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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guest Post: Moving from Crunch to Control – A Novel PM Canon

Every experienced project manager knows that seldom a project goes as per your plan. Crisis always strikes when it is least expected. Such a crunch provides you with an opportunity to prove yourself as a competent project manager and excel in your services. Crisis offers you that much-awaited break, which assists you in demonstrating your leadership qualities. Managing and leading high-risk projects towards success boosts your career. A project manager can never sharpen and build his skills if a project runs according to the plan. Right from technical problems to bankruptcies and from in-house corporate issues to natural calamities, crisis can occur in several forms, degrees and sizes. 

A significant factor that is generally unheeded by the managers is appropriate alignment of the project goals with the goal of the organization. This mismatch can be risky and land the project in trouble.

Often a huge percentage of the projects fail due to over budget, late delivery, standard-less delivery, termination of the project before completion and other factors. Due to this, only a handful of the initiated projects become successful. We have also seen that many organizations set up a Project Management Office (PMO), which rarely succeeds. These PMOs shut down within a span of few months or maximum within a year. Although PMOs require huge investments, they do not show positive return on investment. Hence, it is important for the organizations to develop management strategies that make room for successful project management practices.

Let us now discuss few fruitful strategies that can move a project in crunch towards control.

Strategic Project Alignment

Ensuring project alignment with the core strategies of your organization can save project failures. This can be done by taking lessons from the projects that have been successfully completed in your organization, as it gives you an opportunity to determine the viability of your project. The next step is to develop criteria for prioritizing the projects. The criteria should entail its impact on the organizational departments, customers as well as the corporate strategy. Such quantitative ranking of the projects can help you in prioritizing them. Now eliminate low-priority projects, which do not align with the organizational goal.

Creating a Promising Project Management Environment

This is as good as setting up your own PMO without that extra expense.  The key reasons behind having a PMO is to ensure successful project implementation, reusable project management techniques, processes and tools, corporate upgrading and enhanced professionalism. Thereby, establish a culture that facilitates well-managed projects.

All these and more can be achieved by developing a Project Culture Initiative (PCI). This involves identifying unique approaches to execute the project, which actually benefit the organization. Plan your project in advance and manage it.
Critical Chain Project Management is one of the best approaches in defying crisis. Once the planning is complete, follow it up and ensure that these methodologies are implemented right from project commencement.

Design a Project Evaluation System

Evaluate whether your project is being accomplished appropriately during every single step. This can be done by keeping a check on the following:
•    has the project met the quality standards
•    have the regulatory requirements been met
•    whether the number of resources hired is exceeding the number of estimated resources
•    will the project meet the deliverables and the target
•    effective risk management
•    slip-free launch
•    huge returns on investment

There are several other factors that contribute to successful risk management. Some of the paramount elements include the following:

Analyzing a Looming Problem

Be proactive and read the early warnings that come as small complaints and issues. Address that right in the beginning and minimize the impact it can have on your project. 

Planning Ahead of Time

Do not wait for the crisis to hit. Instead, design a step-by-step plan and keep it ready to be followed when the crisis breaks. Crisis contingency strategies and plans are of great use. Design and document them. Explain the roles and responsibilities of each of the team members so that they can function accordingly when the crisis hits.

Evading Speculation

One of the most terrible mistakes committed during a crisis is getting too curious to know the root cause of the crunch. In an attempt to discover the root cause rapidly one might overlook the actual source that lead to the crisis. It is always sensible to consult everyone in responsible positions while making a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) in order to determine the source. This is because, often, it is not just one event but a series of events that lead to crisis. Concluding too early can put the project in danger. 

Visualize the Big Picture

The zillion trivial details, which you happen to come across during a crisis, can actually prevent you from visualizing the big picture. As a project manager, maintaining focus during the crisis is essential. This is the time for you to utilize your skill sets and implement all the right strategies to solve the complications and reduce the damage.

Showcasing Communication Skills & Leadership Abilities

Communicating the right project status to your stakeholders is another important aspect and should never be ignored. Articulate and update the stakeholders with the necessary details regarding the progress and plans made in the project.  At the same time it is your duty to get everyone in the project back on track without affecting the work. Set the goals for the team members and provide detailed directions. Staying optimistic and being positive is also very important.   Never let your project team members feel defeated or lost. As this can have a negative impact on the growth of the project. Ensure that there is no blame game across the team and completely avoid negative conversations.

Have an Instant Backup Ready

Being a project manager, you should have a stable reserve to access help in case of emergency. Although you are not expected to have a steady solution for every issue, it is advisable to know where to look for help during crisis. Being resourceful and knowing when to seek help is essential.

It is better to be prepared and get the team onboard with an effective communication and have a contingency plan in place.

Responding to Media

Handling the media is also important. When carelessly handled, this can ruin the organizational image in the market causing irreparable loss of the brand name. The situation should be explained in detail to the PR specialists. Refraining from responding to groundless stories is also crucial.


Failed projects are synonymous with wasted dollars. This denotes the decline in the profit of the investor and a negative impact on the bottom line of the company. Business performance is directly proportional to pertinently managed projects. Hence, projects aligned with corporate goals of the organization will always turn out to be lucrative.

Avyakta Rao

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