Critical Paths – Love ‘em or Hate ‘em? 4 Steps to successfully manage a Project

You’ve been put in charge of a Project – so you create your Critical Path. There are deadlines to meet. You are now accountable! Results are being measured and faults bared! Do you suddenly feel vulnerable and exposed?

The ‘Great Plan’!

But … right at the beginning it’s all exciting and new! Creating the ‘Great Plan’ – a Critical Path with target dates all in sync and items colour coded. Everyone seems happy to collaborate; to participate in the ‘latest project’, the high profile brainstorming sessions with its approved budget, it could even be said … its fun!

Then reality hits …

Other people’s priorities change, they have move on. They are busy creating their own ‘Great Plan’s’. Meanwhile, you are stuck with managing a project and UPDATING the critical path. You start to suspect that not many people read them!

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  1.  MAKE IT EASY

Use the starting energy of a project to get agreement on:

Key Milestones : Have clear goals throughout the project. This will eradicate unnecessary work and minimise last minute surprises.

Template for Critical Path and Reporting : Show progress in a clear and concise fashion. Consider the readers – do they track via facts, figures, colour or graphics? Adjust the output appropriately.

Contingency : Build contingency in at the start. And don’t forget holidays. Different countries have different bank holidays. Obvious, yes, but easily forgotten and at critical times during the project can make a big impact.

Budget : Regularly review the budget. Create a forecast to explain changes; budgetary issues are one of the biggest reasons a project will fail. Research and provide alternatives and options for discussion.

vivid violet blog CTP Baby2.  WORK SMARTER

Get disciplined! If you are unused to managing a project under such scrutiny, start with good intentions and stick with them.

Update as you go!

Do not make updating your Critical Path a massive weekly task. Leaving it to the night before will put you under significantly more pressure and things get forgotten. Have updated information readily at your fingertips.

Be Organised & Accessible

  • File your Critical Paths centrally so people can access it in your absence. Password protect it ‘read only’.
  • Ensure your system is backed up daily.
  • Date each release clearly so the reader knows they are looking at the latest version.
  • Mark it as ‘original’, so unauthorised copies can be disregarded.
  • Keep accompanying data on your server (not personal hard drive / desktop).
  • Be consistent in your folder and file naming. You’ll be able to find things quicker and easier, as will others (it’ll help stop that incessant questioning “where can I find …?”
  • Refer to these additional resources in your Critical Path – it keeps the Critical Path uncluttered and simple.
  • Ensure traceability of decision making, so when queries are raised, the answers are readily available.

Have a ‘To Do List’

Not in your head! Write it down. It helps sort out priorities. There is nothing more satisfying than crossing items off to see progress being made.

Have regular Project Meetings

Do not rely on sending out your Critical Path by email each week to communicate progress – it may get missed.

  • Keep meetings short and focussed. Have an Agenda.
  • Get the right people to attend.
  • Discuss AND RESOLVE issues.
  • Ensure decisions are made.
  • Delegate actions.

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3.  DEAL WITH THINGS WHEN THEY GO WRONG

  • Stop negativity at source.
  • Ignore comparisons made between you and your colleagues, differences in ability etc. Your priority is this project!
  • Be flexible, adapt to change with a minimum of fuss. If time is critical, debates can come later!
  • Take criticism on the chin. Be pragmatic. People will always make mistakes, the secret is to learn from them!
  • Don’t wait a week to issue your Critical Path if a MAJOR issue has occurred, draw peoples attention to it IMMEDIATELY.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate … Highlight issues in a covering email to get attention – summarise big changes.

 4.  DON’T PRESUME ANYTHING – STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE

  • Persist and question. Don’t be scared of asking a ‘silly’ question. Its better to be absolutely clear on detail.
  • Talk to people who have managed projects before. Ask them to mentor you.
  • Be proactive, not reactive.

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Finally at the end of the project, it’s important to have a review with colleagues. Look at what went well and what didn’t! Measure achievements and identify personal development. If you need further training, ask for it! Most importantly, take this knowledge and experience into your next project!

  • Make it easy
  • Work Smarter
  • Deal with things when they go wrong
  • Don’t presume anything – strive for excellence

 

 

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