Unfamiliar Projects Land on Your Desk, Increase Your Chances of Success
by Managing Expectations.
management expert Stan Portny provides guidance for busy project
managers who are riding the wake of the downsizing tidal wave.
You may be one of the lucky ones not
to have received a "pink slip" during this time of downsizing. But
before you heave a sigh of relief, you realize that the work still
has to get done, right? In fact, you may now get assignments for
which you or your team lack the expertise or time to complete.
Does this sound like an impossible situation?
Not according to project management
consultant Stan Portny - author of the new Project Management For
Dummies® (Hungry Minds, Inc., 2001, ISBN: 0-7645-5283-X, $21.99).
He points out that the recession has not changed workplace expectations.
If you're skilled at defining and managing those expectations, the
project can get done right and on time.
"People have always had difficulty
clarifying what it is they want to see as a final result when assigning
projects," Portny says. "Many people think they are expected to
automatically understand others' expectations and then they start
running in the wrong direction, resulted in wasted time and effort."
In Project Management For Dummies,
Portny suggests that clarifying a project's desired outcomes increases
the chances that they will be achieved. In addition, "people fail
to appreciate that vague requests often result in wasted time and money.
The first rule of thumb is 'Don't assume anything!'" Portny says.
He offers these tips for busy people who are
riding the wake of the downsizing tidal wave. In order to increase
your chances for successful project outcomes:
Spell out the e-x-p-e-c-t-a-t-i-o-n-s.
This is no time to be shy. If you don't get this part right,
the whole project can run askew. Ask probing questions of all
people who will be looking for the project results, including:
What are the true indicators of
success? Define, very specifically, what will signal
successful project completion. Desired outcomes might
include physical products, services or new procedures. Try
to determine the particular desired characteristics of each
outcome. The expectations may be wide-ranging and, at
times, conflicting, depending upon whom you question. Be
sure to document the expectations and determine if you feel you
can achieve them all. Discuss with the project requesters
any about which you have concerns.
How much time would the requester
like you to spend on the project and when would he or she like
the results? The person who assigned you the project
may not realize that, prior to downsizing, a similar project
might have taken three weeks, but now, with your reduced staff
and increased workload, it may take longer and require more work
effort. Discuss these realities with the requester and
work together to develop responsive and achievable schedules and
Identify and involve all people who
may be looking for results from this project. It's not
unusual that the person assigning you the project is not the one who
originally conceived it. Identify and consult all people who
will be looking for project results, including the person with the
original idea, as well as others who may benefit from what you will
produce. Consider both managers and staff who will be affected
by or needed to support project results. Be sure to include
these people in your project planning and to keep them involved and
informed as the project moves along. If people are reluctant
to give you their time, explain that their involvement is essential
to help you meet their true needs.
Draw on the knowledge and experience
of others. If your assignment involves work in areas with
which you are unfamiliar, consult others who have more experience.
Identify knowledgeable colleagues or consider retaining the services
of external experts. Consult these people as you prepare your
plan and at key review points during your project. Ask
questions so you can understand how best to approach your
assignment. Be sure to clarify any information from the
experts or from the person who assigned you your project that you
feel is ambiguous. Remember the old adage: There are no stupid
Document everything and share the
news. Keep the momentum going and ensure you are on track
by communicating regularly throughout the project with the person
who assigned you the project and others looking for your project's
results. Frequently reaffirm with them that the project is
addressing their needs.
Carefully manage changes in
expectations. If your client asks you to modify or change
the outcomes that your project is to achieve:
Be sure the requested change is in
Always assess the impact of the
requested change on all aspects of the project.
Be sure the others who are awaiting
your project's results also agree that the proposed change
should be made.
If you agree with the requested
change, modify all impacted elements of your project plan and
share the news with everyone involved in the project.
Portny's down-to-earth advice and
step-by-step guidance for project managers are sure to help keep project
managers afloat when handling unfamiliar tasks, large and small.
In Project Management For Dummies", Portny provides an invaluable
toolkit for project managers to survive and thrive in these uncertain