qualitative and thorough NOW. Have integrity NOW.

Don’t be achievement greedy. You can’t do everything. Keep a few goals in sight.

Don’t stretch yourself beyond the level of your capacity or HR. You’ll end up with half-baked project results.

Read all you can about your project. Insight comes from unlikely sources. Sometimes all you need is an idea for the project to take off.

Use visualisations to help you ‘see’ a project: A logo, screensaver, chart etc. Let the project come to life.

PEOPLE

When choosing a team, welcome ALL volunteers but ensure you identify likely drivers BEFORE you begin.

Identify those on your team with initiative. Let them LEAD tasks and groups. NEVER TRUST THE FATE OF YOUR COMPANY TO AN UNTRUSTED HAND.

You can’t run an exceptional project if it isn’t constantly in your heart or on your mind. It must consume you.

You’ll pick up useful lessons EVERYWHERE that can be applied to your project when it’s constantly on the front burner of your heart and mind.

The best ideas often come from the most unusual places. Actively seek solutions from the arts. You are selling to people with emotions.

Frame the issues for your team in a simple concept paper or brief. Make sure they understand and buy in to the overall objective.

Ensure team understanding through preliminary readings, review meetings & calls. Let everyone state what they understand or don’t.

Get to know the people working on the project through one-on-one discussions, chats or group hang outs.

Plan for romantic realities especially for long intense projects. People WILL get together. Manage it when they do.

You may desire a project but it won’t ‘take’ if there’s no personal passion, sacrifice or commitment of resources.

Regulate your emotions and strength as a PM. You need them to manage others. Don’t ‘leak’ emotions.

Have your team’s back. Be loyal. Never side with a client against your team outside. Chew your team in private.

Lead by hard work. Take on project tasks first before delegating to others.

POLITICAL

If it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist in the public sector. Document everything. Leave a VERY long paper trail.

If a project has little buy in from management, don’t begin immediately. Spend a few weeks selling the “idea”.

Identify the hold-outs in Management. Meet with them. Ask for their input and “try” to align to what they’d be willing to approve.

Deploy emotional IQ. Understand the power structures in a project. Who has influence? Approval authority? Design the project with that person in mind.

Always give the ‘power centres’ a heads up first. They should NEVER find out about an issue in the general meeting alongside everyone else.

Before a project begins, do the requisite courtesy calls to pay respect. The approval authorities like that sort of thing.

For clients that are guilty of serial delays, build in the cost of delayed payments into your invoice BEFOREHAND.

There are some sad projects where the process is more important to the organisation than the result. Don’t feel bad. Such is life. Make sure you get paid nonetheless.

Find out what’s important to your client and structure your project accordingly. You may think it’s your product. For them, it may just be for show. Such is life.

You can always assess the level of management support by their level of availability.

Ultimately, you learn as much from failure as success.



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