People skills can always be improved and are essential to project management success. Your people skills are tested from the very beginning of a project. Has this ever happened on your projects?
- People outside your project work hard at sabotaging your success?
- Your project is not a success and someone says, "That project was a failure from the start."
- The project is delayed and a coworker says, "I could have told you this would happen but you did not ask me!"
- You discover others trying to manage your projects behind your back.
Systems are also critical. The systems used should provide information on resource use and allocation towards completing the Charter objective. Has this ever happened where you work?
- The plan (sic) failed to show that a raw material would be delivered after the projects final delivery?
- Resources were reallocated because the project was behind schedule - only to find that the schedule was still not met?
- A project team member failed to produce a final deliverable because they did not know how to effectively use the project systems information?
So what is a project manager to do? The first step is to blend art (people skills) and science (systems) in a document called the Project Charter. Think of your people skills as a project and then ask yourself, "How is my project doing?" If you are not satisfied with the answer, consider further developing your human relations skills to avoid (or minimize) the problems in your projects.
Get the naysayers and critics involved in the project from the very beginning. By participating, they contribute their complaints where they are the most productive, in the charter. A charter is an agreement between you, your sponsor and the customer. The sponsor is the person in your organization who originated the project but is not on the project team (a liaison between you and upper management or steering teams). The customer is the user of your finished project service, product, or process.
In an ideal world the sponsor would write the Charter. If you do not work in an ideal situation, you may write it yourself and ask the sponsor to sign off on it. The Charter should include Project Scope, Project Assurance, and Project Resources.
Project Scope includes the business case or reasons for the project, the objectives, who the project customers are, customer needs or problems, requirements and final deliverables. Other information may be included here, too. For example, it is often advisable to include what is not in the project scope as well as what is. This will minimize scope creep and helps the team to focus in the planning and execution phase.
Project Assurance is where we list the failure risk factor that our organization will tolerate in the creation of a completed project. You should include any reviews and approvals required (later to be built into the plan), and status reports or documentation needed by upper management to monitor the project. This section helps to assure the success of our project within tolerable limits.
Project Resources are the tools we have to perform the work to meet the project scope. Some of the information included here is a list of team members, any specified deadlines, spending constraints, and the project priorities (scope/performance/quality, schedule, and cost) ranked for trade-offs if necessary. Listing the resources helps identify overlooked project challenges, requirements, or restrictions. If your organization is not using Project Charters then you may be faced with:
- Lack of support from upper management
- Changing project scope
- Lack of input or support from project customers
- Internal roadblocks
- Lack of necessary resources
- A completed project that does not meet internal objectives
- A project that does not deliver the expected product, services or process.
Any one of the above (or other) project challenges reflect on your ability as a project manager. Upper management naturally observes project completion and close out to determine your capacity for more responsibility. Besides, have you ever worked on a project team that failed due to leadership? That's a project manager that may have a harder time getting the "best players" on their future teams. Employing a project charter can minimize these two risks.
In PM Network Rudolf Boznak was quoted as saying "Tomorrow's successful corporate leadership must simultaneously integrate, manage, and control their multiple and diverse projects..." And to that I would add, "This can happen when you combine the art (people approach) of project management with the science (systems approach)." A Project Charter facilitates this combination and once approved becomes the beginning of the real project work!
Barry Pruitt of PruSpeak Consulting & Seminars is a professional speaker and may be reached in Charlotte, NC tollfree at (877) 778-7732 or email: PruSpeak@aol.com. Barry presented Project Management: A Skill Practice, Result Focused Workshop at DRJ Fall World '99 in Orlando.