The holidays are over and another calendar year has begun. Projects are behind us, the election is behind us – but plans and goals lie ahead.
As leaders, we certainly know that growth is more than just revenue. Growth is also personal, professional, and organizational improvement. The best place you can dedicate emphasis for change this year is in the area of project management.
The following is a recap of suggested actions you can try to implement immediately. These ideas are extracted from my 2012 series of articles in The Zweig Letter . Choose one or two and make the best of them. If you've been successful at implementing some ideas this year, try for more. Knowing how good it feels to make changes that stick is a big boost to organizational confidence and makes additional changes in practice so much easier.
Reduce everything that has "project" written on it. Firms have too many people they call "project managers" reading too many project reports for too many "open" projects. Define what it truly means to be a project manager and designate only those who can shoulder those responsibilities and know where a project stands without having to crank out reams of paper.
View mistakes positively. Science and research tell us people learn more from making mistakes than through doing something correctly. So given that we are all far from perfect, we must have learned a lot by now. In your organization, this likely falls under the category of "lessons learned." Make a habit of sharing these lessons. And more importantly, really make time for quality checks so you are the only ones that see the mistakes – not the client.
Synchronize marketing and project management. When selling your services, you enthusiastically try to out wordsmith the next firm with claims of being client oriented, fast-track and agile, innovative solutions providers, and trusted advisors. Be mindful that these descriptors come with promises you will actually have to deliver (quick turnarounds) and will generally always cost more money than you planned (more meetings, more calls, more everything). Check how your marketing slogan may quietly be gobbling up your fee.
Set a purpose for training. Our industry thrives on gathering knowledge and we push to be experts through more and more learning. However, project management training won't cure a weak system – whether one manager sits through a session or several do. Give strong consideration for everyone that touches a project to learn best practices – then the entire team can really work in harmony. And just as firm leaders continue to beat the drum on marketing efforts or the strategic plan, relevant and useful aspects of project management should be a regular conversation piece.
Don't be broken down by the bad days. I imagine you had more lousy days than you anticipated this year. Sometimes it seemed there simply wasn't a way out or a solution in sight. No one is a superhero. So if you lack the strength to get through, please try any combination of the following to tide you over: vent to a balanced, disconnected person; do something to treat yourself kindly; get some fresh air and breathe deeply; get some exercise and move about; and, finally, just start over in the morning. Clearer minds always prevail.
This list does not even exhaust the small places where project management can be improved, so it's worth thinking of what is unique to your firm and pledge to change. Even when you slip a little or have an all-out failure, keep in mind that it is all part of the process. You have the ability and opportunity to start again tomorrow. We commit to resolutions to break a bad habit or improve. Good luck and happy 2013. I hope it is a prosperous year for you!
Christine Brack, PMP, is a principal with ZweigWhite specializing in business planning and project management best practices. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.