Do you ever worry when things seem too quiet? Possibly going too well? There is no such thing as the perfect project - no matter how well you plan, no matter how hard you try and no matter how experienced you are at leading successful projects. Have any of you truly ever had a perfect project?
I have six little kids aged five to eleven and when they are too quiet, I worry most. And for good reason; I may find them climbing a tall evergreen tree in our backyard dangerously high up because - of course - they are fearless. Or perhaps they have flooded a downstairs bathroom. The list can go on and on. The common denominator is silence. You think all is well, but it’s not. The same can hold true with the many projects that we manage. The quiet ones may be going well after all - nothing to worry about. But they might also be going off the rails. Investigate. Investigate. Investigate.
I recommend a four-step process to pause and cover as much project footprint as possible in a very short amount of time. Again, it may just be paranoia and everything may truly be gliding smoothly, but as long as you don’t burn through the precious project time frame verifying everything, a little bit of extra status checking is never a bad thing.
Check in with the team. The plan is that you are meeting with your highly skilled, collaborative project team formally on a weekly basis to discuss status – usually just ahead of the formal weekly project status call with the project customer... to get the latest and greatest updates and information from your project team so you can have the best info possible heading into the client call. But for this team meeting I'm calling for something different. Go around the room and have more of a roundtable type discussion. Discuss what everyone is doing and how their customer interaction is going. The goal is to identify any issues that otherwise might fall through the cracks.
Sit down with the customer. Have a one-on-one meeting with the project customer. Discuss the project in a more casual mode than would normally be the case. Any concerns, issues, change order needs? Again, the goal is to identify any issues that might have fallen or may be falling through the cracks.
Present to senior leadership. Sit down with your senior leadership and run through the project. Hearing it from your own mouth may bring up useful questions and when you tell the project story out loud rather than through a project status report it may dislodge some thoughts or information that was otherwise stuck somewhere unproductive and festering for no apparent reason. Everyone has their own thoughts and informational needs so casually talking to those on different levels at a checkpoint is never a bad thing.
Do a one-off status report. Finally, do a different status report. You are probably already doing a great job of project status reporting to all stakeholders – hopefully doing a one size fits all report. And don't change that with this one; just throw in some detail you normally wouldn’t go into on the weekly report and see if anything gets traction. If any new discussion comes up as a result, it's win-win.
Summary / call for input
Everything may be going like clockwork on the project. And that is not a bad thing – but possibly an unsettling thing. Too much quiet is not a confidence booster when you're an on the edge project manager and worrying daily... hourly... about the success of all the projects under your leadership. Don't get fooled into tranquility. It's a dangerous place to be.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you had situations where your project seemed to be going too well only to have things blow up all around you? Please share your thoughts and discuss.