Project Management Guide

Whether you are a seasoned project management veteran or a freshly-spawned noob, this guide will highlight all key areas of focus. By taking each section into consideration you will be able to cover all key aspects of most projects and understand:

  • The critical activities in Project Management
  • Key tools and approaches that help make projects successful
  • How to look after yourself during challenging situations

What makes projects successful

  • Sharing of knowledge: Share knowledge and post-project lessons learned sessions
  • Effective Communication: Excellent communication of priorities and expectations will increase their understanding of what’s expected and increase the likelihood of on time delivery
  • Planning, and managing your plan: Manage the schedule tightly and the best way to keep it on track is to make sure everyone knows it and what’s expected of them. Never let it get too far out of date
  • Scope management: Manage all change closely – scope, potential risks, change orders. Scope creep is ok if it’s covered by a change order
  • Managing risk and issues: Capturing all risk and issues of a project on an ongoing basis is required to ensure focus is allocated to address them in a timely manner
  • Project integration management: The coordination of all aspects of a project. Project integration ensures that all processes in a project run smoothly and all project documentation is delivered
  • Quality management: Ensuring what a quality outcome for your project is often needs a specific focus. Time and cost elements are more easily defined and understood but extra effort is sometimes required to ensure alignment on what quality looks like in the end product, plus needs managing during the project lifecycle to ensure it remains a key focus
  • Organisational management: Organising, planning, leading and controlling resources within your organisation with the overall aim of achieving the project objectives. This includes decision making and the resolution of issues.
  • Stakeholder management: Ensuring all parties who have an interest in your project are engaged and feel like their requirements are included in the project scope. Managing their involvement during the project lifecycle is often a critical success factor of most projects.
  • Time management: Ensuring that you are allocating your time to the most important work. And through time management you are able to remain healthy and have a good work / life balance.
  • Cost management: Managing your project costs is an essential aspect of project management. Without control over costs a project can spiral out of control and end up delivering none of the business outcomes required. Detailed planning of all costs and visibility of cost performance is required.
  • Managing your external consultants/ providers: Define statement of works for external contractors and managing them to ensure they deliver on time and within budget.
  • Manage with your Customers: Keep your customer engaged and informed by ensuring they are part of the management of the project. Always be upfront and honest with the customer – it’s their money and it’s their project you’re managing
  • Use repeatable process: Standardisation through the use of templates and reusable processes will increase the likelihood of success because things won’t get missed and you will increase understanding through the use of a common language and approach
  • Deliver: Consistent delivery of expected material and information – comms, status reports, updated project budget status, issues/risks lists – builds trust with your customer
  • Keep close to your stakeholders: Understand who is important for your project to be successful and keep engaging them, either through frequent formal or adhoc communications. Don’t be afraid to invite them to a random visit to the project room
  • Be visual: Use visual aids, including posters and outputs from your workshops, to communicate what you are doing and the why
  • Access to the right people: Understand what skills you need and find the right people, and do everything you need to do to retain them

Any project needs to have a plan in place before you make a start. The project plan provides context and outlines key aspects. How you start a project often defines how successful your project is going to be. Getting it right from the start is critical to your success.

What do you need to plan for at the start of a project?

  • Goals: What is the project trying to achieve
  • Engaging key stakeholders: Identifying who your key stakeholders are and which ones you need to prioritise most of your attention
  • Uncovering Stakeholder needs: Engaging your key stakeholder to uncover their needs and understand how the project could on deliver on these needs
  • Identify linkages to organisation strategy: Understand how your project fits into the organization goals and strategies
  • Prioritisation of key stakeholders needs: Understand the priority of stakeholders needs that your project will aim to deliver
  • Develop measures: Develop measures for your goals, ideally SMART Measures
  • Baselines: Understand your project baselines, the three approved starting points: the scope, schedule, and cost baselines. The baselines are used to determine if the project is on track during the execution of the project
  • Baseline management plans: Understand how variances to the baselines will be handled throughout the project. Each project baseline will need to be reviewed and managed
  • Roles and responsibilities: Define your roles and responsibilities and ensure they are clearly understood by everyone
  • Develop your project plan: Once you have established a clear set of goals, they should be recorded in the project plan. It can be useful also to include the needs and expectations of your stakeholders
  • Project deliverables: Understand what the project needs to deliver to meet the goals. Specify when and how to deliver each item
  • Project schedule: Create a list of tasks that need to be carried out for each deliverable, including effort and resources
  • Project management methodologies: Determine the methodology that you will utilize to deliver the project, e.g. traditional waterfall, agile etc.
  • Project schedule monitoring capability: Determine how you will record and track your project schedule, e.g. Microsoft Project, Microsoft Excel
  • Change management plan: Develop the change management plan early in your planning phase as this provides you good guidance on what is going to be required for a successful project delivery. This includes a communication plan, Resource plan etc.
  • Risk management plan: Identify all key project risks and mitigations where relevant
  • Kick off meeting: Hold a kick off meeting to initiate the project
  • Project Charter: Develop a project charter that incorporates all key aspects of the project, including Goals, Scope, Success factors, baselines, constraints etc.
  • Project quality: Understanding how the project team will ensure that the end product not only meets the customer specifications, but is one that the sponsor and key business experts actually want to use. Minimizing errors that impact quality is a key component of this activity.

