Assign roles and responsibilities
Identifying the project team and its responsibilities, from Key Stakeholders to Ancillary Team Members, is one of the first steps in a project’s life. As a Project Manager you may need assistance from the Project Sponsor in identifying the appropriate personnel, and creation of a Stakeholder map may be useful.
Once the Key Stakeholders (those with a high level of interest and high influence, e.g. decision makers, budget holders) are identified, work with them to set their roles and areas of responsibility. Ensuring the Key Stakeholders have agreed roles and responsibilities will streamline the project decision making process. The Key Stakeholders should also assist in identifying individuals for the Core Team and Ancillary Team working on the project.
Perform a similar exercise with the Core Team; this group of individuals will deliver the project. Both the members within the team and you as the Project Manager need to understand what individuals are bringing to the team. It is likely the team will be experts in their areas (e.g. laboratory sample lifecycles) but have never worked with a LIMS before. Think of the role of a team member as being a ‘job’; as a Project Manager you are responsible for ensuring each team member understands their job description.
Involve the team when creating the project plan
A Project Manager is ‘the person in overall charge of the planning and execution of a particular project’. It is not likely (or expected) you will have the knowledge or expertise to identify all tasks required to deliver the project. Engaging with the project team (this could be with all levels of teams on the project) ensures all team members become a part of the project and not just deliverers of tasks.
Make the task identification process more interesting hold a brainstorming session with the team, or maybe several sessions, to start to build up the project plan. Get the core and ancillary teams involved and make it interactive with post it notes; where possible avoid electronic means within the meeting (eg excel, project) in order to keep everyone engaged and provide them with the responsibility for thinking about appropriate task owners and timelines.
Keep a rhythm with regular meetings
It is likely the team(s) with which you are working are also performing a time consuming and time critical day job. Discuss, within the teams, preferred meeting patterns and draw up a communication plan. There will be different communication requirements across the project teams; the Stakeholders may require a different frequency than the Core Team, for the Core Team there might be a specific day and time which they would find easier to fit into their schedules.
The frequency of communication or meetings should be sufficient to keep up momentum, provide you with the progress information you require but doesn’t overburden the team.
If meeting frequency is too high team members may drop out regularly, if the frequency is too low team members may forget about their actions until the day of the meeting. Try to avoid unmemorable frequencies, such as the third Tuesday of every month, as attendance and completion of actions will rely on calendar checking.
You as the Project Manager can help the team successfully fulfil their role, without nagging by scheduling a regular meeting with a suitable (memorable) frequency which becomes a part of team member weekly activities.
A good attribute to have as a Project Manager is to draw benefit from changes within the project. All projects will encounter some level of change within their lifecycle, and as a good Project Manager you should embrace this, draw on the positives and change plans accordingly without causing disruption within the team.
It is important that, even if the change is significant, that the team see only a calm, considered professional approach to the event.
As a Project Manager you can also introduce change; if project meetings have become a standard checking of actions, introduce something different at the end of each work phase (or sprint if you are applying Agile methodology to your project).
Track budget and keep stakeholders informed
There are several types of stakeholders, each group will have different influences and communication requirements:
- Individuals and groups performing the work;
- Typically members of the Core Team and Ancillary Team will be from these groups, with communication requirements defined and regular meetings. As the main tasks will be delivered by this group close and frequent communication is critical, especially in the early stages and when project changes occur.
- Individuals and groups affected by the work;
- Requirements may need to be defined through discussion with the Core Team and Key Stakeholders. For some in this group too much information too soon may cause confusion and misunderstanding. Careful change impact management will need to be employed in this group; Just by its definition a project enacts a change and there may be areas within an organisation which are reluctant to change or take longer to accept a change.
- Senior Management;
- Depending on the size of the company the Key Stakeholders and Project Sponsor will probably be from this group. These individuals may have endorsed the business case for the project and its success will have a direct impact on their functions or departments.
- The Key Stakeholders are unlikely to require detailed updates on individual tasks, their specific areas of interest will be if the project is on time and on budget.
- Frequent monitoring of the budget and the impact of any financial changes will allow timely communication to those providing the budget that additional funds may be required, or the funds might be required earlier or later than planned. Rather than waiting for the next Key Stakeholder meeting.