Customer Advocacy - Project Management Basics, Part 2
we discussed in our
last issue, effective project management is essential for ensuring
holistic delivery on the commitments your firm has made to the customer,
and is an important skill to performing as a highly effective customer
advocate. The basics of project management include:
- Define the boundaries, resources and stakeholders
- Divide and conquer
- Obtain commitments and caveats
- Document and publish the plan
- Conduct periodic status meetings
- Check-in on critical tasks
- Communicate progress
While the previous issue discussed the first three topics, we focus this
article on the final four "basics" of project management.
Document and publish the plan
Once you know the project boundaries, resources, stakeholders, tasks and
activities, it is time for you to prepare the official plan. Do this
(quickly) through 2-3 iterations that are reviewed by members of the team,
before announcing project commitments to the organization. The objective
is to ensure that all members of the team are aligned and prepared to
deliver on key milestones. Once this has been established, publishing the
plan beyond the project team will serve to create
cross-functional/organizational awareness and alignment.
Conduct periodic status meetings
To ensure the project remains on track, you will want to establish and
conduct periodic team meetings/conference calls. While the frequency
depends on a number of factors (project complexity, duration, proximity to
completion of critical milestones and status), these are typically
conducted on a weekly basis. The objective is to ensure ongoing
coordination and integration of project activities of ALL participants.
Effective meeting management is crucial as every member of your team is
busy, not only with fulfilling their commitments to this particular
project, but likely with other duties as well. As such, you are encouraged
to focus time on facilitating discussions related to any issues that may
have arisen and a review of critical path items (discussed below).
However, will you (the project manager) wait for the weekly project
meeting to obtain the status of critical tasks and activities? You already
know the answer to this...
Check-in on critical tasks
While projects often involve dozens, if not hundreds, of tasks, there are
typically only a handful of critical path items - those items that by
completing late will have a direct impact on the project timeline. These
are the tasks that you will want to perform status checks on between
project status meetings to ensure that they remain on track. If (or should
I say when) a critical path item is off track, you need to engage
immediately to determine what you can do to remediate challenges or remove
A principle to live by here is: if you don't check on the status of
project tasks, you can safely assume that they aren't getting done!"
There are (at least) two key audiences that you need to communicate
project status to, each with an appropriate level of detail.
The immediate and extended project team - These are
the individuals within the inner-circle of your project team, where
detail-level status reporting is appropriate. This can include both
internal (to your organization) and external (customers and/or 3rd party
service providers) resources.
Project sponsors and/or stakeholders. These are
typically higher-level individuals that only require top-level project
status information communicated via an executive-level project status
report. In most cases, this can and should be communicated in a one-page
Regardless of the audience, a key element to reporting on project status
is the "color-code." The color-code provides a quick read-out on overall
project status to any audience. Project status color-codes are as follows:
Green - The project is on track to achieve milestones.
There may be issues but they are surmountable.
Yellow - A risk or obstacle exists which has taken, or
has a high potential to take, the project off track from achieving
Red - The project is presently off track and will
likely not meet milestones. Remedial action is required to get things
back on track or milestones may need to be reset.
consider the above to be "the basics." I firmly believe that an effective
project manager can lead the efforts to build anything from a bicycle to a
rocket ship. That is, project management is a core competency in and of
itself. Leading a team of subject-matter-experts by systematically
organizing efforts and effectively managing risks, assumptions and
expectations through continuous communications ensures the successful
achievement of important goals and objectives.
If you have a critical project that you want to ensure achieves desired
outcomes, or one that continues to miss the mark, give us a call. We would
be happy to provide insight and guidance on approaches we have taken to
ensure project success in numerous situations. And, if it makes sense,
we'd be happy to engage with you to drive the project to achieve desired
View previous articles in this series.
Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down
column is devoted to memorable customer experiences, the good, the bad,
and the ugly. This issue provides an example of less-than-exemplary
We recently went for a family photo session; not always the most fun
with 3 young kids. We deliberately booked it early in the morning (9:00AM),
knowing these places always get backed up. We rushed all morning to get
there exactly on time, only to learn that some of the photographers hadn't
shown up, and one of the 8:30 appointments was still waiting for their
turn. With each passing 15 minutes or so, another group would arrive,
lengthening the queue faster than they could service it. Finally another
photographer arrived at 9:30 and in we went. Not so bad, we thought, until
we weren't done for another hour, after 5 elaborate background changes by
our overly artistic photographer, who informed us this wasn't her real job
but she was helping out for the holiday season. By the end, the manager
realized this was going on too long and sent a seasoned photographer in to
help out and hurry things along (and take the best pictures of the
session). As tired as we were, we felt even worse for the enormous group
of people still waiting, some of whom had been waiting since we started
our marathon session.
Editor's note: 'Tis the season…for
seasonal help. Even for companies that do a great job of incenting and
rewarding their employees to provide excellent customer service, it can be
easy to overlook seasonal employees. These employees might have just as
much interaction with customers during this time of year; the fact that
they are not permanent employees should be transparent to the customer. By
making them feel a part of the team and providing them the same incentives
to keep customers satisfied, companies can go a long way to making sure
everyone has a happy holiday season!
Have your own customer service experience to share?
Email us. Names will be changed to protect the guilty....
View previous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down articles.
+ Customer Advocacy - Project Management Basics, Part
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Recommended Reading
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