4 ways to maintain control of the project work

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Having trouble maintaining control of the work of your team and stakeholders on the project? Keep it simple and follow these concepts.

We’ve kicked off the project, we’ve agreed on requirements and everyone is on the same page as we head into the building of the project solution for the customer.  All that is left is…well…everything else. 

As the project manager, where do you start?  What is most important?  What is least important?  Hint - the answer is nothing.  And how do you stay on top of everything that is going on while still keeping everyone up to date, on the same page, and focusing on their tasks and the same end goals?  The answer, really, is a lot of organization and communication.  For me, it comes down to these four key areas of focus in order to keep the project under control as the project work progresses.

1. Communication.  Handling communication – as well as effectively and efficiently communicating – on the project is the most important responsibility that the project manager has on any project.  Communication is Job One for the PM. 

Failure to properly communicate can lead to so many project negatives: re-work due to miscommunicated task assignments, poorly documented requirements, meetings that end leaving attendees confused about next steps, and a project team that doesn’t fully understand what is expected of them.  All of these can spell disaster on the project.

2. Status reporting.  Part of that critical communication responsibility for the project manager is the act of status reporting.  Weekly status reports play a key role in assuring team and customer understanding of what is important on the project and who’s responsibility it is to finish tasks ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’.  Everyone needs that status report, too.  All stakeholders - from the customer, to the project team, to senior management and on to anyone and everyone who plays a key role in the project. 

But the smart project manager figures out one project status reporting format that will satisfy all stakeholder needs.  The PM has enough to do without creating 15 different versions of the project status report for 15 different stakeholder entities.  Most status reports need a good high-level project health dashboard for a project quick view that senior management and the customer often like, an area that focuses on what’s just been accomplished, what work is happening now, and what is coming up in the next 1-2 weeks, an area for project budget health, and – of course – an area reserved for critical issues and change orders and who is assigned to what.  Again, try to make it one size fits all…you already have enough to do.

3. Team and customer meetings.  Team and customer communication is critical and it will happen through adhoc email and phone conversations as needed.  But those all-important team and customer weekly scheduled meetings must also happen.  Those are reset points where you make sure everyone knows what they are working on, everyone knows what is important today and this week, everyone is on the same page and leaves the meeting with the same understanding. 

It’s also critical for keeping those busy project customers engaged on the project.  They may be busy on their day jobs, but the more engaged they are, the more confidence they will have in yours and your team’s ability to manage and deliver on the project because they are seeing the progress and are discussing it with you.  So even if there isn’t much to cover in a given week, don’t skip the meeting.  Even if it’s a five-minute call to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, conduct the meeting.  You never know when it might result in the sharing of a piece of information that may ultimately save someone $20,000.

4. Task and change management.  Your regular team meeting will help you keep task and change management under control as you will be discussing and reviewing outstanding work, tasks and issues with your team every week.  But it is the project manager’s job to maintain control of the tasks and change orders through close attention to detail on the project schedule and the tasks – and progress on those tasks – through frequent review and revision of that schedule. 

Weekly meetings on these tasks and issues with your team will also help keep scope for the project in check resulting in any necessary push back to the project client on work that seems outside the guidelines and requirements already agreed to for the project…thus resulting in project change orders for any of that work that is necessary and approved by the client as a change order.

Summary / call for input

No amount of organization and communication will ever guarantee project success and customer satisfaction.  There are just too many things that can happen that may be outside the control of the project manager.  But by focusing on these “best practices” throughout the project you can be certain that your likelihood for project success and customer satisfaction will be increased dramatically and consistent focus on these practices will help you realize far more frequent successes than failures.  Communication is critical – never leaver project success to dumb luck.

What about our readers?  What are some of your thoughts on these points?  What do you consider your key practices to maintaining control of the project, team, tasks, and customer as the engagement progresses toward completion?  Please share and discuss.

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