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Leaner PM? Then stop these 5 bad practices

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Leaner, simpler, better, repeatable, successful. That's what we are striving for, right?

Leaner project management means good best practices that are easy to follow and repeat and that hopefully means that successful project outcomes are more likely. You want your organisation to be the exception to the rule that more than half of all projects fail to some extent.

How do you get there? In my opinion it means trimming the fat. There is a lot of process often built into our project management techniques and methodologies that may not need to be there. For me – while trying not to overload you readers with too many – comes down to five key practices... practices that can potentially be examined and corrected to make projects leaner and easier to manage.

Let's examine...

1. Too many meetings

Does it seem that some project leaders like to call meetings just to plan for another meeting? Those same project managers like to call side meetings at nearly every meeting. Stakeholders walk out of one of those project manager's meetings with their week filled up with new meetings. And then these project manager's wonder why attendance keeps dropping at all their meetings. If attendance drops, so does productivity and effectiveness.

2. Customised status reports for all

No more creating multiple status reports to keep everyone happy and engaged on your project. It isn't practical, you're too busy and your stakeholders should be accountable to you more than you to them. Go with a one size fits all status report and a good dashboard to tell key project health indicators at a glance. Trust me, once they get over the initial shock of the change, they will all love it.

3. Over complicate things

Look around – how much of an over complicator are you? Do you have more than one stack of un-filed papers on your desk. Are there things within your reach and clothes in your closet that you haven't used or worn in a year? If so, then you need to toss a few things and simplify. I was that way – and it was also affecting the way I executed on projects and consulting engagements. Declutter and remove the overlapping and excess processes. You'll have less frustration, yet you'll be more or equally productive... most likely more productive and more confident.

4. Handing projects over to whoever is available

This type of simplification is actually going too far. You need experience and possibly some certification leading projects if you are the PMO director. Don't over simplify here by just taking the next warm body. And make sure the project leader is the best fit possible for the project. Once started it's hard to change things without dramatically affecting cost, timeline and customer confidence.

5. Running projects with little structure regardless of size

There is a tendency for organisations – often of all shapes and sizes – to run projects with little structure wrapped around them if they are very small projects. Or where the small organisation or startup makes excuses of being small or new or agile and therefore somehow immune to the ways of structured project management.

Summary/call for input

I believe in simplifying things when we can. I am all for structure as I stated above. But I also believe in boundaries. Rigidity is not the answer and some subjectivity is ok. Not all projects and organisations and customers are created equal. I understand that many organisations require a rigid project management structure or the use of their own inflexible project management, issue management or whatever tool. I worked at organisation that produced their own proprietary software that we configured for clients – more of an ERP type solution. There was a change control and project management element to the software, but thankfully the project managers did not have to manage projects with it. It was painful to use. If things work, let them work. Real world project management – if successful – is ok as long as it remains successful, project managers are happy, costs stay manageable, and customers are happy.

Project leaders – what are your thoughts?

What recommendations do you have for leaner project management to keep projects successful, processes easy to follow and repeat, and success overall more easy to replicate on a project-by-project basis. Please share your thoughts and discuss.



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