Leading a project is not an easy job. However, the most difficult is to start it right. You will run the project anyway – but what to do to get results and a great start from day 1?
Projects are dynamic and require constant monitoring, staying ahead of the curve, making quick decisions and prioritizing tasks. One of key success factors is the way how you start the project and get over while controlling it. Here are some tips to help you get effective on project lead!
Here is what you find in the post
What to rely on?
You got the news, now what?
The interview passed, and you have just been informed you got assigned to the project. You are now on your own. You are so happy, that you do not realise how much more information you need to be ready to take this job. Note that level of happiness may cover your rational approach. Some moments later, you realise that you need to prepare yourself
Experience or knowledge?
You have to rely on your own experience and others’ knowledge and skills. This is normal, but perspectives, yours and others, need to fit the circumstances. Either, you don’t need to be an expert in the project domain, but then you become dependent fully on your project team in every kind of assessment. You will need to ensure you get resources willing to support achieve the project’s results.
Are you in empty box or at full table
Let’s make a quick snapshot of your situation, and make your own 30sec assessment .
Where do you find yourself?
Where you find your situations? Which of the dimensions require harder work?
There are chances that you where are provided with all the details about project, but usually only the high level of information is provided which is definitely not enough to set up your effective working practice
Get the project and role scope
Project management may consist of various duties and tasks, obviously, right? But it’s never the same. Every project has different needs in terms of the project manager role. It may be just a simple task tracking, updating the progress, and delivering reports but It also may be full-fledged management of the deliverables including escalations, dealing with the vendors, managing the budget and even consulting on some technical aspects.
That’s why you need to consult it with your direct supervisor/manager/key account what exactly is expected from you. All of that needs to be written down and summarised so that neither you nor any of the people that you work with have any misunderstanding on this what’s to be done
There are 3 main aspects you need to make immediately clear
- The first – to understand the project’s goals and objectives, as well as any risks and assumptions.
- The second – to know what needs to be done in order to achieve those goals, when it needs to happen (in other words: understand the deliverables)
- The third – to know what is expected to be cover by as Project Manager – it’s not obvious, as there might be various related processes that others in the organisation already cover them
It’s not obvious, as there might be various related processes and agreements that other inititives already cover them. The way how you will get these answers is irrelative, via quick call, by mail, in the contract, or though official documents.
The project manager role scope needs to be binding, what makes you able to base your work on these scope statements
These are like fundaments for your house, they need to exist, all other co-workers know how they have been built, where to find them and they are reliable to go with further build work.
Plan the first day with the manager
For your own success its key to be fully aligned with your direct manager. That’s the person who managed to have you to do this job and full understanding what and how to be driven.
You will rely on him/her to provide you required decisions, info and support,
Reach to the direct manager as soon as possible after getting through all available information for the project and role scope.
You should start your alignment on getting to know:
- What kind of person he/she is (concise, emotional, carying, supporting, smart, knwoleddgeble … or rather opposite).
- What values are important?
- Missing bits on project scope and deliverables?
- his/her view on your role? what are the expectations from you?
- information to be provided? What means should be used?
- Who are key stakeholders and why?
- Who are key project team members and why?
- What you should start with?
- What would they like you to do on your first day working on this project/in this role at this company (e.g., create a rough outline for how we’ll approach our strategy development)?
- how you can count on him/her?
These are open questions, but always be ready to have your own opinion based on your best knowledge. Have also suggestions – don’t be afraid to explain why – this is your role to be independent and have your own idea of what is the most important.
Hopefully, you will be aligned with your Manager after such discussion like none before!
Get to know people well
Getting to know stakeholders, and onboarding the team well is important to avoid dependencies and limitations.
Talk to key project stakeholders. Be aware that not all of them have the same business objective in delivering the project. Sometimes there are contradictive needs that you will need to manage. This is the moment when you begin to foresee already risks which will direct your focus to proper actions.
A good onboarding process should include getting to know your team members, talking to them all, introducing the project and their roles, and finally helping them get to know each other. This is an important part of building a team that works like well-oiled machine. While the team leaders and coordinators may be in charge, it’s not just about delegating tasks and making sure everyone does their job.
It’s also about making sure that everyone is on the same page and communicating effectively. This can be difficult if you have a lot of different personalities in your team, but it’s important to get them all working together as efficiently and effectively as possible.
I usually make 15min talk to achieve the above and brake the ice, understanding interests and best collaboration approach. It’s easy to discover your future “right hands”, people who will be able to rely on and drive the project.
The most important thing to remember is that project management is a team sport. If you want to be successful in your projects and deliver results, you need to make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page with regard to expectations and responsibilities.
Tools when you need it
Once you are done with the project planning part, it is time to set up the project management tools.
It is a good idea to have tools in place before you start the project. The tools can be used for activities such as:
- To perform your work
- Communication between members of the team
- Tracking progress on tasks and projects
- Providing necessary updates on the progress
- Collecting feedback from stakeholders
Your choice of tools will depend on what you want it to do, who you need to work with, and how much time you’re willing to invest in setting up the system (your own working system).
Make your own search on this what is available in the organization. Do not reinvent the wheel – use what is known and work there. Check which tools will be handy, easy to adopt, and fit for purpose.
A tool can be as simple as a spreadsheet or an online collaborative application, or it can be a complex platform with features such as task boards, social networking, and integration with other systems. Please do not underestimate simple forms and templates – these are tools as well – which reused many times will save time for all.
Set your own way of working system
Before you will instruct others how to fit into project life, make it up for yourself first. Start from basics like physical presence requirements, remote work basis, working time zone, needed accesses for all required software, signed security agreements, etc.
Based on the whole information you have you must create of your own management system for this given project. Write down your own private plan on own activities defining the backbone of your project management activities. This does not included the plan for the project but for you to know what day by day is to be done to achieve full control. Start in the way that you are visible for all project team members, and you get connection and trust from stakeholders.
Set periodic sessions for keeping up-to-date with your direct manager or people from management and separate for the team or teams that you need to manage. Define from where and when you will be getting progress updates, and what will be the timings to provide these converted updates to others.
Your own system will depend on the project manager and the methodology used. But no matter what it should be a living system, which is continuously adjusted over the project duration.
Kick-off session as good start
Assuming that you did your best to be equipped with the above set up, you are now ready to kick off / reshape the project. There is no matter which phase of the project you join, always you need to reshape your way of working and align people around you. The project needs to be communicated to the whole set of people involved and all stakeholders.
First, focus should be set on the alignment between people so that everybody gets to know each other and understands what they are for in this project
The best way to do this is by setting up a meeting with your team and going over the following points:
- Alignment on objectives and deliverables
- Share the ways of working
- Familiarise team with tools
- Visualising upcoming tasks and longer plan
- Giving space to comments and challenges
Later on, you will work on a communication plan, detailed plan, and list of issues and risks from people getting that communicated.
It is very important to set things up during your first days in your assignment. It will increase your self-confidence, discernment in the work environment and definitely start building trust among key people. Not everything is possible to be set from day one, but the more you make crystal clear the easier will be for you to achieve results.