Mario, a friend of mine, owns a business in a popular coastal holiday town where he sells, services and stores boats. He needs to build a new, larger facility to store his clients’ boats until they come down for their holidays. He has just a few months in which to build it, and must keep a close eye on the finances as well as the structural quality. Because I’m in the project management field, he’s asked me for guidance on how he could manage this project without getting too formal or “Corporate”.
As the title implies, this is not for a substantial project. And yet I regularly come across many big budget projects that don’t stick to even these basics!
/THE FIRST 3 BASICS
Start with the end in mind. This means envisioning the completed deliverable; maybe a sketch, picture or model, or describe a new operational state and the BENEFITS that you will get.
Have a plan. It looks like this:
- The tasks required to complete a deliverable (an end result or thing you want).
- The test or inspection to make sure that the quality of the deliverable is ok.
- The description of the deliverable.
- The next set of tasks (repeat “a” above).
- The next deliverable (repeat “b and c” above).
- Keep your plan up to date and make it visible; stick it on the wall.
Break the plan into Stages, e.g. Stage 1 = Plans, Stage 2 = Site, Stage 3 = steel structure, etc. And only plan the detail for the next Stage; all other stages are planned roughly.
/THE NEXT 4 BASICS
Describe the quality of each deliverable. It is important that the quality can be measured, seen and tested. Add tests or quality inspections to your plan.
Keep an Issue Log of all problems and delays (even solved ones, to keep a history), all questions raised and any changes required. Include the reasons and be clear; e.g. contractor late, order delayed, weather bad, rework explained.
Keep an action list of all the things you and/or a contractor needs to follow up on that are not on the plan, and that you may forget. An action is either Urgent, Important, or both.
Think about any risks. These are things that may upset your project. Think what you can do now to reduce the chance of that risk occurring, or reduce its impact to your costs, quality or progress. Add these actions to your action list/diary.
/THE LAST 3 BASICS
Track your planned cost vs actual cost, and keep your expected benefits in mind: are you still on track to achieve these benefits? Has anything happened to threaten, or even enhance these benefits?
Have a written agreement (I call it a Work Pack) with everyone doing work for you. Cover cost, their responsibilities, actual start date and actual end date for each task they have to do. Get them to create and share their basic plans of the key steps, so you can identify and catch delays early on, rather than too late. Catching up is much harder than keeping up.
Show physical, visual progress by taking photos or display other evidence (completed documents for example) of progress. Add photos of the individual or team, make notes on photos and use Post-its, and stick these next to your plan on your wall.
So this is Mario’s method, a process to follow with a few embedded techniques and responsibilities in the contract/work pack.
Mario tells me that so far everything is going according to plan. Smooth sailing, you might say …