Your plan evolves throughout the course of your project:

Project Management Framework

To get it right from the start, begin with planning your Project Management Framework!

Knowing who your key stakeholders are and making sure you are meeting their needs throughout the project is critical for success of your project.

  • Do you know who your key stakeholders are?
  • Not all stakeholders have the same level of importance, do you know which ones are your most important stakeholders?
  • Do you know how your project is going to deliver on their needs?
  • And how they would like to keep engaged with your project?

Do you know the difference between a Sponsor and a Key Stakeholder?

Sponsor

The project sponsor isb a senior person in an organisation who is responsible to the business for the success of the project.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Provides leadership on direction, and culture and values
  • Keeps project aligned with organisation’s strategy
  • Oversight of project risk
  • Securing resources
  • Ownership of the business case
  • Be accessible to the project team and regular show their commitment to the project
  • Influences other sponsors
  • Focuses on realisation of benefits
  • Recommends opportunities to optimise cost/benefits
  • Provides feedback on status updates and progress reports
  • Making sure all progress reports are getting to key stakeholders
  • Involvement in lessons learnt sessions
  • Recognition of great performance and success

The role of the sponsor is to be actively promoting the project to their peers and other key stakeholders to keep it a priority within the business. When a project starts to lose support within the organisation you can often connect this to the lack of time a sponsor had been able to allocate promoting the project. The active role the sponsor plays is often a key success factor of project.

Why is a sponsor important?

One of the most common reasons why projects fall short is a lack of executive sponsorship and management buy-in.

(KPMG New Zealand Project Management Survey 2010, KPMG. Results based on interviews conducted in August 2010 with nearly 100 organizations in the country.)

PMI’s 2010 Government Program Management Study found that 81 percent of program managers at U.S. government agencies said that strong support from at least one executive-level sponsor had a high impact on project success.

(Program Management 2010: A study of program management in the U.S. Federal Government, PMI. Results based on a survey of forty “successful” programs across a variety of U.S. government agencies, published in June 2010.)

A sponsor is the project owner, however, often you’ll find that one of the biggest challenges is to keep the sponsor’s focus throughout the whole project:

  • What is happening in your sponsor’s world?
  • Is your sponsor emotionally connected to your project?

If you become emotionally connected to someone, or something, you become motivated to spend time with that person or do more of that “thing”. Ensuring your Sponsor is emotionally connected to your project will ensure they continue to want to spend time on it rather than other things they are not connected to!

Stakeholders

A stakeholder is often someone who is affected by the project, who has relevant knowledge, experience, ideas, needs, wants, interests and/or influence

Involving stakeholders

Effective communication with stakeholders requires an approach that aligns organisation, team and individual goals. The primary objective is to create open and effective relationships between all parties, and a clear understanding of their collective and individual roles in the project.

To be successful, good project managers need to demonstrate the value of the work to management, in addition to managing their own teams and workload. For any projects to be delivered all stakeholders need to engaged and to play their part in the completion of the work. A good project manager will seek specific actions or behaviours from decision makers, resources and interested parties – how this is managed is critical to maintaining a level of momentum on the project.

Stakeholder Matrix

The stakeholder matrix helps to plot each stakeholder on two attributes – Importance and Influence.

  • A: Key Player. A high degree of influence who are also of high importance for problem solvind success.
    • Focus effort on this group
    • Involve in governance / decision making
    • Engage & consult regularly
  • B: Show consideration. High importance to the success of work, but with low influence.
    • Make use of interest through involvement in low risk areas
    • Keep informed & consult on interest area
    • Potential supporter / goodwill ambassador
  • C: Meet their needs. These are stakeholders with high influence, who can therefore affect the outcomes, but whose interests are not necessarily aligned with the overall goals.
    • Engage and consult on interest areas
    • Try to increase level of interest
    • Aim to move into right hand box
  • D: Least important. Low influence on, or importance to, the problem-solving.
    • Inform via general communications: newsletters, website, etc.
    • Aim to move into the right hand box

What can occur that stops Stakeholders being interested in your project?

