The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) identifies five phases of a successful project management lifecycle, from initiation through closeout. As project management professionals navigate the activities and deliverables within each of these phases, they adjust industry tools and techniques depending on the size, duration, and complexity of their specific projects. Some activities and techniques within the phases may seem straightforward and easy to employ; however, there are several commonly overlooked steps that have the potential to derail a project if not taken seriously. Let’s take a look at those important, but sometimes discounted, steps within each of the phases.
- Project Initialization: When project managers conduct stakeholder analysis, special attention is usually paid to the key stakeholders who have a significant influence on the resulting project. Regrettably, some project managers fail to consider the impact of the end users of a project implementation. End users may sit at the lowest levels of the organization, but their understanding and acceptance of the project results may ultimately make or break the entire effort.
- Project Planning: Project managers develop detailed Gantt charts to integrate the project activities, resource requirements and milestones into a comprehensive visual timeline. The activity duration estimates are the foundation of the entire schedule. Too aggressive and potentially unachievable activities that continue to build upon one another throughout the project could unexpectedly set a project far behind its intended goals. Project managers should pay special attention to the feasibility and risks associated with the critical path of a project in order to build in enough flexibility for unforeseen challenges.
- Project Execution: Communication within the team is not only a critical piece to project management but is also what helps make leaders effective in any type of organization or role. Project managers are responsible for providing clear direction for the team prior to kickoff of activities, maintaining regular contact to check statuses, and delivering difficult feedback when performance could be improved. Additionally, team members should know their roles and responsibilities, as well as how their workstreams should coordinate and collaborate with one another.
- Project Monitoring and Control: Scope creep can be the worst enemy for a project team pushing through already aggressive timelines. Leadership should be cognizant that even the smallest increment of scope expansion can have compounding effects on already constrained resources. In order to hedge against such changes, project managers should establish and follow their scope change control activities and adjust their resource allocations accordingly.
- Project Closure: With the excitement of finishing a long project and the anticipation of moving on to the next one, project managers may rush the project close out phase. Unfortunately for those project managers, the way a team closes out a project can leave a lasting negative impression with the customer or benefiting organization. To avoid this, project managers should closely compare the initial project goals with all of the activities and deliverables achieved during the execution phase. Even though this comparison should be done throughout the execution and monitoring phases of the project, it is critical that project managers verify that all objectives and deliverables have been met prior to officially ending their efforts. By managing customer expectations with the final achieved outcomes, project teams can facilitate an easy contract closure and promote an excellent lasting impression.