Everything started with Gantt Charts, right? Your first project management experiences involved Gantt Charts with hours on tasks, and interdependencies between tasks and critical paths and all those fun things that make up wonderful, colorful Gantt Charts. And then you showed those Gantt Charts to the customer and the senior execs with all the progress lines and percents of completion showing right down to all those 62% and 47% numbers and your team and everybody was wowed by them.
Even now, if you mention project management to the outsider in the business world, they’re going to often say, “oh yes, you’re the guy who creates all the Gantt Charts, right?” Sigh. Well, yes, we often do create all those Gantt Charts, but project management is – and always really has been – about much more than just the Gantt Charts.
Project management is about team leadership, customer leadership, overall stakeholder leadership and making good decisions for the project and for all of those groups. Good project managers must make tough decisions on the fly – often with less than adequate information – and have the whatever-it-takes to stand behind those decisions.
What happened last week. What’s happening right now. What is due to happen next week. The project issues that are being worked on. Risk management and status updates. Change orders. Resource usage and forecasting. All this can – and often should go into the project status report. The more you can make it a one size fits all status report, the easier your life – as the project manager – will be because you won’t be creating seven different status reports to satisfy seven different specific groups of project stakeholders. Often this is helped along by the creation of a dashboard for the status report that shows project health in the key areas via a green light – yellow light – red light approach and possibly some percentages (like % of how over or under budget you are, etc.). A quick glance like this gives the execs in your company something to walk away with and stop tapping you on the shoulder and gives the project sponsor on the customer side something to hand to his management to satisfy their need to know that their money is making things happen.
Project management is about conducting great, productive, and efficient meetings. It’s about putting people in those seats every week so that you have the right people available, and participating and sharing information so that good decisions can be made and good information and communication is shared. The project manager who can plan for, prepare for and facilitate great meetings will have the highest attendance, best participation and most accurate and complete information shared…all of those being key ingredients for meeting – and project – success. And, don’t forget to follow up post-meeting with notes to help ensure everyone is on the same page even after the meeting. If you conduct a great meeting but a couple of key attendees leave with different perceptions of next steps, you’ve still failed. Don’t let that happen.
Project management is most definitely about customer engagement. My motto is “You’re only as successful as your last customer thinks you are…” so to me, the customer is everything. And keeping a customer engaged on the project is critical to getting the right information from them at the right time, having them available for key decision making, and keeping them informed and happy throughout the engagement.
Communication is Job One for the project manager. Yes, even more important than Gantt Charts and status reporting – although it is part of the status reporting process. Good, efficient and effective project communication, consistently running through the project manager as the central point of contact helps ensure that all stakeholders stay on the same page, information and assignments aren’t falling through the cracks and a consistent front is displayed to the project customer throughout the engagement. All key ingredients for client satisfaction and project success.
Summary / call for input
And yes…it is still about the Gantt Charts. But it’s about much more…and it always has been. Readers – what’s your take? How much do you stick to the old gantt chart view and how many of you rarely bring that out for public display? Please share your thoughts on my list and Gantt Charts, in general, and let’s discuss.