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Keeping Control of Your Projects – Part I

Team Communications

Too often I hear project managers tell me that they lose control of their projects – specifically around conmunications. Too much is going on and they can’t keep up with everything, no one is communicating in a way that works for others and it seems that the sponsor and other key stakeholders are throwing wrenches into the works regularly. And, the more complex the project, the more communications appears to go astray. And we all know that the downfall of many projects is due to communication failures.

Let’s explore best practices to improve communications on your projects – regardless of their complexity.

In this article we’ll approach communications from a team perspective and in Part 2 we’ll talk about communications with sponsors/key stakeholders.

Team Communications

Early on in the project, set processes and procedures for communicating, along with a schedule for communications. Include:

Regular team meetings using stop light reports to report on progress

Use stop light reports for all team reporting. Capture for the reporting period (meeting to meeting):

  • Activities to be done
  • Activities accomplished
  • Activities behind schedule
  • Issues encountered/other concerns that need to be addressed

This is a great way to capture information about what each team member has going on with their tasks. It makes team meetings easier to manage because we only need to focus on what’s “amber” (to ensure there is a solid plan in place) and what’s “red” (to problem solve). As for the good – I acknowledge those team members who are in the “green.”

If each team member provides this status report prior to the team meeting, it enables the team leader to pull together the agenda with a focus in the areas of concern or with a focus on problems to be addressed in the meeting.

Detailed agendas with topics of discussions (from most important to least important) along with timing for discussions and necessary participants puts a plan around the meeting that helps to stay on track and to get folks engaged. Provide necessary information (such as documentation needed to make a decision, have a discussion, etc.) prior to the meeting so folks come prepared.

Use of a project portal

A project portal enables for a central location for everything related to the project. This includes all project documentation, the project schedule, team members with contact information, other project points of contact (such as key stakeholders) as well as a forum for team members to share best practices, resolve problems that arise and otherwise communicate with each other. Project portals are a great resource for virtual or remote teams but also for co-located teams! When all the information is in one location, it is much easier to track and manage the project’s progress and provides a resource for team members when information is needed.

Problem solving meetings

Hold separate meetings to resolve problems that arise on the project, don’t make problem solving sessions part of your regular team meetings. Follow these best practices for solving problems as a team:

  • Co-locate the team or use a virtual platform
  • Present the problem to the team to ensure common understanding
  • Brainstorm potential solutions to the problem
  • Narrow solutions down to a handful of practical/possible ideas
  • Evaluate these potential options to solve the problem against impact on the scope, budget and timeline for the project, along with impact to resources, project quality and risk
  • Choose 2 – 3 best options to move forward for approval

These are just a few simple best practices to enable for better team communications which in turn enables for us to better manage our projects.

In Part II, we’ll look at effective communications with sponsors/key stakeholders.

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