PM: Know when to throw stuff off the wagon!

During the early stages of a project, it is normal for the Project Manager to accumulate numerous tasks and to do’s which “seemingly” must be completed in order for the project to successfully cross the finish line. Effectively managing these into (or, more importantly, out of) the project plan is crucial. This includes determining:

  • Which items are in scope (necessary to ensure success) vs. out-of-scope (unnecessary, and/or could be addressed after “go-live”)
  • Timing and interdependencies
  • Ownership

This is the phase when the PM is “drinking from a fire hose;” taking everything in / making sure no details are lost. All well and good!

That said, over time (relative to the project scope/magnitude and complexity), the project “wagon” will be loaded up with the agreed upon tasks and activities that the team will address as part of the plan.

It is at this point when the High Performing PM must be absolutely tenacious to ensure with each and every meeting (and day), more things come “off the wagon” than are being added “to the wagon.” This is not to say that new information won’t materialize that must be factored into the plan. However, too often, silly little delays can be introduced by not QUICKLY nipping things in the bud.

During a project I led many years ago, I was in a team meeting in which we were discussing the final steps of data conversion round 1 (of 3). Being that it was round 1, we weren’t looking for perfection. We were testing; we were looking to ensure we had the basics covered. That is, we could load each data element to the system and perform some rudimentary reconciliation to ensure things looked good. From there, we had 2 more opportunities to perfect things.

During the team meeting, questions came up related to inconsistencies in and/or incompleteness of the data. The conversation started down the path of how this could be rectified (by going back to pull more data and creating scripts to update the recently loaded data) and what the impact would be to the (already tight) schedule.

It is at this point when the High Performance PM exclaims: STOP! And, reinforces the fact that the data is “good enough” for this round. Perfection is NOT what we are looking for at this stage.

If we had been “way” ahead of schedule and team members had plenty of time on their hands, we may have been “tempted” to consider addressing the above. Even then, I would suggest the same course of action would be appropriate because I have found that “work expands to fill the available time.”

As such, whenever there is wiggle room in the schedule, don’t be tempted to “burn it” on anything that isn’t absolutely critical to project success. That time WILL become necessary later on in the project when (not if) something new shows up that must be addressed.

It would be better to have the extra time and not need it than need the extra time and not have it!

In closing, if you are looking to improve PM capabilities in yourself, or organization, feel free to reach out so that we can discuss how I can help!

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