  • Insufficient time – talk with key stakeholders about how they can participate in the project and change your stakeholder engagement approach to work in with their schedule.
  • Other priorities get in the way – talk about whether there is a trusted delegate who would be better to engage with on a regular basis, enabling us to reduce the frequency of involvement, but still provide written updates and quick check-in meetings.
  • Waning interest – this can often be about personal thinking preferences – they like to understand the big picture, but the details can quickly bore them. Orientate your updates so that they appeal to people with different thinking preferences. You can be selective about who is best to attend an update meeting, rather than receive a written update.
  • “It’s not my thing!” – you often find that stakeholders are appointed because of their position, rather than their interest in the programme area. Help them to join the dots with their personal goals and the programme objectives.
  • Lack of attendance at stakeholder meetings – you find that this can change the dynamics from stakeholder meeting to stakeholder meeting. Examples are how you can have mitigate this are:
    • Update non-attendees outside the meetings so that they continue to be up to date.
    • Reschedule meetings or run two smaller meetings at different times.
    • Hold virtual stakeholder meetings – encouraging email, chat or forum discussion e.g. Yammer amongst the stakeholders, depending on the common methods used within the organisation. You will find this can works particularly well for senior stakeholders who are often used to lengthy steering committees and executive meetings.

Another option is to use Agile project management approach which ensures you are constantly delivering small outcomes. This helps with key stakeholder engagement because there is always something new that is being delivered and you are less exposed to them losing focus on the project which can occur when you are delivering longer term outcomes.

How can you help Stakeholders feel a sense of ownership in your project?

Stakeholders need to feel a true sense of ownership of the programme design, roll-out and embedding phases. You can actively involve your stakeholders by:

  • Seeking their early input and viewpoints on key deliverables
  • Creating a visual project space and encourage stakeholders to visit regularly to see what you are working on and what you are discussing
  • Holding progress walk-through meetings so that stakeholders can learn more about your findings, recommendations and key deliverables
  • Providing regular updates on project progress and next steps, including feedback and comments from the project team and key audiences that you have worked with
  • Providing early visibility of any emerging issues or up-coming key decisions
  • Framing up options to enable them to make good decisions

You can have the best plan in the world, with great enagegment with yoru sponsor and key stakeholders, but unless you are carefully managing all aspect of the projects deliverables you are in trouble.

Early indicators of projects going off track

  • Schedule change requests
  • Red flags in project status reports
  • Request for scope change
  • Additional budget requests without scope change
  • Material delays
  • Suspicion of fraud
  • Customer concerns about quality outcomes
  • Customer not engaged during process
  • Sponsor or Key stakeholders cancelling meetings
  • Safety concerns being raised
  • Design revisions
  • Flurry of information requests that seem random

Cost Overrun – there are numerous examples:

  • Ineffective project governance, management and oversight
  • Unanticipated site conditions
  • Poor project design definitions
  • Design error or omissions
  • Poor project controls
  • Inadequate communications and slow decision making
  • Insufficient planning and inaccurate estimating
  • Skilled labour availability
  • Poor risk management

Course Correction

  • Showing Leadership: When things go wrong the project manager needs to step up and keep everyone calm. Uncertainty needs to be kept under control, the last thing you need is panic. Your project team needs you to be calm and displaying strong leadership.
  • Be upfront about the problem: Creating awareness of the problem is the first step towards resolving it. Don’t be afraid of letting people know an issue has occurred even if you don’t have all the facts yet. The Sponsor and key stakeholders would prefer to hear about it from you rather than someone else and they will be ok if you don’t know everything about it, as long as you have a plan on obtain this info.
  • Evaluate the problem: Find out the facts about the problem, don’t rely on someone’s perception. And find out how much impact it could have on your contingency and budgets. Plus, put it into perspective, is it really the end of the world?
  • Get the right people into a room: Get all of the knowledgeable and useful people in the room who understand the problem, don’t try and solve this by yourself. If it is urgent pull them out of their other normal activities, you need help and don’t be afraid to escalate if you can’t get the right support.
  • Explore alternatives: Find out what your options are. Complete research, or delegate this task to someone more knowledgeable. Work through the alternatives together as a group.
  • Make a simple plan: Select your desired alternative and develop a simple plan that allows you to communicate it effectively and implement quickly.
  • Execute quickly: Make it happen!
  • Review what happened: Make sure everyone learns from this experience, and share the learnings.

