In today’s business world, organizations large and small are exploring ways to improve how they initiate, select, plan, track, collaborate and report on key initiatives — or projects. While these initiatives may differ in size and scope from those being worked on by your city, town or agency, government entities can benefit greatly from some of the same methods that have evolved into the professional discipline known as Project Management. Government projects can include anything from running public events, to developing an RFP, to implementing new software, to managing outside building contractors and everything in-between.
If your department does not currently use repeatable processes and tools for managing its project-based work, you’re not alone. Project Management is a journey, not a destination, and every organization, public or private, must chart its own course over time, that balances structure with flexibility and supports the attainment of the entity’s over-arching goals and objectives.
Enhancing Project Efficiencies
Listed below are four simple steps that your organization can adopt in the coming weeks and months to see an increase in the number of projects that are delivered on-time, on-budget and at high quality:
- Capture Lessons Learned. While every project may be unique in its own way, there are undoubtedly projects that your team takes on that are similar to efforts in the past. Regardless of whether those projects were ultimately considered successful, there were certainly some things that went well and some things that did not. What positive actions or experiences can be leveraged to ensure similar success in the future? What can be learned from issues that occurred? Holding a formal 60-90 minute “Lessons Learned” meeting at the completion of every project (or “post mortem”, as it’s sometimes referred to) can be an invaluable tool for exploring, documenting and learning from keys or barriers to success that can be incorporated into planning and executing similar projects in the future.
- Assess Project Risks. You’ve likely heard the term Risk Management applied in the world of finance, insurance or disaster recovery planning. Did you know there’s a simple, yet powerful process called Project Risk Management that you can apply to your department’s projects? As we all know, issues can and do occur during the course of a project. A project risk is simply an issue that hasn’t occurred yet. In as little as 30-60 minutes at the onset of your project, you and your team should follow this risk-planning formula:
- Brainstorm potential issues that might occur. (NOTE: The focus here is generating a list of issues. Be sure to identify root causes and not outcomes in this step.)
- Review the list and assign an impact rating of 1 (low) to 5 (high) of the impact to the project if this risk were to occur.
- Then go over the list again and assign a probability rating of 1 (low) to 5 (high) of the probability that each risk will occur.
- Multiply the impact value by the probability value to get an aggregate risk score
- Draft mitigation strategies for avoiding or minimizing the top 3-5 risks on the list
- Analyze and Communicate with Stakeholders. Speaking of risks, one risk that is common to ALL projects is poor stakeholder identification, analysis and communications planning. Stakeholders are defined as “persons and organizations such as customers, sponsors, the performing organization and the public that are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the execution or completion of the project.” It is critical to the actual and perceived success of your project that due diligence is performed up-front to identify all potential stakeholders, analyze their interests, expectations and influence, and proactively communicate with each of them in the manner and frequency most appropriate to ensure their buy-in and support.
- Join PMI. Project Management even has its own professional association: PMI (the Project Management Institute). With over 700,000 members, credential holders and volunteers in nearly every country in the world, PMI is the largest not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession. For about $150 per year, a PMI membership provides access to industry news and research, members-only online articles and books, a monthly magazine loaded with useful articles and tips, a flourishing local chapter here in Southern New England of over 1,800 members and nearly 40 online “Communities of Practice” – including one dedicated to project management in government.
The steps above are just four basic ways to improve the likelihood of success in project outcomes for your organization. Beyond these tips, there are countless other approaches for deriving greater value from your initiatives and “doing more with less”. Remember, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. By adopting some of these recommendations in the planning and execution of your projects, you’ll be well on your way toward increased project performance and satisfaction.