Spring is traditionally the time when we get our yards ready for summer, wash our windows and put away our winter clothing. Like the seasons, project management processes are cyclical, so it’s a good idea to consider revisiting some artifacts & practices which haven’t been exercised in a while, especially on long running projects.
I’m not referencing documents such as your project schedule, risk register or activities such as regular status reporting – if those are out-of-date, shame on you! The reason I’m not focusing on these is that the fruits of such neglect usually ripen very quickly in the form of cost, schedule or customer satisfaction issues.
Putting aside the critical few, here are a few others worth considering for a spring cleaning blitz.
Like all good project managers, I’m positive you had populated your stakeholder register in the early days of your project, had assessed your stakeholders across different dimensions such as influence and interest, defined a target for each and planning actions to help move them to the desired position. When was the last time you had reviewed it to see if any key ones have been missed and reached out to silent stakeholders to confirm that they are still supportive? While we tend to focus on the highly visible or vocal negative stakeholders, it’s often the ones that are sitting on the fence and being quiet that we need to worry about as it doesn’t take a lot to push them into detractor territory.
Project communications plan
You may have spent the time to create a communications framework which addressed the informational requirements of your key stakeholders when planning your projects, have you gone back to poll them to confirm that these needs are being met? If their main medium for getting updates is to pick up the phone and call you or even worse to get in third-hand through the grapevine, it may be time to tweak that communications plan.
Has your star project turned into a white elephant? When was the last time your team revisited the business case supporting your project’s investment to identify threats and opportunities to benefits realization. Have new external influences emerged which will drive the need to accelerate project timelines? While in most matrix organizations a project manager would have limited authority to make project changes based on a revised SWOT analysis, they certainly shouldn’t hesitate to influence timely investment decision making.
Even high performing teams require regular renewal to maintain velocity. It can be easy to grow complacent once you’ve passed Tuckman’s storming and norming phases, but his ladder can be a Mobius strip if you avoid conducting regular reviews of team morale and acting on any identified concerns.
Taking the time to revisit these activities will ensure that as we spring forward, your project won’t fall back!