Common Mistakes Project Managers Need To Avoid. Even Senior Leaders Can Learn From. Project Initiation.
You are given a project. The project charter was signed. Now you are told to complete this project. You are under pressure to deliver the results quickly. You are overwhelmed and are thinking that the project is late before it even begun. As a result you might skip some of the earlier steps in project management process and turn your attention too soon to the planning phase.
DO NOT skip this Initiating phase. The danger of skipping it can be significant down the road.
It is true that conceptual work begins before the project manager is even officially selected. You as a project manager need to do your do-diligence and speak with the project sponsor, speak with boss, speak with the key stakeholders to ensure that proper project selection has been conducted. You have to ensure that the key questions have been answered. If you do not do this you will spend significant time during project execution phase suffering the consequences of having the vision being misaligned with the purpose which should have been documented in the project charter.
You have to have a clear understanding during the initiation phase of: "WHY". Why does this project needs to be undertaken? (Check out Terry Schmidt's book - Strategic Project Management Made where he goes into more detail of why start with WHY. Even better Terry has a Superhero program where he goes more in depth on this which is customized for you.)
As a project manager ask: What are the problems does this project needs to address? What are the issues does this project needs to fix? Are there other projects that are addressing similar issues? What are the risks associated with this project? How is success defined in this project? I usually ask the project sponsor if all things cannot be accomplished by the project what percentage of the project completion would make this project a success.
Has the scope, budget, schedule, quality been defined?
Often these questions reappear at some point in the projects life cycle. Than these issues become more costly and difficult to resolve.
It is imperative that answering these key questions happen at the early stage of the project. Some questions need to be revisited periodically. One question that needs to be asked periodically through out the duration of the project is - Is this project still relevant? By ensuring that the to key questions are asked and answered at the beginning of the project this will ensure that the project is indeed beneficial to the organization and that it gets the right support from the get go. Saving Changes...
Just to add up some of my personal observation regarding initiation phase, this is the process where you can shape each of the stakeholder's expectation with minimal effort. It is always very difficult to change people's expectation of outcome towards the project during execution and it's critical towards the successful of project delivery as we shall not forget that the only criteria to indicate a project success is to fulfill stakeholder's expectation.
I did experienced recently on an IT project that is critical to our company transformation and what so sadly is we tend to speed up the progress to execution phase without really define a clear cut of scope, budget, constraint and quality. So, here come's the problem, the expectation for each stakeholder has form differently, some might think it just a piece of cakes while others think add up a few number of human resources will helps to achieve the goal in shorter period. When there is expectation gap from each stakeholders, we tend to face a lot of obstacles during project execution such as (just to name a few) insufficient resources allocation as project didn't prioritized as critical, being questioned on long scheduled project completion and so on.
Do not get me wrong by the way, there's still possible for us to manage and control each of the stakeholders towards the right track but what i am trying to highlight is we can avoid such circumstances through formed stakeholders' expectation during initiation phase. Well, it takes time but it worth the effort. Saving Changes...
"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they can't find them, make them."