As I was reminded recently, it is always good to go back to the basics of what you know when confronted with issues that seem overwhelming.
Here are four basic Project Principles and some of my ideas regarding what to watch out for when managing your projects. As always, I welcome your feedback.
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(1) Projects are often constrained from the start (Initiation Phase) by a fixed, finite budget and defined timeline. In other words, many projects have budgets that have strictly defined constraints and a timeline with a set start and end date. This is obvious to all project managers, however what is not so obvious is many times these budget and timelines are not sufficient (or realistic) to accomplish the project’s objectives. From the start, ensure the project sponsor is aware that budget and timelines may need to be renegotiated as project planning progresses.
(2) Projects can have many complex and interrelated activities that need to be coordinated so that proper organizational resources can be applied at the proper time. The big thing to watch out for here is "proper organizational resources". While you may not have input on which resources you get for your project, you do have input on the project’s estimates and schedule. Do not allow others to dictate unrealistic schedules or estimates for resources that are unproven, unreliable or untested.
(3) Projects are directed toward the attainment of a clearly defined objective(s) and once they are achieved, the project is over. Yea, right! Not all projects have clearly defined objectives, and if they do, they are not always achievable given the budget, time, and organizational constraints. Not only that, your organization’s culture can be a huge impediment to successfully managing your project. Be very careful when accepting a new project to ensure you are not being setup to fail. Do not accept projects with unclear or unrealistic objectives.
(4) Projects are unique. Because they are unique, the risks are great and failure is always an option. Minimize the risks by informing your sponsor that until you are finished with your initial project planning activities you may not be able to provide realistic budget and time estimates. Once you have completed your initial project planning activities, (project planning is continuous) provide your sponsor with an estimated budget and time range, and remind him or her that as planning progresses these ranges will be adjusted to closer reflect reality.