If you are an experienced project practitioner you may be asked at some point, ”What are the key things that a project manager should do in order to be successful?” There is no one-line, simple answer to this question.
Success depends on many factors, including the organisation for which you work, the power granted or bestowed on the project manager, the responsibilities they are given on their project, and other influencing criteria. Having said that, we have found over the years that there do exist certain factors which, when done well, usually influence success. Let us elaborate.
First, we must establish your expectations as the reader. The nine steps we put forth in this article are not a “Holy Grail” for successfully managing a project. They represent actions which, if undertaken with purpose and meaning, can help set your project on the path to success, and keep it on that path.
Think of the nine steps in this manner: If you are planning a road trip by car, there will be many steps to your plan (many of which you will do automatically); check that your vehicle is in good working order, ensure you have a map of the route, be certain that you have fuel, and so on.
Some steps in this plan are more critical than others. This is the same principle we are applying to these “success factors” for project management. The nine steps are not in a sequence; while Step one will be undertaken before the others, the others may be undertaken in a different order.
Step 1: Conduct a project “discovery session". Before a project formally exists, the idea for it will be discussed, reviewed and debated by people who have an idea to create something. The extent of these discussions will depend on the nature of the idea and the group promoting it. It may be as simple as one stakeholder generating the idea and that idea quickly becoming a project, or it may involve formal planning, with a business case, estimates and detailed benefits management calculations using return on investment (RoI) or other factors being presented to a governing body for approval.
Regardless of the breadth of processes to which the project is subjected at its inception, there are two critical aspects:
- The realization of at least one person’s expectations; and
- The knowledge that the project needs appropriate estimates (indicative or detailed), together with assumptions made that will affect its outcome and perceived success.
Will you be on board at this time as a project manager? Maybe not. Whenever you are brought on board, one of the first things we believe to be important is to ensure that all these “discovery” project artifacts and outcomes (however they are termed in your organisation) are collected, documented, and accounted for within the deliverables of your project.
At the same time, make sure that you take the time to review the lessons from previous projects (both your own, and those of others). Once the lessons learned have been captured, apply those relevant to your project.