“WELL BEGUN IS HALF DONE”, as the Chinese saying goes. We all know the opposite is also true – something started without sufficient preparation is likely to fail, for a variety of reasons. In our business roles, lack of preparation will lead to cost over runs, delays and quality issues. It is vital then that project leaders and managers take the time, especially with tight delivery deadlines, to establish strong foundations on which to build a successful project. Here are a few things that you must do upfront at the start of the project life cycle:
1. Agree a sound business case for your project
It must be crystal clear that senior management has full awareness of the project goals, and have signed off on its value to the company. Ideally, an individual from senior management will be assigned as the ‘Project Owner’, to overview progress and help project leader and manager deal with serious issues. [quote float=”right”]Projects that fail are likely to have started without a firm reason or rationale.[/quote]
Projects that fail are likely to have started without a firm reason or rationale. Reasonable sounding ideas may spring-up from board members or senior management, in response to the market, a customer complaint, or recent company results. A business case will clarify the issues, as well as expected costs of the project, and likely return on investment. It will also formalise senior management support, and make clear that the project fits with the key organisational or departmental strategy.
It’s important, therefore, to involve finance people in putting the business case together. They can be great allies in helping crunch the numbers that should give credibility to your business case.
2. Identify key stakeholders.
Regardless of management sign-off, projects don’t always run smoothly with the full support of the whole company! You will need to take a view on expected areas of support and resistance, and proactively deal with the individuals who have influence on your project.
After identifying who the key stakeholders are, ask the WIIIFM (What’s in it for me?) question. [quote float=”left”]After identifying who the key stakeholders are, ask the WIIIFM (What’s in it for me?) question.[/quote]To some stakeholders, any change is simply more work, more hassle! To get these people’s buy-in, you need to show them that helping you benefits them – how? Because you (or your boss) will then be in their debt; because their workload will be improved after implementation; or because their boss is expecting them to comply!
A good way to generate support from neutral or unsupportive stakeholders is to ask them early what they’d like to see happen as a result of the project. Try to build this in – a stakeholder who sees his suggestions have been included is more likely to cooperate with time or resources.
3. Draft a Project Charter; have all key stakeholders sign off
The Project Charter is a formal document issued by the project sponsor/owner. It endorses the goals of the project and provides the project manager with the delegated authority to apply organisational resources to project activities.
You will no doubt be asking functional managers (who are not perhaps key stakeholders) for ‘their’ resources – people, equipment, space, and so on. An unambiguous and visible charter, that is, one that you have widely distributed, or can refer to, will be all the authority you need to approach managers for help. The bottom-line is, with a project charter, you can escalate resource issues through your line manager and/or project sponsor for senior decision-making.
The key with any technique or tip is – will you take the time (make time on your calendar!) to plan these activities and build a sure footing for your project? Give your next project the greatest chance of success. Before you start designing, work breakdown, scheduling, take a moment and consider these 3 essential matters.
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