Recovering a Project

21 August, 2014

Here at Velopi, we are often asked: why is project management training needed? There are many Project Managers out there who are managing just fine, steering projects to successful conclusions without ever studying the subject formally. This is true, but you will notice that such Project Managers become adept at managing a particular type of project in a particular environment. They could find themselves in charge of version 2.0 of a software product and move on to v3.0 and v4.0. They might be in charge of a house construction project and go on to guide other construction projects all the way to retirement.

However, where project management training, such as obtaining the Project Management Professional (PMP)® accreditation, justifies itself is when the environment changes and carefully learned techniques no longer apply. Project management training offers the practitioner a framework to manage all types of projects and the knowledge to apply a wider range of tools and techniques depending on circumstances.

A good example of where the versatile Project Management Professional can apply this training is when asked to take over a failing project. In such cases, the new Project Manager can be faced with seemingly endless problems, appearing on all fronts. The team could be demoralized and not working effectively; there might not actually be a schedule written down anywhere; equipment and materials might have been purchased that were not suitable for the job. The untrained Project Manager may be tempted to enter fire-fighting mode and try to tackle symptoms rather than the actual decease. Another problem for the untrained Project Manager is a tendency to tackle problems at random – being very busy but totally ineffective.

Compare this to the PMP® who will quickly call the team together to learn the current status. S/he will firstly focus on the work to be done. Project Scope Management is the foundation of any project and the PMP® will sort this out as a priority. What are we supposed to achieve in this project? What have we done to date? What can we realistically get done in the time remaining? Focusing on tangible outcomes will help to galvanize the project team. This is well understood in the literature – the work itself is the primary motivator – so focusing on what the team needs to do to achieve success should be your first priority.

Defining what needs to be done and determining the current status will also provide reassurance to the Project Sponsor and senior management. They always get nervous when the Project Manager does not appear to be in control. Similarly, other project stakeholders, such as customers, will need to be alerted to the situation. For the rescuing Project Manager, the problems can be expressed objectively, but the critical step is that they are explained to the stakeholders and the consequences of the problems are clearly articulated. This is Project Stakeholder Management and would appear to the fire-fighting amateur to be a waste of effort. However, flagging problems is a very useful way of getting assistance from other parts of the organization. Also, most stakeholders have a clear grasp of reality and will accept a smaller deliverable on the basis that their original requirements cannot, realistically, be achieved.

Now that the Project Manager knows what to do and when everyone concerned is appraised of the situation, s/he can start serious work on re-planning the project. The Project Manager needs to create a Work Breakdown Structure and assign team members to work packages. Again, this provides clarity and involves the team in the planning process. The Project Manager must ensure that a change control process is in place, to prevent scope creep down the line. Of course, acceptance criteria need to be established, so the team knows what quality standard to aim for.

Knowing what to do, the Project Manager can set about creating the schedule and determining the budget. These activities will identify various risks – the factors that make our pessimistic estimates longer than our optimistic ones, for instance. This means that Project Risk Management work needs to be done. Similarly, the Estimate Activity Resources process, that is part of Project Time Management, may require purchases to be made and triggers Project Procurement Management activities.

In essence, formal project management training allows the practitioner to cope with the unexpected. Those Project Managers who have come up through the ranks are often very adept at a particular type of project, but have never distilled their actions and isolated the fundamental steps that apply to all project types and situations.

Velopi’s project management training courses will equip experienced Project Managers with the skills to handle generic projects and inexperienced people, who would like to grow into a project management role, with a sound framework to put their future experience into context. If this is of interest to you, our project management certification courses are held in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. Find out more by visiting our training page or by contacting us directly.

 

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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