Do NOT:

  • Panic: The worst thing you can do is to panic and this will create even more stress with your team, and reduce their ability to course correct! You need to keep calm and show outwardly the perception that you have this under control, even if internally it is quite different.
  • Lose your temper: Whenever someone loses their temper that person loses their credibility as a leader. And your team morale will reduce, even if you did not lose your temper with them, they will be thinking ‘are they next?’. Remain calm and collected, you have this covered!
  • Put off dealing with the problem: Deal with the problem straight away, otherwise it becomes bigger than it needs to be. Procrastination is one of the worst things a project manager can do.
  • Keep quiet about the problem: Putting your head in the sand hoping it will go away isn’t the greatest strategy ever devised. It’s a lot better if people hear it from you rather than someone else as it gives them confidence that you have the project under control. They are used to things going wrong but would be more worried that you had not mentioned it to them as this impacts their belief on your effectiveness as a project manager.

Other Important components required for a successful delivery:

Governance and Support

  • Working Group
  • Steering Group
  • Sponsor

Consider the following:

  • Have you created a role description? This will set clear expectations for everyone involved.
  • Do you have a diverse range of people, with relevant skills and experiences taking part?
  • How will you ensure power is shared and decisions are made by everyone within the group? Be aware of how everyone interacts and think about what you would do if group members are feeling excluded.
  • What training and support will you provide to help people to participate equally?

You will need to use additional methods of influence with your working or steering group. Gathering different information will help the group make the decisions required.

Can the group guide this work as well either by talking to people themselves or working with the organisation to define how this is done? The more engagement you get from these groups the higher success rate you will have.

Implementation Planning

  • Stakeholder comms
  • Training
  • On-the-day support
  • Feedback loops
  • Go/No-Go meetings
  • Post-launch support
  • Knowledge articles
  • Visual management
  • Team Leaders support
  • Launch celeberations
  • Project daily heartbeat meetings
  • Post launch recognition

Risk Management and Mitigation

Risk types:

  • Strategic
  • Compliance
  • Operational
  • Financial
  • Reputational

It is important that you assess all risks against a matrix of:

  • Likelihood they will occur
  • Impact if they did occur

From this matrix you will be able to identify which of your risks you need to focus the most on, and ensure you have adequate risk mitigations in place to help either:

  • Eliminate the risk from occurring
  • Reducing the impact on them if they do occur

Our team has created a Change Management template which will guide you through the process step by step.

Post Implementation Review (aka PIR)  is a critical project management step. We learn and improve our project management techniques through PIRs by analysing all aspects of the completed project, understanding what went well and what went wrong, and leveraging these findings in our next project e.g.

  • We evaluate whether hte project objectives were met
  • We determine how effectively the project was run
  • We learn lessons for the future

PIR normally covers the following:

  • Scoping of outcomes
  • Effectiveness of planning
  • Process of delivering solution
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Effectiveness of change and comms
  • User take up of changes
  • Project team engagement
  • Outcomes and benefits being realised

8 Steps of a PIR

Stress Management

Stress is part of everyday life. It is important that you have some stress in your life because it can lead to thinking resulting in different outcomes. Life without stress will start to become a bit like “Ground hog day”, where every day will feel like the previous because you are not moving forward, not challenging what you are currently doing, and not learning!

Some stress helps inspire people to accomplish goals, delivering outcomes that would not even be considered if you had no stress in your life. But having the right amount of stress is important, and having too much can cause problems. Not only at work but also in your personal life, it is hard to keep them separate.

Managing Stress

The goal is to be able to live a life in balance. You need time for work, relationships, relaxation and fun, plus have the resilience to hold up when the pressure goes on.

The key to stress management is the realisation that you are in control of your life. You need to take control of who you are and how you are living your life. This includes your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and how you deal with life’s little, or big, challenges.

Key steps in Stress Management

Understand your stress

There are a number of causes of stress, some major like:

  • Changing jobs
  • Relationship challenges
  • Projects going off track
  • Financial issues
  • Finding a house & moving
  • Getting married
  • Christmas day (one of the most stressful days of the year)
  • But there are also smaller stress causes that can create major issues for people:
  • The way you think and handle emotions and feelings
  • How to handle problems or issues that arise – do you procrastinate
  • What is going on inside your head, what insecurities you may have

Tracking your stress is a great way to understand what causes your stress. A stress journal is a great approach for this, where you capture:

  • What caused the stress
  • How it made you feel
  • Your response
  • What you did to make you feel better

