Do you have a plan for Valentine’s Day? If not, it is time to get on it, so you are ready with a demonstration of your love for that special person in your life. Speaking of planning, how about your project plans? Do you love them? Are you investing sufficiently to ensure they receive the attention they deserve and will be healthy into the long term? Or, like so many personal relationships, are your projects just getting by with a ‘good enough’ approach?
When I asked my wife about the theme for this article, she rolled her eyes with wonder on how I could geek out so much on project management. She asked me incredulously, “How can someone love a project as much as a special person in their life?” I, smartly, responded I could never love a project as much as you, my dear. Truth is though, I do… it is just a different kind of love. Think with me for a minute about how it feels when you invest to get a troubled project back on track. Great! Recall the sense of accomplishment buzz after leading a team of skilled individuals or a creative design team to make a client happy? Or the euphoria delivered after spending a week with your team coordinating a user acceptance testing war room or on break-fix activities in a big push toward final project rollout?
A good project team becomes even better and more tightly knit when you deploy effective methodology to plan, prioritize and perform to expectations set. The question we all struggle with is what methodology actually delivers? And once found, how do I convince my team to adopt and utilize the solution I propose? How can I get them to fall in love, as I often do, with the process deployed so that we together can achieve the euphoric feelings that come from delivering on time, on budget and as promised?
The initial authorship and introduction of a project plan can be tough but is pivotally important. Like any relationship, the foundation upon which a project plan is built must be strong in order for that plan to blossom and achieve its potential. What’s missing? In my experience, project leaders do not accurately estimate tasks, they fail to set clear priorities, and do not realistically plan for unexpected but likely changes that always seem to emerge. When a project plan starts off with such an unstable base it is sure to proceed like a rocky relationship with gaps in communication, unexpected disappointment, expressions of frustration, and lack of trust. The solution and path to true love can be found by planning effectively. As you do, you will find yourself falling in love with your project plans and probably even your chosen planning tool.
Project love comes easy with the right project management software that uses predictive scheduling to dynamically adapt to change and manage project uncertainty. Your team will be able to prioritize tasks, predict outcomes, and perform with confidence.
Are you in love with your project plans? You’ll know when…
1. You’re getting the right organizational solution
Having the right PM tool in place is the first ingredient needed to fall in love with your project plans and processes. How? The right PM software is a catalyst to success for you and your project team. Software is scalable and will help you clearly define and assign tasks, customize reports, and track time. It will offer a dashboard to reveal status of all projects in the company’s portfolio and with a simple drag and drop, the best software has capacity to automatically reprioritize and immediately reflect those changes everywhere. With the right software in place, making decisions on what to execute next, where to deploy resources and communicate to every stakeholder what to work on first will be easy. Love starts to seem possible.
2. Planning & communication is effortless
Planning is the fun part, and the hard part. With traditional approaches to project management a project leader is constantly burdened with follow up and manual updates to the plan. These are required when priorities change or when resources are added or, in today’s talent environment, are removed or resign. Failing to keep pace with changes to the plan, even for a day, can result in people working on the wrong things which will negatively impact overall project progress. A tool to capture and convey your plans and that updates automatically when changes are made will make your planning seem simple. You will expend less effort and gain more and more confidence with each project initiative. Team members will know what to work on, when and communication across the team will be improved, enhancing collaboration and throughput. Accurate, updated, and trusted plans that enable performance? Love is definitely in the air.
3. Assignments are clear across the organization
Step back for a minute. Is it perfectly clear who is working on what? Does everyone on the team know what work to do today, where to track time and when they might be able to take on more work? Can you see what work may be at risk for running over. Does your project software flag potential bottlenecks that will affect the entire project negatively? When team member assignments are clear, timelines accurate and outcomes predictable, you will be able to confidently adapt to change that emerges. You will have the capacity to assign work, knowing everyone is staying on the same page day in and day out. You can provide company leadership the assurance that everyone is 100% utilized or at least being utilized as much as planned in your resource plan, revealing that all of us required a bit of down time to remain fully productive. Assignment clarity is a key component of achieving project nirvana. As it is achieved you will have begun the inevitable fall into love with your project plans.
4. Leadership is appreciated
The strongest relationships begin with mutual admiration and appreciation. With project management, the starting place is with a clear plan, competent decision making and capacity to deliver. Are your project teams displaying confidence as they execute tasks? Do team members express appreciation for the quality of your communication? Are they able to see what to work on and update progress easily? Are your projects consistently delivered on time? Do team members clamor to be assigned to you, because with you they know the work is relevant, status is clear and positive results are delivered every time. Earning admiration as a project leader does feel good and when achieved, it you’ll know project love is within your grasp.
5. You are winning at work
When your project management efforts are yielding more success, you will notice several things. Your customer will be more satisfied with and engaged in the daily project processes. In regular meetings, stakeholders will express confidence with project progress and with your control over it and the team. The team itself will exhibit joy in their work and invest more discretionary effort to achieve daily tasks. Collaboration will be enhanced as team members are fully invested in supporting progress across the team. All these are illustrations of a good project plan and competent leadership. Winning feels good and leads to love.
Final thoughts on loving your project plans
Okay, I admit that I may have succumbed to my inner romanticist with this article. But in all seriousness, we do love the work we do and have a measure of love for the awesome teams we work with. I know that each of us would much prefer to achieve the level of performance I’ve characterized above… and if so, at least fall into “like” with our project plans and the software we utilize vs. the constant frustration many of us and our team members feel. We would not do this work if we weren’t at least fond of the projects and teams we manage and are driven toward success. So, I do invite you to also embrace the spirit of the project management è Valentine’s Day association and invest in both the software and process to realize a better state.
Readers – how do you feel about this list? What would you add to it? Please share and discuss.
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. He has been named the #1 blog to follow in 2022 and the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, ebooks, white papers and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.