Predictability helps organizations more effectively and efficiently manage people, cash, and other resources. And predictable projects usually finish sooner than others as well.
I often hear talk about how unpredictable projects are because <insert any excuse here>. By following some good and best practices and continuously improving, you will find that over time, your projects become more predictable. So, here are six tips to make your projects more predictable:
- Spend the right amount of time in planning. The best project managers will spend 21% of all project time in planning. Exceeding this may indicate "analysis paralysis," but the right amount of time has benefits. Better planned projects have higher "on time" completion rates. With more success, organizations will be able to better predict when new projects can start and better manage resource allocation.
- Develop processes, procedures, and methods whenever possible. Project management maturity stems from evolving processes, procedures, and methods. With maturity, comes improved efficiency and project success. And of course, both contribute to making things more predictable. One study has also shown that high performing (aka more predictable) organizations have higher levels of maturity and experience significant performance boosts in multiple areas, including customer satisfaction.
- Improve team estimation. A lack of good estimates is a common problem linked to less predictability. Estimates should be arrived at by a process, and that process needs to include breaking down complexity and a validation step. The popular game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, suggestions some good approaches for common problems. If the team is unable to arrive at a consensus on a estimate, a) try phoning a friend who might have worked on a similar project, b) using a lifeline and talking to the project sponsor to let them know about the difficulty and see if they can break any ties, or c) asking the audience, the people the team knows, to get additional opinions. I haven't ever worked on this before is no excuse!
- Engage the right team. Getting the right team in place is important. Obviously, they need to have the skills to do the work, but at a minimum, also expect each team member to have three attributes - they really want to work on this project (or this is their dream project), they always want to do their best work, and they have a good network and communication skills they can rely on.
- Better manage resources. For people resources, you will want to train and retrain the best. Use metrics, compensation, and incentives to keep the team motivated and working. But most of all, practice acknowledgement, a powerful tool for leaders. For other resources, treat them like your own and have the right measures and controls in place.
- Continuously develop your own skills. Good project managers need many skills to successfully lead. These skills include critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, delegation, conflict resolution, and more. Spend time in self-improvement and learning activities to improve these skills. In turn, project success rates will increase. Better decisions, for example, can avoid firefighting and keep everyone focused on the goal.
As a project manager, your organization is counting on you to make your projects more predictable and successful. These six tips will get you on the right path!
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