A Day in the Life of Your Project Plan: For Project Managers [The Liquid Approach: Part 6/6]

Liz Pearce | March 5, 2011

Project Management Piggy Bank
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Read 5/6: A Day in the Life of Your Project Plan: For Team Members

All good project managers develop their own techniques for keeping all the balls in the air. They’re part science, part art – and different for every team and situation. The following list can serve as a starting point for making those techniques work with the LiquidPlanner approach. (For the sake of brevity, we’re assuming that you already know the basics of breaking down the work, scheduling based on priority order, and other project management fundamentals.)

What things should you keep an eye on every day?

1.    People first

In priority-based scheduling, it all comes down to the people on the team and what they’re supposed to be working on. You probably have an intuitive sense of that already. Now’s the time to filter to each individual that you’re managing (one-by-one) and make sure that their priority list is in order. Now when they log in to the system and check their task list, you’ll be on the same page. You can also check to make sure the progress you’re expecting is being made (compare “Total Done” to “Remaining Work” for the full picture.)

2.    Make your own updates

Project Management Piggy BankYou likely have tasks in the system like everyone else. Be a role model for the rest of the team and make your project updates (progress, estimates, and comments) on a daily basis. Respond to questions and remarks to keep the conversation flowing.

3.    Tackle changes

Most teams are dealing with a constantly changing landscape: new project requests, change orders, issues, “hot” items, interruptions… the list goes on. It can be helpful to have a “holding bin” for those items and a clearly-defined process for addressing them. Maybe it’s a weekly team meeting or simply your responsibility to do on a daily basis. Either way, take time to correctly assign, estimate, and prioritize the items. You’ll then be able to see how they impact the portfolio of projects you’re managing.

4.    Troubleshoot dates and risks

Now is the time to scan through each project’s schedule. If you have promise dates that are in the red (or yellow), it’s time to take action. Find out: Has progress been updated? Are remaining work estimates correct? Is the project (or critical tasks) prioritized correctly? Can you bring more resources into the mix? Can you cut scope? Is the promise date realistic or does it need to be moved out? Based on the answers, you can start to communicate your mitigation plan to the people it affects.

5.    Look for opportunities

If you’ve got some spare cycles, you can spend time on “forensic” project management. There are always ways to optimize the work of the team. For example, clean up and delete or archive old tasks/ projects that are no longer relevant. Look through the analysis reports to see if resources are load-balanced and fully scheduled for the next wave of work. Build in a new business process into the structure to smooth out a rough edge in your workflow. This kind of maintenance (even just a few minutes a week) can keep your workspace in a healthy state for the long run.

Now that you’ve put in your time (the exact amount varies based on the complexity of your projects and the size of your team), you can get back to work, too. Only this time you should have a clean roadmap in front of you.