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IVAN SCHMIDT

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When all eyes are on your project

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When all eyes are on your project

Sometimes you're going to manage project so visible that everyone is going to care about it. How do you handle that pressure? How do you get the right info to everyone who cares...when everyone cares?

Do you like to be at the center of attention? Do you like to have hundreds of eyes on your project? Probably not – most would not appreciate that much visibility given to one of the projects they are leading.

You find yourself managing a very high visibility project and there are literally hundreds of eyes on your project. The eyes of your project team. Your senior management. If your project is important enough...tens or hundreds of your colleagues and co-workers. The customer, team and future end users and third-party vendors.

In some government projects... members of committees or departments would have eyes on the project. The Department of ...... or the Food and Drug Administration. You can see how the eyes can really add up now, right?

So when it seems like nearly everyone has some sort of interest in your project, what do you do? How do you cope? How do you satisfy everyone with information? Should you? And what about the pressure...did I mention pressure? You have no choice.

I suggest these three steps to best serve the masses and hopefully come out on top of the heap


Focus on the status reporting. To me, the status report drives the project. It drives the information flow, it is something that could be...should be...handed to anyone at anytime at any level of the organization and any level of insight and knowledge of the business and they can still walk away with a good feeling of what the project is about and how it's going right now and where it's headed. To accomplish that, you need a one-size-fits-all type status report. You'll be overkilling it a bit for some and under-killing it probably for some incredible info seekers, but you can surely completely satisfy the informational needs for about 98 percent of your reading population.

Coming up with one status report for all means you don't have to create twelve different versions for twelve different interest groups. Make sure you include good financial health data (you'll probably want to leave off profit margin info for the client side readers), a good view of what's been accomplished recently, what's happening now, and what's coming up. Include an overview of all project change orders, an ongoing issues list, and an ongoing risks list. And don't forget to include a nice dashboard that C-levels can use as a quick view into project health when that's all they want to see (think red-yellow-green stoplight view for task, budget, timeframe, issue, etc. health).

Stay on top of the resources. Resource management is crucial...especially when you're balancing resource usage in order to maintain profit margin on a high-visibility project. Resources are expensive anyway, idle resources or poorly used resources are killer expensive. Plus, you're probably fighting other projects for the same resources... and if you lose track of when you are scheduled to have them and when you need them then you may lose them at the wrong time to another project – and that's tough to recover from.

The project manager who is a bad resource planner is doomed to fail. Resource management and planning is every bit as important as financial planning... and it's a huge input into the financial planning and health of your project.

Issues press release type statements when major deliverables are completed. This may seem over the top, but it isn't. If you're managing a very high-profile project – and you are if all eyes are on your project – then it's definitely a good idea to treat it as such. When a major deliverable is accomplished – like say a major phase of the project is completed and signed off by the client – let the world know.

Create a company-wide email (include all key stakeholders within the company, outside of the company and include the right third-party vendors). Praise the team, talk about the deliverable / accomplishment, and take the opportunity to also talk about what happens next on the project. You'll boost the project, your visibility as a the project manager, and please everyone interested with knowledge all with this one action. Win-win-win.