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Managing projects.

This checklist outlines the steps in project management and provides a framework of sequential action for the manager undertaking a project.

Project management is recognised as a special process which differs in approach from general management or change management. The traditional project management focus has been that of completing defined work within given time constraints and cost limits. Recently the focus has shifted more to the quality of the final output delivered to the customer.

Definition

"Project management is a specialized management technique to plan and control projects ... A project is generally deemed successful if it meets pre-determined targets set by the client, performs the job it was intended to do, or solves an identified problem within the pre-determined time, costs and quality constraints."--Burke

A particular approach to project management that is becoming widely used is PRINCE 2, an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. This approach was originally developed by CCTA (the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency) for IT projects within the civil service and other public sector bodies. The methodology, in eight interlinked processes, has been expanded for use in any type of project. It lays emphasis on making a business case for any project, defines more clearly the role and responsibilities of the project board, the project manager and the team manager, and outlines the control processes and quality reviews necessary to ensure successful delivery.

This checklist offers a general synthesis of current practice, and incorporates elements from the various approaches to managing a project.

Benefits of project management

Project management techniques provide:

* an appropriate way to bring about sudden, revolutionary or purposive change

* a suitable approach for handling one-off tasks

* a realistic method for evaluating a new scheme.

Problems with project management

Projects:

* often require an extraordinary use of resources--especially money and people--over a finite period of time

* usually consume more resources than foreseen

* can go overchedhule by significant margins

Action checklist

1. Define the objectives

Fundamental to the management of any successful project are both understanding and agreement of:

* what is required to be achieved

* what is to be the outcome and/or delivered as a result

* dates and budgets for project completion by both project sponsor and project manager.

Lack of clear objectives will doom the project from the beginning.

2. Appoint the project manager

The project manager must be someone who has a proven track record, can command respect from a mix of seniorities and can get action from them. They should be able to:

* plan and communicate all aspects of the project

* motivate with integrity, sensitivity and imagination

* gain productivity and trust from shared decision-making

* lead both by example and by taking a back seat when appropriate

* monitor costs, efficiency and quality without excessive bureaucracy

* get things done right first time without being a slave-driver

* get the right people for the right task at the right time

* use both technical and general management skills to control the project

* see clear-sightedly through tangled issues.

3. Establish the terms of reference

The terms of reference specify the objectives, scope, time-frames and initial scale of resource required. They should also clarify any risks, constraints or assumptions already identified. It is important to make any early allowances for cost escalation, plans veering off course, and build in a level of contingency, or safety margin.

4. Construct the Work Breakdown Structure Document (WBSD)

Having established what the project should achieve, next consider how to achieve it.

The WBSD forms the basis of much subsequent work in planning, setting budgets, exercising control and assigning responsibilities. The key is to break the project down into identifiable phases, then into controllable units for action. Dividing a piece of work into more approachable, discrete units facilitates the functions of estimating, planning and controlling. As soon as possible allocate time-scales to each unit of work, taking care to allow for both sequential units--those that need to be accomplished before the next can be tackled, and overlapping units--those that can run in tandem.

5. Plan for quality

Planning for quality requires both attention to detail and ensuring that the project output or outcome does what it is supposed to, or is "fit for its purpose". The work breakdown structure should incorporate "micro" performance criteria or indicators, for discrete units or phases, and "macro" indicators against which the final outcome can be assessed. Quality measures (systematic inspections against established standards) should be built into the process from the beginning, not later when things (may) have started to go awry. The formula:

establish standards > monitor performance > take corrective action

can run as a continuous sequence throughout the project duration. The key is to ensure effective quality assurance which acts as a prevention rather than a cure and enables you to get things right first time.

6. Plan costs

A key area in which the most frequent error is to under-estimate costs. Typical cost elements include:

* staff time and wages--usually the most substantial cost item of all

* overheads--employer on-costs

* materials and supplies--the raw materials

* equipment--the pros and cons of leasing or purchasing and the factor of depreciation

* administration--purchasing, accounting, record-keeping.

One of the enabling functions of a good budget is to monitor costs while a project is in progress.

7. Project scheduling

In order to calculate the shortest time necessary to complete the project you need to know:

* the earliest time a stage or unit can start

* the duration of each stage

* the latest time by which a stage must be completed.

Gantt charts, Programme Evaluation and Review Techniques (PERT) diagrams and Critical Path Analysis (CPA) are prominent amongst several project management techniques which can help with effective prioritising and scheduling of all activities.

8. Monitor and report progress

The monitoring of in-progress costs, time-scales and quality is a major factor for consideration throughout the duration of the project. Quality is the hardest to measure and, as such, prone to neglect. In addition to progress reports, feedback sessions and Management By Walking About, there are various control tools which help check that implementation is going according to plan.

* Control Point Charts ask you what is likely to go wrong in terms of time, cost and quality.

* Project Control Charts provide status reports of actual costs against budget with variances.

* Milestone Charts are a means of showing stages of achievement as steps towards the project objectives.

It is important to know what to do when these, or other, control mechanisms indicate that something is going wrong. Contingency plans are also vital, as goalposts are always prone to movement.

9. Deliver the output

Steps before delivery of the project outcome may include the compilation of instructional documentation or training packages. The penultimate stage before project completion is ensuring that the outcome of the project is accepted by the customer or sponsor.

10. Evaluate the project

By building in a final stage of evaluation it is possible to gain a measure of the project's success and see what lessons can be learned. Once again, the three key areas for review are quality, time and costs. Others include:

* staff skills gained or identified

* mistakes not to be repeated

* tools and techniques that were valuable

* what should be tackled differently.

Dos and don'ts of project management

Do</p> <pre> Take time at the beginning on objectives, terms of reference and the work breakdown structure. Ensure, as far as possible, access to resources needed. Appoint someone with the right skillmix as project manager. </pre> <p>Don't</p> <pre>

Let small changes creep in without assessing the implications.

Omit to build in quality checks. Lose sight of time targets and budget limits. </pre> <p>Further reading

The project workout: a toolkit for reaping the rewards from all your business projects 3rd ed Robert Buttrick Harlow, Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2005

Advanced project management: a structured approach, 4th ed Frederick Harrison and Dennis Lock Aldershot, Gower, 2004

Essentials of strategic project management, Kevin R Callahan and Lynne M Brooks Hoboken NJ, John Wiley, 2004

Goal directed project management: effective techniques and strategies, 3rd ed Erling S Andersen, Kristoffer V Grude and Tor Haug London, Kogan Page, 2004

Creating an environment for successful projects, 2nd ed, Robert J Graham and Randall L Englund San Francisco Calif, Jossey Bass, 2004

It sounded good when we started: a project managers guide to working with people on projects Dwayne Phillips and Roy O'Brian Hoboken NJ, John Wiley, 2004

Project managers guide to handling risk, Alan Webb Aldershot, Gower, 2003

Project risk management: processes techniques and insights, 2nd ed Chris Chapman and Stephen Ward Chichester, John Wiley, 2003

Thought starters

Think of a job or task you have to do.

* Is there a clear business case for doing it?

* Could you obtain funds without a clear business case?

* Does it have a set start and finish date?

* Does it need other resources: people, equipment, raw materials?

* Does it involve changing something?

* Does it have a clear objective or target?

* How would you monitor and assess the quality of the output?
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Title Annotation:Checklist 035
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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