3.5 Tips to Drive Project Success

Have you ever been on a project which slowly drifted out of control? You knew the clients were unhappy, you kept working harder and delivering more, but despite your best efforts the project ended in a grinding, wrenching train wreck?

Most of us have been there, and it’s never fun!  There are lots of reasons things slip out of control, and probably 1001 “tips” to help avoid them – but you wouldn’t read 1001 tips for project success would you? So to keep things simple, here are three and a half tips to help you keep on track:

1) Make sure you understand what the key client stakeholder(s) want.

It should be obvious, but the number one cause of project failure is poor project scoping and lack of buy-in from all the stakeholders.  If you don’t have a handle on this before the start of the project, or have an explicit plan to figure it out (and adapt the scope as needed), then there’s a good chance you will run into problems down the line.

So… What are stakeholder(s) definitions of the problem? What are their goals for the project, and crucially, what would success look like?  The need for depth on this will vary by project, but it’s good to make it as specific as you can (remember SMART objectives?)

2) Assign a Team Member as Point of Contact for Each Stakeholder

Whether it is you, someone on your team, or someone on the client team, make sure that someone has explicit responsibility for helping manage each stakeholder: finding out what they want, keeping them briefed, and keeping the team briefed on how the stakeholders are feeling about the project.

3) Have a high level stakeholder meeting plan

This should be simple. Develop a high level meeting plan (like the one below) so that you can see when you will need to meet with the key people at or before critical points in the project. The last thing you want is to get to a big meeting and then get de-railed because someone wasn’t well briefed before hand.

These things won’t take you a lot of time, but they may just help you avoid the sound of grinding metal and that project train wreck!

Oh, and what’s the half a tip? Get enough sleep. Sometimes you have to work hard and late, but take it too far and you’ll soon become tired and stupid, and generally clients aren’t paying us to be stupid.

Peter McWhinnie is a seasoned executive with over 15 years experience in consulting, first at Monitor Group where he was a Partner, and then as an independent focusing on the pharmaceutical industry. His experiences in selling and running projects, and his frustrations with trying to manage consulting engagements with traditional software tools such as Excel and MS Project, inspired him to set up the company behind Swiftlight Project Management Software.

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  • Dave Mentios

    Very good tips because most projects have these issues and this isa great way to maintain integrity and efficiency in the project to be successful.

  • Your "half tip" was a surprise to see. It is an important point to maintain yourself in proper working order so you bring the best value to your customers. Sadly, we forget our own health in an attempt to over satisfy the customer.