Staying on top of projects requires communication and accountability

project management

We found out projects that we thought were done, weren’t. Other projects weren’t done profitably. How do we get control?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Build tools to track your work. Use checks and balances. Hold a weekly project review meeting. Formally hand off every job at the beginning and at the end. Make profitability an accountability with teeth.

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Organization Structure Stops Duplication

One of the biggest reasons for project failure is that no one believes failure is an option. Learn to play defense as well as offense.

We have a bunch of unproductive overlap. Our people are assigned in teams to care for accounts. Sometimes the skills needed for the clients are on another team. Sometimes one team gets busy, another team pitches in, and we end up duplicating efforts. I don’t want our clients to be confused about who takes care of them. And we can’t afford to waste time and effort. I’m not sure how to clean things up.

Managing multiple clients with multiple teams can get challenging. Define the skills of each team. Profile clients in terms of skills need to serve them. Document actions – a routine for handling accounts. Regularly schedule project management meetings. Use automation tools to speed up record keeping and information exchange.

Ask each team to list what they’re especially good at. Have teams list additional skills they would like to have, to better serve their clients. Identify individuals who are “masters” of particular skills, that all teams can draw upon if needed.

Profile all accounts. Check if they are assigned to the right team, matching team skills to specific client needs. Identify where and when clients may need support from teams not currently assigned to support them. This would be where “masters” step in to perform a specific task for a client not usually assigned to their team. Masters may also set up time to teach another team about their unique skills.

Standardize how your staff performs. If you think in broad enough terms, your teams do many of the same general things for each client. Look at the clients and teams that flow the smoothest. Identify what it is about those situations that works well. Try to replicate that in a process that can be applied to other situations.

Define timeframes for routine tasks. At the start of each project, lay out a timeline, estimating start to finish deadlines. Publish the timeline and bring it to each staff meeting to report on progress. If things are behind, include some time to brainstorm how to get the project back on track.

Lay out an organization structure and chain of command, so that everyone is clear who to go to for what. Identify team leaders who keep track of all clients and projects assigned to their teams. If all team members are equally skilled, consider rotating the job of project manager, to keep everyone engaged. Eventually have the strongest project managers split off to form new teams, in order to meet the demand for additional client services.

Regularly schedule meetings. Have teams review what they’ve been working on, to reduce gaps in information flow. Set up a basic agenda:

  • List all accounts / projects: recently completed, active, upcoming; report on status of each.
  • Identify glitches: behind schedule, missing information, need additional help, potential overlap of duties, etc.
  • Brainstorm how to help solve the glitches – all teams get involved.
  • Define next steps, who’s responsible, by when the tasks will be completed, who will communicate on cross-team actions.
  • Confirm next meeting date.

Use software to record and flow information across teams. Project management software systems allow you to document the typical steps of a project, and track how individual projects are progressing. At the very least, set up a form in word or excel to record activities by client. Ensure files are available to everyone in the company, whether they work out of headquarters, a field office, or home. Attach all client documents to the file, so that anyone working on the client, or looking for a solution to a similar situation, can access the data.

Debrief projects – successful and unsuccessful. Often we learn the most from our failures and mistakes. Ask teams to present on what went right, what went wrong, what they learned, and what they would do different next time.

Looking for a good book? Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, by Harold Kerzner.

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Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., www.StrategyLeaders.com, a business consulting firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurial firms grow. She can be reached by phone at 877-238-3535. Do you have a question for Andi?  Please send it to her, via e-mail at AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com or by mail to Andi Gray, Strategy Leaders Inc., 5 Crossways, Chappaqua, NY 10514. Visit www.AskAndi.com for an entire library of Ask Andi articles.

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