Project Management Ideas Working Blog

Keeping Your Project’s Head Attached

A large project will require input from stakeholders and end users on every point of your org chart. As the project moves forward, you’ll delegate some communication and work streams to department heads and informed supporters. This makes sense because these people know the nitty gritty of doing their jobs and can provide a depth of knowledge that neither you nor other outsiders can match.

But you have to be careful that you don’t become detached. People like me have to make sure that all the pieces of a project end up fitting together. This means that distinct work streams have to evenutally flow back together like tributaries of a river. If you allow distinct groups to work for too long without oversight, then they’ll start to shift their part of the project to suit their needs rather than the larger needs (and scope) of the project.

Some signs that you need to re-attach your head to the project:

  1. Timelines are being adapted to expectations that were not voiced to you or included in your timeline.
  2. Stakeholders are referencing things outside your scope as part of the deliverables.
  3. Your audience list is now completely out of sync with who you are meeting and planning with.
  4. Additional resources are being requested and you don’t what they would be needed for.

What to do when this happens:

  1. Rally the troops: Pull the core team and decision makers together and review your scope documents along with timelines. Being reminded of what your goals are and when they are due will help people prioritize.
  2. Make sure you aren’t missing something: Maybe all this new stuff is necessary? Ask your champion and decision-makers to review the new additions with you and make the call about what to handle and what gets dropped.
  3. Start spot-checking: You might not be able to attend every meeting, but jumping into a few discussions will allow you to re-inject your perspective into the process.
  4. Confirm budget and timelines with vendors: Many tangential tasks and add-ons will magically disappear if you remind outside vendors that your budget and deadlines are fixed.

What to do to keep this from happening:

  • Communicate frequently: I’m not a big fan of meetings, but I don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or send an email about any question I have. I talk to project members regularly and get updates from every angle.
  • Keep decision-makers in the loop: Having to report to them and answer their questions will spur you to keep a close-eye on the different project pieces.
  • Regular review sessions: Build a review process for each work stream into your planning. Be very specific about what you need to see in each session. Teams will be reminded of what matters and how they should be contributing.

Big projects tend to have a lot of moving parts. It’s assumed that some of them will have to run without you. But you still need to checkup regularly and ensure that things stay on track.