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Tips for Managing Projects in a Recession

Call it a recession, call it an economic down-turn, or call it a depression (not too loudly), we’re in tough economic times and the way businesses operate now can mean the difference between survival and bankruptcy. These changes have implications for the way we manage projects. As project managers you have the ability to make a positive difference to your organization and help it to weather the economic storm.

The following are some "do’s and don’ts” that will help you manage projects in a way that avoids costly mistakes.

Do provide your project sponsors with complete, accurate information about your project’s performance to schedule and to budget. Your sponsors need to know the real cost of the project you’re managing so they can determine whether the ROI justifies the project. They need the information on performance to schedule because schedule slippages are invariably linked to budget overruns.

Do support gathering data from existing projects that will support more accurate estimates for duration and cost for future projects. A common tool for accomplishing this is the time tracking tool many organizations have implemented to track these things. Support their proper use by making accurate, timely time entry part of your project’s culture.

Do take advantage of the economic times to obtain the best possible deal for your organization from your vendors. This doesn’t mean that you set out to bleed them dry or renege on existing contracts but you should make yourself aware of the influence the economy is having the prices of the goods and services you’re procuring.

Do provide vendor oversight when your responsibilities include vendor management or procurement management. Your oversight should include invoice audits to ensure that your project has received all the goods and services you’re approving payment for. This oversight can also work the other way when the vendor misses items in their invoice for which they’re owed payment.

Do revisit the business case for your project at each gate review. Verify that the demand for your project’s product or service is still there and hasn’t shrunk due to the down turn in the economy. Verify that the problem your project solves, if your customer is internal, still exists and that its severity hasn’t changed since your last review. Verifying the correctness or adjusting the benefits to be derived from the project will enable your sponsors to make good decisions.

Don’t tolerate the inflation of your project’s budget by allowing resources not on your project team to charge time against your project. If members of your project team are splitting their time between your project and another, verify that the time they enter against your project is in line with your understanding of the split. Question any time in excess of that understanding and roll time entered incorrectly back if necessary. Make your sponsor aware if the issue if you’re unsuccessful at addressing it yourself.

Don’t be a push-over for stakeholders that have "zero cost” changes that they want to make to your project. Craft a change management process that will work for your project and then ensure each change follows the process. You may also have to educate team members in the advantages of reporting any requests they receive for change to you so stakeholders don’t sneak changes in through the back door. Be disciplined about change without tying your project up in knots making decisions on minor changes. You can do this by having decisions made at the right level of authority. This usually means that the time and effort invested in deciding on the change will be proportional to the cost and benefits of the change.

Don’t hesitate to question how things are done on your project. Now is the time to identify a different way of doing things which can save time and effort without sacrificing quality. People are resistant to change so if they’ve always done their work in the same way, they will only change in response to an external stimulus; be that stimulus.

Don’t try to hide bad news. We’re all human and it’s human nature to be protective of the project we’ve invested so much of our time and effort in. We’re also insecure and fear that the cancellation of our project will mean the end of the line for us. The reality is that any project that doesn’t have a strong business case needs to be canceled and canceled as soon as that fact is known. Failure to do so will guarantee that your job will disappear. Make your sponsors aware as soon as you identify the need for preventive or corrective actions to preserve your project’s budget and schedule. Make sure you alert them immediately if you determine that the original budget and schedule can’t be met. You can ensure financial damage to your organization is minimized and give it the best opportunity to survive.

These are just some of the things you can do, or avoid doing, that can help your organization weather this economic down-turn. Your actions alone can’t guarantee the success of your organization, but they can play a key role in its survival. Don’t forget that the best project management practices are more important now than ever. Investigate the possibility of getting your PMP® certification if you haven’t already done so. You’ll find AceIt© is about the most cost effective way to get your PMP® Exam Preparation training. You can find out more about AceIt© by navigating to our AceIt© section.