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Chapter 1. The Power of Microsoft Projec... > Some General, Common-Sense Guideline...

Some General, Common-Sense Guidelines for Project Managers

These guidelines are offered to help promote your success with projects. Most of them are common-sense management techniques, but reviewing them from time to time can be a useful exercise:

  • Remember that your success as a project manager depends largely on your ability to motivate people to cooperate in the project. No software program or well-designed plan can compensate for ineffective people skills. Computers might respond to logic, but people respond to human emotions.

  • Establish your authority as project manager and your role as coordinator of project planning at the outset. If you are appointed, ask the officer who makes the appointment to distribute a statement that validates your authority. Don’t post it outside your door unless you provide cork backing as protection against sharp-pointed projectiles.

  • Make the planning stage a group effort as much as possible. You’re sure to find that you can’t think of everything, and a wider base of experience and expertise is immensely helpful. You will also find it much easier to secure approval of the plan and to get people committed to the plan if they help in its formulation.

  • Set a clear project goal, including the following:

    • State the goal of the project precisely and simply in a manner that everyone associated with the project can understand. This includes your supervisors who approve the project, managers who work with the project, and those who actually do the work. Prepare a concise summary statement of the project goal. State your goal in realistic and attainable terms that can be measured. It will then be possible to measure success.

    • Secure agreement on the goal by all who must approve the project or who must provide supervision during the execution of the project.

    • State a definite time frame in the goal—it should be part of the commitment to the project. The goal “Install a new word processor throughout the company,” for example, is ill defined. “Select and install a new word processor throughout the company and train all personnel in its use by June 1,” is measurable.

    • Define the performance requirements and specifications carefully.

    • Discover and record all fixed deadlines or time constraints.

    • Determine the budgetary limitations of the project.

    • State the performance or quality specifications of the project with great care. Write and then distribute these specifications, in a statement of work, to the creators of the specifications and to the supervisors and workers when they are assigned to tasks. Make sure no misunderstanding exists about what you expect. Misunderstood specifications can jeopardize a project’s success.

  • Organize the work of the project into major phases or components and establish milestones, or interim goals, to mark the completion of each of these phases. Milestones serve as checkpoints by which everyone can gauge how well the project is on target after the work begins. This is a top-down approach, and it provides organization for the project plan from the outset.

    For example, the conversion to a new word processing product might involve the following phases and milestones (the milestones are italicized):

    • Select the software

      Determine the features required

      Review available products

      Select the product

      Software selection complete

    • Acquire and install the software

      Buy the software

      Set up a help desk

      Install the software

      Software installed

    • Convert to the new software

      Convert old documents

      Train users

      Conversion complete

  • Define the work that must be completed to reach each milestone as distinct tasks and estimate how long each task will take. If a task takes too long (some say any more than 10 working days!), you will probably be better off breaking it down into more components.

  • Diagram the flow of activity to show the instances where tasks must be performed in a specific sequence.

  • Distribute the project plan to all who are responsible for supervising or doing the work. Secure their agreement that the assumptions of the plan are sound and that all involved are willing to do their part. Revise the plan as needed to secure agreement.

  • Distribute printed copies of the revised schedule with charts and tables, to clearly identify the scope of the project and the responsibilities of all who must contribute to making the project a success.

  • Secure from resources their firm commitment to do the work assignments that are outlined in the plan.

  • After work on the project is under way, monitor progress by tracking actual performance and entering the results in the project plan. This is the best way to discover problems early so you can take corrective actions before disaster strikes.

    Tracking these performance details also helps document the history of the project so you can learn from the experience. It’s especially helpful if you have problems meeting the goals, and it will be valuable to you if you have to explain why the project goals are not met.

    If problems arise that jeopardize finishing the project on time or within budget, you can give superiors ample warning so they can adjust their expectations.

  • After the project is completed, document the whole process, not only to sum up what was accomplished but also with an eye to what lessons can be learned for the future.



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