Effective Project Management
Effective project management is a critical component to any business operation. In my experience, less than one-third of business projects are completely successful, and more than half experience cost overrun, time overrun, or both. The cause of this varies, but in general, there are four specific repeat-offenders in causing projects to fail or be severely crippled after their launch:
1: Inexperienced Managers
Most managers have technical knowledge about managing projects, but lack the ability to effectively train team members, or fail to facilitate the flow of information. The most important project management tool is the ability to recognize skills in team members, and coordinate team activities in accordance with individual skills. In other words, there really should be an “I” in team, because managers should make a point to work one-on-one with every individual.
2: Failure to Address Small Problems
Small problems usually compound and create large problems later. The best solution to solving small problems is to train team members to spot small problems, recognize how they contribute to the big picture, and empower them to solve their problems without intervention. The faster and more frequently small problems can be resolved, the easier it is for team members to take a proactive approach in solving bigger issues without being micromanaged.
3: Failure to Document or Communicate
Documentation, reporting, status updates… these are all factors that most team members abhor contributing to, but they are vital to understanding and interpreting the big picture. In previous years, full disclosure documentation was essential, keeping the project manager fully versed in the status of the project. More recently, managers have realized the effectiveness of using various tools like micro-blogging and other social network media to communicate project status effectively.
4: Failing to Lead by Serving
Although listed last, this is probably the most dominant problem. The job of a project manager, and any other team leader, is to lead a group by serving the needs of that group. Most managers feel a sense of “ownership” (actually, pride) over their projects, and tend to horde or withhold information that would be of value to a subordinate team member. This is a carry-over attitude from the management styles of the 80s and early 90s which have proven to be highly ineffective in modern operations.
Solving these top four problems is simple, on paper, but requires extensive training and re-training of project management techniques. There are four areas of training I often focus on to address these issues:
1: Management Training
Every team member should be trained as a leader. Leading involves being able to lead yourself first (which also means learning to be an effective follower), and leading others second. Learning to lead is the most effective tool in learning to understand team dynamics and inter-operational practices.
2: Micro and Macro Lenses
Looking at a project’s micro-operations (details) and seeing how they relate to macro-operations (big picture) helps team members to understand the value their role plays in the project as a whole. When small problems occur, fast solutions are implemented, and team members learn to rely on a larger resource base as they progress through a project.
Perhaps the most revolutionary tool in business management, micro-blogging is the fastest and easiest way to remain on top of a project’s progress, keep team members informed, build documentation, encourage positive and constructive feedback, and provide a sense of healthy personal encouragement. It effectively involves communicating in short, simple and effective methods on a regular basis that feel more like casual chat, rather than requesting formal updates on a weekly or monthly basis.
4: Serve First
One of Stephen R. Covey‘s habits, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. A top priority of any good leader is to learn to serve effectively–to seek out the needs, wishes, and desires of others, and fulfill those needs at any time. When those needs are fulfilled, you empower your team members to actively seek out and do the same for others, including yourself.
If your business lacks effective project managers, and you are seeking a simple solution without an overload of bureaucratic practices, please contact me to discuss ways that the SMART Project Management system can work for you.