This enables you to learn from each stressful event that occurs, and through understanding comes insights on what you can do to reduce or even eliminate the stressful events

Activities that reduce your stress

There are a number of activities that can reduce your stress:

  • Fitness & eating healthy
  • Schedule in fun times, things you like doing
  • Take time out to simply talk
  • Understand what are common predicted stressors and decide if you can change the situation or your reaction to it
  • Get a massage, do yoga/tai chi / deep breathing exercises, listen to music, spend time in nature…whatever works for you, just make time for it!
  • Get more sleep
  • Reduce caffeine, sugar, alcohol and drugs
  • Focus on your thinking – are you thinking positive or negative thoughts?
  • Focus on the now! – focusing on the future which may or may not occur doesn’t always help, takes you away from what you can do now
  • Use affirmations and visualisation to help focus your mind
  • And utilise meditation and guided imagery to help relax and focus your attention – the key is to be able to quieten your mind, paying special attention to your breathing
  • Focus on managing your time better – prioritise what you focus on, with a goal of reducing your stress as a top priority. And don’t over commit your time
  • Delegate vs the Do task yourselves
  • Swap or share portfolios
  • And spend time away from your phone!

If the stress relates to a certain stakeholder:

  • Try to understand what is driving the stress.
  • What is occurring in their environment that could be causing their behaviour that is causing you stress?
  • What beliefs about this person or situation do you have? Are these belief’s accurate or based upon your perception, which may be wrong?
  • What is their thinking preference? Could the way you are communicating to them driving the stress?

And find someone who has a good relationship with this stakeholder and find out what works for him/her, what is their passion/thinking preferences. Or simply talk to the stakeholder about the situation and how this is causing you stress!

When you know you are already quite stressed you might want to:

  • Get people to read your emails before you send them out
  • Consider what you say next:
    • Is it helpful?
    • Is it true?
    • Is it kind?
  • Self-Assessment Reality check
    • on a scale of 1-10 (1 no stress, 10 the worst stress you have experienced) where are you currently. Helps put your current situation into perspective, and previously you have survived worse

Actions to prevent stress occurring, or at least reduce the impact

I find managing stress, especially around the pressore of large time-dependent project, is a lot like making it through labour! Focusing on all that needs doing or the difficulty of keeping up an intense pace for a long time, can be overwhelming.

– Suggestion from one of our staff

Other suggestions which may help you reduce stress:

  • Get active, even if it is a 30 min walk every day
  • Eat healthy
  • Focus on your thinking
  • Focus on your breathing and keeping your mind quiet and relaxed
  • Manage your stress triggers
  • Regularly challenge your beliefs about a person or situation
  • Planning – manage peak workloads better. Build into the project plan time for you to build up your resilience so you come into the busy period fresh and better equipped to deal with the pressure
  • Complete “What’s on your plate exercise”
  • Visually show your Manager what is already on your plate so you can have a discussion on what is the highest priority, and what can be dropped?
  • Regularly take time out with your colleagues to build your team morale and culture before the busy pressure starts

Conflict Management

Every project will experience some form of conflict, how you manage it will determine your success.

Conflict management minimizes the negative outcomes of conflict and promotes the positive outcomes of conflict with the goal of improving learning in an organisation.

– Rahim, 2002, p. 208

Properly managed conflict increases orgamisational learning by increasing the number of questions asked and encourages people to challenge the status quo.

– Luthans, Rubach & Marsnik, 1995

Conflict Resolution Approaches

  1. Accomodating: when one party accomodates the other party by giving them what they want.
  2. Avoiding: one party decides not to pursue their concerns. Instead they sidestep, postpone or withdraw from the conflict.
  3. Collaborating: involves the integration of ideas from different parties.
  4. Compromosing: both sides of the conflict give up elements of their position.
  5. Competing: where one side wins and the other loses

 

Key considerations in resolving conflict

  • Councelling
  • Separate people from problems
  • Respect
  • Listen
  • Be flexible
  • Recognise what is most important to you
  • Identify what their need is
  • Facts
  • Identify common ground
  • Explore options
  • The power of Yes

 

The next time you have conflict:

  • Set up a meeting with the other party to discuss the issue. Let them know that you are there to work together to find a solution.
  • Remember you are going to focus on the problem, not the person, and before the meeting reflect on what you know about the other person, e.g. what is their role, the challenges they face, their thinking preference, what you know about their position etc.
  • Start by actively listening to their view on the area of conflict, and try to identify their underlying need vs what they are wanting.
  • Be clear about the facts, and what you already agree on, and then work together to agree on a resolution.