Project Manager Success

This web-published article by Michael Greer is an excerpt from "Chapter 6: Planning and Managing Human Performance Technology Projects," Handbook of Human Performance Technology, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1999

1. Project managers must focus on three dimensions of project success

Simply put, project success means completing all project deliverables on time, within budget, and to a level of quality that is acceptable to sponsors and stakeholders. The project manager must keep the team's attention focused on achieving these broad goals.

2. Planning is everything – and ongoing

On one thing all PM texts and authorities agree: The single most important activity that project managers engage in is planning — detailed, systematic, team-involved plans are the only foundation for project success. And when real-world events conspire to change the plan, project managers must make a new one to reflect the changes. So planning and replanning must be a way of life for project managers.

3. Project managers must feel, and transmit to their team members, a sense of urgency

Because projects are finite endeavors with limited time, money, and other resources available, they must be kept moving toward completion. Since most team members have lots of other priorities, it's up to the project manager to keep their attention on project deliverables and deadlines. Regular status checks, meetings, and reminders are essential.

4. Successful projects use a time-tested, proven project life cycle

We know what works. Models such as the standard ISD model and others described in this text can help ensure that professional standards and best practices are built into our project plans. Not only do these models typically support quality, they help to minimize rework. So when time or budget pressures seem to encourage taking short cuts, it's up to the project manager to identify and defend the best project life cycle for the job.

5. All project deliverables and all project activities must be visualized and communicated in vivid detail

In short, the project manager and project team must early on create a tangible picture of the finished deliverables in the minds of everyone involved so that all effort is focused in the same direction. Avoid vague descriptions at all costs; spell it out, picture it, prototype it, and make sure everyone agrees to it.

6. Deliverables must evolve gradually, in successive approximations

It simply costs too much and risks too much time spent in rework to jump in with both feet and begin building all project deliverables. Build a little at a time, obtain incremental reviews and approvals, and maintain a controlled evolution.

7. Projects require clear approvals and sign-off by sponsors

Clear approval points, accompanied by formal sign-off by sponsors, SMEs, and other key stakeholders, should be demarcation points in the evolution of project deliverables. It's this simple: anyone who has the power to reject or to demand revision of deliverables after they are complete must be required to examine and approve them as they are being built.