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Managing projects.

Introduction

This checklist outlines the steps in project management, provides a framework of sequential action for the manager undertaking a project and offers a general synthesis of current practice, incorporating elements from the various approaches to managing 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 is been that of completing defined work within given time constraints and cost limits, and delivering final output to the customer at the required standard of quality.

A particular approach to project management that is now widely used is PRINCE2, 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.

National Occupational Standards for Management and

Leadership

This checklist has relevance to the following standards:

F: Achieving results, units 1, 2

Definition

Project management involves the co-ordination of resources to complete a project within planned time and resource constraints and to meet required standards of quality. It includes planning and allocation of resources and may make use of specialized management techniques for the planning and control of projects. Projects are usually considered successful if they meet pre-determined targets, perform the intended job, or solve an identified problem without exceeding time, cost and quality constraints.

Action checklist

1. Define the objectives

Understanding and agreement of certain factors are fundamental to the management of any successful project. These are:

* what is to be achieved

* the required outcome or result to be delivered

* 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 should 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 or plans veering off course, and to build in a level of contingency, or safety margin.

4. Construct the Work Breakdown Structure Document (WBSD)

Having established what the project should achieve, 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 wrong. Use the formula below:

establish standards > monitor performance > take corrective action

This 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

This is a key area, as the most frequent error in project management is the under-estimation of 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) and Critical Path Analysis (CPA) are prominent amongst several project management techniques which can help with the effective prioritising and scheduling of activities.

8. Monitor and report progress

Monitoring of in-progress costs, time-scales and quality is a vital factor and should be constant throughout the duration of the project. Quality is the hardest area to measure and, as such, is often at risk of neglect.

In addition to progress reports, feedback sessions and Management By Walking About, there are various control aids which can help you to 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, in case goalposts get moved.

9. Deliver the output

Steps preceding 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 acceptable to 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.

Managers should avoid:

* taking too little time to properly plan the objectives, terms of reference and work breakdown structure

* forgetting to build in checks on quality and that you are still working within time and budget limits

* neglecting the monitoring of small changes and the assessment of any possible implications.

Additional resources

Books

Leading project teams: an introduction to the basics of project management and project team leadership, Anthony T. Cobb

Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2006

Managing successful projects with PRINCE2, Office of Government Commerce

London: TSO, 2005

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

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at: www.managers.org.uk/mic

Internet resources

DfES project management guidance: www.dfes.gov.uk/ppm

Has guidance on project and programme management.

Office of Government Commerce: www.ogc.gov.uk/prince2

Gives an introduction to the OGC project management method, and includes the new PRINCE2 templates and a selection of case studies.

Mind Tools: www.mindtools.com./pages/main/newMN_PPM.htm

Help offered with project planning and management techniques.

Organisations

Association for Project Management

150 West Wycombe Road, High Wycombe

Buckinghamshire, HP12 3AE

Tel: 0845 4581944 www.apm.org.uk

Major Projects Association

Templeton College

Kennington, Oxford, OX1 5NY

Tel: 01865 422581 www.majorprojects.org
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Title Annotation:Checklist 035
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Operations and Quality
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:1517
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