How To Get Control Of Your Project
That kid is out of control! We’re thinking this to ourselves as the child in the grocery store is throwing a temper tantrum because they didn’t get what they wanted. They are screaming, yelling, and thrashing about because their parents told them NO. What do you do? You avert your eyes and swing as wide a berth as possible around this most uncomfortable of situations.
That car is out of control! You see the car swerving all over the highway, slowing down, speeding up and all sorts of irrational, herky-jerky movements. What do you do? You steer clear of this potential disaster by either quickly passing this car and putting them in your rear view mirror or you decide to take an alternate course.
Your project is out of control! People are yelling and screaming, tears are being shed and careers are being weighed in the balance. What do you do? Nothing…you’re the project manager on this roller coaster of a project and you are standing there like a deer caught in the headlights. People are leaving as wide of a berth as possible and steering clear of this wreck that is about to happen.
You need to do something to regain control, because what is project management without some form of control over your project? A disaster!
Reasons Why Projects Get Out of Control
There are a number of reasons why perfectly good projects will suddenly take a turn for the worse and careen out of control. The following are a couple of these reasons:
- The Project Plan Was Not Fully Baked – Everyone is so eager to open up their planning tools and start this new project that they run full speed ahead without pausing to reflect on what it will truly take to get this project done. People feel a couple of whiteboard sessions with some workflows and diagrams sketched out are enough to answer the question of what is project management and enough to get started.It doesn’t take too long to realize there was an entire set of functionality that was missing, or requirements that were overlooked, or technology not clearly understood that begins to raise its ugly head on a project that is about to take a turn for the worse.
- Strong Personalities and Hidden Agendas – What is project management without a bit of controversy and drama?A project may come onto your radar as a project manager with one set of objectives. It may be to introduce a new product line to the company or expand into a previously untapped market.These are noble and reasonable objectives and goals.The next thing you know, an astute, strong willed executive gets wind that this project is underway and uses it to his advantage. He uses this project as an opportunity to highlight some of the flaws and shortcomings of some of the departments that have not been cooperating with him recently.Next minute, this project is revised and warped enough that it no longer holds true to its original purpose, but rather to further the career of someone with a strong personality.
- Scope Creep – Ah, the nemesis of any project manager.There’s an expression that no good deed goes unpunished and scope creep is the epitome of where that punishment is delivered.A client may wonder what is project management without some sort of flexibility. They ask for a little bit extra here, a small feature request over there, and a bit of an accelerated time line to top it all off. You want to keep them happy, but the moment you say “yes” to any of the above requests without proper change control documents in place, you own the problems that ensue.Your project will now be careening out of control as clients forget the favor you attempted to do for them by bending the rules a bit and only focus on what has not been delivered. The result? A project that is out of control.
- You Are Spread Too Thin – A final reason projects can get out of control is because you are spread too thin as a project manager.When you started with the company you had 3 good sized projects to manage. This kept you comfortably busy and pushed the performance envelope for you. But, what is project management without adding more responsibility to a person that is already busy? The next thing you know you have 5 projects, then 7, and then 9 projects to manage! You were comfortably busy managing 3 projects, but 9 is way too much and projects begin to lose control!
How to Keep Projects Under Control
It can be hard to regain control of a project once it is officially out of control. It’s like the snowball that is rolling downhill and getting larger and larger with every revolution it takes. The following 4 steps will help you get back in the driver’s seat and get control of your project again.
- Confirm – You need to take the time to pause and reflect with the resources that are responsible for executing on the project plan that they are clear with what needs to be accomplished. This is an interim check that needs to occur on a frequent basis. You should not assume that everything is on track as a project manager without making sure that everyone understands what is expected of them and confirms they understand their role.
- Assess – The second step falls into the category of “trust but verify”.What is project management without a bit of skepticism?You can take a resource at face value, but it is your responsibility to verify that what they are saying is indeed the case.It isn’t a matter of not trusting your team; it’s more a matter of making sure your definitions are exactly the same. For example, they may consider a task to be “complete” once they have finished what their job is on that particular deliverable.Your definition of “complete”, however, is that it has passed the necessary quality checks to certify it is ready to go. Misaligned interpretations of the definition of “complete” are the beginnings of a project that can quickly get out of control.
- Modify – The next step you need to do to get a project back under control is to modify tasks and activities in order to get a project back to where it needs to be.Confirm that your project team knows what they are responsible for, and then verify that the project is in good shape. If you determine that it is on the path of getting out of control, then you need to modify your project plan to get things back on track. This may mean that you need to add more resources or cut some areas of functionality in order to get the project back under control.
- Inform – It is your responsibility as a project manager to inform project stakeholders of any modifications that you have made in the previous step. This is especially important with project sponsors and executives who are counting on the results of the project to be delivered.Can projects get out of control? Absolutely! There are a number of factors that lend themselves to projects getting out of control. It’s your job as a project manager to take the necessary steps to get your project back on track and keep the importance of project management at the top of everyone’s mind!
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