By Christine Brack
Principal, Business Planning Consulting
Many firms are glad to be leaving 2011 behind and are casting a warmer, more positive outlook to the New Year. Other firms claim they enjoyed moderate success but are nonetheless planning on making good changes throughout their business.
Transitioning from year to year always brings resolutions to mind. Whether or not you make them in your personal life, they are worth exploring for your organization. We have all made resolutions that didn’t last and yet we have all identified a handful of habits we could drop and practices we could build.
Project management is an area rife with customs and routines that warrant a little more diligence. Improvements there have impacts for the entire firm – both internally and externally. The following is a suggested list of actions you may pledge to work on as part of your New Year’s resolution. They are extracted from my 2011 series of articles in The Zweig Letter. Choose one or two actions and implement them well. Selecting more than two will be overwhelming and commitment will rapidly dwindle.
- Be accurate and timely on timesheets. The only way to really know how you’re performing on a project is through true time reporting. It also assists management in knowing when to hire and lends to greater accuracy in budgeting. Log every hour spent on a project – nothing less and nothing more
- Cut out distractions when barreling toward a deadline. If a few quiet, concentrated hours are what you need to finalize a deliverable or get something critical done: close email, put your phone on silent, block out time segments in your Outlook calendar, shut the door, or place a “do not enter” sign outside your cubicle.
- Stop at three. We have plenty of technology at our disposal, but that doesn’t mean we should hide behind it. And it is especially frustrating when the 12 people on the distribution list have something to say and hit “reply all.” If an email has exceeded three exchanges between all the recipients, it’s time to pick up the phone or meet to resolve the issue.
- Talk more. Speaking of technology and our reliance on it, why not make it a resolution to pick up the phone more and talk to clients, rather than use email? The same goes for your team members just down the hall. Take a walk and have a real project conversation.
- Use the tools. There are many software programs at our disposal purchased off the shelf, and there are several tools I’ve seen firms develop internally. In either case, the number of employees actually using these to their fullest is shockingly low. Learning something new is always a bit daunting but when used as intended, these tools have amazing payoffs. Take the time this year to learn exactly what your Deltek PM module does.
- Get paid for meetings. This industry generally dreads meetings and considers them a waste of time. Made more productive, resulting in a real deliverable or high level solution, meetings suddenly become work sessions of value. The client isn’t going to pay you or the others around the table to fiddle on an iPad while little is discussed or resolved.
- Assess maturity. This one is for firm principals. You cannot overlay or implement intricate or detailed new processes and hope things will turn out well. There are appropriate changes for every level of maturity, so before spearheading any firm-wide resolution this year on your project management system, assess where the program is in the first place.
Beyond this list, think about the ways where you know you could practice better project management because it is something you trip-up on in your own work or project environments. Like any commitment, you need to stay at it until it becomes a habit. Even when you slip a little or have an all-out failure, you should understand that’s all part of the process. The point behind any resolution is to stop something not helpful or to make something better. If you don’t have something to work on, what’s that saying about your development as a project manager? Good luck and Happy New Year. I hope it is a happy and prosperous one for you!