“The nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.” — John Harvey-Jones
If you get in a car in Chicago with the intent of driving to Los Angeles, the GPS rarely plots the California portion of the map while you are in your driveway. Rather, the GPS methodically and sequentially plots each road to take to reach the desired location. Project Management follows the same logic of a series of key tasks or steps that must be completed in a systematic process to meet the desired outcome. Traveling to Los Angeles from Chicago can only happen if the tasks of traveling through the Midwest and the Rockies are met first.
This type of thinking seems elusive when it comes to business project management. Ask someone to “map” out the many steps required to achieve a desired result of managing a project and many times you get resistance as in “overkill” or simply a “deer in the headlights” look. Yet, the dollars at stake as well as the operational disruption to the organization seem secondary to the tedious task of mapping the process in advance. Lacking a plan almost assuredly locks in failure as much as putting the wrong project manager in place.
Below highlights the key components of project management:
On Time, On Budget: This should be the mantra of every project manager. There should be nothing more fundamental in the mind of the project manager than completing the project on time and on budget. Failing to comply with an on-time, on-budget philosophy not only causes the project at hand to fail but risks the failure of other reliant projects.
Know The End Game: Determine in advance, what a successful project conclusion looks like. Poorly managed projects fall victim to duplicative resource allocation and cost overruns known as “capital creep,” and it can be crippling to an organization since it “sucks away” future dollars to be invested back into the company.
Resource Management: Let the fighting begin! Project Management is all about organizing systems and processes in a sequential fashion to efficiently complete the task at hand. Resources are finite and competent people are always in demand. There can be some intense competition for solid resources; over allocation of their time is an ongoing concern.
Practice “War Gaming”: Imagine if you could anticipate issues in advance of them happening — that is what “war gaming” is. Play out possible scenarios and anticipate “broken pipes” in advance of them happening. By laying out as many steps as you can against a timeline, a project manager should be able to recognize obvious “hiccups” to the process in advance and devise alternative solutions.
Be Realistic: Rome was not built in a day and your project will not be either. Setting realistic goals not only for the project but especially for the approving committee, is paramount to managing expectations. The project cannot be built for free, nor can it be completed in an afternoon.
Daily Business Impact: The challenge managing new projects for an organization is that they still have a day-to-day business to run. Rarely do they have an idle body to be able to manage a project exclusively. Organizations that fail to recognize this impact will not only see their project fall short of expectations but run the risk of their daily operations slipping.
Deliver The Goods: At the end of the day, the project manager has a clear-cut task at hand: Deliver a completed project, on-time and on-budget. Leaving the entire project to chance will guarantee only one thing — a failed project.
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John Matthews, president & CEO at Gray Cat Enterprises, is responsible for the management of all consulting activities for the firm, which include retail consulting for multiunit operations; interim executive management; and project management. Prior to founding his own company in 2004, Matthews held senior management positions as president of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and as vice president of marketing, merchandising, facilities, corporate communications, and real estate at Clark Retail Enterprises Inc. Additionally, Matthews worked for nine years in marketing management as the national marketing director of the Little Caesars Pizza Corp.