Project Management: Closing out the Project

What are the barriers to properly closing out a project?

With almost all of the project in the rear view mirror, it’s easy to be tempted to coast across the finish line. A desire to move on to whatever is next can sometimes get in the way of properly closing out a project.

Why is it important to properly close out the project?

The project close out is an important final step because it closes out any remaining items related to the project. Closing out a project communicates to owners and stakeholders that you are committed to every aspect of the project and instills confidence in a job well done. It is the final act that punctuates a project.

How can you successfully close out a project?

Request. Communicate with stakeholders and see if there are any open issues on their end that you can take care of.

Review. Evaluate your scope and deliverables to make sure you met your goals.

Report. Provide a close out report to the owners. This should include any important project related documents.

How can you use these steps to close out your projects? 

Project Management: The Punchlist

What are the barriers to properly executing a punch list?

As it is with so many other areas of the project, time is a commodity that is in short supply towards the end of a project. This is the primary reason that a punchlist is often not performed or underperformed.

Why is it important to exedute a punch list?

The punchlist is your final checklist for the project. Completing it is important to make sure that your project is as complete as it can be. It is important to include representatives from the stakeholders, management and the implementation team in this process.  The key step is not making the list; it is competing the tasks on the punchlist. This ensures an acceptable final product.

How can you successfully achieve substantial completion?

Gather.  Gather your entire team together to review the current status of the project.

Go over. Make a list of any outstanding items that must be completed in order I close out the project.  

Get it done. Now complete the tasks on the list. This execution step is the key component to the punchlist process. 

How can you use the punchlist process to deliver a better project?

Project Management: Achieving Substantial Completion

What are the barriers to properly achieving substantial completion?

Hang in there! You are almost there! Your project is nearing completion, but you want to finish strong. It can be tempting to start to let loose of the reigns as the project moves into the 11th hour. You might become less diligent in your previously scheduled tasks such as communicating, coordinating, or tracking key metrics.

Why is it important to achieve substantial completion?

Substantial completion is the point in time in which the project is complete “enough” to begin the project closeout phase. Depending on your project type, substantial completion will often result in either limited implementation or beta deployment. This allows you to begin moving towards your final goal. This will be characterized in many different ways depending on your project, but it might look like some of the following things: moving into a new building, launching a new program or software, deploying a new process.

How can you successfully achieve substantial completion?

Communicate. Keep key stakeholders and leaders in the loop regularly. Stick  to the frequencies and methods you agreed to at the beginning of your project.

Coordinate. Work closely with everyone who you will need in order to complete your project. Maintain consistency in the timing and methods you utilize to accomplish this.

Collect. Measure key data to evaluate the performance of your project.

How can you use these concepts to help achieve substantial completion?

Project Management: Change Management

What are the barriers to properly handling change in the project?

Changes always come at a cost. The cost can be quantified in one of three categories: hard dollar costs, schedule delays, or decreased quality in the the final product. On their own, none of these are desirable outcomes. Therefore, managing change within a project can be a complex task.

Why is change management an important function?

While changes result in more work (especially paper work), they are often necessary and relatively unavoidable. If the change is necessary to deliver a better end product, then we must have a system to evaluate the potential change as well as manage the impacts of the change to the project scope.

How can you succesfully manage changes in scope?

Evaluate potential changes. All proposed changes should present a net additional value to the end product that outweighs the costs necessary to execute the change.

Discuss with stakeholders. All changes that impact stakeholders should be discussed with them before given final approval.

Execute the change. Once you’ve determined that the proposed change adds value and the necessary stakeholders are on board, it’s time to implement the change.

How can you use these concepts to better handle change management within a project? 

Project Management: Data Capture

What are the barriers to capturing data?

In an environment where the key driver is usually progress towards completion, taking time and expending energy to count things might not always seem like the best use of time.

Why is data capture an important function?

Put simply, measuring your progress is integral to properly evaluating your progress. Every project is built on presumptions about items such as cost, schedule and resource allocation. These were the tenants of the case that was made to obtain approval to begin the project. Therefore, we must develop methods of capturing data to compare our performance with our projections. The goal isn’t just completion, but to be successful, we must achieve this within the framework of the metrics we have chosen to measure.

How can you succesfully capture data?

Define your data. At the outset, establish what metrics you will track. Each project will have different indicators that are important to evaluating its success.

Collect your data. Some data will be readily available and other data will not. Processes need to be implemented to facilitate the routine collection of the metrics identified in step one.

Evaluate your data. Evaluating the numbers is the most objective analysis you have of your performance. Use it to guide your decision making as the project progresses.

How can you use these concepts to improve data collecation and performance?

Project Management: Stakeholder Communication

What are the barriers to good stakeholder communication?

It’s easy to forget about our stakeholders once the project is in full swing! We become engrossed in managing the execution of the work and fail to properly communicate with those we are serving. Also, stakeholder communication can be difficult. Techniques have to be developed to communicate technical or job specific things with an audience that isn’t always well-versed in the details.

Why is stakeholder communication important?

Stakeholder communication is important because customer satisfaction is the proof of a joh well done in project management. Many stakeholders are key decision makers and influencers and we must ensure that the projects we deliver meet their expectations.

How can you properly communicate with stakeholders?

Set Expectations. The best way to figure out the type of communication your stakeholders desire is to ask! Don’t be bashful. Identify your audience and solicit their input about what they want to know as the project progresses.

Set Frequency. Establish a routine for your communication. Different stakeholders may want different things, so make sure you cover your bases with each of them.

