Project managers are taught that if they spend hours developing a good clear and structured project plan, then their project has a better chance of success. Whilst the plan might ‘contribute’ to the success of a project by ensuring that tasks are defined, or at least listed, and there is some method for how the project is going to be run, the plan is only as good as your communication of it.
COMMUNICATION – is the key word for me, in any project management.
No matter how good and complete your project plan, if the team that are working for you, (and I say ‘for you’ because you ARE the ‘manager’ of this team), don’t fully understand your expectations of them, then how can they hope to deliver their individual parts of the project.
You, as the manager of the project, need to deliver clear messages to each and everyone of your team around the contents of your plan. You can do this by:
1. Holding team meetings (regularly): Team meetings give team members the opportunity to(a) hear what is being proposed and (b) openly voice any concerns that they have about their tasks, or for that matter any aspect of the project. If you hold open meetings, where everyone is involved, it is amazing what can happen:
- You might receive suggestions on how things could be achieved in a simpler and easier way;
- People may voice their concerns, which allows risks to be identified and treated early on (rather than waiting until they occur);
- Issues may be laid on the table, which again, has meant that they could be dealt with, to find solutions;
- Resourcing issues are called out, so that it gives you (as the project manager) the chance to find solutions to this problem and gain support from you sponsor/steering committee.
Each of these things can be a catalyst in having your project plan tasks met. Time constraints are know up front, and dealt with. Slippage is planned into team work, so that the overall end date doesn’t have to move. Open and clear communication makes it simpler to meet the challenges that arise in a project head on, and resolve them, with team work.
2. Send out emails to the team for advice: It is important that all team members know what’s expected of them. Putting key outputs, and expectations in writing is very important. Team members then have the ability to confirm that they are clear on what’s expected of them, or question the expectation and voice any concerns.
3. Only communicate what is necessary from the project plan to the team: Not every team member needs your 765 line project plan. It is going to confuse them, and they will get to the point of not using it as a tracking tool. Communicate in the simplest way to each team/team member exactly what their deliverables are AND make sure that they understand if there are dependencies on them which impact others in the overall project team. Here clear communication is paramount.
What you achieve by doing this is a well functioning team who not only know what each of their roles and tasks are, but also how what they are doing fits into the overall bigger picture of the project outcome.
If, for instance a team member finishes a task early, isn’t it better for him to tap the person waiting on his output on the shoulder to say “it’s all yours”. Because he knows that that other person is waiting on his output, time can be gained on the project.
If the person completing the task didn’t know that someone else was dependent on his output, then he might sit around for days not telling anyone (until you ask him at the weekly/fortnightly team meeting for an update) and you’ve then lost those extra days.
The bottom line is.. create your project plan, but make sure that it’s a team tool, well communicated to the right people in the right way, and you are on the way to a successful project.
Written by Karen Munro