Some time back I was responsible for a portfolio of projects being done within the finance organization of my company. One of the projects was outsourced to a large consulting firm who supplied the project management, analysis, and development resources to the project. I would hold weekly meetings with the project manager who consistently gave me a "thumbs up" on the project up to the first key milestone being hit. When the week of the first milestone approached, he announced that the milestone was going to have to slip by a week to ensure successful delivery. The next week came along and again the project slipped a week. This went on for two more weeks with the promise of "we'll for sure nail it next week." I decided to do some crawling around the project to assess where the project was really at. Turns out we were at least a month away from delivering to the milestone which was already a month late.
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Despite how pretty a project schedule looks, how clear the organization chart is, or how well articulated the risks and issues are, the most successful projects execute great to a great plan. Solid project management execution means driving the plan, making adjustments as necessary to address unforeseen issues (if you are able to run projects that never have issues email me at email@example.com; I'd like to spend a day in your world), and removing roadblocks which can inhibit successful completion. The project manager has to stay steady at the helm making sure these things happen; they won't just happen by themselves. To articulate this a bit more here are three formulas for you to keep in mind:
Planning + Execution = Project Success
Execution - Planning = Randomized Flailing
Planning - Execution = Well-Dressed Inertia
Through my experience I've come up with six techniques that can help you as a project manager better ensure project success. While this isn't an exhaustive list of everything you can do, it does highlight some specific areas which can help keep a project from derailing:
Excellent planning coupled with strong execution is crucial to ensuring the success of any project. Subtract planning or execution from a project, and you either get the randomized flailing of a project out of control, or the well-dressed inertia of a good-looking project going nowhere.
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