I was recently asked for my advice about projects for someone who wants to ‘get into’ project management. I told them in all honesty, that I’d only be able to give them advice from my limited experience. Although I’ve been ‘doing’ project management for over 20 years, I’m one in a million/millions doing this. So after I shared my advice, I also encouraged my ‘new to project management’ friend to google ‘things I wish I knew before I became a Project Manager’. I hope he did. I’m sure it would add to this list.
Here are the things I shared. Do you agree? What would you have shared?
First off, there are really only two guarantees about projects: Every project is different and Change will happen. Having said, I still have 15 pieces of advice that are pertinent to every project, regardless of size, shape, length or complexity.
- Agree the details and priorities with the Sponsor / Project Board at the beginning (not the end!)
It’s too late at the end of the project to find out that the Sponsor / Project Board had ‘other ideas’ (either mentioned or not) about what the project was set to deliver. Before undertaking a project, sit with the Sponsor (physically or metaphorically – over the phone, via documentation, rounds of email or through entries into a project management system) and come to agreements about the basics for the project (who, what, why, when, how and how much) being sure to agree on time, cost and quality expectations. Most importantly agreeing which is the priority!
- Decide how to document (to whatever formal level required) and document to that level
Some small projects needn’t have much documentation. A lot of information can be captured in emails and meeting minutes. But just because a formal document isn’t required, understand how will this information be captured and stored. For large, complex projects, documentation is normally required. Decide on the templates, the level of detail required and the recipients / distribution lists of the information.
Once a level has been established and agreed, throughout the project abide by these documentation rules. When time pressures abound it’s easy to forget to document things. There’s always the intention, but it keeps getting pushed down the to do list until it eventually falls off. Be diligent. Keep records. And keep them according to the level you’ve determined to be correct for your project.