What do you do when you have been named the PM

You have been summoned, called on to lead the quest, accompanied by a group made up of some misfits and some with formidable talents, expected to charge through evil terrain and overcome formidable foes to deliver the ring…

ok maybe it’s not so fantastic.

You have been asked to lead a project. Now what?

Well the first thing you need to do is find out what needs to be done and who wants it done. In PMI parlance that is the same as identifying the sponsor or sponsors and reading the project charter. The sponsors are those people who will pay for the project and are ultimately responsible for it being delivered.

If you are in a project oriented organization where starting projects follows a very strict process and is managed centrally, then the charter will have already been written and you are then assigned as the project manager.

However this is not always the case. You might have been asked to lead this project before the charter was written. The Project Charter lays out what needs to be done, who is responsible for delivering it, how long, how much it will likely take, what the outcome and deliverables will be at a high level, problems you should watch out for, how to keep everyone informed, who cares about what goes on and so forth.

The PMBok has a lot of information about what is expected of a manager and of what needs to be done on a project. The PMI standard has a lot of detail about process groups which I will be getting into in other posts. However if you are familiar with the PMI standards don’t make the same mistake that most people make and confuse the process groups with the project lifecycle. The process groups are descriptions of activities that need to be done when managing projects. The project lifecycle is the sequence of events from the start to the end of a project.

The project lifecycle is mentioned in the PMBok but not as prominently as the process groups. Basically the project lifecycle goes like this: start -> plan and organize -> do the work -> close.

Once you understand what needs to be done and how much of it, the scope, you can start planning. Always plan your work and work your plan. In other posts I will delve a little further into the details of planning. I am just going to mention things here briefly to avoid information overload.

A plan basically lays out who will do what, where and when. Organize your tasks sequentially making sure you break down big tasks into progressively smaller chunks. Ideally the smallest chunk cannot be broken down much further.

Now do your assignments on paper first. This is still part of planning and organizing. Make sure when you assign a task that the person who will do the work is mentioned by name, that the task is clear as mud with exactly what the outcome should be. Basically you should be able to know the task is done when it is actually done. Be as explicit as possible.

Once you have your tasks organized, call the troops for a kick off meeting. This is an important meeting to let everyone know what needs to be done and how it will be done, by whom etc. It is important that you have everyone together in this meeting. A project is a team effort. You want everyone to know what’s going on and how they fit into the big picture. You don’t want someone to only have a fragment of information. In exceptionally large projects and with very large teams this may not be possible but in those cases, projects will ideally be broken down into sub-projects with smaller teams.

Once everyone is briefed, you have to get going with your work. Again, work your plan. Make sure everyone is on track timewise and working on the correct tasks by having regular checkpoints. As a rule of thumb a weekly checkpoint should be sufficient for most projects. However this really depends on what you’re doing. In highly creative projects where project team members work very closely together, a daily huddle could be the norm. Also if there are specific issues that come up and that have to be tracked closely, then meetings to address their progress will be necessary. As a project manager, it will be up to you to decide how often you want to meet with your team. Too much and you will be micromanaging and maybe even wasting their time. Too little and you will be letting go of any monitoring and control.

When tasks are complete, you will need to check that what was delivered was exactly what was intended. You will need this to be verified with the people who asked for the work to be done in the first place, your sponsors.

Once everything is verified, you can move to close the project. This means getting sponsors to sign off that everything has been delivered, cleaning up any project space used, returning equipment that you used for the project and sending employees back to their departments to do their regular jobs. You then prepare a closing report with a summary of what happened on the project, how things went and if there any recommendations for future projects.

That’s it. I know you will say there is a lot more to it than that and you would be right. But remember in this article I wanted to list the important tasks at a high level. Stay tuned for more detail.


Thanks for reading


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