A common phenomenon in some organizations is that project managers experience great difficulty in being able to fully disengage from a completed project.
While in extreme situations this can impact their availability to take on their next project assignment, in most cases they are able to start work on a new project but will still find themselves performing some ongoing activities related to their last or even their last few projects.
Assuming that this is not a desirable scenario, three likely causes are:
- Incomplete project scope – if critical deliverables were not completed or not fully accepted by the project’s customer, the project manager might have been successful in closing the project and reflecting gaps these as exceptions, but work may still be continuing and stakeholders might expect the project manager to manage and keep them updated on the progress of this post-project work.
- Insufficient knowledge transfer to operational teams – if the operational teams that are expected to provide support for the project’s deliverables have not developed sufficient expertise to be able to fulfill their responsibilities, staff will feel inclined to continue to solicit assistance from the team members or project manager well beyond the project’s completion date.
- Poorly defined governance processes or staffing of roles to support these governance processes – on technology projects which are delivering a new business system or process, there will be the need to establish basic governance to manage ongoing changes to the system or process. There may also be the need to identify an information owner for the information assets stored within a new business system. Inadequate process definition or staffing of such roles may result in staff seeking assistance from the project manager to help facilitate changes to the system or processes.
What are some tactics to help project managers avoid incurring this operational project debt?
- Ensure that transition deliverables are well defined, planned & sufficiently staffed
- Avoid prematurely closing the project as soon as key deliverables have been completed
- Insist on signoff on the project closeout report from operations managers as reflecting their readiness to effectively support the project deliverables
- Request formal signoff from project customers on key project deliverables and ensure that any post-project work has an owner
- Conduct User and Production Acceptance Tests on governance processes to verify that they are in fact usable and appropriately staffed
- Cultivate subject-matter experts & champions for the project’s deliverables from outside of the project team through the latter stages of the project’s lifetime
Mick Jagger might have said “A good thing never ends” but he was obviously not referring to projects!