Be Consistent. Failing to meet your commitments for communication will cause your stakeholders to lose trust. If you can’t deliver on something as simple as an update, how can you handle a complex project delivery?

Note: Stakeholder communication and coordination of work can occur at the same time if this format and frequency is both efficifent and acceptable for everyone involved. However, it is both acceptable as well as common for them to occur separately.

How can you use these methods to improve stakeholder communication?

 

Project Management: Coordinating Work

What are the barriers to coordinating work?

We want to guard against being a micro-manager, but we can’t let that fear prevent us from coordinating the work that goes on. We also can’t take such a hands off approach that we don’t ensure that the work is being completed in an efficient and timely manner. The desire to avoid these two ends of the spectrum can sometimes cause us to miss the mark all together with coordination.

Why coordinate the work?

Put simply – the work won’t coordinate itself! As the person responsible for the outcome of the project, you must find the right balance of influence and observation. Too little influence and the project drifts off schedule or budget. Too much, and you might over complicate the situation. Coordination of work is the actual effort made to align the different resources to achieve the desired result. This is different than stakeholder communication (which we will discuss next week), though the two can sometimes occur in conjunction.

How can you properly coordinate?

Set Expectations. Make sure that everyone knows what you expect when it comes to coordination. What kind of information do you want? Which decisions need to be routed through you?

Set Frequency. Establish a regularly scheduled method to coordinate the work. This might be daily, weekly, or monthly meetings and/or discussions. Most often, it is a combination of some or all of the above.

Be Consistent. Follow your plan. Stick to your schedule for coordination as well as your methods. Deviating will impede your ability to get timely information and ultimately deliver a successful project.

How can you use these methods to better coordinate work?

Project Management: Mobilization

What are the barriers to mobilizing?

The barriers are simple. All of the tasks leading up to putting boots on the ground can make you feel like your project has been bogged down. However tedious they may seem, a successful project is one that is well planned and well supported. If you have followed the steps leading up to this, you should be ready to cross the threshold from planning to execution.

Why mobilize?

You mobilize because it is the step that you have been waiting for since your project was just an idea! A concept that you either came up with or accepted because you believed in the merits of it. You believed that if planned and executed successfully, it would lead to better outcomes and results. Mobilization is the first (and biggest) step in seeing this project move from an idea to a reality.

How can you properly mobilize?

Organize. You have taken the time to craft a plan that will help you be successful. Now it is time to organize your resources in accordance with your plan. Gather the people who will help you execute your plan and help them prepare.

Communicate. Be sure that key stakeholders know that it is time to get things moving. Not only will they be excited, but they can also help you make sure that you’re moving according to the plan you created. Review the next steps with them and make sure that conditions have not changed.

Act. Go! This is the time you have been waiting for. It’s time to put your plan to action. Put boots on the ground. Put shovels in the dirt. Get your project started.

How can you use this strategy to be successful?

Project Management: Making the Case

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the barriers to making the case?

Making the case is something that inherently implies that you might not be successful. When it comes to pitching your peoject, you can’t be afraid of your audience or the potential outcome. You aren’t defined by their decision any more than they are.

Why make the case?

The answer to this is almost always a practical one. The decision makers control the funding for your project! While that’s an obvious reason to support making your case, you also want their buy in for the project. Their support will steady the ship as your project moves from beginning to completion

How can you properly make the case?

Be knowledgeable. Know your project better than anyone. This is more than just knowing the upshot of the project. You should know the reasonable objections too.

Be reasonable. Decision makers want to support someone they trust to make good decisions. Your pitch should be objective and honest. Focus on facts and figures that you can reasonably achieve.

Be confident. No one knows your project better than you! When you make the case, rest in that and be confident in your presentation.

How can you use this strategy in making your next case?

Project Management: Proper Resource Assessment

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the barriers to assessing your resources?

First, we must define what our resources are. They most often fall into three categories: time, material, and labor. Once we know this, we must determine which of these we have direct control over. Many times, we will have control over some, but not all of these resources. There are two major barriers to performing a proper resource assessment. We either misunderstand what we have control over or we are too concerned with getting the project moving that we skip this step completely.

What is the case for performing a proper resource assessment?

Now that we have a scope of work and we have identified a project champion, we must begin the process of laying out our roadmap for success. The first stop on that path is to determine if you have fixed or flexible resources. We can quickly determine whether or not we have fixed or flexible resources by asking a few questions.

  1. Does my project have a definitive start and/or finish date?
  2. Does my project have a defined budget?
  3. Can the schedule of my project be accelerated by adding more people?

These three questions will help us determine how to properly evaluate our resources by helping us establish project constraints. Things like schedule, cost, and manpower are variables that we can use to quantify resources. Once we have broken our project down into quantifiable resources, we have the baseline for something that we can measure. Our success can then be measured by these metrics.

How can you properly assess resources?

Our assessment is performed by evaluating the scope of work through the lens of these three metrics.

  1. Schedule. How much time is necessary to complete the project?
  2. Cost. What is the monetary cost of performing this work? Does the cost have a proportional relationship to the schedule? (i.e. Will it cost more to get done faster? Less if it takes longer?
  3. Manpower. How many people will it take to complete the project given the established schedule and cost constraints.

It is important to understand that each of these three have a relationship that can vary between projects. Because of this, there is not a specific order for the assessment. The assessment should start with the variables that are fixed since they are bound by constraints that have been established by someone outside the project.

How can you use this strategy successfully?