6 Things You Can Do To Get Your Work Projects Done On Time
Managing integration projects is tough. When you depend on others to provide you with key information or deliverables, it feels as if you are at their mercy. If you don’t get along with people you depend on, it makes things worse. Without other team members meeting their obligations to you, it may not be possible for you to get your job done. In the end, you may get a poor grade at performance evaluation time and/or a reduction in your bonus.
Some people seem to lead a charmed life in this type of role. The get what they need. They finish on time. They get major kudos and rewards. Here are 6 things you can do to be that person.
Hold a Project Kickoff with Key stakeholders
When you kick off the project, get the team together and explain clearly what the project goals and schedule are. Clarify the importance of everyone’s role. Discuss the critical path and give a shout out to everyone that owns a significant piece of the work.
Ask for the team to identify where your timeline needs to be adjusted, and to identify risks to meeting cost, schedule and performance.
Squeak in a professional and persistent manner
The old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease is really true. In order to get something – you have to ask for it. However, the way that you ask for it is important.
If you get angry and blame others for the things they are failing to do for your project, this may cause them to decide that your priority is lower than someone else’s. You may become known as someone people don’t wish to work with.
Checking in with your team on a regular basis can help grease the skids if you do it correctly. For example, stopping by their desk and talking informally for a couple of minutes before asking about your task will put you on a more friendly level. People don’t like to short their pals.
Caution: Don’t be fake about it. It will actually cause you to lose ground if others think they are being played. Remember that car salesman that schmoozed you and then tried to sell you a clunker? Don’t be that guy! Try to really connect with your team. You may find a friend and trusted colleague, and it will pay dividends in the future. Be genuine.
Put time in your schedule to make the rounds of your team on a regular basis to see how they are doing, and get a status of your project. Management by Walking Around is an old concept – but it is a good one. It doesn’t just apply to functional managers. It is even more important for project managers.
If you don’t schedule time to nurture relationships with the people you depend on, and get a feel for how their tasks are proceeding you WILL get surprised the day their product does not show up. Surprise is rarely a good thing.
Caution: Don’t come by every day making the same small talk and demanding a status. If yesterday your colleague told you his wife is newly pregnant, chances are she has not had the baby yet. Recognize that they may have other tasks, and give them time and room to get all their priorities addressed. In fact, it is sometimes a good idea to ask them about their other tasks so that you have a better idea what they are dealing with and how it might affect your project.
Set an atmosphere of mutual expectation
Be genuine and polite but clarify expectations for cost, schedule and content. Your relationships up and down the chain are two way. Only when people see you as accepting your responsibilities for what they need, will they accept responsibility for getting you what you need. Be open an understanding about their conflicts, but engage them in defining ways to meet objectives in spite of obstacles.
Caution: Do not threaten! Telling someone that you will be posting their progress as RED on the company dashboard for the upcoming Leadership Status Review may get you a response once – but in the long run will make them less willing to work with you. Also, you will gain a reputation as a back stabber organization wide.
Hold periodic status reviews with key stakeholders
It is helpful to get all the major contributors to the project together periodically to discuss the status of the project, give them insight into the bigger picture, address progress, and ask people for feedback on how you can do better.
When someone is behind, ask them if there is something the team can do to help them get back on track. Building team spirit, keeping everyone informed about the bigger picture and emphasizing teamwork can dramatically impact how well your project goes.
Don’t surprise your Boss!
Give your boss and the customer regular updates on how things are going. Share the triumphs – but share the risks as well. This builds credibility and trust. Also, you have the opportunity to get their buy in on key decisions – and sometimes the boss can even offer some good ideas that you did not think about to tackle roadblocks (!).
Never surprise your boss with a major catastrophe unless it is unavoidable. If you come into the bosses office 8 months into the project saying that you can’t meet the schedule, and have never before indicated any concerns or reported any risks, she will be rightfully angry.
Don’t Use Progress Reporting as a Weapon
Your team and your boss should all understand how and what you will be reporting with respect to project progress. Progress reporting should be clear and credible. Do not use reporting to punish un-compliant team members or stragglers.
It is fair to say that a particular task is behind. It is not fair to say that this is because Fred refuses to take action. You are not trying to shield Fred from scrutiny for being late – but you are also not throwing Fred under the bus.
When performance reporting is objective, credible, and consistent – individuals feel pressure but not blame. If a question about their work comes up, they are free to explain the reasons for the delay and plans they have to catch back up.
The Golden Rule
Overall, keep it calm, keep it optimistic, Stress teamwork and open communication and don’t be a jerk! The golden rule applies to teams – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When you break the rule – you lose out on the gold.