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Managing the TBT projectpixel.gif (807 bytes)

pixel.gif (807 bytes) Keeping a friendly eye
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WE'RE OFF AND RUNNING and, as project manager, the fun bit is over. From now on your plan will be tested against reality. Your priority at this stage is to make sure that you’ve got enough information to steer the ship. The following will help:

Timesheets
Timesheets typically record the number of hours put into each project task by a team member over the course of a week. It is helpful if they also record work put in on other projects, plus non-project time such as administration, holidays, sickness and training.

You can use timesheet data to enter actual figures into your budgets and schedules and to monitor the amount of time being lost to the project.

Task checklists
Timesheets tell you how much work is being undertaken, but not how productive that work is. To monitor the project effectively, you need to know how far team members are progressing towards task completion and ultimately your project milestones.

If you break a task down into small modules, then you can create a task checklist. Every time a module is completed, it is ticked off. That way, you will have a good idea how far you have got and how far there is to go. If you are to get an accurate picture, it is important that modules are only checked off when the work is fully complete, checked and tested.

Project meetings
Project meetings are expensive, because they take up the time of every person that attends. However, if well managed, they provide an essential forum for communicating changes to the plan, recognising successes, problem solving and identifying new risks. On a smaller project, all team members will normally attend. With a larger project, you may only need the representatives of each major technical discipline.

To keep meeting times down, circulate the latest copies of the project plan and any reports in advance; create an agenda and stick to it; and don’t get bogged down in topics that affect only a portion of the group.

Quality checks
It is important that each project team member maintains the primary responsibility for the quality of their work. That means that they do their own proofing and testing and only pass on the work when they are satisfied that it meets the specification. A ‘right first time’ philosophy will help to minimise the tension between team members and will considerably reduce the amount of rework to be undertaken.

Even with a ‘right first time’ approach, you will still need a system of checks and reviews. This is because it is often helpful to get a number of perspectives on a piece of work – not least the client’s – and because some errors are always invisible to the person that made them.

The earlier in the project that reviews take place the better. If each piece of work is correct before it is passed on, then you will be building on sound foundations and end-of-project tests will become a formality.

Reports
It is important that your major planning documents (budgets, schedules, project plans, risk analyses, etc.) are maintained throughout the project. Your original plans become a ‘baseline’ against which actual performance can be compared.

No plan is perfect and not all eventualities can be predicted. That’s why project planning is an ongoing process, not a one-off.

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                                                     Fastrak Consulting Ltd, 1999. All rights reserved.                                Last revised 21/2/99