Tip of The Week: Start your Project on the Right Foot… Do NOT start with an End Date!
Of all the project pain points that can be experienced, starting with an End Date before scoping and properly estimating, can arguably be ranked number 1. This scenario often happens in order to get project funding approval on an “if only it can be accomplished by “X” date”. There may be solid reasoning for placing the end date first on the schedule, such as a government mandate, but this does not make it an acceptable practice for all projects.
Backing into the date can create project toxicity from the start and increases project risk exponentially. Although it may be intimidating, if you determine that the project cannot be completed by the imposed End Date it needs to be communicated with supporting documentation as early as possible and also recorded on your project’s plan and risk register.
You may also provide alternatives to meet the date, such as a phased project approach. Deliver a manageable portion of the project by the proposed End Date, with subsequent phase following until full project scope is met.
What to do with a Creep in the Room!
The term Scope Creep is commonly used to identify any change that was not within the original project scope. Keep in mind that this not necessarily a bad thing. Projects by nature are dynamic, and change is typically unavoidable. I’ve had project sponsors say, “There will be no change requests on this project!” They were obviously concerned about the project’s budget and timeline, but it is unrealistic to say that there will be no change on a project. It is important to make the sponsor and project team understand that scope changes/creep can occur due to numerous reasons regardless of the team’s experience, planning, and foresight. To remove the stigma, after project kick-off, document and present a change that does not affect the project scope, timeline, resources, or budget.
With this said there are other types of project creep that are real problems; Hope, Effort, and Feature Creep.
PM Tip of The Week: Don’t Panic…Wait 5.
A member of your project team just reported a major issue, what are you to do?! Don’t press the panic button! Take a deep breath and wait 5 minutes or 10, or even the day. Why? Often issues that are perceived as major may be easy resolved, once more information is uncovered or other team members have a chance to provide insight.
Panicking will be a time waster. Instead use your energy to be sure whatever fire just came up is real, and then assess the impact to the overall project health. With the help of your team and their feedback, assess and determine the real impact the issue may have on the project. Once you have clearly documented the facts and options, it is then time to determine if escalation is necessary. Lastly, do not be afraid to present issues to the sponsor even if you feel that their reaction may be negative. If you are prepared and can clearly explain the issue at hand, they might provide insight and help, perhaps even offering options that you have not considered.