Published in “Project Times” website, February 11, 2015
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As we kick off the New Year, it is imperative to revitalize our projects. After working with countless manufacturers and distributors to elevate business performance, I’ve found that projects are the lifeblood of most organizations as their success or failure impacts customers, profit/ loss and or cash flow in almost every client. Thus, making sure there is significant emphasis on their success should be a top priority for success.
Typically, my clients look like a ghost town during the holidays. Everyone is understandably distracted with family and friends. Those working do not feel pressure for rapid progress. Therefore, it is critical to revitalize projects rapidly following downtime. Of course, the holidays provide an obvious need; however, don’t fall into the trap of thinking it is the only timeframe to revitalize a project. The same effect occurs during summer vacations or after a long-term project that completes (such as an ERP system implementation or a merger or acquisition).
People tend to take a step back with a sigh of relief. Of course, most of the time, it is well-deserved; however, rarely if ever is there time available to do this as your competitors will pass you by. Thus, a few keys to success to revitalize your project include: 1) Reenergize the vision with an event. 2) Schedule a cross-functional project review. 3) Follow up on critical timeline tasks.
- Reenergize the vision with an event: One of the best ways to revitalize your top project is to hold an event or meeting to reenergize it. Make sure top management attends. Re-explain the importance of the project. Discuss the value and impact the project will have on the organization. Find positive progress to encourage. Thank the project team members for their dedication and results. Take time out of Last but not least, the project leader should be energetic and excited about the project and rally support for the project. In essence, do a kick-off for the project for the New Year.
- Schedule a cross-functional project review: Now that the project’s importance is clear, it is a perfect time to schedule a cross-functional project review. This type of review will refocus the project team on accomplishments to date, immediate next steps and upcoming critical path milestones. It will also reengage the team members with each other, the project leader, project sponsors etc. This type of meeting will also allow discussion on potential bottlenecks to address and will include the “right” people to proactively address these concerns.
For example, at one of my middle-market manufacturing clients, we held this type of cross-functional project review in order to breathe life back into the project after a few weeks off. In essence, the meeting refocused efforts on what were important and reminded team members which tasks and communications were essential. It worked like a charm as the team completed the project on-time and under-budget with better results than anticipated.
- Follow up on critical timeline tasks: Although the critical path timeline is bedrock to success, its importance is often overlooked. The project manager should refocus efforts on critical path follow-up. Understand exactly where progress left off. Follow up with critical path task owners with due dates coming up. Ask for their ideas on how to ensure success. Explore for concerns or potential roadblocks. Projects do not fail because of roadblocks; they fail if the roadblocks are not addressed rapidly. Thus, being proactive to head off as many issues as possible that will affect the critical path will ensure success. Yet something will still make its way in to create chaos for your critical path. Be ready to jump on these issues and tackle them to the ground.
Thank critical path task owners who recently completed their tasks on time. It is important to remember to appreciate your team. Ask them for recommendations to keep the project on track. You’ll be surprised as to how easy success will become!
Since projects are cornerstone to delivering bottom line business results, it is worth revitalizing your core projects at key juncture points such as after the holidays. There is no downside to revitalizing your key projects as it will gain additional traction and focus throughout the organization. On the other hand, if you do not revitalize them, you are likely to have lackluster results and end up in a project turnaround situation. Instead of leaving it to chance, take control of the projects which are key to success immediately.