Completed on Time! A wrap! 30! The dream of every project manager. You don't have to be a military equipment manufacturer to know that this does not often happen. How often have you had to explain to clients why you just can't make the schedule? There are just too many variables to manage in most projects, making on-time completion just a misty dream. Still, every time a project starts, this is the goal. Complete the project on time to the satisfaction of the client. It can be an Everest to climb... but still a task to be done. So, here are some simple steps you take to push yourself...and the project...up that mountain.
Start with the plan. This must be realistic, with clear achievable goals. If the plan is already in place before you started, review the plan and assess whether, given your resources, you will be able to complete this on schedule. Check to see if there are contract penalties for missing deadlines. That gives you some levers in the company if things get bogged. If you have any computer skills at all, get a project planning software. This will help the whole team see what is happening and what must happen. Careful and thoughtful planning can save your skin.
Assign tasks. Identify all the tasks that must be done to complete the job, cluster together related tasks and assign each cluster to one person who will be fully accountable for its completion. Determine the length of time needed to finish the tasks. With each person, draw up a terms of reference to include the tasks and the length of time needed for completion. Make sure the person assigned to the task sign the document to confirm his agreement.
Prepare a schedule. Arrange the timing of the tasks into a chart on the computer if you can, or on a wall. Indicate which task must be completed before another can start. Indicate the critical points in the schedule and clarify each one's commitment to make this happen. Make sure that all the task holders have a clear understanding of the project's critical path and each individual's input not just to the project, but to the other task holders' completion of their task.
Build Slack into the schedule. Remember your previous projects? Will a tsunami hit? How about a suppliers strike or transport chaos in winter or ????? No matter how much you try, there are delays you can't foresee. So many other things can happen to affect this schedule so make sure you provide, at least, 25 percent extra time for this. Keep in mind the Boeing 787.Dreamliner .....wow...2 years late already?
Look at resources available. Make sure you have what you need and it is all allocated and scheduled for your use, no ands and buts or ifs!!! Blindsides are painful! If you have to share resources with other projects, make sure you assess the impact of this on your project and provide the support to mitigate negative impact.
Track regularly your progress. Have a white board that informs everyone of progress. Highlight inputs completed. Celebrate critical hurdles. Enable, enable, enable! When you face a wall, think of the next best thing you can do. Schedule meetings appropriately for reporting and for critical intervention. Solve and tackle problems right where it happens. As you keep doing one project after another, start building teams of persons who can work well with each other. This way, you are sure to complete your project on schedule.
In most projects there comes a time when you are sure the world will end, you will be fired, your team will set your office on fire and your family will go home to the mother-in-law. Don't panic. Now is when you really show what leadership is by calming the troops, focusing energy on solutions and building confidence that all can be salvaged.