ALL SYSTEMS GO! AN 8 STEP PLAN TO AVOID PROJECT FAILURE
We’ve all been there. A project is launched with optimism and good intentions, but before long things start to fall apart. While a few elements of failure are beyond our control, most can be avoided with careful and proactive planning. With a track record of more than a million managed and completed projects across all 50 states, the EMG team has seen just about everything. Here are some of our tried and true ways to keep projects on a clear path to success.
1. Choose a Willing and Able Team Leader
Assign the leadership role to someone who has the knowledge, temperament, and interpersonal skills to handle situations ranging from critical to mundane. He or she must be able to drive and manage change on a business, technical, and organizational level. Clearly communicate your team leader’s role and responsibilities. No one should have to guess at who’s in charge.
2. Start Thinking about a Great Team on Day One
A poorly or hastily chosen team, or one assembled too late in the planning process, can doom a project. When selecting team members, carefully consider skill sets. How do skill sets advance each project phase, and do they mesh well, overlap, or leave gaps? Have prospective team members worked together well in the past? Evaluate in-house resources and decide if portions of planning and implementation need to be outsourced. Allow enough lead time so that the team-building process isn’t shortchanged. You’ll thank yourself later.
3. Make the Workloads Realistic
Do the people on your team realistically have the time to deliver what is expected? If not, think about shifting workloads among staff, hiring additional full-time or part-time project managers or project coordinators, changing vendors, or even outsourcing to a project management consulting company with a proven track record for reliable, accurate, consistent, and timely performance.
4. Take a Hard Look at the Numbers
Know your spending limitations, what’s at risk, and where you’re getting needed funds. Take the time to construct a budget that anticipates not only the usual expenses, but also potential obstacles and setbacks. Communicate budget parameters effectively to avoid backlash from executive team members.
5. Establish Clear Lines of Communication
Who can and should say what to whom, and when? Determine a communication protocol at the earliest stages of planning and make all involved aware of it. Will team communication take place via a weekly conference call or daily email updates? Who needs to be in the communication loop, and how will multiple replies be handled? Avoid confusion with clear messages that leave no question about roles, responsibilities, and timelines. Don’t ignore the small stuff. Seemingly minor line items in messages can turn out to be critically important. Read carefully. Respond thoughtfully. And remember that once you hit “send,” it’s out there forever.
6. Agree on “Success” and Set Milestones to Evaluate Progress
How do you define project success? How does your company? Your client? Before the first step of implementation, set clear end goals that reflect a collectively agreed upon and clearly communicated vision of success. Will you prioritize cost, quality, or meeting a schedule? In what order? Take just as much care setting interim milestones. It’s a lot easier to make course corrections along the way than to clean up a mess that has snowballed into a project’s final stages.
If a collaborative online management tool is to be used to chart progress, choose a user friendly, intuitive one that requires minimal training and that is best suited for project size and type. Don’t opt for a complicated piece of software when a simple spreadsheet will work just as well. If you won’t be using a collaborative tool, determine an alternative method for documenting and communicating progress.
7. Prepare to Manage Change
Change is a given. How will your team react to an 11th hour demand to change a brick wall into a glass one? Decide who has the authority to manage change and determine how it will be communicated and incorporated into the budget and schedule.
8. Identify Signs of Risk or Failure and Design an Alert Protocol
Why, when, and how should a team member raise a yellow or red flag? Identify warning and danger zones in your budget and schedule. Establish clear quality controls. Determine how and with whom team members should share concerns. Early planning can go a long way toward safeguarding against indecision and confusion at future make-or-break crossroads.
Whether this time-tested guidance provides new insight or a quick refresher, my hope is that it will open or reopen discussion and push your projects to great — or greater — success. (As you’ve carefully defined it, of course!)
FEATURED PROJECT – WALGREENS PATIENT HEALTH CONSULTATION ROOM
EMG was selected as the key project management provider after a nationwide project implementation which included competitors. Walgreens sought to provide a more professional and confidential atmosphere for pharmacists and patients when administering vaccinations, immunizations, and health tests on-site, by building out a comfortable, private room. This new interior room is known as the Patient Health Consultation Room. The program involved a pilot of 200 stores in 2014, increased to 1200 in 2015, whereby EMG was exclusively awarded all future locations in the program. Final project rollout will include 750 additional stores in 2016, 1500 in 2017, and projected at 1500+ in 2018 and beyond. EMG previously partnered with Walgreens on a nationwide store remodel project in 2014, where Walgreens had never outsourced Project Management before.
Learn more about EMG’s approach and the results of this project.
PROGRAM MANAGER PROFILE – KAUSTUBH CHABUKSWAR
If an EMG program or project involves energy efficiency or “green” initiatives, odds are that it also involves Kaustubh Chabukswar. Kaustubh, a Program Manager / Technical Reviewer, joined EMG in 2009 at a time when the global economic downturn had pressed governments and property owners toward spending reduction and a greater concern for energy efficiency. His welcome energy expertise has been deployed throughout EMG’s Asset Management Division.
Hired as a Technical Managerial Assistant, Kaustubh was quickly assigned field and development work. He was instrumental in creating EMG’s Energy Conservation Workbook, a comprehensive proprietary guide used to analyze existing systems and suggest energy efficient alternatives. Today, in addition to overseeing regular Workbook updates, he manages all of EMG’s energy efficiency programs, assists other managers with programs and projects that have a “green” component, and trains field assessors and reviewers in energy assessment.
He takes great satisfaction from seeing the practical results of EMG’s energy assessment reports, from funding agencies relying on them to make decisions about “green” project feasibility to actual project implementation. He is especially proud that EMG offers energy assessment as an in-house service and that energy assessments have evolved from their regulatory, stand alone beginnings to become more fully integrated into traditional condition assessments across the board. He is heartened to see that clients are increasingly factoring “green” concerns into their planning, and he looks forward to the day when being “green” is the new normal.
Kaustubh was born and raised in Mumbai, India. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mumbai and a master’s degree in Mechanical and Thermal Engineering from The George Washington University. He is currently pursuing his MBA from the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. In his rare free time between work and studies, he enjoys the outdoors and hiking in nearby woods.