PM Lessons Learned
September 15th, 2011
This week the Voluminant team is tasked with training project management skills and techniques to a Federal government audience. Day One started with gaining an understanding of the participants’ experience in the discipline of project management — including their lessons learned. It is because their insights are not included in a published book that they are important, these come from their raw, boots-on-the-ground perspective:
- Loyalty is key - You need loyalty from your team and from your project sponsor to keep the team focused and to guarantee that the project will still be there when you wake up.
- Don't involve too many non-key people in the planning and in meetings - These people slow things down, dilute credibility of the project and lower the quality of the decisions made.
- Be clear and consistent in your communication - Communication is critical. If you are not specific and your message is not unequivocal your credibility will decrease and someone else will hear the wrong thing.
- Don't make mistakes - It's the old adage of measure twice, cut once. PM's make mistakes when they rush. The only way to avoid the pressure of a project is to plan the work and work the plan.
- Bad news does not get better over time - If something negative needs to be communicated, do it sooner rather than later. The news won't change, but whoever you need to tell it to will respect you more and they may be able to contribute to finding a solution.
- Keep a low profile - Nobody likes an obtrusive, autocratice "it's my way or the highway" type of project manager. Trust, but verify your resources, and when you know they know how to do something better than anyone else, give them the chance to shine.
- Keep people engaged - Even minor experts responsible for a small piece of a the greater project puzzle need to feel like they are a part of the overall effort. Involve them early and maintain contact with them.
- Understand needs - You may not know what the customer needs and you may not understand all of the dimensions of the problem the customer is facing. Make sure you have thoroughly gathered and defined requirements in a manner in which you are able to obtain buy-in.
- Coordinate and cooperate - Many projects we tackle are global. It takes time to coordinate schedules to ensure cooperation. Give people long-lead notice on meetings and allow them plenty of time to schedule travel for visits.
- Do your homework - No customer, stakeholder or user likes it when a project manager or team member is ignorant to their situation. Conduct literature reviews, look at case studies or have a cursory conversation with the person who initiated the project before commencing the requirements gathering process -- and certainly before finalizing your project plan.
The five-day training program uses these lessons learned as a starting point. We will reinforce these while building an understanding of other tips and techniques to help participants return to their offices with the capability to manage projects in pursuit of delivering on-time, within budget projects that fulfill customer needs.