You may be in charge of the project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are leading it. Many project managers find themselves chasing after their project, and seem to never catch up with what feels like an out-of-control snowball rolling downhill.
Sound familiar? It’s a common problem for managers. There are guidelines galore on how to be an effective leader, and those strategies are great when you’re in control of your project. But what if you’re already behind the 8-ball? How can you rein in your project and team and get back in control?
Let’s look at what you might be chasing and how you can take the lead again.
If You are Chasing After Your Plan…
In this situation you never feel like you know exactly what is going on. Dates seem to change without you knowing about it and you’re never quite clear on the status of work.
Lead by: Schedule time each week to review your plan and make changes. It is normal for plans to change during a project. Unless you have a crystal ball or some other way to tell the future then you can never be 100% certain that your estimates are correct. The way to handle this is to put time aside regularly to update your plan. It’s better for your project plan to reflect reality (however imperfect that might be) than to try to marshall people along to a schedule that has no bearing on the work that is being done.
Use project dashboards to keep on top of the status of tasks and instantly see which areas of the project are falling behind. Good data can help you feel a lot more in control!
If You are Chasing After Your Team…
It feels like you don’t know who is allocated to which task. Some of your team have way too much to do and others – well, when you walk round to their desk they’re on Facebook. And no one ever tells you what they are doing.
Lead by: Ditch informal ways of dishing out the work and go for task allocation using your project management software. Then you’ll be able to see who is working on what at a glance. It still leaves you loads of flexibility because you can switch tasks around with a few clicks, and you could even let your team make those choices to move work around between themselves.
Stop trying to work out who is overloaded manually – you’ll never be able to do it. Use resource reports to flag who has more work than they can realistically complete in a week and who has the capacity to take on more.
Ask your team to complete timesheets so you can track what they are doing. If you’re not a fan of time tracking it is time to think again! It’s the way many modern teams doing knowledge work manage their businesses.
If You are Chasing After Your Requirements…
Your project sponsor offers suggestions for new features and then suddenly expects them to appear in the next iteration. Your team start doing a little bit extra, even though the client didn’t ask for it, and that time has cost you money. Trying to keep track of project scope is a full-time job!
Lead by: Use a thorough change management process. Nothing gets worked on unless it has been analyzed, approved and incorporated into the plan. If a change is going to mean amending the scheduled dates or changing the budget then you’ve got approval to do that.
Managing project scope through change control is as much a change of attitude as it is about process. Your team needs to understand the implications of tweaking the scope simply because they think it would be better that way. Explain that gold-plating your project costs the company money. If that change hasn’t been approved by the client then you can’t recoup the cost. If it’s an internal project then there is still an impact: you could finish this project earlier if you didn’t add all the extra bits and move on to work on something else more quickly.
If You are Chasing After Your Budget…
You don’t know how much you are spending and your management team is worried. You cannot tell if there will be any return on investment or if you are going to end up needing more money than has been originally approved.
Lead by: Track your expenses carefully and compare how much you are spending to what you expected to spend at this point in the project. You can only do that if you have put the time in upfront to plan your budget. However, if you didn’t do that, all is not lost. Start now. Plan out how much you think the rest of the project will cost and then start tracking your expenses from today. Compare the actual amounts spent back to your budget at least once a month.
These tips might sound simple but they will put you back in control. Take charge of your project and lead from the front by staying on top of your schedule, team, requirements and budget.
To really show that you’re a leader and not following your project as it rolls out of your hands, then you’ll want to have the proper tools to plan, monitor and report. ProjectManager.com offers you the online and collaborative software suite rich with features that keep your hands on the reigns. Try a free 30-day trial and see for yourself.