Project managers know that delivering a project late is problematic. In some cases, customers are willing to accept going over-budget, but behind schedule is tolerated much less. For example, let’s assume that our project is to prepare a venue for a global conference. We need to ensure that the meeting rooms have the proper arrangement, the audio/visual equipment is working right, the caterers are confirmed, and so on. As you can see, there’s little wiggle room here. If any part of this project is late, it will cause a cascading effect. We might be able to negotiate on the equipment and menu, but the convention is scheduled for a certain date, and all aspects that we control must be ready to go by Day 1.
Only Accept a Schedule We Can Meet
It’s easy to accept new work when it’s offered, especially if the price is to our liking. However, the leadership team must ensure they have the resources to meet the requirements. The possibility of taking on the work and outsourcing as necessary is an option. However, be aware that risks are incurred when work is assigned to an external company. The bottom line is that our organization is fully accountable for the deliverable, even if we hire contractors to assist with the project.
The final decision about whether to accept any project should be made after getting feedback from project managers, departmental managers, subject matter experts (SMEs), and the people who will do the work. By getting feedback from these stakeholders, the leaders are more likely to make the right decision. The other important benefit of seeking guidance is that buy-in increases when key stakeholders participate in the decision-making process.
Create a Realistic Schedule
I was recently teaching a corporate class to a client in the financial industry, and I asked the following question: “What process do you use to create a project schedule.” I was surprised that there were no comments by any of the participants. I asked the question again, and finally a response was provided: “We just start working on it, and deliver the work when we’re done.” From my training and consulting experience, I know that many project managers fail to create a schedule. Think about it … if we have no schedule, how do we know that the project is on track? The answer is that we don’t know, and we are merely delivering work when the customer, sponsor, executive, or manager wants to see how the project is coming along.
The project manager should work closely with the customer to know the due date for the product, service, or result. Once the requirements are collected from the stakeholders, the scope is defined. The next step is to create the work breakdown structure (WBS), which is a hierarchical representation of the project’s activities. The project is decomposed to the work package level. This decomposition process (i.e., dividing and subdividing) will ensure the work is clearly defined, which means that the right person (or company) can be assigned to do the right work at the right time.
Staying on schedule is difficult. The project team must be diligent along the way. When it’s obvious that the project is falling behind, the project manager must inform the customer. Of course, it’s imperative to have a contingency plan in place to get back on schedule. Remember that delivering on time is a must.