April 2010

Dear Doctor Project

There are so many details on my project that I’m a little lost. I have to: track progress against the plan, prepare reports for my customers and sponsor, hold meetings with my team, manage change requests, assess project risks, manage various crises that always seem to arise and so on.

Oh – I am assigned specific tasks to complete on this project. I don’t know when I’ll find time to do everything. Do you think I’m just disorganized?

Sincerely,
Overwhelmed!

Dear Overwhelmed,

You’re not alone. Many project managers feel exactly as you do. Managing a project certainly comes with its challenges. However, I do have some ideas that will help.

The project plan is always the source of detail that lets you and the team know who will do what, when they will do it, what tasks they are dependent upon, etc. All of these activities and tasks are organized below one of the key deliverables that have been included in the Scope Statement.

However, the project plan should also include a deliverable I like to call, “Project Management”. This deliverable is generic for all projects. When completed, it becomes a great example of a WBS Template. It includes all of the tasks required to complete:

  • Project team meetings
  • On-going management of the budget
  • On-going management of the schedule
  • Sponsor meetings
  • Customer meetings
  • Monitoring and controlling requirements
  • Process to manage project changes
  • Risk management process
  • Reports required, to whom and when
  • Communications required both internally and externally
  • Project close-out evaluation process

These tasks generally do not have any dependencies or inter-dependencies with other tasks in the project plan. However, when sufficiently detailed and included in the overall project plan you will know exactly when to hold your team meetings and for how long, when to complete reports and to whom, what is the process of completing a change request (when required), the on-going process of assessing risks, etc.

Whenever I do a Health Check or Project Audit on a project I always look for these tasks in the project plan. These are usually not there. I ask the project manager questions regarding their project meetings, when are reports due, etc. They usually stumble on the answers. Rather, they should be able to point to their project plan to identify when these occur and as an auditor, it should be easy for me to verify that these did take place.

If you’d like to create a work breakdown structure for your project plan more easily there’s a useful product – Project Planning Tool™ It’s a handy sticky note that’s pre-printed with all the information necessary to create your WBS.

You have a lot to manage. Bring control to your project by completing the project management deliverable and getting these tasks into your project plan. It is all about controlling your own time as well as the time on the project.

Regards,
Doctor Project

Doctor Project provides helpful advice for managing projects. This article provides tips on how to keep track of project details. Please send your questions, issues, concerns and challenges about your Projects, Project Leaders, Project Management Office (PMO or EPMO) or Project Sponsor to mstanleigh@bia.ca.

Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP, CSM is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping them to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. Michael’s experience spans public and private sector organizations in over 20 different countries. He also delivers presentations to businesses and conferences throughout the world. In addition to his consulting practice and global speaking he has been featured and published in over 500 different magazines and industry publications. For more information about this article you may contact Michael Stanleigh at mstanleigh@bia.ca