Let’s start this blog off with a description of what a project is.
A project is a temporary group activity designed to produce a unique product, service or result.
It is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and, therefore, a defined scope and resource needs.
And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.
In addition, a project team often includes people who don’t usually work together – sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies.
Some examples of projects could include:
The development or installation of software for an improved business process—think electronic medical records,
The construction of a new laboratory building or renovation of existing space,
The consolidation or integration of laboratory services within a healthcare system, or
The expansion of sales into a new geographic market.
Now let’s switch focus and talk about project management. Project management is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently.
It’s a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals — and thus, being able to compete better in their markets. It has always been practiced informally, but began to emerge as a distinct profession in the mid-20th century.
Project Management Institute’s "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" (PMBOK® Guide) identifies its five recurring elements.
Step 1: If you find yourself accountable for the accomplishment of a major project, here are the action steps for initiation of the project:
Hire or assign a project manager
Identify the main work groups / teams with assistance from the project manager
Select the various team members
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Schedule the project planning kickoff meeting with the Steering Committee and the various work groups
Step 2 is the project planning phase. Starting out you need to decide what tools and resources you will need to manage and execute the project—what software will you use, do you need a facilitator, do you need a typist, and where will the planning teams meet to scope out the entire project? Then, before the actual plan is fleshed out, I like to identify the big buckets, the timeline, and people who will be held accountable for execution. Next, various action planning sessions are held—the kickoff with the Steering Committee and the various team meetings with subject matter experts to detail required tasks, linkages and contingencies. The final phase of project planning is setting the calendar:
Scheduled update meetings with team leaders, and
Formal status update meetings with the Steering Committee.
I have found that dedicating 3 to 4 days in the same week works well for these sessions—start out with the team leaders to update the project plan and milestones, note any scope creep, and list out issues. By the third or fourth day you have a current and concise project status report for your Steering Committee.
Step 3 is Project Plan Execution and the clock is running. For large laboratory projects like consolidations, outreach infrastructure builds, or new facility builds, I usually find I need at least five teams: an administrative group, a back office support group, an information technology group, a technical operations group, and an in-reach / outreach group.
Step 4 is Monitoring and Control and perhaps the most important step for the following reasons:
When managing a project, every day of delay is costly.
Issues become barriers to implementations.
Scope expansion delays implementation and potentially destroys a project’s return on investment.
Effective management supports your organization and enables people within to orchestrate a multitude of initiatives in a professional and realistic manner.
Project management, when done right, enables progress—responsibility, accountability, and success!
Note that there are numerous project status report templates available on the internet—search the phrase “project status report” and find one that suits your needs. If you need a scope change process and form, ask your IT department—they deal with big projects all the time; you may have to tweak it suit your project’s need, but that is OK—it is just a tool.
Step 5, Project Close, involves handing over any loose ends to the various project team leaders and/or the appropriate manager for completion. In addition, you should schedule a final meeting with the Steering Committee. Here is a checklist that will help you prepare a summary report for this final meeting:
Final Milestone report—if you have done your job it should be close to 100% complete at this point in time.
Note any outstanding issues, how close they are to being resolved, and who is accountable for them since the project is being closed.
Summarize answers to the following questions in this final report:
Was the project completed on time and within budget?
Were the project deliverables completed within acceptable quality levels?
Were all scope change requests managed successfully?
Were project risks and issues addressed successfully?
Were all customer concerns addressed successfully?
What are the lesson’s learned?
I have found that when you follow a process, even project management can be a fun and rewarding journey. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a download of the full presentation developed for the Ohio 2013 Collaborative Laboratory Conference (AACC, ASCLS, & CLMA): Project Management Made Easy plus Fundamentals
I look forward to your comments and discussion. Send questions to email@example.com