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How can I implement PM to 20 projects, that never had a Project Manager previously, all at once?
I have been a project manager now for close to a decade. However, my experience has been for a large corporate tech company that only managed 1-3 projects at a time, due to the size of those projects. There were also set processes and workflows in place from the beginning. I recently took on a role at a Creative Agency that currently only has 7-10 active employees all working on every project. They have never had a project manager before, have no documented workflows or processes and are currently working on 20+ projects.

I am comfortable creating process and workflows for future projects, that I will have the chance to help launch from beginning to end, however my issue and stress right now is on the 20+ client projects that are well under way, and there is no structured project managment system in place for those projects.

As a new member of the team, how do I get control of the already active projects, without delaying deadlines or allowing something to fall through the cracks?
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James,

As an initial step, I would look at all the client projects and resources as one logical project. Doing this will provide you an opportunity to understand the relational characteristics (e.g., interdependencies, constraints, conflicts, etc.) of the combined projects.

After you understand this, you will be able to make recommendations to management on improving their “way of working” and then (at that point) have a fairly good idea of how you should go about structuring and tracking the projects individually.
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1 reply by George Freeman
Sep 16, 2021 8:43 PM
George Freeman
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James,

Keith’s response is more thought out and better spoken than mine, but we are saying the same thing –
Project manage your own solution approach first before recommending and implementing any changes.
The worst managers (project or functional) I have ever encountered try to assume control of ongoing projects and immediately alter the way they are managed without understanding the current way of business.

You say there is no structured PM, but there are probably many aspects of PM going on whether people know it or not. Step one is to listen, ask questions, be respectful, and understand the current state.

Observe their work flows and map them as you understand them. Ask what problems they encounter, but don't just jump in and tell them how to fix them without a complete picture.

When you change things, do it incrementally. Prioritize which ones are low risk and which ones could use more immediate help. Based on what you documented about their existing workflow, you can establish timelines. If you don't see a clear problem or solution description, you can start working on better definition.

If you try to dump a new complete solution package on everyone, you are likely to fail, so project manage your own solution approach to transition the team over time adding both what process components you think need work, but also the level of detail in your processes.
Sep 16, 2021 8:18 PM
Replying to George Freeman
...
James,

As an initial step, I would look at all the client projects and resources as one logical project. Doing this will provide you an opportunity to understand the relational characteristics (e.g., interdependencies, constraints, conflicts, etc.) of the combined projects.

After you understand this, you will be able to make recommendations to management on improving their “way of working” and then (at that point) have a fairly good idea of how you should go about structuring and tracking the projects individually.
James,

Keith’s response is more thought out and better spoken than mine, but we are saying the same thing –
Project manage your own solution approach first before recommending and implementing any changes.
James wrote:

"They have never had a project manager before, have no documented workflows or processes and are currently working on 20+ projects."

It would be easy to say to just jump in and document their workflows and create standardized processes, and that might be exactly what is needed. If the environment/culture allows for it, consider the following questions and take a minute to do what I wrote about in my last blog post - focus and then zoom.

- Who are you accountable to?
- Does that person have a vision or expectations for what you are to deliver?
- Does that person want to see a plan and regular updates, or just see progress? If the latter, how is progress defined?
- Can you support the vision/meet the expectations?
- How will you do that?
- What does the team expect from you, as a project manager? (Do they know what to expect?)
- How can you help them?
- How will it benefit them?
- What can you do to help them realize, or see the benefit?
- Are there any quick wins while you work on longer term activities, that don't detract from larger gains?
- What kind of resistance can you expect?
- Who is most likely to offer resistance? Why?
- What can you do about resistance?
Thank you all so much! The approach to PM myself but on finding the solution and then implementing that solution in phases is exactly the angle I needed to jump start my brain! Thank you all, again so much!
Do not try to implement project management "by the book". Identify outcomes, identify risks, identify milestones to create the outcomes and go for it without too much "formality". In parallel you can start to create what is needed related to formality but just in case it adds value to the organization.
James -

I fully agree with what my colleagues have posted before me. The one thing I'd add is you need to determine whether the concurrent volume of projects is actually achievable given the shared number of team members. I realize there are client commitments at stake, but it is much better to have those "tough" conversations about pushing back delivery dates proactively than waiting till it is clear to all that this is reality.

Kiron
You haven't defined the issue or problem. Nowhere do you state that current delivery methods are ineffective of inefficient. Are you trying to apply a solution (project management) to an nonexistent problem or trying to find a problem for your predetermined solution?

Are costs, time, quality out of control? Are there communication issues? Do unforeseen problems affect project delivery? Is there team unrest? If so, identify these as problems and develop solutions - project management processes will evolve from these solutions and ultimately will become standard procedure.
James,

very interesting challenge and good you ask.

So you have some customers and 20 projects in various stages going on. And it is a plain field for getting support from project management capabilities.

My feeling is that a careful iterative approach is most promosing, to make sure any change to the projects is improving their performance and not mainly adding extra work and distraction from the client goals.

Also, maybe one client is most critical and their projects may serve as a pilot to introduce new ways of working before rolling them out to the whole portfolio.

One of the first activities would be to understand the portfolio, have a list of projects and their basic status (which customer, time-sensitivity, if you have the data: cost status, customer feedback,..) to understand what would help them most. Can you identify one person per project that would take responsibility? A list of key issues per project from the team working on it and customer feedback.

Thomas
I've benefitted from valuable responses....
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