The extra mile…

Project managers are adept at managing a project – track status, escalate issues and manage   risks.  Then why do some projects seem to go well all along while some are always at risk and filled with issues?   In addition to good communication, it is the focus and the ability of the project manager (and the functional manager in some cases) to go the extra distance that makes a huge difference IMHO.

In the case of complex projects – spanning multiple functional teams-the project manager must understand what the project is meant to solve to a certain level and depth of detail.  The project manager has a significant advantage if he or she can understand the design and risks associated with the technical aspects of the project.  In most cases, the project manager does not have automatic exposure to these items.  Here are some things I have done in the past that have helped me move things along in my projects:

  1. Understand as much of the design as possible: – The project manager is not expected to be an expert in any particular technical field related to the project. However, understanding at least the logical aspects of the design helps. For example, the project manager can understand the detailed logical design of the software application change that is required for the project.  This goes a long way in identifying and understanding critical tasks and bottle necks in the project early.
  2. Identify the key people   in the project: Every project has a few technical people who seem to know everything. These people may not be the leaders of the respective functional team.  Pick their brain on what they think are the key aspects of the project. Get their pulse on how things are going and stay in touch with them throughout the project.
  3. Review the plan with the functional leaders of the respective teams as frequently as possible.  – I have done this at each milestone.  This is not the same as the regular status meeting. But a more informal session with the leader asking questions related to their particular functional area. Keep the leader involved in the planning throughout the duration of the project.
  4. Review technical designs: As many of them as possible!. Attend the review meetings.  Remember, there are no dumb questions. Often, engineering groups don’t ask the obvious questions – assuming everyone understands things. The project manager can play a crucial role in the design reviews by being the person to ask all the so-called silly, obvious questions.  You may be surprised and what you can accomplish sometimes!

How about you? What do you do to ensure that you stay on top of things on your projects?

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