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The accidental project manager


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Almost everyone now has some degree of project management in their job description.  It’s just implied. Though all of the trappings of a professionally run project are unnecessary for the types of projects these accidental project managers pursue, some elements of the formal approach can help.

Even simple projects managed by accidental project managers can be divided into five steps.

Initiating a project
Once the intention of the project has been refined to an actionable, objective, measurable goal, the project can be initiated with these three project management steps.

1.Definition of the project scope – What fits into the project and what should be excluded?
2.Project Manager Identified- Who is responsible for the project’s successful completion?
3.Milestones chosen- What milestones must be accomplished to make the project successful?
Planning Projects
An accidental project manager will likely not need to plan simple projects to the same detail as required in professional project management.  GANT and PERT charts are probably not necessary, but thinking through the tasks, risks, and resources is a good way to look before you leap.

To plan a project’s tasks, list what needs to be done, in what sequence, and by whom.  Also include the resources needed for each task in terms of money, time, personnel, equipment, etc.

Resource leveling is the process of resolving conflicts between the desired resources, budget, and schedule and reality.  After the first draft of the project plan is completed, total up the resources and time needed.  If the budget or schedule is too great, rethink the plan, revise the budget, or refine the goal.

Risks should also be addressed during planning.  A risk is any event that could cause the project to fail.

Prioritize risks by assessing their likelihood and their impact.  Unlikely risks that would have a severe impact on the project and likely risks that would have a small impact should both be addressed.  Likely and highly impactful risks should be deeply considered.  Restructuring the project to avoid these risks may be appropriate.

Project execution and control
Executing well-planned projects sounds very simple, but complexities arise.  The project management process of Project control keeps the project on track.

Control the scope of the project by limiting growth, or at least acknowledging it.  If an important change is needed, take a minute to think through the impact of the change on the overall project, the budget, schedule, needed resources, and the value.  Communicate the change to all stakeholders.

Status reports improve communication with all of the stakeholders.  Even if an accidental project manager is working independently, taking a moment to take stock of progress and review the plan may prevent future problems.

Closing
Formal large projects are closed by writing a summary of the project after the goal has been achieved or abandoned.  Smaller projects should still be closed by checking off the tasks on the project plan, reviewing the budget, and considering lessons learned.

 

 

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Steven Nichols

Steven Nichols works with Mission Critical Systems, a Denver training company, offering Project Management Training. Please contact him at 303.383.1627 x 1104.

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