Today, success in just about any field, at any rank, demands project management skills. That's why FranklinCovey, a performance improvement company, is launching seminars titled "Project Management Essentials for the Unofficial Project Manager." Though oriented to the workplace, its practices can be applied to any "endeavor with a start and finish, undertaken to create a unique product, service or result," as it defines a project — being asked to oversee the garden club's spring plant sale, for instance.
"Project management today isn't just about managing logistics," said Kory Kogon, productivity practice leader for FranklinCovey. "The skills of 'informal authority' are more important than ever before." Here Kogon provides an overview of steps that FranklinCovey develops in its seminars.
Degree of difficulty: Communication and transparency are key.
1. Implement foundational behaviors to master informal authority. In other words, cultivate "the ability, without a formal position of power, to inspire people to willingly follow your direction." The most crucial behavior is to respect all stakeholders — i.e., anyone who will influence your project's success or failure. Unless stakeholders feel respected, Kogon said, "I don't think you have a shot of getting people's best work."
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2. Initiate. Identify and interview a project's stakeholders. "People jump into projects all the time with tremendous assumptions being made. A very good inquiry needs to be done to get to the expectations and really know who your key stakeholders are. If you miss one, down the road someone shows up and says, 'Why didn't you check with me?' It just means failure right off the bat." Then create a scope that spells out desired results and constraints.
3. Plan. Identify risks, and create a plan to manage them. "I'm from New York, and I'm really big on risk management," she said. "What are the top one or two risks that can really bite you?" Then create a realistic project schedule in writing. If you don't have a schedule and scoreboard, you're set up for failure. Develop a communication plan — for example, weekly meetings and more frequent emails.
4. Execute. Model accountability, and conduct regular team-accountability sessions. "If someone isn't carrying their weight, you have to have the skills to get them back on target without embarrassing them," Kogon said. That doesn't mean you can't point out the problem during the weekly meeting. "When that happens, the rest of the people in the room are going to be thinking, 'I will never allow myself to come unprepared.'"
5. Monitor and control. The most important thing here is managing changes in scope. "If you really understand the ripple effect one change can have, you can sit down with the team and either figure out how to get it done or have a respectful conversation with the stakeholder who requested it about why it won't be the best thing to do. People might be a little intimidated to have that conversation (but) I always value it if someone comes to me and coherently says, 'I just want to point out it's going to cost $50,000 more to do this change.'"
6. Close. Review lessons, and recognize accomplishments. "Make sure that you're having that closing meeting. Pause for 30 minutes. Make everyone feel safe talking about lessons learned. Have the key stakeholders in the room so they can applaud the team. Have a little food, even if it's a bag from Costco. Giving everyone a boost is what's going to make them want to work on the next project."
For information about "Project Management Essentials for the Unofficial Project Manager," call 888-705-1776 or visit pm.franklincovey.com. Seminars can be delivered online or via a classroom.